We took off at 10:45 and got flight following at 4,500 feet. There were strong headwinds - 30 to 40 knots from 50 to 60 degrees off the right wing. The air around CRG was free of clouds, but as I reached my target altitude, I could see clouds in the distance at my altitude.
Using my handheld GPS, I activated my flight plan and at the same time, I programmed the plane's GPS for a direct to OCF. The flight was very smooth after we leveled off, but I had to maintain about 20 to 25 degrees of right deflection to maintain the desired track.
As we got closer to Ocala, I decided to program a direct to X39 - Tampa North. This would cut a little time from the flight which I had calculated at 1h30m due to the headwind and it was late enough to avoid the Palatka MOA and restricted areas. I also decided to climb to avoid the cloud layer while advising ATC of my intentions.
As the flight progressed, I started to second guess myself as the cloud layer below me appeared to get denser and denser. Finally, about 30 miles from my destination, I saw a gap in the clouds and began a comfortable descent. ATC decided that they were too busy to handle flight following, so they terminated radar coverage and I was on my own. They told me I could contact Tampa approach in a few miles and they could pick me up. As we passed beneath the cloud layer with bottoms at 2000 feet, the flight became a bit rougher. Fortunately, we were only 20 miles from our destination. I took one last look at my chart to ensure that there weren't any 2000 foot tall towers in my path. Finding none, I focused on getting weather information from the Vandenberg ASOS which was the closest to Tampa North. Afterwards, I tuned the frequency for Tampa App that Jax gave me and was told to use a different frequency. Technically, I didn't need to call them since I wouldn't be crossing within their Class B airspace, but I'd be within the Mode C veil and I always think it is better to let folks know where you are.
The rest of the flight was a bit bumpy. Passing over the airport, I saw the windsock showing stiff (15kt +) winds straight down the runway. That was a good thing. I made a midfield crosswind entry into the left downwind for 32 and planned to keep my speed about 7 to 10 kts above the standard approach speed to compensate for the winds. I also decided to use only 20 degrees of flaps. Crossing the threshold, I found swirling winds and had to work to keep the plane lined up on the 50' wide runway. Touchdown was smooth and I taxied back down the runway to the FBO.
Nobody was there, and there were no easily identified parking spots. I decided to taxi over in the grass next to an old Piper Cub. There were no storms in the forecast, so I wasn't too worried about the lack of tiedowns.
There was Mom waiting for us as we parked the plane 1 hour and 30 minutes after takeoff - just as I had calculated.
Another great flying day in a beautiful aircraft! 2.6 hours with 1.6 cross-country!