As is often the case, the work on the aircraft went right down to the last minute, and the final piece of work was finished the morning of my planned departure. The aircraft was at an airport in central Pennsylvania, 150 miles in the wrong direction. I loaded all of my gear into the trusty old Cessna 172 and a good friend flew me over to Williamsport airport where I loaded the 182, fueled up to my full 111 gallon capacity, and took off headed west.
The weather was IMC (Instrument Meteorological Conditions, where you’re flying in the clouds) through PA and OH but then cleared right up. I just flew hard to cover ground across the “boring bits”, and made it to Creighton Municipal in Nebraska to camp overnight. The aircraft performed flawlessly and the autopilot was perfect for the long flights, a luxury I hadn’t had in the old airplane.
The next day I headed on, my planned destination being the “Greater Green River Intergalactic Spaceport”. According to Wikipedia:
The Greater Green River Intergalactic Spaceport is a small public use airstrip about five miles south of Green River, Wyoming on a mountain known as South Hill.
On July 5, 1994 Resolution R94-23 of the Green River city council designated this landing field as the “Greater Green River Intergalactic Spaceport”, for inhabitants of Jupiter who might wish to take sanctuary in Green River in the event their planet is threatened by collisions from comets or meteors, in apparent reference to the contemporary Comet Shoemaker–Levy 9 impact.
Unfortunately, before I could make it to the spaceport, my day was upturned by the discovery of fuel dripping from the wing. This concerned me a little. Investigation revealed that a fuel hose in the wing root had cracked and a slow leak was set up. I made contact with a maintenance facility in Casper, WY, who were able to see me immediately. On arrival they leaped into action and soon had the hose replaced. The wonderful guys working there even took me out to lunch before I continued on my way!
Fuel situation resolved, I was on my way southwest to Greater Green River. There is absolutely nothing at the field, just a long grass runway and a grass parking area. I walked the mile to the state road and almost immediately someone pulled over to give me a ride into town. I visited a local store to get some supplies, and then walked around town a little, settling down to watch kids baseball in the park before hitchhiking back out to the airport, and my little tent under the wing.
The next morning I woke to the sound of a tinny little engine. The Intergalactic was getting busy; a powered parachute had come for some flying. The very pleasant pilot took me into town for breakfast, and dropped me back afterwards. He was planning to get an RV to tow the cart behind, and travel the US on retirement flying wherever took his fancy. Sounded like fun!
From here I headed north to Missoula Montana for the AOPA fly-in. I stopped off in Idaho Falls to fuel up, and buy camping provisions from the ever-present local Walmart. The terrain became much more interesting as I headed north, with mountains and even snow being visible the further I went.
After stopping for fuel and provisions in Idaho Falls I set out up the valley to Missoula. The weather wasn’t perfect, but was never too bad to continue. By the time I neared Missoula, the clouds were dissipating and a beautiful evening was setting in.
The AOPA fly-in at Missoula was a lot of fun, although the Saturday was washed out with rain for the entire day. As such, we stayed an extra night at the fly-in, and had dinner with a couple of good friends from the Pilots of America forums.
By Sunday morning the rain had cleared. The camping area was a bit of a muddy mess, and everyone was pitching in to help push aircraft out to the hard surfaces. The fire service had even shown up to wash the mud off aircraft wheels! We taxied over to the more remote FBO and borrowed a car to run to a local “Fitness First” for a shower. We ran into a couple of pilots who’d had the same idea; they had flown 172s out from New York state. We decided to fly out to Cavanaugh Bay for lunch as a flight of three.
Cavanaugh bay was idyllic and we quickly decided to camp out for the night. A restaurant was just off the end of the runway with a perfect view over the lake.
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