Thursday, May 28 2020

Day 19

We awoke in Angola, Indiana at Tri-State Steuben County Airport, a land-locked field surrounded by lakes. And upon those lakes—seaplane bases! I talked via email with an awesome pilot from the area who had worked with Indiana lawmakers to change laws surrounding seaplanes, which had made the water of the state much more accessible to them. As a result, this beautiful cluster of bases exists. They host an annual fly in every September which we would love to attend this year.

We grabbed the crew car and had a hearty Indiana breakfast at Timbers down the road. The restaurant was recommended to us by airport manager Terry, and I loved that it was shaped like an a-frame cabin.

The weather for the day was IFR until mid-afternoon, so we took a drive out to Lake James to see if we could spot any seaplane activity, or at least, some remnants of it. No such luck, but the beauty of the area was lovely and we enjoyed a joy cruising lake drive.

After a while, we returned to the airport to sit it out, I did some studying for work and Filip worked on some photo edits and read about engines from an FBO book. It was a great spot to get things done, and we were happy we’d chosen it.

Afternoon approached and the weather improved, marginally, so we prepped the plane and got ready to depart. Initially our plan was to fly East as far as possible, and stop at an airport directly before a front of weather that looked, from the ground at KANQ, impossible to traverse.

As we flew East, monitoring the TAFs, METARs, and radar, the conditions improved, and the front at our 12 dissipated enough to make it through. We checked ETA and fuel burn and realized, incredibly, we could make it to our home airport in Central Jersey tonight! It was bittersweet, because getting home early was exciting, but neither of us wanted the journey to end, maybe ever. However, we decided to press on and make it home to 47N that night.

We flew and navigated through the front—it was moving North, and we diverted slightly South and missed any convection or precipitation. However, East of the front deteriorated in ceilings and visibility. We’d expected this and were prepared for it, but forecasts were better than actual. Night was falling and our VFR aircraft wasn’t equipped for dropping ceilings and vis. We were so close to home but eventually called it and diverted to Penn Valley, KSEG, in Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania to spend the night and wait for conditions to improve.

The airfield was deserted, the FBO locked. However, the front of the FBO was open with bathrooms which was appreciated. The town itself was sleepy, and we ventured out on foot for sustenance, traversing a highway. We secured adequate food and drink and returned to the airport. Empowered, we pitched our tent directly beneath the airplane wing on the ramp and celebrated. Tonight was our last night out, and we were going to make sure it was a full send.

After music and drinks and photos and laughs, we went to sleep late, under an IFR sky, happy the weather had colluded with our secret desires to give us one last perfect Flamp.

We awoke in the morning light and stretched. The airport manager Sam came and greeted us. Not only was he absolutely fine with our underwing camping, he even had a suggestion for a better place to do it next time. Absolutely wonderful. We took the crew car and on his suggestion found a group of Amish farmers grilling chicken and pork steak on the corner by the airport. I’m serious in saying with complete honesty I don’t think I can recall a better meal. Satiated beyond imagination, and with beautifully improving weather, we fueled and fired up. One more leg. Our hearts were pretty heavy on this one.

There it was! 47N, Central Jersey, our point of departure 20 days prior. We’d done it—Coast to Coast and back again. Touching down on that accomplishment felt sacred and immense. And then in a flash of smiles, we saw our friend Andy—on his motorcycle—racing down the taxiway filming us, laughing his head off. We burst into laughter at the joyful reception and taxied to the tie down space following him, where he greeted us with champagne and mirthful congratulations. Such a wonderful way to return.

Flight Path

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