Sunday, June 21, 2009

Having it both ways

There are three ways of looking at Fathers Day. First, you can view it as Mothers Day, but without the flowers. A day of breakfast in bed, relaxation instead of the normal day-to-day chores, and a nice brunch or dinner out. Or, you can view it as a day to spend with your children doing things together. Finally, you can take the opposite approach and spend some time doing something with your own dad. I figured if I played it just right, I could have at least two out of three of those.

The weather for today was forecast to be flyable, albeit fairly hot and humid at a presumptive 86 degrees and 50+% humidity in the afternoon. Rather than that being a problem, that actually played into my plan. Co-pilot Egg would not want to get up early and make breakfast for me (and for good reason: she had her wisdom teeth out yesterday) or pursue any type of activity, but might be up for a late afternoon movie. My dad, on the other hand, is an early riser like I am. With the pieces lined up like that, the germ of a plan started to develop in my head. I could fly out to the farm in the early-ish morning while it was still cool and calm to pick him up and fly out somewhere for brunch, then return home for the afternoon with Egg.

The challenge then was to find someplace to fly to. Given that I'm physically incapable of planning or deliberately flying a route that involves a lot of backtracking and that the farm is located on the western edge of Ohio, none of the Ohio restaurant airports that I know of really fit the bill. By being limited to flying only southwest, west, or northwest, it looked like I'd have to find someplace in Indiana. After spending quite a bit of time hunting around the internet for just the right place, I relaxed my search constraints and decided to allow southerly and northerly destinations as well.

Oxford, OH (KOXD) fit the bill. While there is no restaurant on the airport, I had been there once before and knew that the FBO guy will provide a ride into town and a later pick-up for the ride back to the airport. Oxford is only 40nm from Darke Co. airport (KVES) where I would be picking up my passenger, so if the return flight was uncomfortably hot & bumpy it would at least have the benefit of being brief. And without Co-pilot Rick along, I'd have to fly the hot & bumpy leg myself. Best to minimize it then, right?

The only outstanding issue was where to eat in Oxford. The last time I was there, I ate at a nice Mexican place. I didn't figure that would be a good choice for today, though. Google told me that there is a Bob Evans in Oxford, so I decided that I'd use that as a fall back plan if we couldn't find something more interesting. There was a severe down side to Bob Evans, though, and that was its location. It was out on the fringes of town. If the FBO guy dropped us there, it would be a very long walk into the town. I wanted to walk around the campus too - it's very scenic. Since Bob's was only the secondary target, though, I thought it was OK to take the chance.

As I was flying out to the farm, I listened to the Unicom on 122.8 and counted the number of occurrences of the poor radio practices I wrote about here. I had to give up when I ran out of fingers and thumbs to count on. The radio was really hopping with traffic from all of the normal 122.8 players but there was one in particular that I've never heard before that seemed to be attracting quite a bit of traffic: Connersville. I've found that an unusually large number of arrivals at a place I don't normally hear used at all means there's some kind of fly-in or event going on. As it turns out, Connersville Mettel Field (KCEV) has an annual Fathers Day fly-in. Mystery solved.

It takes about half an hour to get from Bolton to KVES, ample time for me to revel in the smooth flying conditions. I rarely fly alone anymore, but it's a nice change of pace now and then. When I fly alone, the plane is lighter and feels more energetic. There's also a little more room to spread out and adopt a La-Z-Boy kind of relaxed posture. Once I got all settled in and trimmed Papa to fly with a light fingertip touch, I kicked back and let the miles, well, fly by.

The pattern at KVES was empty when I arrived, so the decision as to what runway to use was left entirely up to me. There was no wind to speak of; as I flew over the field I could see that the flaccid windsock wasn't going to provide much of a hint either. It appeared that I would be able to have my druthers, so based on the fact that a landing towards the east would require squinting into the morning sun, I decided I'd druther land to the west. It was an OK landing, but not the squeaker I'd druther have when the wind is calm. I misjudged my flare, forgetting that it's a narrower runway and that my sight picture would be off a bit. I plopped Papa down from about a foot high. Not enough to rattle my teeth or nerves, but enough to feel that I had left a good landing on the table. A wasted opportunity, in other words. Thankfully, there were no witnesses.

I got my dad loaded up (maybe I should give him a name - how about Pat Treeark? Patriarch. Get it?) and we took off for the short ride down to Oxford. Because there is no dead horse in existence that I won't flog, I made sure to point out instances of poor radio work on the Unicom on the way down. It was a target rich environment. There was also great sightseeing to be done since this was a strip of geography that he has heavily traveled in the past. "There's Eaton over there, and that big lake must be Acton Lake and Hueston Woods."

