Idaho Flying Trip August 26, 2016

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Spent the night in Sidney Nebraska. Got a good night's sleep at the Best Western Plus but it was overly expensive. The airport is beautiful and the service was outstanding. I selected this airport because of the glowing reviews on www.airnav.com. You have to stop here if it's near your route! George was the man in charge of the FBO and he deserves at least twice what they pay him. I'm starting to feel like bad weather is following me.

It was low IFR with 1-1/4 mile visibility, a 300 foot ceiling and heavy rain with some lightning and thunder until noon. I finally took off a little after noon and headed for Medicine Bow VOR. The Maule took a little longer to lift off and climbed a little slower at 5,000 feet density altitude but it made it without any real difficulty to 8,500 feet even at 2259 lbs with 68 gallons of fuel.
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Just after leaving Sidney NE I discovered an item that I overlooked in my planning. The panel-mounted IFR approach certified Apollo GX60 GPS/COM has a data card that contains all the navigation data. Some time ago Jeppesen told me that my old technology data card didn't have enough storage to hold the entire lower 48 US aviation database so they broke the data into east and west parts. They offered to sell me another data card with a second subscription for the western data but it was too expensive and I didn't see the need for it at the time. Then I forgot all about it. Once I left Sidney, the data ran out and then I remembered. I guess the Rockies was the dividing line. I had to rely entirely on ForeFlight and my iPad for navigation. There aren't many VOR stations in the mountains so I couldn't count on them below my 12,500 service ceiling (more like 10,500). I had enough foresight to buy VFR Sectional charts but it's hard to go back to paper. The iPad, ForeFlight and the Stratus 2 do a fine job though. It's just more comforting to have both GPS plus the GX60 is legal for non-precision IFR approaches. I still have limited IFR capability but no GPS approaches.

Thunderstorms continued to form rapidly along the mountains and finally blocked my flight path west to the Medicine Bow VOR. At 2:00 pm the density altitude at the airports along my route was climbing over 8,500 feet. Landing would have been okay but it would have been next to impossible to do a go-around or take off again. I decided to wait out the weather in Wheatland WY since thunderstorms were headed my way and airports are scarcer in this area.

There isn't much in Wheatland. The airport was unattended. Fortunately, a guy based at the airport drove up and asked if I needed help. He told me there was no ground transportation of any kind. I was prepared to spend the night on the ramp in the airplane but he let me put my plane in his hangar and loaned me his old Ford Ranger pickup truck. I got a room at the Super 8 hotel outside town. My plan is to take off at 7:00 am tomorrow morning. The weather is supposed to be good and I should be able to get to McCall by 2:00 pm with a landing at Logan UT for fuel. Two flight legs of 3 hours and 18 minutes at 95 knots ground speed are required. I've always had to deal with weather when flying but this trip has seen an unusual amount of bad weather over a long distance. Maybe the return trip will be better.