The Great Western Roadtrip....errrr, Airtrip

Discussion in 'Flight Following' started by NealRomeoGolf, Sep 29, 2020.

  1. NealRomeoGolf

    NealRomeoGolf Pattern Altitude

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    I have a brother that lives in DC and each year they would embark on the "Great Western Roadtrip" to see family out in Colorado and Utah. I have been planning (for about 3 years) a trip from Central IL to Boise, ID to go see some friends. So I guess this is my Great Western Airtrip.

    I tried to combine this trip with doing some IFR training (see thread here) but the insurance company wasn't having it. So I ended up doing this solo.

    Starting point was 3MY in Peoria, IL. I did not want to do it all in one day, so I picked Scottsbluff, NE as the overnight. That would allow me to go over the Wyoming/Utah/Idaho mountains the next morning before the bumps kicked up. Norfolk, NE was the first fuel stop. Since I was not doing IFR training along the way, I figured I could add a minor detour. After Norfolk, I headed northwest towards Rapid City so I could circle Mt Rushmore. Here is the route.

    leg 1.JPG

    I left on Tuesday Sep 22. I ended up being a little delayed due to an issue with my eye that required a quick trip to the eye doctor. Don't worry FAA, I was legal.

    I hadn't filled up the tanks from the day before when I had gone to Traverse City to visit a friend. I did a quick calc and knew I could get to Norfolk with what I had. Norfolk was nearly $1 per gallon cheaper than my home field so it would save me a little money. If the headwinds were worse than forecast, I had a stop short option planned.

    Departure out of Peoria was uneventful. I got my flight following with Peoria Approach and got on course. I quickly saw how hazy it was going to be that day. I had never seen it so hazy in the Midwest before, and of course it got worse as I went west.

    Warning: my pictures aren't great. They are all just shot off my cell phone through my crappy plane plexiglas.

    Galesburg
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    Midwest landscape (probably Iowa)
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    Haze
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    Headwinds were fine so I didn't have to stop short. My approach to Norfolk was pretty pathetic. They have 2 runways and I thought I was heading for downwind on one but was actually seeing the other. *sigh* Nobody else was in the pattern so I corrected and landed. Pulled up to self serve, put in 77 gallons and was on my merry way.

    I headed Northwest from there towards Rapid City. The haze kept getting worse but I had about 12 miles minimum.

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    It got really bumpy towards the SD border, but then the scenery got cool. I have lots of Badlands pictures so I won't bother you with all of them.

    Badlands
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    Unfortunately my Mt Rushmore pics didn't come out great. It was really bumpy and I stayed further out than I was required to be. Here's probably my best attempt.

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    From there I looped around the wilderness area and bumped my way to Scottsbluff. A fun day.
     
    Last edited: Sep 29, 2020
  2. NealRomeoGolf

    NealRomeoGolf Pattern Altitude

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    Day 2:

    I got started early so I could get across the mountains. My Uber picked me up at 7am and I got the plane out of the hangar from Valley Airways.

    Ready to go.
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    I had some high anxiety for this day. This was my first time crossing any kind of terrain (I am a lifelong flatlander) and this would be my first time landing at high altitude airports. Heck, Scottsbluff the day before had become the highest elevation airport I had ever landed at. Route for the day would be like this.

    leg 2.JPG

    My departure out of Scottsbluff was uneventful. I leaned as best as I could tell during my runup and then didn't touch it for takeoff. The cold morning air helped me climb really well and I was off.

    Climbing out of KBFF
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    My family is from the West (Utah mainly) so as a kid we drove Chicago to SLC along I-80 almost yearly. So I have seen plenty of Wyoming from the ground, but I much prefer it from the air. It has some beauty to its bareness.

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    I had flight following the whole way. The controllers were great and knew about when they could start losing me. I was up at 10,500 the whole way and never really had an issue. There were places that transmission could get a little garbled, but it all worked out.

    My fuel stop for the day was at Rock Springs. At nearly 6,800 feet, this is now the highest airport in my logbook. I knew not to go full rich and picked a spot on the mixture that I thought would be about right. I did a straight in for 27 (I try to avoid straight ins, but with the terrain and high altitude....didn't want to mess with patterns). I made an uneventful landing while another plane was shooting approaches. Well, I thought it was uneventful. As I was slowing down to exit the runway, with my throttle at idle, the engine died. Crap. Didn't get the mixture quite right. I also didn't have enough momentum to get to the turnoff. So embarrassingly I told the guy practicing that I was stuck on the runway. I wasn't stuck for long. I fired it back up and got out of the way. I got fuel from the FBO and for some reason, in the middle of nowhere Wyoming, this sat on the ramp.

    20200923_100643_lowres.jpg

    I guess they have to travel somewhere.

    Well, now that my engine died, I was extra nervous about this departure. It was still pretty cool in the day so I knew my climb rate would be good. I just had to find the sweet spot in the mixture. I don't think my engine would have died if I hadn't pulled it to idle though. Anyway, did some extra tinkering in the runup area and had my mixture set. The runway at Rock Springs is 10,000 feet long, so I should have plenty of runway should the engine struggle and I need to put it back down.

