“Here’s the first stop… Port Royal. There’s the winding Potomac river and there’s the bend in the river” Jen was happy to finally spot Port Royal after poring of the sectional chart desperately trying to find some landmark we could spot. The day could not have been better: clear blue skies, lush rolling hills, deep green from the fresh spring foliage made richer by the recent rains, and a light haze giving a whitish hue to the horizon. Picture perfect day for some flying fun! Jen and I had eagerly awaited the day. Our plan was to head out around 9:00 am for the poker run hosted by the New Jersey 99s. Five airports were listed and we could fly one or more or all of them and pick up cards and finally reach the Terminus before 2:30 pm for the draw.
What with traffic, airplane issues and other delays, we had headed out much later than planned. We had decided that we would use our sectional charts and identify landmarks along the way lest we lose our navigation skills to technology. The aircraft we were flying that day was a C172 glass cockpit with the latest avionics: moving map GPS with traffic and airspace alerts. With a click of a button we could choose and fly direct to a waypoint or airport. No more diligently drawing routes in our charts, computing distances, headings and marking checkpoints.
After skirting past the Class Bravo airspace around Washington Dulles airport and exiting the DC ADIZ zone we were free to fly as desired. We climbed to 4500 ft to easily climb over the Shenandoah Mountain, tracking the meandering Potomac river. Turning left we headed south through the Shenandoah Valley. After an initial disorientation we were back on track. Off to the left was the skyline drive, down below the town of Port Royal. We could clearly see the airport ahead of us. Check 1.
Next stop Luray Caverns. We continued south and easily identified the airport of Luray Caverns. 20 miles south of Port Royal, the airport at Luray Caverns is a fun stop over for a five hundred dollar hamburger. Situated in the heart of the Shenandoah Valley, Luray Caverns is a popular “must see” cavern in the eastern America. Check 2.
Heading south, we followed the Potomac River, looking for a low sweet spot in the mountain range to crossover to the other side. To the right and a little south was the town of Shenandoah with an airport tucked away. Check 3. We easily swung over a saddle (Check 4) in the range looking for our final checkpoint which proved trivial with our moving map GPS. Landing at Charlottesville airport (Check 5) after a fun day of flying through the Shenandoah Valley we were ravenous for some sustenance.
After a quick lunch at Martin’s Grill we were headed back. This time the wind gods were blowing our way. The ride back was swift and the journey ended all too quickly. What a fabulous day of flying! Despite our early setback all owing to an error in my planning that we could not fly to New Jersey as expected to fly the Poker Run. Lesson learnt: you need to reserve an aircraft at the airport you intend to show up and fly 🙂
This was a day of losses. If I had really put down my life savings, I surely would have lost. After the spectacular day of flying, I rushed home to watch the much awaited Kentucky Derby. The favorite I was rooting for was “Devil May Care”. Surely the filly had a good chance. After cheering in Rachel Alexandra last year to the incredible win at Pimlico I was all set to usher in the next filly. Luck was definitely not on my side today. Devil May Care ended a disappointing 10th place.
Oh well. Am glad despite all the twists, it was still a memorable day of flying.
PS: Try Leesburg next time not Manassas, sorry Jen!