by Jeff Hersom

Florida to Iowa. Sounds like a 2-3 day trip, right? No, way. 12.2 hours of pure fun (and a little sheer terror thrown in) later, I was on the ground in Clinton, Iowa. 2am central time.

The adventure starts at 6:15 eastern time. I arrive at the airport, pull my freshly detailed plane out of the storage hangar and have her gassed up by a fellow line guy. Shortly after starting my preflight, I discovered my left fuel cap was missing. After a short panic session, I end up borrowing a cap from a derelict C-150L.

Ok, good. I sump the left tank. Water. Sump again, water. Again, again, and again. Water. After about 20 minutes I finally seem to get all the water out. Right tank checks ok, cap is on, no water. Good to go. I lift off at 7:04 eastern time, and head to Gainesville via DADES int, OCF VOR to KGNV. Nice morning flight, no bumps, few cumulus at 3000. It was nice and cool at 5,500 so off I went.

On the ground in Gainesville I ask for a top off and borrow the van to get some grub in town. After paying my bill, I head back to the airplane. Preflight again. More water in the left tank. Ok, sump until there is no more. Right tank was clear, belly sump had some water, for the second time EVER, and I sump every flight. Next, I sump the carb. Water. Over 1 fuel tester worth. Creeped out, I decide to re sump all the tanks, shake the plane, pull the tail to the ground to get all the water I can back into the sumps. A little more water from the left tank, but the next check was clear. Ok, on my way I go again.

This time, I head VOR to VOR to KACJ - Souther Field in Americus, GA. Certainly an interesting place. I landed there on the way home from Ohio when I bought the plane, but that was at night. During the day, I saw hundreds of old, decaying crop dusters. Ag- Cats, Ag Tractors, even a few Pawnees thrown in. Rows and rows of them. Nice facility, though. Topped her back off, got some food from the vending machines, and back to the plane to preflight. MORE WATER. The belly sump had a little bit, and the carb had none, but that darn left tank still wasn't agreeing with me. Sump, sump, sump, a little more sumping, and a half hour later I was on my way up to 3M5 - Moontown!

Cruising along at 8,500 dodging some buildups having a jolly old time, just to the southwest of Atlanta's Bravo airspace (I'd been in it once before in the 150!) when she didn't sound so good. Losing RPM, getting rough... oh $#I7! Carb heat on... shuddering stops, RPM creeps back up and I am good to go. My first major experience with carb ice. By then the clouds were building up vertical 9,500 feet, so I decided to take my opportunity to descend below the clouds. All the way back down to 3,000 MSL. Bumping. Atlanta center advised me to deviate my course for some very heavy weather right between my current position and Moontown. Ok, ok, so I didn't like flying for more than 2 hours at a time, always a worry wart about fuel, and that didn't really make me happy. So around the storm I went and soon I was in the hills of northern Alabama. I cancel my flight following about 25 miles out, and switch over to the Unicom, 122.7. I hear some Cessna N3813J departing and thanking Moontown for their hospitality... hmm... haven't I heard that tail number before? Hmm ok, guess not. Wait, that might be Dan Winnie, whom I was supposed to meet up with at Moontown... let me just call on Unicom and see. Hmm, guess not, no response. So I overfly the field, doesn't look like a 150 down there anywhere... darn.

The Gremlin on the Grass at Moontown, Huntsville, Alabama.

I land runway 27 on the nice, well maintained grass. Taxi over to the wrong place while looking for the FBO. A nice, pretty young lady directs me over to the FBO and the fuel pump, and I ask if there was another 150 here earlier, I was looking for Dan, "Oh, yeah, he was waiting for you for a little while, but got out of here, he was concerned about the weather." Well damn! Fueled up, checked out the weather, shot the breeze a little bit, decided I didn't want to head to Little Rock, Arkansas to get around the crud, so I wait. And wait. 4 hours later, I had enough. I started to curse the weather channel, and the radar screen. 20 minutes later, the nice, long line of level 3-5's just...disappears! Oh yes! My luck is with me! I get out to the plane, preflight with extra attention to the left tank, 1.5 fuel testers worth of water, and then nothing 10 testers worth later. Alright! It's all gone! Taxi back out to runway 27, and ponder... short or soft field? This place is BOTH. 2,100 feet of grass. With a nice hill on the departure end of 27. And it's hotter than Hades. Ok, cool. Let's back all the way up past the threshold. Ok, here I go. Flaps 0, hold back on the yoke... get some speed, lower the nose a little, pop in 5 degrees of flaps, pop her off the ground, climb out best angle, then best rate, and I am out of there!!!

