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San Jose to Portland

Leg 1. 21 July. San Josť, California to Idaho Falls, Idaho. 4 hours 50 minutes.

The Swiss authorities required us to do a test flight of at least 5 hours over land with a full load of fuel before attempting the Atlantic crossing, and we decided to do it on the first leg of the journey. A long runway was needed for the take-off so we left from San Josť International Airport instead of our 'home' base of Palo Alto whose runway is only 2500 ft long. We could feel how heavy we were as we sped along the 5000 ft runway but Flemming estimates that we lifted off after only 2000 ft.
The sky was clear and the wind calm. We said good-bye to the golden, sun-parched hills of the San Francisco Bay area and headed for the Sierra Nevada mountains - familiar terrain for us as we had flown there several times during the year to go skiing or hiking. Rather than climb to 13000 ft - the minimum IFR altitude - we requested VMC restrictions, allowing us to fly a little lower at 12000 and avoid using oxygen. There was some intermittent turbulence due to wind-shearing as we flew over the salt lakes of Nevada State, but the sky remained clear until we reached the Rockies. Then, spotting a thick build-up of clouds ahead, we climbed as high as the Mooney would take us to 16000 ft (18000 ft density altitude) to keep above them and avoid icing. But the clouds kept getting higher and it was clear that we would soon be unable to top them. It was too risky to attempt flying VFR beneath the clouds in that mountainous area so, instead of continuing on to our planned destination of Codi, Wyoming (to the east of Yellowstone National Park), we did a 90-degree turn to the left and made for Idaho Falls in the state famous for its potatoes.
On landing, we were greeted by one of the friendly Fixed Base Operators we had grown so accustomed to in our year in the U.S. As long as you buy fuel from them, tie-down fees are waived, they provide free shuttling services and will gladly arrange for car rental. And there's no need to haul luggage around. You can drive your car straight up to the side of the plane. We put in enough fuel for the next flight to Chicago and hired a car to go to Yellowstone National Park

Leg 2. 24 July. Idaho Falls to Dupage (Chicago), Illinois. 7 hours 21 minutes.

Violent afternoon thunderstorms are notorious in the Mid-West, so we left really early. At 5.39 a.m., it was only just getting light as we took off. There were more clouds than forecast over the Rockies but not too many to prevent us from flying VFR next to the beautiful Grand Teton range as the sun came up behind it. In an hour we were over the Rockies and another hour and a half later we had reached the flat farmland of the Mid-West. We were above Cheyenne country when we saw the first clouds of a warm front beneath us and we continued to fly over them as we entered Nebraska. Four hours out and 200 nautical miles to the west of Omaha, our stormscope picked up the first signs of electrical activity. We soon had to make a 20-degree turn to the right to avoid an extended cluster of CBs. The stormscope continued to light up on one side then the other for the next one and a half hours, but by the last hour of the journey we were past them and it was a smooth flight between cloud layers the rest of the way.

Leg 3. 29 July. Chicago Dupage to Ithaca, Upstate New York. 3 hours 22 minutes.

There were already huge thunderstorms over Lake Erie when we took off at 7.45 a.m. so we flew south to avoid them. We could see Chicago's high rises beneath us on our left and downtown Meigs runway before heading over the south of Lake Michigan. For the first hour we were between cloud layers at 11000 feet. We had a good tailwind giving us a ground speed of about 175 knots. There was another thunderstorm stretching 50 miles wide between Erie, Bradford and Franklin in Pennsylvania, so we did a 10-degree turn to the right to avoid it. Our ground speed rose to almost 200 knots. Gaps in the clouds beneath us allowed glimpses of flat farmland until about 15 minutes before Ithaca, where the terrain became more hilly and there were as many forests as fields.

Leg 4. 31 July. Ithaca to Portland, Maine. 1 hour 53 minutes.

We made another early start but it was raining hard as we drove to the airport. It decreased to a drizzle as we were about to take off but we soon flew into another heavy downpour, and I gripped my seat and gritted my teeth during the bumpy ride. After a year of enjoying VFR conditions in sunny California, this was not my idea of fun. However, the weather (and my mood) improved by the time we reached Portland which was just overcast. We taxied over to Northeast Avionics where our immersion suits were waiting for us. The original idea had been to rent them but, after a quick calculation, we decided to purchase them at $300 each, instead of paying $210 for 3 weeks' rental plus the cost of freighting them back to the U.S. Flemming tried on his suit. It was pretty bulky and we realized that we would have to wear them up to the waist with the top and sleeves tucked around us during the whole flight to the Azores. There was no way we could don the trousers in an emergency in the limited space of the cockpit.

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A very pleasant lunch with Yuri and Sidney Orlov in Ithaca, NY

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In Portland we picked up our two immersion suits for the North Atlantic crossing
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