Weather during the afternoon was peculiar -- nothing threatening, just cloudy beyond belief. The original plan had been to drive against rush hour traffic in the morning and commute to work by air. But the morning clouds required an IFR flight, and the IFR Pilot's motivation level just wasn't there that early. So, drive to work in the morning, and make an evening pick-up.
Flying from the Home Base to BKL is always a pain, even if VFR. That's because Cleveland Hopkins traffic is right in the way and you inevitably get vectored way far out of the way if you call and get flight following. An IFR flight plan was filed "just in case" -- and good thing, too, because it wasn't possible to remain VFR. Cleveland willingly flipped me from VFR flight following to an IFR clearance, the only change being a climb from 2500' to 3000'. Six miles south of BKL, with the airport in sight, I canceled IFR and landed.
Picked up my guest, and we blasted off for Indy. We had to wait for a Challenger CL-600 to depart ahead of us, N111FK. It bore the livery of the Las Vegas Gladiators. Turns out, it's an Arena Football League team (not a hockey team, as Lakefront Tower told us when we asked.) Wonder if that means there's something in the works for Cleveland???
After a few minutes, we got our clearance to depart from Runway 6R. Standard practice leaving Burke is always the same: "Turn right/left heading 350 and contact departure." This, of course, continues to take you out over Lake Erie -- something that always makes the IFR Pilot nervous. This night was no different, but for the fact that we had to have been 10 miles offshore before we finally got our turn onto course. That's a bit far for me, y'all.
Anyway, once on course, the GPS showed about 2 hours to Indy. We managed to get above the clouds without having to pentrate any of them, and then had a great view as the sun began to set.
We landed at Eagle Creek as expected. To tell the truth, the touchdown was a bit firm. It appears that the IFR Pilot doesn't quite have the night landings nailed on Mike Hotel. Well, that's something to work on as fall descends and we say goodbye to Daylight Savings Time. (Will be interesting when it gets extended beginning in 2007.)
The walk to Rick's was nice, and we proceeded to engage in one of the Seven Deadly Sins: Gluttony. We consumed a nice bottle of wine, appetizers, and individual entrees. About the only thing we didn't eat -- other than the table itself -- was dessert. (Sorry, Jack. We just didn't have enough room for the fried ice cream, though it sounded absolutely delish!) Here is what we looked like after over-indulging:
And here's proof that we really were at Rick's -- just in case you didn't believe us!
After dinner, the real adventure began. Here's how I explained it in the e-mail that I sent to the management at Rick's the next day:
Go figure: No response from Rick's. We may just have to take our $100 hamburger money elsewhere...Hi!We flew into Eagle Creek on Friday night, 9/15, for dinner at your great restaurant. We very much enjoyed the scallops and mussels appetizers, the pork chops and pasta entrees that we chose, and the great bottle of wine we shared. It was a delightful dinner, as good as I remembered from the last time I visited, and the band was great. In fact, we liked it so much, we had lunch there again this afternoon before flying back to Cleveland. The views from the deck outside were wonderful.I'm writing to bring to your attention the outstanding actions and efforts of two of your employees, and the less than helpful work of another.
When we finished dinner, we asked your hostess if she could call a cab for us to take us to our hotel, which was only a couple of miles away. She said she would. We went across the street to get our bags from the airplane. We then waited for a half-hour. No cab arrived.
[N] then went back inside to ask the hostess if she had remembered to call. She said that she had and that the cab driver gave her "no idea" of how long it would take. In general, the hostess' attitude was completely less than helpful, ambivalent, and borderline rude. Surely we're not the first people to have flown into Eagle Creek for dinner at Rick's and then needed a cab to the hotel -- but she made it seem like we were asking for the world, and she did nothing to help us solve our problem. She didn't offer to call another cab company. She didn't offer us the phone numbers of any cab companies, so we could try ourselves.
After waiting outside for over an hour for a cab, your employee Tony walked across the street to grab the valet parking sign to put away for the night. He asked what we were waiting for. We explained what was going on. He was kind enough to offer us a ride to our hotel when he got done in a few minutes. At that point, we gladly accepted. So, when he was done at work, he and his wife (who also works for you, but whose name I can't remember), went out of their way to drive us to our hotel. We finally got to the hotel -- which is probably 2 miles away at most -- an hour and a half after we asked your hostess to call a cab for us.
[N] and I will be eternally grateful to Tony and his wife for being so nice and driving two complete strangers to their hotel. Actions like that speak volumes about the character and integrity of these individuals, and I wanted you to know what they did so that you could provide them with the appropriate recognition. As for your hostess, I thought her treatment of us also should be brought to your attention.I'm sure that we'll be back to visit in the future. I just hope that we won't have to depend on Tony and his wife to help us get to our hotel.
Thanks for the great food, and for taking the time to read this message.
On Saturday, we woke up late and begged a ride to the airport from the hotel. When we got there, a quick check of the weather revealed fog throughout the Cleveland area. METARs were reporting visibilities as low as 1/4 mile and visibilites as low as 100'. Obviously, that's well below minima and personal limits.
What to do?
How about Rick's for lunch? Yeah, that's the ticket. After all, you reall can't beat the scenery from the deck!
After a couple of hours, the weather trends were encouraging, so we blasted off, fully prepared to fly an approach to the neighboring airport and beg a ride to the Home Base, which is VFR only. N got her first taste of flying in the clouds, which she later described thusly: "Pretty weird. You can't see much." True dat, baby.
Here we are, just about to descend down into the clag:
Anyway, we needn't have worried about the clouds back home. Once we got below 3000', it was clear and we canceled IFR and landed safely back at the Home Base.
It was a great little getaway, even if was less than 24 hours. But it's the kind of adventure only possible through general aviation. And it was a great preparation for the upcoming Fall Flying Vacation (tm), which will take us to Laconia, New Hampshire; Bar Harbor, Maine; possibly Nova Scotia via The Cat ferry; and Westerly, Rhode Island to see the Dadster. It's only a couple of weeks away now!!! Stay tuned for updates galore during that trip.