|Date||Aircraft||Route of Flight||Time (hrs)||Total (hrs)|
|21 Oct 2017||N21481||SDC (Sodus, NY) - PTK (Waterford, MI) - SDC||5.6||1728.5|
Mom is sick.
That story is still developing and it is not mine to tell at the moment, but it leaves me with a new challenge. How do I provide support from a distance with all of the other responsibilities on my shoulders? How do I provide moral support and access to her only granddaughter when she is unable to visit on her own?
Flying is one solution. When Saturday arrived conveniently wrapped in the package of a stable high pressure airmass, a day trip to Michigan with The Bear became a must.
For this trip, I took advantage of the capability in ForeFlight to activate and close VFR flight plans with the push of a (virtual) button on my iPhone. This method is far superior to the "clunky radio call over an RCO" technique from the old days.
The route was familiar and comfortable: cross the Niagara River into Canadian airspace, make a quick journey over a sparsely populated agrarian Ontario landscape, cross the St Clair River into Michigan, and arrive at Oakland County International Airport. Just another jaunt to grandmother's house. There was a headwind to battle and it stretched our outbound flight to three hours.
I always enjoy trips with my diminutive (though steadily becoming less so) copilot. My daughter read a book and listened to music from her iPad en route. She declared that the Broadway version of the Lion King made for good flying music and I caught her humming "Morning Report" frequently enough throughout the day that I started humming it, too.
After a long week of hard work, the flight provided me with a much needed mental respite. We floated serenely over Ontario, calm air fostering hands-off flight and lack of radio chatter allowing me to enjoy some quiet music. A confluence of waterways below caught my eye; the aqueduct that carries the Welland Canal over the Welland River. I was intrigued by the notion of an aqueduct supporting mammoth Great Lakes freighters as they crossed the land between Lakes Erie and Ontario. I imagined myself in a kayak on the river, looking up at a massive laker crossing high above on a water-filled overpass.
I enjoyed these details of the surface below. They provided welcome distraction to a restless mind.
Crossing the St Clair River, I photographed a freighter passing below. It was just like the imaginary one from the aqueduct. The zoom lens brought her name into focus: the Algoma Equinox, a freighter with her very own Wikipedia page. It is good to know that a laker can be famous without suffering the fate of the Edmund Fitzgerald.
A hand-off from Selfridge ANGB to Detroit Approach always marks the home stretch. From 25+ miles east, I had the parallel runways at Oakland County International in sight. We landed and successfully navigated the re-jiggered taxiways to Michigan Aviation. Even Ground Control stumbled when using the new taxiway names. A lineman at Michigan Aviation explained that the project was enough of a disaster that the taxiway names were likely to change again.
Having significantly recovered from her surgery, Mom is driving again, able to walk farther, and eating substantial meals again. The Bear popped open the Warrior's door to find Mom waiting there on the ramp at the trailing edge of the wing for us. They were delighted to see each other.
We stopped for lunch at Parker's Hilltop Brewery and Spirits, a relatively new pub on Waterford Hill with great beer (that I could not sample because of the return flight that afternoon) and great food (that I sampled with relish). Coincidentally, this new establishment in my home town is owned by the brother in-law of a colleague in Rochester, NY. What are the odds?
Deeming it something of a special lunch, I allowed The Bear to do something she had never done before: she ordered a pop with her meal. Just as mine did at her age, her tastes skew toward orange.
We had a great visit with Mom. We walked! We talked! We played Exploding Kittens!
Today was about the enjoyment of crisp fall air, the flutter of colorful leaves falling earthward, and three generations spending time together. We enjoyed the calm before the storm. Mom starts a new treatment regimen soon and no one knows how it will affect her.
The Bear was very proud to be in charge of Dougal as we strolled through downtown Clarkston, but I think Dougal was the one actually running the show. I still feel disoriented when in town; the same buildings are there, but with the notable exception of Rudy's grocery store, everything else is changed and unfamiliar.
After lots of hugs for Mom, we departed at 4:00 that afternoon. A tailwind aided our race back to New York before sunset. At one point, I looked down from our 1.5 mile high altitude to see definitive evidence that we were still in the vicinity of metropolitan Detroit. For my friends in Rochester, NY, I want to point out that the Red Wings are a hockey team.
Partway across Ontario, I became curious and removed the cover on the attitude indicator (AI). It is still covered and placarded as "inop" since the failure in September. Installation of an electronic replacement AI has been pushed back to the first week of December, which effectively ends my IFR flying for 2017.
"Daddy, that's creeping me out. Cover it back up," instructed my copilot. Yes ma'am.
We returned home at 7:00 pm, exactly twelve hours after we departed. It was an exhausting day, but a very worthwhile one. The Bear and I helped Mom the only way we could, by giving our time. Thankfully, it was all made possible by our wonderful blue and white time machine.