Joel Johnston and the Family Mooney
Joel Johnston tells about the photo above: "Where: Deer Park, WA (DEW) When: Right Now - picture was taken last year or the year before, but I keep N4124 there along with my 1962 M20C N6460U and as of late, my bro-in-law's '56 wood wing M20.
"N4124 has been the 'Family Mite' since my Dad (Jerry Johnston) bought it when I was in high school in the early 70's. He and I tore it down and built it back up when I was in college and he signed it over to me three years ago this July. I grew up in N. Michigan and flew it back to Spokane. Dad had flown it to across the country several times. He and Ted Teach flew together to Porterville several year ago and you have them pictured on your site.
"The photo below is me and 4124 right before we departed from Michigan for the flight back. The Cub in the background is the airplane I soloed in on my 16th birthday and learned to fly in. The M20C behind it is Dad's 1964 model. We are partial to Mooney's as you might tell."
[Below] are a couple extra photos of my "escape from Michigan" - taxiing out and in the air as taken by Dad through the window of the Cub.
I departed Roscommon, MI and headed North following I-75. The large lake to the west in the aerial photo is Higgins Lake - the largest inland lake in Northern Michigan. I crossed Lake Michigan at the Mackinaw Bridge and flew above a broken to solid low overcast (marine layer) after turning West for about 20 miles and made a fuel stop at Iron Mountain in gusty winds. I don't recall all the fuel stops without checking my log book, but do know I stopped in Little Falls, MN and from there headed to Lisbon, ND where there was no one around and no U-pump, so had to fire back up and keep going - dropped in at La Moure, ND another 30 miles further West and a teenage kid working for an Ag Operator there gave me 10 gallons of gas from their pump for $20.00 cash. That was enough to get me to Mandan, ND where I tied her down and spent the night.
Next morning with a full tank I flew to Roundup, MT then on to Helena. After Helena I flew to Thompson Falls where, once again the airport was deserted. There were two red five gallon gas cans in the little airport lounge building and car keys for a 1976 Ford Granada courtesy car with driving directions to the nearest gas station - even though there was a huge, white, above ground tank labeled "100LL" just down the ramp - but with no visible pump or means of pumping from it. The runway had been repaved or seal coated within the last week it looked like, so maybe fuel service had been suspended temporarily. At any rate, I took the hint and drove out and brought back 10 gallons of super unleaded and that was enough to take me up the Clark Fork River Valley to Sandpoint, ID and on in to Deer Park.
I don't recall the total flight time, but it was two FULL days of flying - and yet, I always felt like I was eating up ground at a pretty good clip and my cheeks hurt from smiling so much (I had an Oregon Aero seat pad under the opposite cheeks and that kept the ride tolerably comfortable. I opened the canopy for a while on the leg from Thompson Falls to Deer Park because it was late afternoon and 95+ degrees and the airflow felt good, but I was worried about exhaust fumes so didn't fly like that for long. The weather was perfect the entire way. I used a Garmin GPS III Pilot to keep me straight and it worked fabulously.
I should tell you that I've flown that route between Washington and Michigan and back at least 15 times over the last 20 years in my M20C, with standard fuel stops in Helena, Mandan, Little Falls and sometimes Appleton or Oshkosh if I lay over there for the show. Because I kept my legs to about 250 miles in the Mite, I had to try a few places that I'd never been into before like Lisbon and Thompson Falls.
I hope this gives you some insight into a second generation Mite Owner's 1800 mile journey across the Northern US in N4124. Regards, Joel Johnston.