Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Day 12: Friends to Family

Birmingham, AL (BHM) to Carbondale, IL (MDH)
371 statute miles (322 nm)
time enroute: 3:57 (includes 40 minutes ground time for fuel stop in Ripley, MS)

After a brief but pleasant stay with our friends in Birmingham, we are headed for my sister's home in Carbondale, IL. This flight is literally a turning point. This is the first leg with a westerly component. After travelling eastward for eleven days, we are heading home. That means it's time to start working with even thousands on the altitude.

Generally good weather was the theme for the day. We set out for our stopping point, Ripley, MS. Along the way, we encountered clouds that began at around 4500 and continued upward. I decided to stay below since we weren't going that far, which might not have been the best course of action. As we flew, the ceiling came down to about 3000 feet; we were never in danger of being forced too low and we had lots of options if it got worse. We could land, turn back, or just get an instrument clearance and head up through the clouds. As it happens, we just stayed the course.

Sarah slept for the first half of the flight, then woke up feeling airsick. There was a fair bit of sloshing around in the unstable air under the cloud layer and this is always tough for her. She toughed it out to Ripley.

Mississippi is my third new state for this trip, bringing the life list up to 47. Nebraska is days away, and I'm dreaming of Alaska with an old friend in 2009. North Dakota is left. Anyhow, the airport in Ripley is not a rip-roaring place, but the airport building was cool and comfortable.

When we arrived, the office was open but nobody was around. While I was fueling the plane, two carloads of people arrived and went inside. It turns out they were Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics. My first narcs. These guys were all ground-based. They have a pilot who flies around looking for marijuana fields, then they all jump in their cars and drive out to bring justice. I'm sure someone thinks this is a good use of tax dollars. I hope they sleep better at night knowing that our government is protecting foreign drug cartels by stomping out the cheap domestic competition.

Anyhow, today they were happy to sit and smoke the legal, local alternative while hoping they wouldn't have to go out in the heat to arrest anyone.

Sarah wasn't too happy to get back in the plane after the morning flight. I gave her a second Bonine and she climbed aboard. Whether it was the Bonine or the fact that the sky cleared up and our flight up to Carbondale at 6500 was smooth, she did fine.

Carbondale actually has a pretty substantial airport. With three runways and a tower, it is very well equipped. It is also the base for the Southern Illinois University Aviation Program, but there wasn't much going on during the summer.

My sister Sue met us at the airport. After a visit to her home, the first time we have seen it, we all drove down to our accommodations at the
Giant City Lodge at Giant City State Park. The park is named for its unusual rock formations and the entire area is quite beautiful. The lodge was built by the Civilian Conversation Corps during FDR's New Deal and it is a real landmark.

The lodge features regional cooking with a southern accent. Most of the dishes were average to good, but their fried green tomatoes were excellent, as was the blackberry cobbler. The theme was large portions and modest prices as an alternative to great service or quality. Overall, I think it was nice and in tune with the setting.

We missed lunch today but made up for it at dinner. After dinner, my sister and her kids headed back to Carbondale. We collapsed and slept in.


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