The Eye of the Fog

Posted October 2013

Seattle's been having a real fog problem for the past two weeks. Visibility had been quarter-mile or less almost the entire time.  The Weather Guessers would say, "Ok, it'll clear off tomorrow afternoon" but it never did.  We live on the side of the valley where my airport is at, and we hardly saw the valley floor for the past two weeks.

Today was going to be different...they said. Today it was actually going to *rain*, then clear off, and possibly some sun in the afternoon.

In reality, it was foggy AND rainy when I got up today.  Oh, well.  Put on the grubby clothes, slip on the shop coat, and head out to the garage.  Without recourse to airplane, I've been building the wife a new computer desk.

The project is into the sanding stage.  Belt sander to knock the gross stuff off, then the finish sander with 220 grit to flatten things out. Work for 45 minutes.  Then the Finish sander slows.  Starts smelling. Starts puffing out smoke.

Unplug it, and it hangs at the end of its cord like a Bishops censer, dribbling up a trail of smoke.  Open the garage door to set it on a piece of rock outside and finish burning before putting it in the garbage. Hummm, not raining.  Peek around the end of the house.  Hey, I can see the Cascade foothills, twenty miles off.  But I can also see fog banks scattered around.

Drive down into town to see if I can find a replacement 1/3rd sheet finish sander.  Hey, pretty clear down here.  Drying up, too.

I get skunked at two tool shops and start heading home.  Still cloudy and nasty-looking overhead.  But hey, it's *clearing* in the west!  Just a bit of blue sky, but....

What the heck.  When I get home, I grab my RAF scarf and leather jacket, and head for the airport.  I almost turn around halfway; I'd forgotten to grab my single-vision non-tinted glasses.  I hate flying with bifocals, and the single-visions I keep in the car are sunglasses.  It's still awful dark, even with the bright sky to the west.

Oh, well...I'll fly with the bifocals.  Open the hangar, preflight, roll the airplane out... into sunshine.  Still dark skies overhead, but the sun is 90 minutes from setting, and it's actually shining through the gap to the west.

On with the sunglasses, drop into the airplane, helmet and gloves on, start the engine, and roll out the hangar row onto the taxiway.

With an unobstructed view, the sky is...interesting.  The cloud/clear interface is very definite, and it's shaped like an arching bow from north to south.

For all the world, it looks like I'm inside a giant eye...looking out as a sleepy behemoth sleepily squints at the sun-lit world.  Still dark and nasty overhead and to the east.

Runup OK, goggles down, full power, rotate.  Gradual 180-degree turn after takeoff to head south again.

The giant-eye impression is even stronger.  The Olympic mountains shine in the sun fifty miles to the northwest, while the Cascades still play high-and-seek in the fog fifteen miles east.  To the south, the eyelid curves towards the ground...where I can see fog or some similar goop in the corner of the eye.

I rise to 1500 feet and level off.  Normally, I head further East.  But I reach the edge of the sunlit portion, where the eyelid is down far enough to block the light.  It's dark and gloomy, in here.  Ease back west again, into the light.

South we continue, following the light/not light line cast by the eyelid shadow.

Eventually, I see the goop in the corner of the eye is an illusion; the cloud line continues south, and it was just the buildup of the haze.

Back for some touch-and-goes.  By the time I got done, the giant was fully awake.  The sky above the airport was clear, though the view to the dark east was still as foreboding.

Just an illusion, of course.  But jeeze, that was neat....

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