This last weekend, the family and I had a bit of an adventure that I thought I would share. For the last several years, I have tried to make sure to get out on my birthday and do some flying...kind of a birthday present to myself. Well, last Friday was my birthday and the game plan was to fly over to Afton, WY to have some lunch at Rulon's Burger Barn (as in Rulon Gardner, the Olympic Gold Medalist). I had been checking the weather for a couple of days and knew that a small front was supposed to be working its way down, but the forecast showed that the ceilings weren't supposed to drop until later in the afternoon. So, we got ready and headed to the airport. This would also be baby Tyler's first airplane ride at 6 weeks old.
At the airport, we preheated the plane, loaded up, and launched into a beautiful morning. I could see the leading edge of the front off in the distance, but the flight up to Afton was nice and I estimated the bases to be around 13-15K feet, which corresponded with the forecast. As we landed in Afton, I didn't think that we'd have any problem having an hour or so on the ground for lunch before heading home.
The nice folks at the FBO gave us a courtesy car and we piled the kids in the backseat. I got a kick out of it because it was a big Buick and reminded me of when I used to get thrown in the back of my Granpa's car as a kid. Rulon's Burger Barn didn't disappoint and we had a good lunch. When we were leaving though, I saw what I didn't want to see. The bases had settled in and only the valley to the south was still barely open. We hurried back to the airport and were off the ground very quickly, but no luck! I made a quick circle south of the airport just to verify that there was no way out and came back to land. The FBO called me and told me to follow him around to the hanger and that they'd get the plane in for the night. About this time small snowflakes started to fall and it snowed the rest of the afternoon and night, putting about 3-4 inches on the ground.
With the plane tucked away for the night, we spent a few minutes in the FBO to check the weather and to send emails/Facebook messages to friends and family letting them know that we were stuck there for the night. Then it was time to find a place to stay and to take care of the bigger problem: since we weren't planning on an overnight trip, we needed diapers for three kids and formula for Tyler! A quick run to the local grocery store and we were all set. The Burger Barn/gas station had some rooms that they run and they were actually pretty nice. So, although this isn't exactly how I had planned on spending the rest of my birthday, I couldn't complain. We had a car to use, a warm place to stay, the plane was tucked away for the night, and I was with my family. I couldn't ask for more than that. Oh, and the hotel had wifi and the kid's cartoon channel, so life was good! The kids had a good time playing in the room and enjoyed their first ever trip to Burger King (we figured the playground would kill some time).
I can't say enough about Mark Heiner over at Afton's FBO. I had met Mark at JC a few years ago but hadn't seen him since. They were great and took really good care of us. When I offered to pay for the hanger for the night, he just told me that he was glad that I was on the ground for the night and that I didn't owe him anything for the hanger. All their help was much appreciated.
The next morning, a few clouds were still around, but there was also a lot of blue sky and we had no problem getting out. All the fresh snow on the ground made for a pretty flight back and the XM Christmas music was icing on the cake. It's been a long time since I've gotten stuck someplace (sure it won't be the last though), but, I figure that is part of aviation and you just have to make it into a fun memory. This will definitely be a birthday I won't forget.
Here are a few pics of our adventure.
Baby Tyler's first flight.
On the ground in Afton and ready for lunch!
All loaded up in the courtesy car.
Our accommodations for the night.
The kids' first trip to BK.
Sadie was more excited about sharing a bed than Adam was.
Some quality family time.
98N's room for the night.
Taking off from Afton.
It was a pretty flight back home with all the fresh snow.
Tyler's in flight meal.
Almost home. Looking down the Wasatch just north of BMC.
“When once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return.”
- Leonardo da Vinci