Ah, 'tis the time of year when three will get you ten, although I opted for the four will get you eleven deal this year. Four vacation days, when combined with holidays and weekends, netted eleven total days off. I like to call it "retirement training," although I take to it so readily that I'm not sure retirement is something that I will need to dedicate a lot of practice time to.
Helps when the weather is nice, of course, and when last I took keyboard to pixel, such was most assuredly not the case. Today is the proverbial horse of a different color, though, as was yesterday, but that one didn't count. Today was mid-40s and sunny, albeit the weak tea of a sun that we get in late December. This time of year the old sun is just tuckered out and can't manage much more than a feeble afternoon effort in crawling across the southern horizon, but beggars/choosers and all of that, right?
Brave Sir Hogarth has either finished, lost, or simply forgotten about his Christmas gift from yesterday, so he found himself somewhat at a loss for recreational activity today, which is eerily similar to my situation.
Long past the age when I could spend a day or two rubbing the novelty off of new toys over the first few days after the "big day," I get cabin fever nearly immediately. Thus, 'twas good fortune indeed that the two of us had a day that lent itself to us getting out of doors and communing in a communal way with what passes for nature here-abouts. Brave Sir Hogarth is quite the rabid fan of our local dog walking park, named by the parks department somewhat whimsically as the "Wag Tail Trail." Brave Sir knows it by a different, more canine oriented moniker, of course, that being "The Long Trail of Interesting and Intriguing Smells:"
He enjoys leaving his mark, as it were, to the maximum extent possible, whether that be with periodic spritzings of recycled water, or when that runs dry, the practice of scratch marking:
I read somewhere that in the actual wolf pack, only the higher ranking wolves scratch mark, which fits well with Brave Sir Hogarth's over-inflated and self-aggrandized sense of his position in our pack.
The tall grass and weeds are all brown and hibernating, of course, but still interesting to look at:
Having met my obligation to the hound, I dropped him off at home for his after lunch but before tea nap, and went to the airport to share another little jaunt with Papa Golf. The weather was nice enough for the prolonged preflight that I like to do when I haven't flown for awhile, and everything on the plane looked good. The engine started with the alacrity and aplomb to which I have become accustomed, and all seemed in order.
A call to Bolton Ground resulted in taxi directions to runway 4, which was not unexpected given the light breeze out of the north. As I was heading down to the parallel taxiway, I saw one of the rental 172s heading back in. At just about the same time I saw him and realized that my ride out to the runway was obstructed, the ground controller amended my taxi clearance to "taxi to taxiway Alpha, hold at Alpha 3, the 172 is going to come up the main ramp."
I was just passing the turn I would have to make if it were I that was going to divert to the main ramp and the 172 that would continue down Alpha, and my right foot, having such a short memory that all it could recall was having heard "main ramp," and knowing that the opportunity for turning onto the main ramp was increasingly fleeting, hit the floor (taking the right rudder pedal along for the ride) and turned us onto the main ramp.
This, as you might expect, caught the controller somewhat unawares, and his nicely crafted plan to keep us little airplanes from meeting nose-to-nose fell apart around him. He quickly instructed the 172 to keep on truckin' down the taxiway, and then patiently explained to me the multitude of ways that I am an idiot. Nicely, of course, as he's one of the friendlier controllers. I knew already that my impetuous foot had led me astray, so there was nothing for it other than to reply with a weak "my bad," and continue on my way.
The takeoff was happily non-eventful, and I soon had us up to 3000' and loafing along at a fiscally responsible 1900 RPM, netting a ground speed of 132 knots. Having given no real thought to the topic of where exactly to fly to, I decided on-the-fly (so to speak) to head down to the south and overfly Deer Creek Lake, or more accurately, what's left of it.
Now, I'm the first to poke fun at Saint Algore and his highly lucrative business of passing off periodic climatic trends as a cause worthy of the highest order of fruitless panic (and encourage others to donate! donate! donate! to the cause) while himself living a lifestyle of pervertedly conspicuous consumption, and I don't believe for an instant that draconian masturbatory legislative acts such as the banning of incandescent lightbulbs will make one iota of a difference, but I cannot deny that we are in the throes of a drought:
Boat ramp to nowhere!
Sad, that, when considering the effort I recently put into building a boat.
Turning back to the north to head back to Bolton put me in the position of a nice, long straight in approach to the same runway that I had recently departed from. The tower asked for a position report when three miles out, and I actually remembered to comply. It would have been a bad day to forget, what with having already embarrassed myself once already.
I've been thinking of modifying my approaches a bit, with the idea that I might like to keep some altitude in the bank earning interest a little longer than I have been, having been using the same type of flat approach that I used to use in the Tampico. It makes for an easier landing, but has the unfortunate aspect of increased (albeit very slightly) risk of not having any options for a happy ending whatsoever if something untoward were to happen to the engine whilst dragging myself around the pattern.
First try today, then, for a higher approach. At about a mile and a half out on the straight-in final, I was doing an indicated 140 mph, and the altimeter was reporting 2,200', which is 1,300' above the ground. I pulled the throttle to idle and left the flaps up. I held altitude until we slowed to the best-glide speed of 100 mph, which is also maximum flap extension speed. That would be nice when it came time to drop the flaps, assuming I had excess altitude and/or airspeed to worry about. If it was the case that the glide got me to the runway at a good landing altitude, I planned on a no-flaps landing, which could be the case depending on the scenario I was faced with if ever doing this for real.
At 100 mph and a little less than 1 mile from the runway, it still looked like I was going to have altitude to spare, but I knew that it only felt that way because I was higher than my normal approach. A look at the 700 foot-per-minute descent rate disabused me of any thoughts that I might actually end up too high on the approach. Sure enough, as I got within a half mile or so of the runway it was apparent that I was sinking too quickly to make the runway. I experimented with slowing to 80 mph indicated, but that only exacerbated the problem. I finally had to use a little throttle to extend the glide far enough to reach the runway. While I wasn't able to glide all the way to the runway, I did make it as far as the open grass area (open, yes, but watch out for those runway lights!) just short of the runway. It would have certainly been a survivable landing if I had actually had to make it. It was good practice too, and I intend to do it again.