Next stop, Nashville, TN.  Cruised at around 4,500, decided John Tune airport is the best bet, and switch on the autopilot (trim is useful, so are my long legs) and off I go. Very uneventful, and where the storms were less than an hour ago, the smoothest air I had ever flown in.

I land at John Tune, and park next to a nice C182. Tail number rings a bell... N6266F. Oh, yeah! At my airport, we have a C182 tail number N6265F. Cool! Ask for a top off, head inside, and the desk lady asked where I was from. "All the way from Tampa, FL, and I ain't done yet!" I check the weather, and there's some crud still between Nashville, and Vandalia, IL, and it was getting late, so I decide on Evansville, Indiana. Class Charlie, FBO should be open late (my debit card was empty for another 24 hours until I got my deposit in) so that ruled out self serve.

 Departure out of Tune was nice, I liked all the nice little hills (not something I am used to flying in Florida all the time). Sunset was nice. Off to Indiana!! Flight following was almost useless, the only traffic within 200 miles was a B1900, and an Army helicopter practicing approaches. Enroute was ok, some clouds about 1,000 above me, vis at 6 miles.

Meal Service in Steerage.

Not much down there, a couple of isolated lights, a few fires, and that's about it. And the full moon. It was slightly eerie. 700NM from home, on my longest cross country yet, completely alone, except for me, the Gremlin, and the full moon. I land at Evansville, and obviously the controller was pretty bored because he started talking to me about his new LED taxiway light system... I must say, they WERE actually kind of nice... for taxiway lights.  

I roll on up to the FBO, parked by a line guy, while the other rolls out a rug for me... a what? No, that can't be right, I am in a 150. Only citations and up get rugs!! Cool! And the second time on this trip, too. I go inside to do my thing and pay for my fuel, and off I go again, to Springfield, IL. Hopefully Piedmont Hawthorne will still be open. About 40 miles out, I hear Lincoln tower close up shop. Uh-oh. Not a good sign. Well, hey, cool, I have an entire Charlie airport to myself! I come in, land on the big ole runway, and I turned off before the 1,000 foot marker. I roll up to Piedmont Hawthorne, which is also Garret Aviation. Lots of heavy iron in the big maintenance hangar. A Lear 31 and a Cessna 303 Crusader on the ramp. And then me. Nobody seems to be around, except for 2 or 3 people looking like they were waiting for a ride home. Aw, crap. I go in, and ask the security officer how I could possibly get some fuel. For $50, and the cost of the avgas, you'll be all set to go! Thinking about a $20 cab ride to a $75 a night hotel... mmm, I'll call the guy out. An hour later, I am on my way. Take off the long runway, do a nice 180, low pass over the National Guard ramp, with 10 F-16s lined up. Cool. NEXT STOP CLINTON!!

So Dark, even the GPS Map background turns Black...

I head direct KCWI. Getting a little tired...some more Mountain Dew and Nilla Wafers will fix that up! Next thing I know, I see Quad City, KMLI. I see the river. I am here! I see the beacon at Clinton! I'm finally here... I tune in 122.8 and see what I can turn on. Nothing. Ok, I'll try a little closer. Nothing. My Garmin is telling me something about 118.5, but I am too tired, and too excited to notice, or give it any thought. Anyway, it looks like a tower frequency. I am overhead at 1,700 feet. I can see both runways illuminated from the moon, and my landing lights work. Ok, I've landed in worse conditions, I can do it. I start setting up for a downwind on runway 14, when I hear a voice on Unicom "Aircraft circling over Clinton, are you trying to land?" I reply "Uh... that's affirmative!!" "Ok, let me click these lights on for you!" And next thing I know runway 3 and 21 illuminates right under me.

I turn off of the downwind for 14, and enter one for 21. Land, taxi up not knowing what to expect, and here I was 2 AM Central time.. 12.2 flight hours, and 20 total hours later, I am in Clinton. Met Gordon, Dan Winnie, and a sleeping Ed Pataky. Pitch my tent right next to the ramp, tie my beautiful, dependable bird down, and passed out. The rest, my friends, is history.

(And Dan has a pretty good recount of the adventure back to Florida)

Jeff Hersom
Tampa, FL

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