Visiting the folks in Tacoma

My folks were up on Tacoma for a quilting conference that my Mom was attending, and asked if we'd be interested in coming up to see them. Good excuse to go flying, I say, and we're off to the races. (There's an album if you just want to see the pictures.

Going up

Santa Monica (SMO) to Sacramento Executive (SAC)

SAC tower My first choice for a first stop was Redding for another trip to Peter Chu's Skyroom Restaurant. The wind and weather had different ideas, though. There were some mid level clouds in the basin, around 5,000-7,000 feet, right between us and the Gorman pass. We were also looking at a reasonable headwind slowing us down. To simplify life I filed IFR to Sacramento Executive.

We got to duck through a couple clouds on climbout, but were up on top pretty quick. Once we were out of the basin and into the Central Valley, the clouds had pretty much retreated totally, though there was a fair amount of haze. As we neared Sacramento, there was one more paper thin set of clouds to pass through, though avoiding them would have been easy, and on to a visual approach and landing.

Sacramento looks like a nice pilot's airport outside Sacramento. The restaurant looks interesting and services are close and convenient. When I find myself in the area again or passing through, I'll keep them in mind.

Sacramento Executive (SAC) to Redding (RDD)

Tankers at RDD Short VFR flight up to Redding. Basically a simple cruise following the Sacramento River. We did get to hear some fun chatter on the radio. A Southwest pilot offered to “dirty it up” to get down quickly and a GA pilot was discussing approaches to a local field with the controller.

Redding is torn up some as they resurface the ramp, so we didn't get to park very close to the restaurant. The Redding Jet Center was happy to both fill us up and give us a lift to the terminal to eat at Peter Chu's.

Brenda seemed to enjoy Peter Chu's as much as I did, if that's possible. The primary draw is the ambience, but the food is excellent and inexpensive. I accidentally had the same dish this time as last time. Brenda had a vegetarian selection and gave it a good review. It was a fun stop and a good meal before setting off.

Redding (RDD) to Eugene (EUG)

Mt. Shasta The briefer at the local Flight Service Station was very adamant that no one was going up to Eugene VFR and had the sound in his voice as though he'd be grounding me personally. He took my IFR flight plan without a problem, though. Much of western Oregon was reported overcast.

On departure from RDD I was assigned an instrument departure that featured a DME arc. I got to fly it using the GPS, but in the clear, which was pretty interesting. When you fly one of these using a VOR and a DME, the pilot constructs a set of tangent lines to fly by changing the heading flown every 10 degrees of bearing change or so. It's not the trickiest thing you'll ever do as an instrument pilot, but I don't do it much. The GPS actually keeps the heading to fly updated second-by-second. It's an interesting option to have.

The fellow at the FSS may have been cranky, but his information was good. An overcast developed north of Medford and stuck around pretty steadily as we progressed. It did thin out up near Eugene, and though we did get an instrument descent through a thin layer of clouds, there was basically a hole over the airport and we made a visual approach.

Eugene (EUG) to Tacoma Narrows (TIW)

& a sunset Watching a sunset above the clouds is always beautiful, and after a short climb out of Eugene, that's what we got to do. The flight itself was in the clear all the way up to Tacoma. Between the cloud layers and the advancing night, this was an IFR leg.

As we got up to Portland, we began to notice a bright red sliver of light off to the east. Though it was a sliver, it was clearly large. We put forward a couple half baked theories about what it was before we realized that it was the Moon, low in the sky and blood red.

The rest of the trip out to Tacoma Narrows was smooth and easy. We arrived at TIW and shot an ILS in VFR conditions under a Cessna holding at the outer marker. A nice flight.

It took us a while longer than I expected to find the ramp and get tied down because I forgot that the tower would be closed on our arrival. We worked it out, though and settled in to wait for my parents to find the airport. That, too, took a little longer than I expected, but all worked out in the end.

Hanging out in Tacoma

Union Station We've been up to the Seattle area several times, but there's always something new to explore. This time we checked out Tacoma's Museum of Glass with a working hot shop where you can watch large pieces of glass being blown, various local Tacoma attractions like the Union Station, and other small places around Tacoma. We also got up to Seattle to visit friends and see the outstanding Museum of Flight at Boeing Field. We took some pictures, too.

Tacoma was a fun place to spend a few days with my parents. There was a lot to see and do, and it would be worth a trip back. The hot shop at the glass museum was enormously diverting, there were lots of interesting local restaurants and coffee shops, and Seattle's always fun to visit.

Going Home

Tacoma Narrows (TIW) to Medford (MFR)

Fog at TIW The hardest part of this leg was starting it. TIW was fogged in (visibility less than 1/4 mile and less than 100' vertical visibility) until after noon. It was thicker and more persistent fog than I've encountered in quite some time. Brenda and I basically hung out with my dad and watched TV until things finally showed some sign of clearing. Still it was almost 1:00 before we took off into a thin but low overcast.

The climbout was good fun. We were in the clouds very quickly, but I performed one of my better instrument climbs. I was definitely conscious of how quickly we'd hit clouds and wanted to turn in a good performance, and fortunately I did so.

Once we were up 1500' or so, cloud problems dropped away. There was a low overcast for much of the flight, but as we entered southern Oregon, even that dropped away, and we had excellent flying weather. I filed IFR to get the cloud climb, and stuck with it to Medford. I did take advantage of the GPS to get a couple direct clearances in the hopes of getting into Medford a little quicker.

Medford (MFR) to Sacramento Executive (SAC)

Mt Shasta It's always nice to go through Medford and see the nice folks at Medford Air Service. They're always a high point of the trip.

Flight Service had more wonderful news on our way out of Medford. Apparently there was convective activity - thunderstorms - near Mount Shasta. That's basically smack between where we were and where we were going. Things sounded fairly widely spaced and isolated, and the view out the window was good so we went up.

On the way out we swapped some weather info with a regional jet coming from the south, and he seemed to think that there was plenty of maneuvering room there. That report was borne out well when we got up into the mountains. It was pretty impressive; the air was unstable, but mostly dry except for over a couple lakes that basically had thunderstorms sitting over them. We had plenty of room to avoid them. I did get to see rainbows under each storm and even a shot of cloud-to-ground lightning. Quite a show.

Once back into the Central Valley, the flight became pretty routine. We pulled into Sacramento right as the sun set.

Sacramento Executive (SAC) to Santa Monica (SMO)

Sacramento at dusk We were kind of hoping to get a quick meal at Sacramento, but the restaurant had closed by the time we got there. Rather than look for something in town, we grabbed a couple quick snacks and set off for SMO.

This was a night flight the whole way, so I filed IFR. It was a quiet, smooth and fun flight. Not too many aircraft up and no weather or turbulence to speak of. Just a smooth easy last leg to and a fun trip.

Despite the late start, since we didn't really stop on the way, we got into Santa Monica at a fairly reasonable hour - well before curfew. All in all an interesting day, fighting a couple bits of weather and finally settling into a smooth night flight home.

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