By MICHAEL COHEN, For General Aviation News
“Where do you fly to all the time?” I am sometimes asked this question, because I put a fair number of hours on our club airplane, a Cessna 150. I live pretty much in the middle of the country and fly out of a small airport, Kyle Oakley Field (CEY) in Murray, Kentucky. It’s got a nice, wide, 6,200-foot runway in great condition, and from it I can get to airports in four different states inside of an hour’s flight time in the 150.
There are some really good spots for the $100 hamburger, for example. Local flyers sometimes fly down to McKinnon, Tennessee, to its airport on the eastern shore of Lake Barkley. They park just off the end of Runway 8 and walk up the hill to the Southernaire Motel and Restaurant, where the salad bar is fresh and varied, and the portions are large; my favorite dish is their liver and onions.
About 30 miles to the north, also just east of the lake but in Kentucky, is Lake Barkley State Park Airport (pictured, left). If the courtesy car is out, a call to the lodge will bring a shuttle for you. The lodge features a large buffet for every meal.
Cape Girardeau, Missouri, on the Mississippi River, 65 miles northwest of my home field, also has a good restaurant, Sandy’s, in the terminal. Everything I’ve tried on the menu has been good, and if you go on Sunday you’ll find a buffet with fried chicken, barbecued ribs, and homemade ice cream. Don’t forget to fly over the beautiful suspension bridge that spans the Mississippi at the Cape. And if you fly into Sikeston, Missouri, about 20 miles to the south, you can phone Lambert’s Café and they will send a van for you. At Lambert’s they like to deliver your huge yeast dinner rolls by throwing them to you.
But my favorite place to eat is the Airways Café on the field in Dexter, Missouri (pictured, below). As I was taxiing in to park at Dexter one day, a Bonanza was just leaving. There were no other planes on the field, and yet the Airways Café was nearly full. Townspeople seem to like this folksy plate lunch restaurant, which is always lively at lunchtime.
I like to take my golf clubs along when I go flying. Golf courses, I have found, are often located close to small airports. Sikeston, Missouri, has not one but two golf courses bordering the airport. The fairways of Sikeston Country Club (open to the public on weekdays) are lined with old trees and are to the east of runway 2/20. The more open fairways of Bootheel Golf Club are on the other side of the runway. Both are 18-hole layouts.
A short walk from the airport terminal at Union City, Tennessee, is Poplar Meadows Country Club (pictured, above), which used to be the Union City Country Club and is open to nonmembers on weekdays. It has nine small, narrow, bent grass greens, each with two tees and sometimes two separate tree-lined Bermuda fairways, so that one plays a very different course when repeating the nine holes, though the greens are the same. The whole layout is tucked into 80 acres, and though there are some poplars on Poplar Meadows, most of the trees lining the fairways are pine and oak. Bird boxes nailed to trees at the edge of the fairway are used as yardage markers, a unique touch I’ve seen nowhere else.
My favorite course, though, is the one just down the hill from the Lake Barkley Airport. Boots Randolph Golf Course (pictured below) is named for the legendary Nashville Sound saxophone player, who was born in nearby Cadiz, Kentucky. The course is only about 6,500 yards from the white tees, but you have to keep the ball out of the pine and deciduous woods from which the fairways are cut and negotiate the 90° dogleg on the par-5 sixth and the stream that snakes through number 18.
There are other attractions easily reachable from airports within an hour’s flight from my home base. One day I flew into Marion, Kentucky, which has a 4,400-foot runway and a brand-new, though unattended, terminal. Although there is no courtesy car, a telephone call to the Ben Clement Mineral Museum got me a ride into town with the director herself, Tina Walker. The museum has a huge collection of all colors and sizes of fluorite, which was once mined in the area. If museum-going is to your taste, Paducah, Kentucky, has the National Quilting Museum, and Malden, Missouri, maintains an air museum at the airport, filled with memorabilia from Malden’s days as a primary pilot training school for the military from 1943 into the 1960s. Also trained here were C-47 pilots who towed the plywood Waco CG-4 gliders that took troops and jeeps into combat during World War II.
Just across the Ohio River and only about 35 miles to the north of my home field is the little town of Metropolis, Illinois. The main attraction in Metropolis is a riverboat gambling casino. The law no longer requires the boat to be sailing while gambling is going on, so she stays tied up at the dock, and Harrah’s has built a large hotel with several restaurants just north of the casino (pictured left). There is an FBO at Metropolis Airport and a courtesy car to get to the casino. Just make sure you still have enough money to pay for topping off the tanks when you return from your gambling adventure.
I’ll bet your home airport has just as many opportunities for food and fun nearby as mine does. Take your chart, draw a circle around home base with an hour’s flight in your plane as the radius, get out the airport directory, and start exploring.