It's been an odd year weather-wise, and this August has followed that trend. I can usually count on a break from mowing in August as it gets hot and dry, conditions unfavorable to grass and in turn welcomed by those that need to mow it. Not this year. We're still mowing at least once a week. It needs it now, in fact. Mowing was one of my three choices for what to do after work today, the others being work on the RV-12 or go flying. I picked flying. I don't feel guilty about it at all. Here it is almost Labor Day and I have hardly flown all year. It's depressing.
Tonight I invited Co-pilot Egg to ride along on a short hop around the neighborhood. We didn't get a particularly early start; it was 7:23 when we called Bolton ground for taxi clearance.
I never know what to do when that happens. They could be busy on another frequency or on the phone. How long should I wait before trying again? I have to balance between a reasonable wait versus being a pest and getting snapped at. After waiting what I considered to be a suitably long time, I tried again. No reply. It was 7:25 by this time and the tower is scheduled to close at 7:30. They're usually very precise about the timing, so I wasn't comfortable with just heading out on my own.
Then the rotating beacon came on. That can mean either that we are under IFR conditions, it's night, or the tower is closed. Two out of three of those were absolutely out of the question. Still, it wasn't yet 7:30. And I recently had occasion to ask them why it was on in the middle of a sunny afternoon. I just couldn't chance it.
What to do, what to do. I pulled over onto a ramp off of the main taxiway and waited. At precisely 7:30-ish (close enough to an indicated 7:30 to be within the bounds of believability should I be accused to leaving too early) I headed for the runway. A Cessna 172 was just departing on runway 22 for touch & goes, but the wind sock seemed to indicate that runway 4 would be preferred. A Cherokee coming down the ILS to runway 4 tacitly agreed. I figured I'd taxi to runway 4 and wait until the Cessna was somewhere on downwind before departing on 4. At the end of the runway, the 172 was turning base and the Cherokee was still three or four miles out. The 172 made a full stop and was off on taxiway Alpha 3 while the Piper was still a couple of miles out. Off we went!
We climbed up to 5,000 and headed for downtown Columbus. Egg flew for a little while, but soon reported that her nutritious meal of Kraft Cheese & Macaroni wasn't sitting too well. I figured we'd better head back before anything untoward of a gastrointestinal nature occurred. An explosive decompression, in the vernacular.
Descending from 5,000 down to pattern altitude over Bolton, there was a 172 coming in from the southwest repeatedly calling the tower. I guess I could have told him the tower was closed, but it was a rental from Bolton - the dude ought to know when the tower closes. A Cherokee on left downwind clued him in. The 172 acknowledged that the tower was closed and reported that he'd enter a right base for runway 4. That's not kosher, really. It's left traffic when the tower is closed.
We overflew the Cherokee on downwind a couple of thousand feet above and made a lazy left turn in a fast descent to fall in line behind it on left base. We were set up for a good landing. Didn't get one. Bounced it. Luckily not hard enough to jar loose the Cheese & Macroni, though, so there is that.