    The takeoff ended up being a non-event and the climb over the bluffs went just fine. Back on flight following and time to navigate the mountains in Utah and Idaho.

    Strip mines by Kemmerer

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    Bear Lake

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    The day had been pretty haze free until I got to Idaho. Boise was switching between MVFR and VFR. I didn't want to go in with less than 5 mile vis. When I took off from Rock Springs, Boise was reporting 4 miles. The plan was to go up the valley and make a call around Mountain Home. If I needed to turn around I would land in Twin Falls. They have rental car service there, plus I could say hi to my uncle.

    Idaho southeast of Pocatello

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    Last edited: Sep 29, 2020
  3. NealRomeoGolf

    NealRomeoGolf Pattern Altitude

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    Day 2 continued:

    I never knew about the lava fields in Idaho until I did the planning for this trip and saw them on the VFR chart. Pretty cool stuff.

    20200923_123649_lowres.jpg

    And as you can tell, as I was going towards Twin Falls the haze was picking up. I can't remember if it was at Pocatello or Twin Falls that Boise went to 7 miles. That was encouraging so I soldiered on.

    This is pretty much my last picture of the haze before I went full concentration mode.

    20200923_124801_lowres.jpg

    Lances have long noses and my measurements had been that the ground in front of my nose was about 6nm at my altitude. So going up the valley, my rule was, lose my nose, turn around. I never lost my nose. To improve my situational awareness I also asked approach if I could run the RNAV Y 10L into the airport but stay VFR. They had no problem with that. In the end, I spotted the airport at 10 miles and the approach was a non-event. I got vectored around a bit for traffic but came in on 10L and ended the day with a greaser. I parked over at Jackson Jet Center, and after a little nudging on unicom, got marshaled into my spot. The westbound portion was complete.

    Stats:
    NM flown: 1,393
    Gallons burned: 165
    Tach time: 11.5 hours
     
  4. NealRomeoGolf

    NealRomeoGolf Pattern Altitude

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    I spent 4 and a half days in Boise with my friends and their kids. I had not seen them in 3 years and they are people I truly enjoy. Their youngest daughter turned 5 while I was there and we had a good time celebrating. I took care of her a lot when she was born so I have a soft spot in my heart for her. She is like a second daughter to me. I was sad to have to leave Monday morning.

    Instead of going straight home, I planned a stop in northern Utah to see my brother who lives in Logan, Utah. Then my two sisters that live down in SLC came up and said hello too. So here was the route for (flight) Day 3:

    leg 3.JPG

    I paid my bill at Jackson Jet and then preflighted. These two beasts were parked near me.

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    Also across the airport some A-10s were getting ready to depart. Pictures of those didn't come out, unfortunately.

    Some pictures between Boise and Logan:

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    Somewhere in this picture is my uncle's house.

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    Approach to Logan went fine, except the pattern was a beehive with lots of USU planes flying around. I was having a hard time seeing the skinny and white Diamond planes that they use. I could see all the planes on ADS-B and could tell my first attempt to get in the pattern was not working. So I bugged out and worked my way back in. Landing was good and the lineman gave me a spot to park. The rest of the afternoon I ended up giving rides to my siblings and nieces/nephews. My one sister has 3 kids so those four went first as well as one of my other sisters. So for the first time I had 6 people in my plane. We did the W&B and were within limits. Since the weather was fairly cool I was not concerned about performance either. Plus the kids are young and did not add a lot of weight. We flew up around Preston, ID and then landed. The kids loved it. Next I took my brother and his 3 kids up too. Same route and same reaction. Everyone was a fan.

    I stayed the night and got a good night's sleep to get ready for the long trip home...
     
    LB 408A, Southpaw, farangutan and 6 others like this.
  5. Racerx

    Racerx Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Cool trip! Also an Illini flatlander and am anxious (the good kind) to fly over or near something...not flat
     
  6. NealRomeoGolf

    NealRomeoGolf Pattern Altitude

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    Going home day. I was excited to see my family, but I was not excited to have to get back to reality. This had been a much needed break from work and the stress of life.

    The plan was to get home in one day. I knew I would have a tailwind going back east, so the distance did not seem too daunting. I wanted to get an early start so I could be past the high terrain before it warmed up and also since I was losing an hour going east, not to lose too much daylight in case I got delayed.

    The trick with getting out of Logan is it is surrounded by mountains that have peaks at 10,000 feet. There is a canyon towards the end where I could skirt around peaks and head towards Bear Lake and then back through Wyoming the same way I had come. I was initially going to just circle up over the airport, but then I looked at the ODP which had a climb in a holding pattern over the VOR just to the west. I decided to try that out and see if I could get the programming right on my Garmin 530W.