The wind was still light and variable when we reached the decision-making point at Oxford. Since we were approaching from the north, a left downwind to runway 5 would work best. I announced our position and intentions when we were six miles out. Soon thereafter, a Cherokee announced "ten miles out, landing runway 5." There! That's the way you do it. He had been monitoring the frequency and was going to follow my lead. Knowing he was out there and going to be following us, I spurred Papa up a few knots to get us out of the way a little quicker. The ensuing landing was about average. As we were taxiing in, I saw an RV-8 already parked there. You can't go anywhere....

It's a neat airport. I like the old-school (heh!) FBO building:

The artist alongside his work.

As we parked next to the RV-8, the FBO guy came out to see if we needed fuel or anything. I responded that we have plenty of gas, but a ride to town would be appreciated. "Unnecessary," he replied. "Just take the courtesy car."


By that time the Cherokee was taxiing in so I waited until he was parked and out of the plane before heading in to get the car. I thought there was some possibility that he'd be wanting to go into town too and I thought it would be courteous to share the courtesy car if he was. Nope, he wasn't. Emergency rest room break. "Ha," I thought. "What a rookie. He doesn't know about Espresso!"

He sure missed out! In the unofficial Best Courtesy Car in the Country competition, KOXD is a clear front runner, at least in the Regional competition:

Brand new! I think it had about 23,000 miles on it. Miami University owns the airport, and by extension it was the university that provided the courtesy car. It's enough to make the father of a soon-to-be-college-age daughter wonder how he's going to afford tuition. It's a beautiful campus and town, though. If she wants to go there, Daddy will have to find a way. It's a college town through and through and would provide for a tremendous collegiate experience. Plus, and this is only a minor consideration [cough cough], I could fly out there to visit!

We found the town easily enough. I think I only made three wrong turns in as many miles. I don't know why I don't grab the Garmin Nuvi out of the Subaru on my way out of the house. Just can't seem to remember to do it. After a little walk through town, we found a place to eat and absorb some air conditioning. I had a generous portion of Gyro meat (both beef and chicken), most of which I had them box up for transport back to Columbus. I try to eat light when I have the prospect of a hot flight home ahead of me, and all indications were that it would indeed by a scorcher. It'll make a good lunch tomorrow.

The Miami University campus is huge, so we were only able to see a small portion of it. It was surely a representative sample, though. The architecture is remarkably consistent considering that the place is 200 years old and has expanded by at least an order of magnitude in that time. Miami has a bit of a "preppy" reputation in Ohio, and the equestrian center must sure exacerbate that:

Snazzy, eh? They had enough stables to provide lodging for dozens of horses. Very impressive. Yet... I don't think I'll tell Egg. Tuition is one thing, food and lodging for a horse? I don't think so!

The trip back to KVES was warm but the air hadn't yet gotten too bumpy. There was a light chop and only one big pocket that we dropped into. It was nothing like those hot August afternoons when Co-pilot Rick gets stuck with the flying duties. After I had dropped Pat off and was heading back to Bolton, I debated climbing higher thanthe 3,500' cruising altitude that I'd been using all day to try to find some cooler, smoother air, but it's only a 65 mile trip. It's usually more efficient just to stay down in the rough stuff for the 25 minute flight.

As I was monitoring Bolton tower, I couldn't help noticing that there wasn't much flying going on. Too hot? Probably not. I think it probably had more to do with it being Fathers Day. In any event, I decided to break one of my Comm Rules. When the tower is really, really slow, I've found that I often have to repeat my initial call because I caught them by surprise and they just weren't ready for a call.

"Annnnnd, Bolton Tower....."

It worked. Got it on the first try. He responded with "Winds calm, report left base runway 4." That set me up for a nice over-the-neighborhood approach and a landing halfway down the runway to reduce taxi time. As I exited an taxiway Alpha 3 and crossed in front of the tower, he said, "Hey, I really like that Yosemite Sam!"

Pat would be proud.

I got home in time for my Fathers Day with Co-pilot Egg, but it didn't work out. Her teeth were still quite painful and she had a low fever. She gave me a rain check, though, and I think I'm going to use it by flying out to Oxford with her so she can see it.


  1. If I could do it all over again, I'd probably have gone to Miami University with a few of my friends. Great place, to be sure.

  2. My Dad said the same thing. He went to U of Cincy instead.

  3. man dave i was sure you were going to change plans and take your dad to the fly in. especally if they had food. nope the story went according to plan