Thursday, August 04, 2005

Shoulda Gone to the Keys

Retrospective. I should have gone ahead to the keys. I didn't want to spend all day flying around, just to have to fly another 4 to get home, so I stuck close. Yesterday, I was planning to end up in Tallahassee, but it was good that I didn't. They are just getting hammered with storms there. I flew from Keystone out for a touch & go at Gainesville, then headed north to Lake City. The idea was to decide there where to go, after looking at the weather. I had to race a storm in, so I knew I had no hurry once I got down. I could see the rain coming, and thankfully didn't suffer any delay. By the time I taxied into the FBO, the rain had started in earnest.

The airport there is somewhat unusual. They have a control tower, but the surface is in uncontrolled airspace. Class G. I'd heard of that setup before, but never seen it. The tower controller was unfamiliar with my aircraft type (as are many controllers, still). He asked if I could handle only 4,000 feet. I gladly accepted, and took the shorter runway. I had figured that meant they were busy, but I never heard any other traffic, so I was a little puzzled. As I taxied across the larger runway, I found out why: A Bonanza had done a gear-up landing there. Still on the runway. After talking to the manager at the FBO a little bit, I found out it had only happened a couple minutes before I showed up.

My choice of airport to end up at, was somewhat poor. I did manage getting a crew car to get some lunch. It was nearly dinner time by this point, but I hadn't had a bite all day. On recommendation from a local, I chose a local BBQ/steak joint, and was not disappointed.

That still left me with being unsure what to do from there. This was just a local municipal airport, so I was expecting to have some trouble with rental cars and hotels and such. When I made the decision to stay the night, I got a hotel reservation, and started calling for a rental car. Nothing. No rental cars to be had. In the middle of nowhere in Florida on a Wednesday afternoon. One of the ladies manning the FBO helped me out, by driving me to the hotel.

From there, I had to walk for my dinner. As I got up to the door at Arby's, thats when the sky fell out. Heavy rain, etc. I really wanted to get back to the room to eat my dinner in peace, so I bore out through the downpours. So far, not much was going my way, but I was relaxing indoors in privacy, so I couldn't complain.

This morning, I was hoping for a ride from the airport folks again, but no luck. So I called a cab. Except they didn't answer. The only cab company in town, (their ad said "24 hours"), but nothing. They were not answering. I guess they changed it to 23 hours. But one of the hotel people was kind enough to drive me there in his own truck. I always find that most people will go out of their way to help you, if you are simply friendly.

This morning left me with another choice to make. I knew I would have to wait until around noon for Scott to call and give me an idea when to be there to pick him up. His call last night suggested a strong possibility of having to spend another night and leave Friday morning, so I decided that at least I could relocate to an airport with more chance of services. I also wanted to see a beach, so I headed out to Jacksonville International. Just a quick 30 minute flight really, no big deal. But I knew i'd be able to get a car, and hotel, and any other services I might need. Within just a couple minutes of pulling into Signature- one of the fixed base operators on the field- I secured a car and headed down the road looking for beach and lunch. Found both.

I only spent 20 minutes or so walking along the surf before heading for lunch. I still didn't know what the departure time would be. During lunch, Scott called and wanted me there to pick him up by about 6pm. So instead of wandering around town and seeing the sights, I headed back to the airport. As soon as I got back and looked at the radar, I knew I'd have a tough decision to make. For the most part, the skies were a thin broken layer of cumulus, but a storm had planted itself right over my destination, and looked to be there to stay. Another 20 minutes of waiting, and storms were popping up all over.

Still, I decided that it might be just enough to make it, and sometimes you have to make tough flights. They can't all be fun when you're working. I had just put my bag back in the plane and headed to check the radar again, when Scott called. Big nasty storm right over the airport there. So it looks like I might be staying the night afterall.

Still, I can't complain. The FBO has internet access, and everything I could want. So I guess I get to wait it out, and realize that I could have been to Key West and back twice by now.

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