What a day! First of all- thanks for all the well-wishes on the instrument ratings. Husband and I really tried to put them to good use today. Of course, 9 hours after leaving home, we had only made it 220 nautical miles from home!
We started by trying to depart JYO on an IFR plan. Our intended destination for the day was Nashville. Because of the weather, we had opted to try for the "southern route" as opposed to the "western route". Unfortunately, about 3000 feet up off of JYO, we entered a cloud (not the bad part) at -1 degree C (the bad part). We pretty quickly started to pick up ice. We asked to descend-- but we still had the ice, and were still in and out of the clouds. So, before we even reached Upperville, we turned back for Leesburg. I could tell there was a tiny amount of performance degradation-- it seemed to take a little more power to maintain airspeed, particularly in turns. However, we were able to maintain altitude and airspeed without any problems. Once safely on the ground, it was interesting to see the ice caked on the leading edges. We couldn't have been in the clouds more than about 5 minutes total, and yet we picked up a pretty significant amount. Enough that it didn't come off on its own. We ended up having to put it in a warm hangar to get the ice off.
For our second try, we decided to try flying under the cloud layer. We knew the clouds were pretty low, but we also knew that if we could make it down just a little farther south, the freezing level was significantly higher and we'd be able to go IFR. So we started out (with a warm, dry airplane) VFR, heading south, generally toward Richmond. Around Warrenton, the clouds lowered a bit more, and we made a cautionary landing at Warrenton. We didn't even get out of the plane at this stop-- we just wanted to be able to fully focus on the weather maps on the G1000. We took off again soon, and made it down to Mecklenburg, VA. We had been headed toward Chapel Hill... but saw that we were headed into some pretty heavy precip and wanted to reassess, and get on an IFR plan before going further.
After refueling and some serious map reading, we headed out again- on an IFR plan-- this time, for Greenville, SC. We didn't make it that far though, this time, we got up to 6,000 feet. Initially, we were flying nicely between the layers. Just before GSO, though, the layers closed in, and it became very turbulent. I was flying-- or rather-- the autopilot was flying. The turbulence was enough that I had my fingers posed over the off switch on the AP and the kill switch on the yoke. We were getting bounced around like crazy. It was also raining, we were in and out of clouds-- mostly in... and it was getting dark. This was officially no longer fun. In fact, I was afraid of the turbulence for the first time in a while. We talked to ATC to see if it would get better at 8000... but it didn't seem like it would. We also saw on Nexrad that we'd be in and out of this same stuff all the way to Greenville. So we called uncle and asked ATC to divert to Greensboro. The controller was great. She immediately descended us, gave us vectors right to the ILS, and even read us the weather. Husband gave me a rolling briefing, and I managed to fly the ILS pretty well, all things considered. When we broke out at about 1800-1900 feet AGL, I was dead centered on glide slope and the localizer. Instructor would have been proud! The guys at Landmark were great. I think 4 of them met our plane. They got us unloaded, refueled, and brought a van right to the planeside for the short ride to a hotel. After a good dinner at Ruby Tuesdays (gotta love that it was right in the parking lot), we (all three of us-- including the dog!) are snuggled in bed for the night safe and sound. We have no idea what tomorrow will bring, but we'll figure that out in the morning.
Some interesting things for today: Our (my) first actual IMC after getting my ticket. My first icing encounter.
Some cool things from today: Breaking out between layers-- and even getting a glimpse of sunshine for the first time. Wow. Words can't even describe-- although I did cry out "with glee" and giggle hysterically. Also- the woman at Landmark called over to the hotel to make sure Flyer (our dog) would be welcome. Her question to the hotel staff: "Do y'all house animals over there?" I also laughed long and hysterically at this. It was the perfect antidote for a long and stressful day!