Weather can often be a problem flying in Florida, especially during the summer. So my husband and I patiently waited for afternoon thunderstorms to dissipate prior to departing for our 10 day trip across the eastern US coast in our Cessna 182. A trip that would take us to the Carolina’s, Maryland, Delaware, Ohio, and everywhere in-between and above these states. As dangerous weather cleared and our deadline hour approached we decided it was a go for our first stop at Oak Island, a random destination.
As expected we were in the clouds in instrument conditions for about a half hour then a clear blue sky exposed its calm beauty and smooth air as a welcomed relief. With hubby navigating with his new iPad and aviation applications and me flying, we decided to land in Hilton Head, North Carolina for the evening instead of pressing on to Oak Island. The sun was quickly setting and we didn’t want to risk landing at an unknown airport at night without prior arrangements.
Well rested, I eagerly set out for my morning run along a level hard sand beach that didn’t tilt or slide into the ocean. My ankles and body thanked me. I passed horseshoe crabs that screamed prehistoric ancestry as they drifted onshore lifeless and archaic looking. What do these things look like when they’re energetically exploring the ocean I wondered. Are they ever really full of life or do they just look like colossal roaches that scour the sea. When I returned to my hotel ninety minutes later the beach swarmed with pale-colored mid-western teens and families celebrating Memorial Day weekend, the beginning of summer in the U.S.
After a quick shower and chiding from my husband for my blissful long run we waved down a passing taxi to escape the mass migration into Hilton Head. Heading in the opposite direction to Washington D.C. we stopped a small airport on the border of North Carolina and Virgina known as South Boston County or William Tuck where reasonable fuel prices endured.
Upon landing I immediately sought out a bathroom where I encountered the only structure at the airstrip, a worn down trailer flanking a self-service fuel tank. Hurrying into the dilapidated structure, four older men stared at me.
I pointed to the bathroom, “is this the ladies room?”
With widened eyes they answered in unison, “yes ma’am.”
Without touching anything I swiftly relieved myself and returned to the entrance.
“You fly in alone?” one of them asked.
“Nope. Me, my husband and dog. We’re just stopping for fuel.”
After some small talk a lovely elderly pilot handed me a bowl of water for my pup. I took pictures of the quaint landing strip and off we went to the D.C. area. Weather was excellent and the controllers were amicable for once. Upon landing I realized I’d left my cell phone at our last stop, Tuck airport. I frequently called my phone and the listed number for the rural airport all weekend to no avail. I knew it was sitting on the wooden porch attached to the trailer. In fact I had a picture of it on our iPad that my husband took of me and my pup in the country, it sat in the corner of the deck. If only someone would answer my phone, I was lost without it.
A familiar Maryland countryside greeted us with winding roads, endless acres of farmland spotted with mansions, horses in the distance and an occasional deer crossed our path. The lowering sun danced through Maple and Oak trees and I heard riffle shots in the distance that made me cringe. In no time we were relaxing at the farm with family and canines, sipping wine and catching up.
Since it was Memorial Day weekend we decided to visit Gettysburg the following day. At the ticket counter an Abe Lincoln look-alike described various tours. Choosing the self-guided auto tour we popped in a CD and followed marked signs and numbers.
At the first stop a lady knocked on my window, “Are you doing the auto tour?” she asked bending down to my level as I rolled down the window.
“Yes,” I answered while turning down the CD.
“Can we follow you, we’re sort of lost?”
“OK, but I’m not sure if we know what we’re doing,” I answered, not wanting to be responsible for someone else’s historical experience.
“It’s got to better than our attempt,” she quickly muttered.
I smiled, increased the CD volume and listened to stop number one’s narration that lasted about ten minutes. Within this time the family wanting to follow us left. I was slightly insulted and didn’t understand my unwelcome feeling. Arriving at the second stop we realized that we unknowingly listened to the first stop at the entrance. The stranger must have concluded that we were more screwed up than her family’s auto tour venture.
The rest of the two-hour history lesson went as planned with an occasional error playing the CD at the wrong stop. We viewed ridges, valleys, thousands of statues and learned an important part of American history. A well spent Memorial Day, although half the population in the vicinity evidently shared our unique idea.
Our trip included two high school graduations where my husband and I were the best dressed. Apparently, jeans and shorts are the norm at graduations nowadays. I still like dressing up for important events so in my mind everyone else was wrong in their too casual approach to such an unparelled achievement. My phone was also found by another pilot and sent back to me during our stop in Ohio.
Our flight back to Florida included a harrowing yet rewarding flight over the Appalachian Mountains as we were squished between a low cloud layer and mountain tops. I felt like a marshmallow in a S’more crammed between two graham crackers. We couldn’t climb above the clouds due to known icing conditions and a decent below our average altitude of 6,000 would’ve left us dangerously kissing terrain. A bit of moderate turbulence enlivened our ride and over three hours later we arrived at a quaint island named, Oak.