Last night, after a good deal of research and debate, we decided that our flight today would be from Hagerstown (KHGR) to Danville, Virginia (KDAN), just north of the N. Carolina border. After stopping for lunch at a truck stop diner near the airport, an experience in itself, for this is hillbilly territory, we decided to fly further south and Chapel Hill looked like the obvious place to stay overnight. Our original plan had been to spend the whole weekend here, but the hotels here are overflowing, with no more rooms to be had for Saturday. A university footmall match (American football that is) is taking place and "football is very big in the southeastern states" (said a young man whom we met today). That's why.
To add a little detail...
Our departure this morning was fraught with difficulties, although we had a cheap and easy ($11) taxi ride to the airport despite yesterday's warnings about Hagerstown taxi drivers. Chris wants to continue the story by dictation:
Invariably, I ensure that chocks are removed during my walkaround. Today, however, I did the walkaround a long time before our planned departure time, because I had been anticipating a delay while the aircraft was refuelled. However, we found that it had already been fuelled. The helpful FBO attendant advised me not to remove the chocks until the last minute, because the aircraft was parked on a slope. I filed my IFR flightplan to Danville and close to the appropriate departure time we walked to the aircraft; another FBO man arrived on a golfcart and, at Alison's request, cleaned our windscreen. He then removed the chocks and drove away with them on his golf cart. We climbed into the aircraft and, looking at my kneepad, I realised that I had made the assumption that we were departing from Binghamton rather than Hagerstown. Question: had I filed a departure from Binghamton or had I simply mistakenly written it on my pad? This necessitated a call to Flight Service who confirmed that the flight plan had been filed to depart from Binghamton. It was, unfortunately, too late to modify the flightplan, this already being with Binghamton Departure. I therefore filed a new flightplan from Hagerstown. However, I had to allow enough time for the revised flightplan to arrive in Hagerstown. During the wait, we went through our checklist and started the engine. When I tried to taxi forward, the aircraft would not move. This required us to shut down the engine and inspect the wheels to find one chock still in place in front of the front wheel. This was removed, and the engine restarted, and an uneventful flight was made to Danville.The flight may have been uneventful; it was certainly beautiful, once again in smooth, if hazy air. We crossed the border into Virginia almost immediately, overflying the Shenandoah valley area near Winchester, where we'd stayed in April '14 with John and Jill. Ahead were waves of Appallachian mountains, forested ridges and steep grassy valleys, continuing into the distance. We remembered driving the Blue Ridge Parkway in 1989 and climbing Grandfather Mountain in the Smoky Mountains further south, all part of the same range. From the air you could see why they'd called it the Blue Ridge.
Our truckstop lunch place was called 'The 58', after the highway. Solitary, elderly men were dining there, served by friendly waitresses. One old man, wearing blue denim dungarees, had an elaborate pony tail under his embroidered cowboy hat. Sad to say, he could hardly walk to his car; there was something very wrong with him. A lady diner jumped up to help him at the door. The TV sets in thse public places broadcast a continuous flow of adverts for medical insurance or miracle medications. I wondered if he could afford it.
As in all the places we've stopped at so far on this trip, there was a church of one denomination or another beside every shopping plaza. The churches must surely teach their congregations kindness, consideration, good manners and respect, because those qualities are much in evidence. Once again we were driving a car belonging to someone at the Danville FBO, who had entrusted us with his car key. It seems to be the done thing in the states. When we landed in the sea of trees at Chapel Hill airport, at the end of the next hop, just half an hour's VFR flight to this small airport, the young ramp attendant, who has been studying history and military strategy or something at the UNC, called us Sir or Ma'am every time he spoke to us. He takes his job very seriously and has ambitions to be a military man. In his office hangs the Lineman's Creed:
It is impossible to accurately measure the results of fuelling aircraft safely. No one can count the fires that never start or the engine failures and the forced landings that never take place. And one can neither evaluate the lives that are not lost nor plumb the depths of the human misery we have been spared. But the man with the fuelling hose can find lasting satisfaction in the knowledge he has worked wisely and well, and that safety has been his first consideration.Chapel Hill downtown is a far cry from Hagerstown. Instead of the rather haunted and hungry-looking poor people who sit on doorsteps hoping for the best, this place is swarming with well fed, self-confident, sporty, well-heeled young students in blazers or posh cars. I remember and like the elegance of Chapel Hill's architecture, especially the tall white tower and spire of the United Church on the campus. We saw the Morehead Planetarium again that had once inspired our 11 year old son to become the astronomer he now is. We are staying in a well appointed motel opposite a familiar shopping plaza on the edge of town. The house we used to rent in Landerwood Lane is not much more than a mile from here, but we didn't venture that far to see it again. We had supper at a downtown Thai restaurant instead.