Houston, Texas to Lake City, Florida

Trip Start Dec 23, 2012
Trip End Mar 30, 2013

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Flag of United States  , Florida
Sunday, December 30, 2012

Well, Houston was cold overnight, but it's still Texas, on the Gulf of Mexico (nearly). Yet for the third time I came out to my plane and found the wings and tail covered with frost so out came the ice scraper once again.  Hmmm . . . I wonder how far south I gotta fly so I don’t have to scrape frost and ice off my plane in the morning.  If I’m still doing this when I reach the Amazon, I’ll know I’m in the grip of some climate anomaly.

It was mostly clear but cold departing Houston.   Given the good weather, I decided on another VFR flight with flight following instead of filing IFR.  My route followed along victor airways due east to Florida.  After takeoff on runway 17 I turned northeast and leveled off at 1500 feet to stay below the Houston Class B airspace shelf until the KDWH tower handed me to Houston Approach control who cleared me to climb into their Bravo airspace and head east.  Climbing up to 9,500 feet, in the altitude range where N788W seems to have its best performance, I turned east and saw vast open sky in front of me. I didn’t have the strong tailwinds on this flight that I had coming into Houston, but still they added 10 knots or so to my groundspeed.

I’ve flown to every state in the USA (wheels on the ground), most them in my old Archer II, but I’d never flown along the Gulf Coast like this.   It is dead flat, with water and land making tentative, uncertain transitions from one to the other.  It’s curious to see the hand of nature with meandering waterways and fragmented shorelines juxtaposed to the hand of man with dead straight canals and causeways and roads carved across the landscape.

There a lot’s of airports in this region and the good weather (a sunny Sunday) brought many weekend pilots into the sky producing a lot of radio chatter. Occasionally ATC scolded these pilots for their clumsy excursions nearly into restricted military airspace – there’s a lot of it along the Gulf Coast, especially around Pensacola NAS.

I could see Lake City (Gateway) airport (KLCQ) from 30 miles away so I dropped flight following and headed down to an easy landing straight in on runway 10.  It’s a big airport for a relatively small town – there must be military or some other heritage to the place.   Taxiing up to the terminal/FBO, I was further surprised by the building – brand new and first class in every way, far better than many jet centers I’d been to that cater to jet set crowd.   I don’t imagine they get too much of that kind of traffic in Lake City, but maybe they aspire to.  By contrast, Gill Aviation, the FBO at KDWH in Houston that handles a lot of private/corporate jet/turboprop  traffic was a very humble facility by comparison.  The service was also much better at Lake City, with the FBO guy coming out to marshal me in, tie down the plane, drive my rental car out on the ramp to load my luggage, and then re-fueling the plane.  Nobody greeted me from Gill until I carried my bags through the door of the building after doing all the line work myself.  I guess only the jet jockeys are entitled to a ride in the golf carts they had sitting around. Not impressed with Gill.

I was in for another treat this evening - dinner with Thom Kane and Veronica Baird who have also flown around the world in Thom’s Cessna 180 (dinner was another Earthrounders mini-reunion!).   They invited me to their home in the countryside southwest of Lake City along a private airstrip, Little River residential airpark (FL10).  Thom and Veronica would like to make the trip to South America and Antarctica someday so we talked about the planning and permit issues.  It was a fantastic dinner and great fun to swap stories about our adventures flying little planes to far-flung places.
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