Tuesday: Champaign, IL to Ithaca, NY

Third Day

Third Day

After sleeping the sleep of the near-dead, I rolled over at 6:30am and pulled my laptop up to check the weather. The air conditioner seemed to ignore the thermostat (my friend Marc would have loved it) so the room was a brisk sixty degrees. We were deep under a comforter and flannel-like sheets, but the aluminum MacBook was the temperature of an ice tray.

There were storms over KCMI, probably giving 1RD a good cleaning. More storms were clicking their way east on the radar animation, so I went back to sleep. When I woke up we checked out the breakfast downstairs (better than grab-and-go, but not great: the boys had cereal and I had some eggs on a biscuit). We decided to head to the airport at 10am, which gave us some time to pack up at a less frantic pace. The storms looked like they would hang overhead for a while yet.

The hotel shuttle took us back to the airport and the FBO was very nice about us hanging out there. The boys played some Magic and Nell and I answered email. We watched the radar. I figured out the groundspeed of the storms and decided 1pm was a good departure. We borrowed a crew car from the FBO and headed into town with a recommendation for a diner (Sonic Burger was a fallback). Just as we were pulling into the parking lot of the diner Nell noticed a billboard for “make your own stir fry.” That sounded excellent to everyone in the car and we plugged it into the iPhone and found our way there.

Flat Top was perfect. College towns so often have interesting little places to eat. Dexter was the smartest diner and just selected noodles and chicken for his stir fry.

We walked up toward the Champaign-Urbana campus of the University of Illinois in a light rain. We stopped in the bookstore and considered some Fighting Illini pajamas. The boys got some comics and we headed back to the car. To get back to the airport we took a more circuitous route through the campus, which is sprawling and impressive.

We packed up the plane, checked the weather a little more, and climbed in. We turned north and climbed up to 7,500. The clouds were too low to climb any higher, but it was a short flight to the shore of Lake Erie. Burke Lakeshore is another little downtown airport (like KMKC where we landed in Kansas City). I love turning final in sight of the office buildings and traffic.

The FBO was friendly and took us over to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in a van. It was a short ride and we walked back, but they were closing at 5:30pm, so it wasn’t worth paying the admission fee. (They should really just turn it to free if it’s less than an hour to closing.) Checking the weather it was not entirely clear that we would make it to Ithaca. I called to warn the FBO that we should be arriving that evening. Nell called and checked to see if there were rooms at the Statler Inn, which is the hotel right on the campus.

We climbed in for the second (and last) flight of the day. The boys were going to watch a movie (Simpsons, probably) once we were aloft, but I believe they went to sleep instead. There were clouds at four thousand feet, so for a while we just cruising along under them at twenty-five hundred feet. We were able to climb eventually, and then looking at the weather ahead (Ithaca, Elmira) we knew that we would have to descend a little ahead of our destination. Watching the radar we weren’t entirely sure that we would beat the next storm to Ithaca, but we did. Like I said, the XM isn’t always accurate and this time the error was in our favor.

The FBO called the shuttle from the hotel and tied down our trusty steed. We had a really nice evening, strolling the campus and into Collegetown for a little Japanese dinner. It rained a little on our return walk up Libe Slope, reminding me of what it was really like to be on the Cornell campus. It was the first time in twenty years that I had been back and it was great to have flown in (Ithaca is a five hour drive from anywhere) with my whole little family. I watched the campus from the eighth floor of the Statler, mist rolling in from Cayuga and hiding some of the blue security lights and new dorms.

About Colin Summers

I am an architect, programmer, private pilot, husband and father. A couple of those I am good at.
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