Day 1: Aurora, IL to Green Bay, WI

Day 1: Aurora, IL to Green Bay, WI

Stats for the day:

  • 4.5 hours
  • 5 landings, 3 full stop
  • Airports: KMTW (Manitowoc), KSUE (Door County), 3D2 (Ephraim), 2P2 (Washington Island), KGRB (Green Bay)
  • 23.3 gallons of 100LL burned

My day started pretty early. Not going to lie… I was nervous and didn’t get a ton of sleep last night. Considering the intense storms we had last night (KARR 102021Z 28024G54KT 1 3/4SM VCTS +RA BR SQ SCT030 BNK037 OCV075 21/19 A2992) it’s amazing how nice it is today. Thank you high pressure system for settling in to the Midwest! This morning I had to wait for the typical summer morning radiation fog to burn off at Aurora and I was wheels up at just about 8 a.m., one hour later than my original plan.

My first leg was to KMTW (Manitowoc) so I hopped on with approach and did flight following all the way up. At 149 NM, this was probably my longest solo leg ever.

Flying under the bravo at first I kept my altitude between 3200 and 3500 MSL just in case I ducked under the shelf that goes down to 3600. I didn’t want to bust any airspace. The skies were smooth and I got maybe one traffic advisory the whole time. I guess departing on a Tuesday morning was a good plan!

The skies were pretty hazy flying north past Chicago. I could barely see the city. All of the photos I took in the area, you can just see haze and the sun reflecting off of Lake Michigan. I could kind of see the skyline but it looked like Cloud City with the fog obscuring the bases of the buildings.

I made a decision not to fly up the skyline on my first day because I knew it would be a long day, and the skyline adds a significant amount of time and distance to my flight, plus it is exhausting and I have to fly lower than I’d like. I’ve been up the skyline many times and do not feel like I am missing out on my Lake Michigan experience by skipping it this time around.

Pokey is a very pleasant airplane to fly. The entire flight up to KMTW was pretty chill… although I’d say if I could get two things, one would be a wing leveler (usually my aileron trim is Jon when he sits next to me in the right seat, but he’s back in Aurora), and the other would be fuel gauges that actually work. If I could get one of those two things, it would be a wing leveler. It’s amazing how much effort goes in to keeping the left wing from dropping. I can’t really fly hands-off as a result.

I filled up three pages of kneeboard notes from all of my different frequencies and ATIS/AWOS reports.

Pictured above is Milwaukee downtown. Just south of the city is Mitchell Airport. I flew over their airspace and the controller on approach/departure kept saying “Milwauee” without pronouncing the ‘k’… A couple of jets departed from Mitchell to the north and flew over me. It’s nice seeing other airplanes out, and I always enjoy talking on the same frequency as airline pilots.

I directly overflew Timmerman. If you haven’t been there, I recommend it. Their grass runways are pretty neat, and are a rarity at class delta airports. I didn’t stop by there on this trip but flew in with a Remos once a year or so ago.

My full stop at Manitowoc was nice. The FBO is your standard Midwestern FBO. I paid extra for the fuel truck to fill me up (worth it not to have to do it myself and accidentally douse myself in 100LL), and meanwhile the guy chatted with me about where to fly and eat and this and that… he was chatty but nice and I always appreciate getting local advice. I filled up 0.5 quart of oil, emptied my own tank, and was ready to go.

Flying up Door County was amazing! I was originally planning on skipping this. My friend Andy suggested that I include it. Thanks Andy! Not being from the Midwest originally, I have never been to any of these places before so I don’t know what’s worth it and what’s not. This was worth it.

At some point, I thought I was looking at Lake Winnebago, but realized that it was Green Bay and I was entering the peninsula. This is betraying my poor Wisconsin geography knowledge… I was already at the north end of Lake Winnebago when I got to Manitowoc! 😳

The picture above is Sturgeon Bay. I did a touch and go at KSUE (Door County Cherryland) which is just south of the bay. The views were amazing. I couldn’t believe how little traffic there was. One guy was landing at Ephraim as I was flying between Door County and Washington Island. That’s it.

Obligatory pilot selfie! I would have given this two thumbs up except I wouldn’t have been able to hold the camera up! πŸ‘πŸΌπŸ‘πŸΌ

From Door County I flew direct up to 2P2 (Washington Island), which was my first island airport. Jon tells me that the water in between the tip of the peninsula and Washington Island is called “Death’s Door,” so I legit flew over Death’s Door today (TWICE) and lived to tell the tale!

Washington Island was beautiful, with just enough water to make you feel like you’re really on an island, and not so much water that flying over it in a single-engine aircraft feels like a bad idea. The two grass strips were on the shorter end of the spectrum, so I did a very low approach / graze the grass with the mains / touch and go and spiraled back up to about 3000′ and headed south west again.

There was one other airplane flying in the opposite direction as I was heading back, and we were on the same frequency so we said hi to each other and stayed at separate altitudes. I couldn’t believe that the whole time I was on the peninsula there were only just two other airplanes out.

The guy at Manitowoc had recommended a full stop at 3D2 (Ephraim), as they have bicycles you can borrow to bike around. I did the full stop, and considered biking in to town, but a yelp search showed one restaurant in town, and literally the only thing on their menu was eggs. I was pretty hungry at this point, so I called up the FBO at Green Bay to get a rental car ready for me, stretched my legs, called my mom to check in, and headed back south west again.

I was on with approach all the way in to Green Bay. About Sturgeon Bay it started to get very lightly choppy, considering that it was closing in on noon I’m not surprised. That’s when we start getting the summertime convective turbulence, and that’s why I leave early when I want smooth sailing. Approach told me to expect a straight in for 24, and at about 25 miles out I was able to see the runway clearly. Switched to tower, cleared to land, and was happy to answer “affirmative” when they asked me if I could be off the runway by D1. I think I had 30 degrees of flaps so I could have been off the runway pretty much at the numbers. (Okay, maybe I am exaggerating a little.) πŸ˜‚

I went to Jet Air for the FBO. I’m pretty sure they are owned by Signature. I have to say, now that I’m staying overnight, I am happy to pay whatever fees that they will charge me. They had a rental car ready to go when I arrived, and the line guy brought it around to Pokey so I didn’t have to move my stuff far at all. They filled up Pokey’s tanks, and once I had all my crap out of the airplane, towed it (ON A TUG!) to a tie down spot. Once I put in the cowl plugs, gust lock, and pitot tube cover, they tied it down. I had to do zero work. Tomorrow I pay the bill so we’ll see how happy I am at that point, but seriously, the service was pretty epic.

The next step was getting some food in my stomach. I had eaten one granola bar en route which wasn’t enough to hold me over since I had eaten oatmeal at 5 a.m. I found a pizza place in Green Bay that had vegan pizza and beer, SOLD! I got taco pizza and a local wheat beer.

For now, I’m chilling at my hotel for the night. I’ll plan tomorrow’s legs and see what the day brings! I’m having a ton of fun so far and am looking forward to more adventure to come.