Day 5: Holland, MI to Aurora, IL

Stats for the day:

  • 2.0 hours flight time
  • 1 landing, full stop
  • Airports: KARR (Aurora Municipal)
  • 10.0 gallons of 100LL burned
Track log for the day. (Note that I did not land at KMGC and KGYY but used them as waypoints.)

I thought I was going to have a boring story to tell today. Let’s go back to last night. I was taking a hard look at the weather forecasts, as it appeared that today might be a little tricky as far as getting home at the right time.

Graphical Forecast for Aviation showing surface winds and visibility for Saturday morning.

The visibility and surface wind GFA showed some possible poor surface visibility at the southern edge of the lake on the Michigan side due to a close temperature/dew point spread. So I didn’t want to leave too early in case there was ground fog or mist. I figured, get a later start, maybe between 9-10 eastern, getting me to Michigan City around 9-10 central, have lunch with Jon, and then head to Aurora.

Surface analysis chart for Saturday morning.

Then I looked at the Surface Analysis chart which showed a nice big cold front bringing possible thunderstorms to Aurora, which was also reflected in the TAF for about 3 p.m. central time. I knew that if Jon and I had lunch together, that I’d be spending the whole time staring at my watch worried about incoming weather. So I cancelled lunch. (Side note: I’m glad that I made the decision that I did, but it’s 3 and it’s sunny and beautiful out right now! Go figure!)

My night in Holland was not my favorite. First I was staying in a crappy, rather expensive hotel (but it was one of the cheapest in the area). I ordered Thai food for dinner: tofu curry and iced tea. The meal was delivered and when I opened discovered chicken curry and tea with milk. Which promptly went into the trash can. I called Grubhub for a refund, and ordered Chinese food instead.

The hotel room was clean enough that I didn’t mind sleeping in the bed, but a few of the light fixtures didn’t work and the coffee machine was also INOP. 😬 I was glad to get out of there around 7:30 in the morning. The hardest part of my day was driving the automatic rental car. I don’t drive automatics often (it’s probably been a couple years since I’ve driven one) and this trip I would wonder why I couldn’t take the key out of the ignition of both rentals, and realize it was because they weren’t in park.

GoPro still showing the inflight visibility. Notice the delightful cooling tower at Michigan City.

I departed right about 8:30 a.m. eastern time, and the surface visibility was between 7-10 SM at each airport, but in the air the visibility was about 20-25 NM. It wasn’t bad but it was definitely not ideal. I kept the shoreline in front of me, and was prepared to land at any airport along the way in case conditions deteriorated. I kept my eyes out the left window, and just tried my best not to look out the right window, which was a black hole of haze and Lake Michigan. I barely looked out the right hand window and could feel that disorientation would not be far behind, so I was sure not to look out that way for more than brief glances.

As far as the views, Holland to Benton Harbor was nice with sandy beaches, but after that was the industrial wasteland of smokestacks and cooling towers. It actually worked out just fine that the visibility wasn’t awesome considering that there wasn’t much to look at anyway!

I was on flight following the whole time, and cruised at 4500’. I was somewhat concerned that the controllers may not be able to hear me well on Pokey’s radio, but I think 4500’ was a good altitude for radio reception.

I hugged the lake until I got over Gary, and then went direct to Aurora. At this point, I decided to ask Chicago Approach if I could get a bravo clearance, or if they’d rather that I descend to stay under the shelf. I was cleared through the bravo at 4500’ which was awesome, so I’m really glad I asked. At that point, however, the frequency got really quiet. Like, there was nothing going on. For a moment I worried that my radio went dead and that I was going to have to change over to my handheld, and just about when I got totally paranoid, I got handed over to another Chicago frequency, was asked to descend to 3500’, and at that point was basically 15 NM from Aurora.

I switched to tower and got cleared straight in for 27. A few minutes later I heard “Cessna 6483G, Aurora Tower.” I was confused, so I quizzically responded “83 Golf??” Then the controller said “Cessna 6483G, welcome home!” I have to say… maybe some dust got in my eyes or my allergies were flaring up from flying over corn fields again, but I got a little teary at that point. 😭

GoPro video of my nice greasy landing back at home!

It was pretty great, there was a Remos full stop in front of me, then my buddy Mariano departed, then I landed. I knew I was going to have an audience (sure enough, Jon was waiting in his tractor off of Skyhaven), and I was really glad I greased it right in. Best landing of the trip! And I was home!

Thanking Pokey for a wonderful flight.

I was happy to see Jon and Dave Smith back at the hangar, and pull Pokey back in to her home.

NOTAM showing the permanent closure of Park Township airport. RIP.

Dave mentioned to me that he used to stay at the “other” Holland airport, but that it was closed. I mentioned that I had just landed there. So Jon looked up NOTAMs on ForeFlight. Sure enough, KHLM (Park Township) will be closing tomorrow. So I was one of the last people to get to land there before it’s gone forever.

Logbook entry for my fun flight.

It was fun logging this trip in my logbook. It took two entry lines to list all of the airports. This single flight was more hours and more landings than most pages in my logbook, and is certainly the largest trip in my book. My landings on this trip represent just over 4% of every landing I’ve made since I started flying!

I summed up the total point-to-point distance for my trip and came to 995 NM. SO CLOSE! I texted Jon and he said that if you fly 995, you get the other 5 for free, so let’s just round up and call it an even thousand. 😆 

I’m going to spend the rest of my day decompressing. I have a lot of GoPro footage that I’ll go through over the next couple days, and I’ll probably post a recap with all of the cumulative stats, interesting video footage, and lessons learned. Until then, thanks for reading!

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