After dipping the tanks to see how much fuel we needed to add, and requesting this from the line guy who met us, we scurried off to the FBO at HTS. (Side note: fuel was CRAZY expensive here-- over $6 a gallon!!!)
After taking care of a few personal needs, we settled down to take another look at the weather. Even though we have XM weather and all manner of gadgets in the plane, we always still like to take a look on the ground... just in case something new pops out at us. Besides-- it's a lot easier to consider your options and play with different scenarios when you're still on the ground. We confirmed at this point that we would not be making it to our final destination (Nashville) today. The line of storms that indicated the frontal line was already arriving in Nashville. Though Husband's mom had cheerfully told us in a voicemail a little earlier that the sun was shining and it was looking to be "a beautiful day" there, we knew that if the greens, yellows, and reds were showing up over the radar there, there was no way we'd be able to get past that line in the sky. Especially not in a 172 with only a VFR license!
So we considered the options. We could go south to Tri-Cities (TN), west toward Lexington (KY), or southwest to Somerset (KY). With all of these options, we would then be able to reassess in the air just how far we would then make it towards Nashville and adjust the plan accordingly. The idea was to get as far as we could, then land and find someplace to bed down for the night, letting the front pass over us while we were safely on the ground. We ruled out Tri-Cities pretty quickly. Though we have personal connections there-- family ties to the area-- this was also the furthest west of our options, making it less likely that the front would get past in time for us to then make it on to Nashville in time for the big turkey dinner Husband's mom was planning. While there was appeal to going straight west to Lexington (or even Louisville) as we were pretty certain the storms would be past the area in time for us to depart, we were concerned about the wind that preceeds a cold front. Winds not only slow us down while up in the air, they can make landing safely pretty tricky if encountered near the ground. Especially if gusts are involved (and they usually are with fronts). So, we opted for going toward Somerset.
With this decided, we gave the dog a little rest break of his own, and then hopped back in the plane for the second leg of the day. This time, Husband was PIC and I was on the radios and charts. As we flew towards the south and the west, the skies got grayer and the clouds got lower... and the winds got higher. We probably could have made it another 20 miles or so to the next airport, but we decided to play it safe. If we got down there and the winds were too strong for landing (the runway there was 5000 ft long, but only 40 feet wide!)... we would have to turn back towards the east-- going further away from our destination. Besides, Somerset had a nice-sized yellow splotch on the map that promised better options for lodging.
We felt like quite the pioneers as we came into Somerset. Husband had a great landing, and we talked to Unicom and let them know that we wished to stay the night. Some really nice guys helped us tie down and refuel so that we'd be ready to go the next day. Then we all went inside to try and figure out lodging for the night. Luckily, there was a list of nearby hotels and we only had to call two to find one that had availability and allowed dogs. The next step was to arrange transportation to the Comfort Inn. We again got lucky as one of the guys working there offered to drive us over in the FBO's crew car. Ten minutes later, we were standing in the lobby of the Comfort Inn, checking in. I've always thought that folks associated with general aviation were nice people... this experience really proved that thinking!