My wife (Erin) has relatives who live over in Door County Wisconsin. We visit them every other year or so which typically involves about an eight hour drive from our place in northern Minnesota. I’ve been thinking of taking the next trip out there by air as it would drastically reduce the travel time. We have a two year old and a 4 month old. The 4 month old hates driving in the car. I figure 3 hrs in the plane with a stop along the way for a new diaper and a snack sure beats eight hours in the car or ten to eleven hours if you count stops along the way. Erin wanted me to take the flight on my own first before brining the kids along so I could get familiar with the route and the airport over in Door County which is KSUE.
So I put together a route in Foreflight with a little detour around the end of Lake Superior so I wouldn’t have to fly over much big water. I put in waypoints every 20 – 40 nm so I would be able to cross reference on a paper chart if my electronics were to fail. I also worked out a cheat sheet that had all of the times between checkpoints and estimated arrival times for each checkpoint. Also I created a cheat sheet for my kneeboard, on this sheet I had the airports along the way with their runway headings (colored green if they were a turf runway), pattern altitudes, CTAF, and AWOS frequencies incase I needed to divert at any point during the flight. I also commandeered Erin’s uncle to join me for the round trip. We would fly over and meet up with his brother and nephew for lunch and then fly home. He would help me with keeping track of times between checkpoints, not to mention a little company for the hours in the sky.
The morning we went to take off the weather looked great at our departure in KORB. Clear below 12,000 and winds right down the runway less than 10 kts. The route was clear as well with a nice tail wind to scoot us right along. The wind in KSUE however was a little bit on the edge of my personal minimums. We were looking at a quartering cross wind of 9 gusting 14 kts. Which I don’t deal with very often. If these had been direct cross winds I would have probably canceled the flight. After lots of deliberation on this and a call to the CFI I got my PPL with (who gave me the confidence to go on with the trip) we were up in the air and on our way.
We took off and climbed up to 5500. It wasn’t too long before we were able to pick up Duluth Approach. I listened to the ATIS and got the information even though I wasn’t landing there, just passing through. I gave them a call and let them know my intentions and asked for flight following. They accommodated me and after squawking a transponder code we were down and around the tip of Lake Superior in no time. I was handed off from Duluth approach to Minneapolis center on the Eastern side of Superior and they provided flight following for the remainder of our quick trip over to Door County. I do mean quick. With that nice tail wind we were down there in just 2 hours and 45 min. I was a little concerned about flying over the water of Green bay so I climbed up to almost 6000 when we went over the water. Once we got to the other side we had to lose all that altitude to come in and land. I called KSUE and told them what I was up to and pulled power and carb heat and did a little forward slipping to get down and entered the pattern. The winds were exactly as forecasted with a right quartering cross wind with some gusts here and there, but my landing was great. These are the types of trips I need to take to continue to build my skills and confidence. Im typically a very cautious fair weather flyer.
The relatives were there waiting to pick us up. After tying down the airplane we took off for some lunch, a little walk around the harbor, and then a quick stop to pick up some cheese curds and some smoked and non smoked string cheese from Renards. Then it was back to the airplane. The nice folks at KSUE topped of my tanks and we were off on our way back home. This time into a hefty head wind. On the way down were seeing ground speeds of near 140 mph. On the way back it was more like 95 mph.
On the way back we stopped off at Rhinelander (KRHI) to check out the facilities as a possible snack and diaper pit stop when we took the trip with the kids. While we were there since we were fighting such a fun headwind I had them top off the tanks as well. I always like working off the top half of the tanks if I can help it. While we were there we got to watch a black hawk helicopter take off. I guess the guys had stopped off there to use the courtesy car and head into town for some lunch. Not sure why, but I missed the actual take off after what seemed like a very expensive amount of time with the chopper running on the ground. I made sure the plane was tied down as I didn’t want them blowing me over as they taxied by us.
After our little pit stop we were back in the air using flight following once again from the fine folks over at Minneapolis center. We were watching some thunder storms pop up on foreflight back at our destination in KORB. Nothing was forecasted or showing up on the middle part of our return flight, but getting home was looking like it might be interesting. We flew to Duluth getting switched over to Duluth approach from Center. As we were flying by Duluth I was looking at the weather and KORB was surrounded by thunder storms with more heading that way. We flew on to Eveleth (KEVM) which was still clear of the nasty stuff, but upon our arrival there the storms were looming so we landed there and tied down the plane.
Now what to do???? We could wait there and wait for those afternoon midwest thunderstorms to play out and fly home when things started cooling down, or we could call for a ride since we were only about an hour from home. We ended up choosing the later and on our ride home the skies opened up and the storms dissipated and it would have made for a lovely flight back home. But they always say its better being on the ground wishing you were in the air than in the air wishing your were on the ground.
The next morning Erin drove me down to KEVM and I flew the plane back up to KORB and got it tucked back in the hangar.
This was the longest cross country I’ve flown, and it was a great learning experience. All of the controllers I worked with both at Duluth approach and Minneapolis center were great. Flight following sure is a great service if they are able to fit you into their work load.
I am looking forward to a family trip by plane some day. We’ll see how the 4 month old takes to flying. I’ll keep you posted.
Here is a bit of a time lapse from KSUE to KRHI.