Day 3: Sault Ste. Marie, MI to Traverse City, MI

Stats for the day:

  • 3.0 hours flight time
  • 10 landings, 2 full stop
  • Airports: 5Y1 (Albert Lindbergh), 83D (Mackinac County), KMCD (Mackinac Island), 6Y1 (Bois Blanc Island), KSLH (Cheboygan County), KPLN (Pellston Regional), KMGN (Harbor Springs), KCVX (Charlevoix), KACB (Antrim County), KTVC (Traverse City)
  • 14.6 gallons of 100LL burned
Flight path for August 13, 2020.

Day 3! I just calculated my cumulative mileage so far (point to point) for my trip and it’s… 666 NM. 😬 Above is the picture of today’s flight track. It was definitely a breathtaking day.

The view of the sunrise, Canada 🇨🇦 and the USA 🇺🇸, the locks, the bridge, and downtown Sault Ste Marie, MI.

Because sunrise happens “later” now that I’m on the western edge of the Eastern time zone, I didn’t want to be wheels up any earlier than 7. I checked the weather and there was definitely a system to the northwest but I felt comfortable departing and heading southbound. I asked Ray if he recommended any one of the runways at Sanderson and he recommended 32 due to the beautiful views climbing out to the north. I got to see Canada, the locks, the bridge, and the sun. It was gorgeous. Thanks again to Ray and Wendy for their hospitality and local knowledge.

Sanderson Field

I was initially a little hesitant about staying the night at an airport with only a single runway, but the winds were perfectly calm (hence my choice of runway). Unlike yesterday when I arrived, today I was the only one puttering about around the airport.

My awesome new hat! Thanks Ray!

I also have to thank Ray for my new hat! It has gotten a lot of comments, much more than my IAC hat (I don’t think people know what the IAC is… maybe they need a new hat design with an inverted airplane or something). Something I just noticed about the selfie above is the reflection from the glare shield, giving you another view of the beautiful Upper Peninsula.

Atmospheric pressure differentials create wind, which is bent by the Coriolis force. However, close to the ground surface friction changes the direction and decreases the strength of surface winds compared to winds aloft. (Can you tell I have been doing a lot of studying lately?)

One thing I noticed as I flew south was this operation that had some smoke coming out of a stack or a fire or something. Note how calm the winds are, and how just a few hundred feet off the ground the surface friction dies off and you see the winds aloft taking hold. I thought it was a perfect visual of something that pilots experience every time we climb out of an airport.

My first touch and go was at 5Y1 (Albert J. Lindberg). ForeFlight stitches together sectionals, which in this case is Green Bay and Lake Huron, so at first I thought it was “Berg” airport. Then I thought it was Albert Lindbergh, maybe the cousin of Charles that nobody has ever heard about. I gave the name a quick pass through Google and have no idea who the guy was. But he must have been cool considering he has an airport named after him… and a great middle initial. Considering that this was my 12th landing of the trip, I was overdue for a crappy one. I bounced due to coming in with too much energy. Thankfully it wasn’t bad and a rapid application of power brought me back to the skies again.

Big Saint Martin Island in Saint Martin Bay.

I then spent some time around the shore getting myself down to Mackinac Island area. Today I learned that it is French, so no wonder it is pronounced “Mackinaw.” Man that has been confusing me for so many days! 😂

Google Earth view of Mackinac County airport and Mackinac Island airport, both in the direction from which I approached the runways.

Winds were nominally from the east so I did runway 7 at 83D (Mackinac County), which has the epic “flying off the end of a cliff” feel when you are departing as it goes out over the water. Thankfully, Pokey climbs really well when it’s cool and I’m the only person in it (sorry Jon), so I got a decent amount of altitude to make me feel good about doing a straight in for runway 8 at KMCD (Mackinac Island). There was a guy in a little yellow Cherokee who landed before I arrived, and who patiently waited for my touch and go before departing again.

The southern end of Mackinac Island with lots of beautiful and very expensive looking houses and resorts.

When I would tell people about my plans for this trip, or as I discussed it with people I met along the way, the #1 question I got was “are you going to Mackinac Island.” Now I can say: YES! I went there! It was just as awesome as everybody said it would be! Funny enough, by the time I got there it was my third island airport (after Washington Island and Drummond Island). Not any less spectacular though!

The bridge between the UP and the “lower part” of Michigan. Eh… bridges are for land-dwellers!

So next up was 6Y1 (Bois Blanc Island). It was easy to spot the airport because, other than trees, it is literally the only thing on the whole entire island. At this point I was finally starting to get used to approaching airports through bunches of trees. I grew up in very tree-d in areas, but am used to flying around corn and soybean fields.

Next up was KSLH (Cheboygan County). I was making position calls 10 out, 5 out, 45, downwind… then finally a Cessna calls that she’s taking off right as I want to turn base. Story of my life! The airplane was beautiful (total bright red) and she was admittedly much faster than Pokey so all is forgiven. Otherwise I was sad to leave the UP but kind of glad not to have to worry about flying over any more water.