    I didn't like the fact that I was pretty much going home the same way I came, but the big rocks kind of prevent a different approach. To take advantage of cheap gas though, I decided to go south of Scottsbluff and I had Kimball, NE as a fuel stop and then York, NE for stop 2. However, I had the option of passing Kimball if I did not need a bio break. Here is the route for the day.

    leg 4.JPG

    I got to the airport at 7am and paid my fuel bill. Then I preflighted the plane and was relieved that there was no frost on the wings. It was 36 degrees and there was a little frost on the windshield but nothing on control/lifting surfaces. I had never started this plane in 36 degree weather (I bought it this past summer) and was hoping I wouldn't have any issues. It started on the first blade. I did my runup, including leaning and got ready to go. I got the 530W programmed, although it didn't load the way I thought it would. Takeoff was uneventful and I put the autopilot on. In the end, it went direct to the VOR like it should, but then it wanted to go north to the Orney intersection. Upon later review, this is how the ODP is supposed to be, but I thought it was just climb in the hold. Anyway, I ended up just staying in the hold and getting to 11,500 and heading east.

    A cold morning in Logan.

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    Bear Lake

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    Visibility was much better going home that it was coming west. You could actually see the mountains in the background.

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    Wyoming

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    I ended up not needing a stop in Kimball so I kept on until York.

    Nebraska countryside
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    Winds were really gusty at York and of course, a direct crosswind. I was getting close to running out of rudder but I put it (firmly) on the ground and got gas. Peoria had actually been MVFR earlier in the morning but checking the weather showed that it would be VFR, but with lower clouds. I prefer to be up at 7,500 feet when going East, but clouds past Des Moines were going to force me lower. I was prepared for a bumpy ride home from the Mississippi onwards. What I wasn't prepared for was how awful the departure out of York would be. I got tossed around like a rag doll until almost Omaha. Thankfully it smoothed out and I could relax.

    Offutt and KOMA
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    And then there were clouds. Nice for keeping the sun off me.
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    Iowa
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    The mighty Mississippi
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    The bumps down low in Illinois weren't near as bad as the climb out from York. I did have a 15 knot tailwind most of the time, and sometimes saw 180 knots across the ground. That may be normal for a Bo or a Mooney, but I am usually around 155 knots.

    The home airport also had a direct crosswind but only at 8 knots or so. I got a good gust on short final to keep me honest, but didn't run out of rudder. My wife was waiting for me to welcome me home. I put fuel in the tanks and put the plane away. I have had the Lance 3 months now and it is proving to be a very stable and trustworthy machine.

    Final stats:
    Total NM flown (not including scenic flights): 2,658.9
    Gallons burned: 307.7
    Tach time (including scenic flights): 21.8
     
    LB 408A, Southpaw, Tyjay30 and 11 others like this.
  7. MarcusSD

    MarcusSD Filing Flight Plan

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    Looks like a great trip. Thanks for posting about it.
     
  8. sourdough44

    sourdough44 Pattern Altitude

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    That is a handful of flying, sounds like a GREAT trip. Nice pictures & scenery to boot. On a longer trip I’m a sucker for the lower fuel prices. I also look at forecast surface winds if windy. No sense to give yourself a 25 kt crosswind.
     
  9. steingar

    steingar Taxi to Parking

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    What airplanes are there for.
     
  10. Rgbeard

    Rgbeard Pattern Altitude

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  11. charheep

    charheep Line Up and Wait

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    Great trip!
     
  12. Arrow76R

    Arrow76R Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Excellent travelogue! I travel much the same route every year from Colorado Springs to Oregon and spend a week in Logan at USU on the way back east so I am very familiar with the Logan Canyon and easterly departures out of the Cache Valley. Your next trip out here will be much more relaxed I am sure!
     
  13. Jumpmaster

    Jumpmaster Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Great trip, although you must know, Boise is not Idaho. Anything south of McCall is just Northern Utah Or so those of us that live in the Real Idaho say.
     
  14. Rick182

    Rick182 Pre-Flight

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    Awesome write up.
     
  15. luvflyin

    luvflyin Final Approach PoA Supporter

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    Looks like ya had a fun trip. Thanks for sharing. But I don’t get what problem the
    Looks like ya had a great trip. But about the insurance thing. What grief did they have with you having a CFI along for the ride and getting some instruction?
     
  16. NealRomeoGolf

    NealRomeoGolf Pattern Altitude

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    To put him on the insurance they required the CFII to have 1000 hours (no problem), 100 retract (no problem) and 25 hours of PA32R time (problem). It is hard to find CFIIs with PA32R time. In this case, the CFII that was going to go with me had military time so they reduced it to him having a checkout.....but the checkout CFI had to meet the requirements above. We couldn't pull it off in the time frame we were working under.
     
  17. DrewG

    DrewG Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Looks like one heck of a trip. Thanks for sharing!
     
  18. luvflyin

    luvflyin Final Approach PoA Supporter

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    Ah. I went through that with a C177 I bought in Florida that I needed to get to California. I was able to find a CFI that met the requirement. I was able to get the hours I needed to act as PIC by El Paso and got an IPC done along the way.