The final leg and a million emotions

Saturday, November 02, 2013
Munich, Bavaria, Germany
We couldn't help but start thinking that this was the last time on the trip we’d be doing certain things: waking up in a hotel room, eating breakfast buffets, having to decide which clothes were the least dirty, checking weather, etc. It was the checking weather that had us both up quite early.  There wasn’t any sleeping past 5:30am this morning, even though we wouldn’t leave the hotel until 8:45am.  We were anxious, to say the least.

The weather for the first third to half of the trip was forecast to be okay .  Maybe some clouds, but no icing.  After that we would be met with strong headwinds, clouds, and a high chance of icing.  Ahh, the joys of European weather in November.  This was going to be quite the change from Oman…

Michael from the King Air clan had flown back in from Germany (he left the group in Fiji to return to work) and we went with him this morning to the airport to get all our spare gear from their plane.  We’d forgotten just how much stuff we actually had in there!  Maggie was going to be chock-a-block full, that’s for sure.  After getting everything from their plane we took our time loading everything in.  It was like a puzzle, and we wanted to make sure the heavy things were up front to ensure we were properly loaded.  By the time we were done, Maggie looked like she was ready for a Grizwald family vacation. 

The taxiway was so rough in Odessa, that I was happy to be focusing on entering the flight plan than having to deal with the bumps and dips .  If only we could get through this last taxiway without the dreaded prop strike!  Johannes did a fine job, and with the takeoff as well.  We climbed quickly of the thin cloud layer and then, as forecast, had a smooth flight until close to Budapest.  The landscape with the rolling hill was beautiful.  I was reminded that eastern Europe would be a due a closer look hopefully in the near future.

As predicted we got a bit of ice so down we went to 8000’.  This put us just below the clouds and we were quite happy with that.  Still, we couldn’t get away from the winds and they kept picking up speed.  By the time we were over Austria, we had up to 50 knots right at us!  Unbelievably, these were the strongest headwinds we’d faced all trip.  At a paltry 90 knots ground speed we just didn’t seem to be getting any closer to our destination.  Indeed, I even had to call customs in Straubing that we were going to be late.  That estimate ended up being too optimistic too, as the wind continued to increase .

The strong headwinds did though at least give us time to enjoy the scenery.  We were just underneath the overcast, and below us were all kinds of foggy patches in the valley and amongst the hills.  Flying over Austria was some of the prettiest countryside of the entire trip.  You can’t of course compare the beauty of the barren Australian desert outback to the lush hilly countryside of Austria with the Alps as a backdrop.  Still, if I had to choose I’d take Austrian hills over Australian dunes.  To be honest though, at this stage so late in the trip and with our minds focused on arriving and the real lives that waited upon touchdown, it was hard to truly appreciate the beauty of this landscape that we’d seen before.  Austria lies so close; I’ll have to fly through it again.

The closer we got to Bavaria, the more delighted Johannes was to man the radios with his native accent.  We cleared lower to get further below the clouds, and cleared point by point closer to our destination .  The weather around Munich though was odd.  We could hear at the main Munich airport they had clear skies and strong winds from the west.  At our destination airport of Straubing, however, they were reporting overcast and a light wind from the east.  This was truly unruly November European weather.  It was high time to be ending our trip weather-wise, as we knew European late autumns and winters provide few fun flying weather days. 

The one approach at Straubing is for the opposite runway direction than we wanted.  We’d have to circle and land from the other direction.  Fortunately the overcast was high enough and we saw the runway already from 10 miles out.  Johannes was clearly giddy, knowing his family was waiting down below and watching our approach.  Our landing though was arguably the smoothest of the entire trip as he put Maggie down ever so gently.  We smiled.  We were relieved.  Mission accomplished. 

Upon taxiing we saw Johannes’ wife, daughter, brother, friend Uli, and the owner of the repair shop, Mr . Rieger.  We parked by Rieger’s shop and saw they had a red carpet set up for us as well as champagne and snacks.  It was moving to say the least.  Johannes was overcome with joy.  As one would imagine after 2.5 months away from family and friends, it was an emotional reception. 

Immigration at the airport was the most relaxing of the trip, as the immigration officials didn’t bother to meet us.  A form confirming our birthdates was all that was required.  Literally nothing else, not even looking at our passports, was of interest to the casual tower controllers.  That done, we unpacked Maggie took more pictures, drank another glass of champagne, and then set off to the real world.

I joined Johannes and their family for dinner.  It was hard to focus the conversation on one particular aspect of the trip and to accurately summarize all that we’d seen and the impressions we gathered.  I realized it was going to be almost comical to answer the surefire question of, "how was the trip?"

From dinner I went to see Enda for a drink and catch up with my good buddy.  Low and behold, he had a surprise party lined up.  I walked in to his apartment and there 10 or so friends there to congratulate me and celebrate my arrival.  It was hard to believe this was really happening.  Enda even had a trophy made, as well a cake with M&Ms decorated to spell “THX MAGS” for Thanks Maggie.  It was humbling to hear how grateful folks were that we’d made it back safely.  Most everyone wanted to know what were the hairiest parts of the journey.  To that I could only wink and say there were none ;-)


Routing from Odessa (UKOO) to Straubing (EDMS):

SURAP2ADEP SURAP L140 POGAV Y572 BUDOP L850 GISPO L856 TAGAS L610 STAUB initially at FL120 and with a flight time of about 6h35m
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Congrats, Wolf! An amazing adventure and a great blog capturing it all. Welcome back!


Can't wait for tomorrow dude!! Looking for to seeing you Mr Fog.


Congrats, Wolf! A great journey, a great adventure and a great crew!!!

Ulrich Schaefer

Oh no!. The last comment was not from Johannes, but from me - his ghostwriter... (I am still logged in on his travelpod-site...) Anyway: It was fantastic to see you flying around the world. All those stories, all those adventures. And most important: You came home safe!!!


Wolfie! We are happy to hear you're home safe and not holed away in an Asian prison. ;) Such an amazing adventure and opportunity of a lifetime. Hope you get to Dallas again soon.

Jenifer, Bryan, Lennon and Fitz