My plan was to stop at Pellston airport as it seemed to be a bit busier than the other airports (echo to the surface usually get a fair amount of bigger airplanes coming in). I made a ton of radio calls, up to and including on the 45, when an older gentleman gets on 122.8 and says “young lady, if you’re trying to get a hold of Pellston I recommend you try 123 point 0!” 😆 Considering I’ve flown so far, I’m surprised it took me so long to futz up a frequency!

Proud Pokey on the ramp at KPLN (Pellston).

Pellston has a beautiful FBO. They also have full service fuel. (YAY!) The FBO lobby is very swanky. It’s got nice carpeting, comfortable seating, a plasma TV, and a big moose head on the wall. It feels very rustic. The moose head was a little creepy but I enjoyed the ambiance. There were a lot of FedEx turboprops coming in, I want to say they looked like Kodiaks but I’m not the greatest at identifying airplanes.

I had some time to do a little planning for the next leg of today’s trip. I noticed that at this point KMCD was showing marginal at 3 SM visibility, so I was super glad my timing had been so good. There was a system coming in, Beaver Island was LIFR, so I probably would have been socked in a little while if I had left any later in the day. I didn’t want to test my luck, but weather looked great and continued to look great southbound so I pressed on.

A ski area between Pellston and Harbor Springs airports.

(KMGN) Harbor Springs was next. It was uneventful, but there was actual terrain fluctuations, I think they’re called hills, between me and my destination. 😂 Can you believe it! The land isn’t a pancake like it is in Chicagoland! So I was extra careful on my before landing checklists and BC-GUMPS and just told myself it was a normal landing just like any other landing, just be careful not to stick my prop in any trees. 🌲 Considering I’m writing about it, I did OK.

The approach end of runway 9 at KCVX, from Google Earth.

Next up was KCVX (Charlevoix). I heard two airplanes, a jump plane and a twin Cessna. Thankfully I’ve flown around Rochelle enough so that I’m used to jumpers, and I knew they’d be down before I got remotely close to the airport. Both of the airplanes in the pattern were calling for 27, even though winds were out of 080. I mean, only 4 knots, but I’ll take all the aerodynamic benefits of a headwind that I can get. So I called for runway 9.

Above is a picture of the huge pit that’s at the approach end of runway 9. There is no landing short of this runway, you would probably die. It was absolutely intense. I hope I had the GoPro on at this point because I would love to watch that approach again. The Google Earth picture above doesn’t do it justice to just how deep that pit is. So I totally get why the other guys took 27!!

One more landing over at KACB (Antrim County), it was a nice airport and all but at this point pretty dull. I mean, I didn’t depart off of the edge of the bay, it wasn’t on an island, there wasn’t a huge pit of death in front of me… but hey, I’ll take it!

Traverse City, Michigan. Apparently a very popular place that also has cherries.

At this point, I can’t tell you how used I was to calling “so and so traffic,” so I was ready to be at a towered airport again. I really had to tell myself to say “tower” instead of “traffic” over at Traverse City so as not to sound like a student pilot. Hopefully I didn’t screw up too bad. There was a fair amount of traffic and I was number 5 following a regional jet (CRJ200) , an RV, a Cessna that had to go around because of the RV, and an I don’t know (but it was a goofy looking airplane kind of like a Diamond, that took Jet-A even though it appeared to be a piston). Ground called me 633G, which I just let go and taxied to the FBO.

The FBO here at Traverse City is so great, I cannot say enough good things about it! The only thing I didn’t love was how far away the T’s are from the FBO entrance but I appreciated getting the extra exercise after being in Pokey for so long. Full service tie downs and they fueled me up.

I was nervous about getting a hotel because apparently Traverse City is a place that people like to vacation at, even during a global pandemic. I knew rooms would be expensive and in short supply. The lady at the FBO called a hotel for me and got me a room reservation, and I got a discount because of the FBO. The hotel does a shuttle service, so they picked me up, brought me to the hotel to drop off my bags (my room wasn’t ready yet), and then dropped me off downtown to walk around and eat lunch.

I had a well-earned meal of Mexican food and enjoyed walking up and down front street. I bought a jar of cherry butter because apparently there are cherries here. The airport is actually legit called Cherry Capital, but we called it Traverse City over the tower frequency.

Chillaxing at the beach on the West Arm of Grand Traverse Bay.

I enjoyed watching airplanes fly around in the traffic pattern as I relaxed at the beach. I saw a couple of amphibs and several ASEL planes too. I got a text when my room was ready, and the shuttle picked me up and brought me back to my room. It’s been a long day, so I’m ready to relax, get a lot of sleep, and press on tomorrow morning assuming the weather still holds. 🤞🏼 Tomorrow’s destination is Holland, MI.

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