The cruise was, as you might imagine, a bit of a time sink from the week prior until a day or two after. A lot of preparation goes into a trip like that, and I always find it relaxing and a bit entertaining to sit back and watch it all being done by the very capable co-owner. All that sitting and watching still eats up a good deal of time, though. My sole function during the run-up phase to the end-of-month cruise was to schedule my appointment for my soon-to-expire FAA Class III physical. The earliest available date after getting back from the cruise was June 3rd. That seemed plenty soon enough. Or at least I thought so until the afternoon of June 2nd - it was (or would have been, had my legal status been slightly different) a good flying day.
The physical was scheduled with the fourth doctor in as many inspections. The first, Dr. "Big Finger" Adrian (who received that nickname back in the day when the physical was a bit more invasive than it is now) had retired by the time I was due for a renewal six years ago. It's not that easy to find doctors that are willing to make the effort to get certified with the FAA to perform these things, and they don't do enough of them to make them very profitable. I found a doc down in Lancaster and figured I'd just drive down there after work, what with me working on the east side and all.
I always, always, always underestimate just how far away Lancaster is.
I got the physical there, but swore I'd never go back. He schedules the physicals in groups of four (or at least he did on that day) and runs us all through at once. I sat and waited while he counseled another applicant for ten to fifteen minutes, telling him that he had paid his debt to society (I think it was a DUI case) and that he was sure he'd make a fine pilot. When he finally got to me, he told me he had saved me for last because despite his best efforts, he had been unable to find what I was hiding.
"Huh? I'm not hiding anything."
And this is where he really pissed me off: "Well if that's the case, why were you going to Dr. Adrian?"
I explained that I had been going to Dr. Adrian for twenty years because 1) his office was close to where I lived when I first moved to Columbus and 2) he ran a very pilot-friendly operation where you didn't need an appointment and his office was well configured to do a quick, efficient exam. As it turns out (at least according to Dr. Doubtful), Doc Adrian was a bit too pilot-friendly - he had a reputation for passing anyone that could show a pulse. The explanation satisfied the doc, but his attitude did not satisfy me. Besides which, Lancaster is a long way to go.
The next exam was with a doctor close to home. He retired soon after doing my exam. Seeing me in my skivvies may or may not have been the primary cause.
This year, I was referred to a doctor up in Dublin. I think I'll keep this one, despite my little faux pas. He's a pilot and shares ownership of a Ryan PT-22 with his father. The PT-22 was my first airplane, as long as Cox .049 control line planes count. How cool is that??
Oh, what was my faux pas? Well, he had me disrobe and, while I was doing so, he was putting on latex gloves. "Oh, we're back to doing that again?" I said as I was turning around to present my posterior view to him.
"NO! This is a frontal thing."
Ah, turn head, cough. Get it. Thanks!
So, legal to fly again and it was simply a matter of waiting for an opportunity. The weather over the weekend was simply horrible, although I was able to fit in some lawn work and mower maintenance. Yippee!
Today was much better. Temps in the 70's, a light wind out of the northwest, a few puffy white floaters to give the sky some character. I've been pestering a co-worker to take a ride with me and she was ready and willing, so all conditions were aligned for a nice evening flight. But, and this is the perennial plight, where to go?
I was thinking "food!" I've been dieting for the first time in my life as a result of the immense amount of food that I had eaten on the cruise chip, most of which showed up in a picture taken of me on the beach in Honduras. This is a picture that you will never see. This is the kind of picture that is not suitable for a digital camera because there is no negative to burn. This picture could have been used for one of those old Sally Struthers "help this poor bloated-belly boy for just $5.00 a day" commercials. In short, this is the picture that had me eating tuna pita sandwiches all week.
This is the picture that made me very, very hungry. I didn't know this, but the defining trait of dieting is a nagging hunger. I wanted food!
The restaurant at Urbana is, I believe, closed on Mondays. I figured that was too short of a flight anyway, so decided to go to Portsmouth to eat at the Skyline. That's a nice flight because for the small investment of just a handful more miles you can go down a little further south and take a look at the barges working their way up and down the river.
After reaching the river and looking around a bit, I headed west to position us for a midfield left downwind entry to runway 36. Approaching PMH from the west is tricky since it's down in a valley and therefore completely invisible from the west (and, I suppose, the east) but the GPS makes it a lot easier to find. The only problem then is my tree shyness. I like to stay higher than I really need to over the wooded hills to the west of the runway. This leaves me very high on base and final. The RV-6 comes down like shares of BP Oil when I need it to, but it requires a bit of finesse to catch the descent at just the right time to smooth out the flare and touch down.
I nearly greased it - just a couple of small chirpy bounces.
I then proceeded to completely negate any lasting effects from my tuna diet by eating an entire plate of country fried steak, corn, mac & cheese, and a salad drenched in honey mustard dressing. I only ate half of the roll, though. So there is that.
Heading back to Bolton, we were listening on 128.1 as the tower closed at 1930. It didn't seem all that busy, although a Cessna Conquest called in eleven miles northeast and planning a left downwind for runway 4. We were about the same distance to the south. A Conquest is a big twin engine turboprop, so I figured he'd get there pretty quick and wouldn't really be a factor. I had been planning on a straight in approach to the runway, but in light of the fact that there'd be a big twin flying a normal pattern, I decided to head off to the west in order to set up for a normal midfield downwind entry, or an entry directly into left base if the twin was clear by the time I got there.
The Cessna called left downwind while we were still six or seven miles out. All was shaping up well. He was taking forever to call left base, though. Another Cessna (a 182, I think, named Fifty-one Mike) called in six miles north and planning the left downwind. That messed up my idea of getting far enough north to make a midfield entry so I just went ahead and entered a three mile left base. I still hadn't heard from the big Cessna yet, so I keyed the mike and asked "where the Cessna that was on downwind to Bolton was."
Actually it was something like "where yew at?" Good grammar falls by the wayside now and then.
The Cessna coming from the north (Fifty-one Mike) replied that he was still "five point five" north. Great, but that's not the guy I was looking for. I replied back that there was another Cessna on left downwind, but we had not heard from him again.
Then he pops up on the radio: "We're on the ground."
Thanks, Buddy. Good to know. Kinda wondering why you suddenly fell silent in the pattern, though.
The landing itself was a near boondoggle as I found the runway coming up from below at a prodigious rate, but I still had enough energy stored in the wing to catch the drop with a sharp (but small) tug back on the stick and a blip of power. It must have been the extra weight of that massive dinner that caused us to pick up that steep descent on final. Back to dieting tomorrow, it seems.