It's been a very quick two nights at SNF. I woke up on Saturday to the Sun n Fun Hot Air Balloon Launch. The conditions were perfect - no winds and severe CAVU.
It pains me to post this, but my friend Peter had a much better pic of the balloon launch...even if his Sonex is in the foreground.
As much trash-talk as I to my buddies airplane, I don't hold a torch to his workmanship.
I wasn't the only one who appreciated the workmanship under the hood - Peter won the "Best Auto Engine Homebuilt" award for his SDS fuel injected hamster. Congrats my friend! Well deserved!!!
My journey home wasn't looking all that optimistic. There was a slow moving system consisting of low ceilings and thunderstorms moving across the south.
My plan was simple - fly as long as I can until I can't maintain VFR or a suitable amount of fuel in reserve. Heading north out of FL I finally had a little push by the wind gods.
The weather north of Waycross, GA seemed to be questionable at best. So I put down here for some fuel and a more thorough look at the weather.
Upon landing, it was apparent I wasn't the only Sun N Funner hesitant to fly further north. This place was packed with every type of aircraft trying to head north. The FBO at KAYS was ready for us - they had incredible BBQ for all of us. At least 4 groups of pilots elected to spend the night here and wait until tomorrow - which proved to be difficult since the "swamp show" was in town and booked most of the hotels. The airport manager assured me and another pilot he had no quarrels with us camping at the airport.
This was a SOLID 3 hours of nearly every pilot on their phones and tablets trying to dissect the weather and try to plan to get through it. Multiple people were thinking of flying as far west as Montgomery, AL to swing around it.
AND this is the very moment I was humbled. My new Sonex friends texted me after they landed in NC asking me where I was. Completely baffled how they accomplished this goal I asked how - and they quickly offered the secret of a very large broken layer at 3,500'! I figured I have nothing to loose - might as well poke around and see what options exist while the sun is up.
By Jove, those Sonex'ers were right!!! Well not at 3,500', I was able to safely find a ample VFR space at around 6,500'!
The further north I progressed, the better the conditions got. The top layer burnt off and it ended up once again becoming a beautiful day.
My original plans were to spend the night in Greensboro, GA (Green County - 3J7) and visiting friends. However, the weather I just flew through was forecasted to creep north overnight, so the battle I went through today would be there tomorrow, without the guarantee of a clear layer.
With my tail between my legs I flew over my friends house and rocked my wings. Sure wish I could of been kicking back a few cold ones with them, but I feel like I was already very lucky to be able to have made it through that system earlier.
The further north I made it the better the weather got. It was a beautiful flight with the Great Smoky Mountains off to the west.
I didn't need to look down at the map to tell what the name of the next town I was flying over was - the large orange sphere gave it away immediately - Gaffney, SC. The "Peachoid" (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peachoid) was featured in the Netflix series, "House of Cards". This is where Kevin Spacey's character, Frank Underwood, was a native of. And who says TV rots your brain???
More severe clear ahead.
Hmmmm...I've never seen this rock formation before.
It's aptly named - PILOT mountain! Wikipedia calls it "..one of the most distinctive natural features in the U.S. state of North Carolina." (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pilot_Mountain_(North_Carolina)).
Just to the east of Pilot Mountain is Hanging Rock state park.
Smith Mountain Lake in southern VA.
I was going to shoot up the west side of the Shenandoah mountain range but low clouds and the sun setting didn't seem like a great combination. So east of the Shenandoah's I went. It just meant I needed to duck under the KIAD class B layers. It's not ideal to be low after the sun sets, but it's better than being in the clouds!
The sunset was spectacular tonight. Another great adventure in the RV. My friend Curtis and I were talking before Sun and Fun about why we go each year. Nothing much changes in the new airplanes introduced, or what the vendors sell. We both agreed we go for the unknown adventure of getting down there and back (always weather in at least one direction!), seeing old friends and meeting new people. These words never held truer. I had a fantastic time seeing old friends such as Chad, Jeff, Andre, Jim, Paula, Nick, Heidi, Mary-Jane, Jerry (and more???), and meeting new friends like those pesky Sonex drivers and countless more. I had no idea building an airplane would enhance my life to the extent it has. I always pinch myself to make sure it's not a dream every time I complete another trip in this incredible machine.
Once I arrived back home, Sonex Peter shared his MPG with me - 41.3MPG!!! at 145mpg GS. Not too shabby!!!
Andre took some incredible shots of the Blue Angles:
on 4/16 my write-up made the front page of Vans Air Force. Thanks, Doug!
Last Modified: August 13, 2023