Flight 3: Iowa City, IA – Sandusky, OH
The hotel we stayed in had several aviation-themed rooms. We were upgraded to the “Pacific Clipper Suite”, which seemed fine to us the previous night, since all we cared about was having a bed to sleep in. Early that morning as the sun broke through the thin slats of the Pacific-themed window shades, our plan to sleep in was spoiled. We woke up with the sun and had already showered and ordered breakfast before our wake-up alarm went off.
After breakfast, Phil checked the weather while I started spreading out charts on all available floor space. Thunderstorms were predicted along our route and we wanted to view all route options at the same time. The weather was forecast to be clear to Fort Wayne, IN and there was a good chance that thunderstorms would prevent us from making it to Sandusky. I called to cancel our rental car and hotel reservations to avoid the penalties. Then we headed for the airport.
We departed Iowa City on an IFR flight plan headed for Sandusky. We were going to call on the radio for a weather update while in the air before Fort Wayne and land there if the remainder of the route still showed active thunderstorms. We entered scattered clouds, but didn’t feel many bumps just a few wiggles hear and there. I enjoyed the variety of views provided by the clouds. We were continuously popping in and out–almost like a game of hide-and-seek. Yes, the clouds were actually fun. I never thought I would say that (I don’t think Phil did either). I was actually able to read through this entire leg as we flew in and out of the clouds. Either the clouds were that smooth, or my husband is that good of a pilot. (grin)
We tried to get a weather update in the air, but the Flight Watch frequency was just too busy. There was widespread bad weather to the south of our route, and everyone wanted to get the latest information. We tried a couple of times to talk to a Flight Service briefer in the air, but had no luck. We opted to land at Fort Wayne and check the weather from the ground. Phil greased the challenging cross-wind landing at Fort Wayne (15 knots at 90 degrees to the runway).
Victory Aviation at Fort Wayne gave us a quick shot of fuel, a chance to get updated weather, and a little snack. The Flight Service briefer said there were some thunderstorms south of our route from Fort Wayne to Sandusky, but we should be fine if we left soon. Phil checked the current radar picture which confirmed what the weather briefer said, and we took off for Sandusky.
As forecast, we were in and out of the scattered cloud bases near Fort Wayne, then the buildups diminished and we were flying above a scattered cloud layer. We could see the thunderstorms off to the south, and that our route to Sandusky would in fact be pretty good, as forecast.
We entered the airport traffic pattern at Sandusky and heard two other planes were ahead of us. After landing we later found that these two aircraft were purchased from Salmon Air (a company in Salmon, ID) and were now based here in Sandusky. It was an interesting coincidence to have three planes from Idaho in the pattern at Sandusky, Ohio! The approach to Sandusky’s runway 27 is over water, which was a little different.
After landing at Sandusky, we discovered we happened to find one of the best and friendliest FBOs that Nancy and I had ever encountered. (For you non-pilot types, FBO stands for fixed base operator. They are the people who provide fuel, maintenance, flight instruction, rent cars, arrange ground transportation, etc.) This FBO was unusual because it’s been a family-owned business for at least 3 generations. The pride of ownership showed from the moment we landed and got fuel, through renting us a car and making restaurant and hotel recommendations. Pilots flying anywhere near KSKY should plan to stop and experience the first-class operation Griffing Flying Services runs there. Companies like this should be rewarded for the extra effort they put forward. For example, their transient parking was full and the overflow option was very soggy grass (not a good option for the Mooney’s landing gear). Before we could even ask, Griffing made room for us to park on their paved ramp.
We had a nice dinner, found our hotel, and then relaxed before tomorrow’s big roller coasters.
Cedar Point Amusement Park
We had actually been to Cedar Point before. In 1997, it was our first trip together (we had some free airline tickets we needed to use, and since we were both roller coaster fans, Cedar Point was a natural choice). It has several of the worlds largest and fastest roller coasters.
Since our last visit in 1997, Cedar Point added two major new rides: Top Flight Dragster and Millenium Force. Unfortunately for us, both of these rides were down for maintenance during our visit. Millenium Force was actually running when we got to the park, but after we waited on line for an hour they had to shut it down for mechanical reasons.
Even with the two newest rides closed, we still had a great day of riding the coasters. Among our favorite rides was the Raptor which suspends the riders below the track and has lots of twists, turns and loops. Another great coaster is Magnum XL200 which for many years was the largest roller coaster in the world (until Millenium Force was built), and it reaches a top speed of 200 mph with riders only held in by a lap bar (no shoulder braces at all).
After a full day of riding the coasters we enjoyed a wonderful dinner on the edge of Lake Erie, at the same restaurant we remembered from our trip 6 years ago. Nancy even ordered the same scallop dish! We had some dinnertime entertainment watching people walk on the boardwalk between the restaurant and the lake. We discovered the the restaurant’s windows were mirrored on the outside, so we laughed as people adjusted their hair and swimsuits. My favorite view was a little girl dancing around in her pointed princess hat. At one point she ran towards the windows with her arms outstretched and planted her lips on the windows quite proudly. Too cute! We sipped the last of a nice Chardonnay as the sunset painted the clouds orange, pink and purple. We thought about how lucky we are and started looking forward to heading for Niagara Falls.