Yes, that’s right. I’m in Vicksburg, Mississippi. So much for advanced planning.
When I got up this morning, the map showed heavy rain and thunderstorms across Tennessee and Arkansas, right where I’d planned to fly today. Back to the old drawing board, or rather back to the iPad and Garmin Pilot. Looking at the various prognosis maps on the ADDS site it looked like the storms were due to a cold front stretching southwest to northeast right across the region, and it was moving eastward. By heading southwest parallel to the front, I could get as far west as I’d planned to go, but down through Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi instead of Tennessee and Arkansas. I’d considered going as far as Shreveport, LA, but it looked like the weather was going to get there before I would, so Vicksburg, Mississippi, seemed more reasonable.
The weather in Gatlinburg was actually very nice this morning, the rain being more toward the middle of the state. It was hazy, but the Smoky Mountains were beautiful as I left Gatlinburg and headed southwest.
The river valleys were much less steep and forbidding than the ones in West Virginia. As I skirted the northern edge of the mountains, though, a layer of scattered clouds started to accumulate below me.
I stayed above the clouds, and climbed up to about 4,500 feet, where the air was much cooler and smoother. Unfortunately, it was also windier – in the wrong direction. Reluctantly, I dropped back down to 2,500 feet, where it was hot, hazy, and a little bumpy – but I picked up 15 knots of ground speed. A worthwhile tradeoff.
As we passed on into Alabama the cloud deck became thicker and lower, and I dropped down to 2,000 feet to stay under the crud. There were a few times where I wondered if I should consider setting down at one of my waypoint airports, but it was never quite ugly enough, so I pressed onward, to be rewarded by higher ceilings and better visibility as we entered Mississippi. The Columbus MOA was “hot”, but the controller had no problem handling an extra Cessna amongst the jets practicing approaches to the Air Force training base. Of course, they were on UHF, so I couldn’t hear them, but the controller was simulcasting and I could follow the action on the normal civilian VHF frequency. At one point the controller warned me about a tower about six miles off – as well he might. It isn’t often you see a tower 1,800 feet tall, reaching up above my 2,500 altitude by a fair bit.
About an hour later we reached the western border of Mississippi. The lowlands along the many tributaries of the Mississippi River are all flooded, despite all the levees everywhere. It looked bad to me, but I guess it’s just an annual occurrence to the folks along the Big Muddy.
Finally, four and a half hours after leaving Gatlinburg, we were in sight of the Mississippi herself – stretching as far as the eye could see in both directions, with towboats moving heavy loads of barges both ways. Right across the river was Tallulah-Vicksburg Regional Airport (KVTR).
The line guy at the FBO was really great. He gave me a run-down on the airport (they have a museum specializing in WWII warbirds I’m certainly going to visit tomorrow), fueled up 493, recommended a hotel, and was willing to hand me the keys to their courtesy car for the day. I decided to rent a car, since I’m going to be staying two nights to wait for the weather to pass through, but I really appreciate the offer. That’s the kind of FBO you hope for.
Tomorrow, I’m going to be relaxing and visiting the Civil War battlefield and the air museum, among other things. If the weather cooperates, I’ll be back in the air Thursday morning early.