After a long – and sometimes frustrating – day, we’ve made it to Florida.
The weather this morning in Texarkana was beautiful, and the forecast was for the rain which was over north Florida and Georgia to have moved offshore by the time we arrived late in the day. So, with our fingers crossed, we took off from KTXK bright and early.
I’d seen a post on the AOPA Members facebook group from the FBO at Monroe County, Alabama (KMVC), inviting people flying to Sun’n’Fun to stop in for a free buffet meal. As it turned out, KMVC was almost exactly half way between Texarkana and Clearwater, so it made a perfect stop for fuel and food. About three hours after taking off, we were on final for runway 21, KMVC.
Everyone at Monroe County was as friendly as can be – the guy on the line even pumped our fuel at the self-service fuel pump. We fueled next to another airplane (a Cherokee) headed to Sun’n’Fun, then we all went into the FBO for food.
We filled up, then sat around talking flying while we watched the weather on our tablets or smartphones – the storms moving in from the Gulf of Mexico hadn’t moved on as predicted. In fact, they seemed to be getting worse. We waited, and watched, until it looked like there was a route along the back side, if we headed more directly south and then east. The problem is that most of the Gulf coast around there, and many miles inland, are all restricted areas and military operations areas (MOA’s). We found that we could take a corridor from KMVC to Logan (1A4), Tri County (1J0), and Mariana (KMAI), then south to Talahassee (KTLH) which avoids the various airspaces. We decided to go ahead for an hour, which would take us to KMAI, and see how things looked. If the weather wasn’t good ahead, we’d land there. If not, we’d go on to Talahassee and see how it was there, and so on.
As it turned out, we started to get light rain around Talahassee, but the visibility was still good, so we decided to press onward to Perry-Foley (40J). About ten miles from 40J the ceiling began to drop and the rain strengthened. We decided to land and wait it out – along with about eight other airplanes, as it turned out.
Perry-Foley is another very friendly FBO, with a nice airport dog and a good facility for just sitting around in. So we did, for several hours. I read some magazines, petted the dog, talked flying, checked the weather, autographed the Sun’n’Fun poster on the wall… Finally, a little after 5:00 the weather broke and we got back in the air.
As we neared Clearwater, it turned out that the storms had moved on – but they’d left behind a low deck of broken clouds at about 800-1,200 feet. We threaded our way through the clouds and the busy workspace (talking to Tampa Approach along the way), until we arrived at KCLW – and for a miracle, the deck broke enough to make our landing uneventful at last.
We’re off to Sun’n’Fun tomorrow morning, and all week. If everything works well with the weather (and when does that happen?) we will be back in the air a week from today. As ever, watch this space…