Wednesday we took a break from airplanes and drove up to Door County, which is on a peninsula that juts out into Lake Michigan with Green Bay on one side. It was very nice, we had a pleasant lunch and checked out a lighthouse at a state park. We had dinner at at a rennovated paper mill in Appleton, there is a lot of history in these old buildings.
The flight home started wheels up at 9:30 leaving Appleton. There was supposed to be low overcast, but it turned out to be clear below 12 thousand until southern Wisconsin. The departure from KATW was again uneventful, flying over Ripon at 4500, and I could easily pick out planes on the FISK conga line.
We turned south at Ripon, direct Jacksonville IL, our first stop. A front was in our path and the clouds started thickening below us. Then Chicago Center finally dropped us saying we had to file IFR to go any further. The deck ahead was getting solid, and there appeared to be a wall of clouds at our altitude. I squawked VFR, and dove through a big clearing to get underneath. We flew the rest of the way in Class G airspace, which gave us a great view of the farms of northern Illinois. Not the best of options, but we had plenty of reasonable emergency landing spots, and airports weren't too far apart. I would always radio my intentions as I crossed over various fields at pattern altitude.
We had to dodge a bit of light rain which showed up on Foreflight thanks to the new Apereo ADS-B receiver I picked up at the show. But we finally made it through the front just as we got to KIJX. After a quick stop at Jacksonville to refuel, we were off again, this time on the warm side of the front. We had to stay at 3500 due to the ceiling, but at least we weren't scud running anymore. Instead, just as we got to Southern Missouri, where these is no ADS-B coverage yet, I could see rain ahead in our path. I deviated around to the left, as close as I could because I was trying to stay out of a MOA. Just then I saw a lightening bolt come out of the cloud all the way to the ground. We were about 20 miles out, and I changed course more to give it a wider berth. What had turned from clear air, to light rain, was now quickly maturing to a thunderstorm. I finally got Memphis approach on the radio - St Louis had dropped me about 15 minutes earlier with no word about impending weather - and they were hopping. They had storms popping up everywhere all of a sudden, and a bunch of planes about to have big problems.
As we started turning the corner with the first storm off the right wing another became evident off the left wing. I had to deviate a little more to the right. During this time Center didn't have me on radar, so I had to supply position reports. Somehow we made it through that line without too much trouble, but it apparently turned into a pretty significant event, I don't think any more planes made it through.
We landed in Hot Springs, KHOT, after another hour of hot, BUMPY, misearable flying. I was actually getting a bit naseous and was very glad to be on the ground.
Finally, after refueling, a quart of oil, and a short break, we launched again. Time was about 3PM. Fortunately the overcast was now scattered at 7000, and we climbed to 8500 and enjoyed smooth reasonably cool air for the rest of the ride back to Lakeway. The only bummer is that the autopilot had been getting progressively worse at holding altitude, and I finally turned it off and hand flew most of the final leg. In fact I hand flew most of the trip from Appleton due the dodgy nature of the weather.