(Note: some of the pictures require reading - click on them for larger images)
I can't remember exactly how long ago it was. Something like a year, I think. I was idling away the time Googling my name for the umpteenth time to see if I had yet attained the preeminent position on the results list (I have now, but at the time I think I was still pretty far down the list) when it struck me: if I could Google my own name, surely I could Google other people's names. I know, I know: Duh! I decided that I'd see if I could track down some of the people that I've lost touch with over the years. One such person was "J," who had been a fellow student in the Computer Science program at THE Ohio State University. It's hit or miss, this Googling thing. It's not uncommon to get no hits at all, or to get far more than can be dealt with if the name in question happens to be something common like Ken Smith or Bob Jones. The other thing that can happen is that you find a manageable list of names, and even find an email address, but it turns out to be a dead address or the wrong person. The great thing about Google is that it remembers everything, but of course the biggest problem with Google is that... you know it's coming... it remembers everything.
In the case of J, though, the address was valid and my test email was quickly replied to with a confirmation that I had found the right person. More emails followed as we got caught up on some of the twenty years that had passed since we last talked. At the time, J was working (or visiting - my memory is its normal untrustworthy self on the specifics, so bear with me) in California and the question came up as to whether it would be a good idea to take an open cockpit biplane ride up the California coast around San Diego, to which I replied that it would be a fantastic idea to do so. We bounced some emails back and forth about getting a pilot's license and the like, and it was apparent that there was certainly some interest in aviation on J's part.
Fast forward to early last week when J told me that a visit to Columbus was forthcoming, and that there might be time to get together for a reunion. That opportunity came today, and since the weather was forecast to be eminently flyable, I proposed that we fly to Urbana for breakfast for us and gas for the plane, then head north for a visit to Put-in-Bay. That plan was deemed acceptable. The Weather-out-the-Window (tm) forecast did not disappoint:
It was clear skies and only moderate winds, and the forecast for the afternoon predicted nothing worse than a high overcast. Good to go! The winds, such as they were, were coming from the north, so Bolton tower sent us down to runway 4. The controller was far more specific with his taxi directions than normal:
"Taxi to runway 4 via Bravo to Alpha."
I don't mention that because it's an abnormal routing; it's actually notable because it's the default path to the runway, and normally just assumed by all parties to be the way it's done. It's not normally spelled out. In fact, it's pretty much the only way to do it. I'm wondering if they have a new tower chief or if there was some kind of audit done by the FAA because I've noticed distinctly more formality from them lately.
Take off went fine, and we were soon at our cruising altitude of 3,500'. I gave J a few lessons in holding straight & level and making gentle turns along the way, but even with those deviations we were setting up to land at Urbana in what seemed like just a few minutes. Just as I was getting ready to report that we were five miles out and setting up for a midfield crossover to the left downwind for runway 2, I heard a flight of three RVs check in with their intention to overfly the field in formation. I waited until we were a couple of miles from the airport and asked for a position update - they were circling over the field and we easily picked them up visually. They were moving back out to the southwest to come back in and make an overhead break for landing. I was able to squeeze in behind them and make it to downwind just as they were overflying the runway to enter their landing break. I tightened up my pattern to avoid holding them up, which worked out well for all involved, but I ended up bouncing the landing. Why do I never get the greasers when I have guests on board?? Ach.
After breakfast we headed north to the islands. The sky was clear and there was just a little haze, and we had a glass smooth ride at 5,500'. With the wind being kinda-sorta out of the north, I knew we'd be landing on runway 3 at Put-in-Bay, so I made my usual dogleg to the east in order to allow for a three mile gap between us and the pattern. PIB can be pretty busy on nice days, so I like to be off to the side of the landing pattern and come in at the traditional 45 degree downwind entry angle. It turned out to be completely unnecessary today since there were no other planes in the pattern, but you never know. The common frequency was a cacophony of people talking on top of other people, so I hadn't been able to tell if there were any other planes in the pattern until we got there. Better safe than sorry, I figure.
PIB has a relatively short runway if you respect the displaced thresholds (which I don't), and the wind tends to bet a bit burbly as it blows through the trees just to the west of the runway. I caught an inconvenient updraft on short final, and ended up higher than I would have wished for as we came over the approach end of the runway. The runway length being what it is, I try not to argue too much about it and don't try to rescue a greaser - I just get it down. This is, of course, all in explanation of my second bounced landing of the day. I love having company with me on these trips, but as far as the topic of the landings goes, there are certain benefits to being alone. The lack of witnesses being one of the primary, as it turns out.
We paid the $10 landing fee and started our walk of the island. Usually I just head north to the town, but during the approach I had caught sight of what looked like a lighthouse on the southern tip of the island so I thought we'd try something different and head south instead. The furthest south on the island that I had ever been before was the bicycle rental place just down the road from the airport:
Just beyond that, we came to an open pasture populated solely by a couple of windmills and a collection of antique farm equipment:
I'm not sure why the pasture was populated solely by a couple of windmills and a collection of antique farm equipment, but there it is. It's a mystery. The lighthouse was eventually found to be just past the Mysterious Pasture of Antique Farm Equipment. It seems to be a somewhat unique in its design (remember, click on the picture for bigger):
There was no one around to enforce the "Open for Photography after May 25" restriction, so we went ahead and had a look around:
Rahther than head back on the same road we had used to get down to the southern tip of the island, we took an easterly course and found another (much quieter!) road that headed back north up to the town. It's Spring Spring SPRING in Ohio, so there were a lot of nice flowers and shrubs along the way:
Even the little 9 hole golf course was looking nice:
We walked past the cemetery and I stopped for a picture:
So, who was this De Rivera who warranted such ostentatious accommodations? Well, we found out later when we were walking through the waterfront park:
I also enjoy looking at the older houses sprinkled around the island:
After walking for a couple of hours, the light breakfast we'd had at Urbana was long forgotten and it was time to find someplace for lunch. Two places looked nice from the outside, but both were noisy with bar patrons inside and we were looking for something a little quieter. We ended up at the diner that Co-pilot Rick and breakfasted at last Fall when we weren't able to get into Urbana, but over the winter it had morphed into an Italian place:
I don't know much of the Italian language beyond "Ciao," but I'm pretty sure "Quattro" means "four." The menu cast doubt on that belief:
Monterey Jack... five!
Still, five cheeses or four didn't really matter - it was a fine sandwich anyway:
By the time we had finished lunch, it was getting late and we were expected back in Columbus. The high overcast had come in by that time, and it was getting a little chillier. We still had a mile long walk back to the airport to look forward to, so the decision to head home was made. The flight was a little bumpier on the way back, but not to the degree I've come to expect when I make the same trip later in the summer. We had a little tailwind, so the trip back to Bolton only register .83 on the tach. Oh, and I went three for three on crappy, bouncy landings. I'm nothing if not consistent!
We had a great time and it was wonderful to spend time getting reacquainted with my friend. Thanks, Google!