Diversion – P is for “Psoaring”

20171021_143745Okay, I made up that word (because I’m a bit psycho), but when we booked our trip to Hawaii (see “P is for Pu’uhonua”), we bookended the flights to Honolulu with stops in Los Angeles to break up the long flights from the East Coast.  On the first of those LA stops, Judy and I decided to check off a bucket list item with soaring lessons!

As a private pilot, all my flying has been in planes with motors, but soaring in a glider has held a certain appeal…matching wits with nature in search of thermals that will take you to new heights, rather than just gliding “down hill.”  I reached out to Jeff Jewell, one of my LA-based flying buddies who had spent some quality time flying gliders, for some advice.  He pointed me straight in the direction of the Southern California Soaring Academy in the high desert town of Llano. He also let me know that on the day we were planning our experience, he would be flying the tow plane!

We arrived dressed for the desert – shorts and t-shirts – but were met by breezes and cool temps. That didn’t dampen our enthusiasm as we were met at the door by Julie and introduced to our instructors.  Judy was shown to her glider first and after she and Jim pre-flighted, a golf cart towed them to the end of the runway.  22730336_897410107074580_3258421392343006608_nDale gave me a thorough rundown of the instruments and controls of the ASK-21 sailplane we would be flying, the difficulty we might have finding thermals this particular day, and the procedures we would follow when being towed into the air.  We, too, were then towed out to the end of the runway, where Jeff taxied-up and the crew hooked up the tow line.  When the line was taut, we waggled our rudder indicating we were ready to go, and Jeff firewalled the throttle in the Piper Pawnee tow plane ahead of us, and we quickly lifted off right behind.

A truly masterful instructor, Dale walked me through the tow procedures, one of the hardest parts to learn when one is getting their glider rating, as I followed along with my hands and feet on the controls. As we approached the mountain ridgeline south of Crystal Airport, we dropped the towline. We were soaring!  Flying within just a hundred feet or so of the treetops, the view and the sensations were exhilarating, and maybe a bit intimidating.  A pilot in a powered aircraft like I fly would never get that close to a mountain, Dale said, and I can certainly attest to that. We skimmed along the ridge, looking for the slightest amount of lift created by the winds rising up the mountain (called ridge lift or, in meteorological terms, orographic lifting) … lift that could be felt in the seat of the pants and seen in the very sensitive vertical speed indicator called a variometer.  There wasn’t much, but Dale found some (Judy’s instructor would quip that Dale “could find a thermal in a fart”) and he racked the tiny aircraft with the incredibly long wings into a spiraling turn to stay in the thermal.

Then it was my turn.  Flying that glider was unlike anything I’ve ever flown before.  Dale was constantly urging me, “More rudder!”  Unlike the Pipers and Cessnas I usually fly, where only a bit of rudder is needed to coordinate the turn, sailplanes with impossibly long wings experience a LOT of adverse yaw.  But I got the hang of it, and soon Dale was showing me how to use speed in a dive to build energy to climb.  We found a small thermal in a place dubbed “The Chimney.” I did my best to stay in it, spiraling in a steep turn as we climbed ever so slowly.

Soon, it was time to head back to the ground.  I had long lost sight of Judy and Jim, but I was too mesmerized in my own experience to really notice.  I did some stalls and steep turns to get a better feel for the bird, then Dale demonstrated the aerobatic capabilities of the ASK-21 with a wing-over! I flew the pattern toward the airport with Dale working the spoilers to lose lift in a glider that would rather fly than be on the ground.  Nevertheless, we nailed the touchdown and coasted to a stop.  Our first soaring flights were done, but they won’t be our last!

There’s a whole world out there, waiting to be explored.  See it from the air!

Judy ready to soar

 

Why I Fly

From my earliest days, I wanted to fly.

As a youngster, I was fortunate to fly commercially before airliners became nothing more than airborne buses and coats and ties were de rigueur. ClipperFlights in Lockheed Electras, Convair 440s, Boeing 707s and DC-8s had me glued to the window as the earth fell away during takeoff. Back then, cockpit tours for kids were a must, and the stewardesses (as they were called then) ALWAYS had wing pins for their young passengers.

Balsa wood, tissue paper and dope models followed, as did subscriptions to every flying magazine I could get my hands on. Dad took me to airshows at Pt. Magu where I saw the incomparable Bob Hoover in his Aero Commander Shrike perform a complete aerobatic routine with both engines silent.

My best friend’s grandfather took us up for a ride in a Piper Tri-Pacer out of Van Nuys airport and later a Piper Apache; his dad took us up in a Cessna 310 … the stage was set.

But priorities changed.  Sailing, then cars and girls in high school, more sailing in college and a first marriage kept my aviation dreams at bay. But then in 1993, the planets aligned and an opportunity presented itself that was simply too good to pass up … a close friend had an opportunity to buy an old Cessna 150 for $9,000 – a bargain! – did I want in?  Absolutely!  Another friend had just received his Certified Flight Instructor certificate and would train me in exchange for the flight time.  Deals were made, checks written and the airplane was ours.N5749E

My logbook tells the story.  My first lesson was on April 6, 1993 in a Cessna 172 when we went to pick up the plane.  Mike flew it back. I soloed just three months later with only 18 hours logged!  I passed my private pilot checkride on March 21, 1994.  Bigger and faster airplanes followed and in December 2001, I passed the checkride for my Instrument Rating.

It all stopped in 2003.  I moved east and when the promise of a new job failed to materialize the finances to fly just weren’t there, and then life ensued.  The dream faded but never went away.  A new, but short-lived job with the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association threw new sparks on the fire, but my then-wife wasn’t a flyer … it wasn’t a priority.

Fast forward to 2012 when the woman of my dreams enters my life … and she wants to fly!  Judy not only supported my dreams, but wanted her dreams of flight to be realized.  For a wedding present, I got her a logbook of her own and an introductory lesson.  On a cold day in January, I watched her take off for the first time at the controls.  Later that summer, I, too, was back in an airplane with a new medical certificate in hand and an instructor putting me through the flight review paces.  It took a few flights – I was definitely rusty, but it all came back and my instructor signed me off.  I was back in the air!Checklist

A week ago, I was again signed off by an instructor to fly one of my favorite airplanes, a Piper Arrow, and later this year, I hope to regain my Instrument Rating currency. In the meantime, Judy and I are planning many flights together.J&G Flying

Today is National Aviation Day…a day to celebrate why we fly and our nation’s long history of flight. I am incredibly thankful to live in a country that affords me this opportunity…but it is an opportunity that is being put at risk by Congressional legislation to privatize our Air Traffic Control system. This move will make private aviation too costly for all but the richest folks and put control of ATC in the hands of the airlines that do NOT have your interests at heart. Thousands will lose their jobs and critical infrastructure served by general aviation will be lost.

If you have ever, even once, thought about taking a flying lesson, enjoyed a scenic flight, taken a flight with a friend to another airport for a “$100 Hamburger,” I ask you to do two things:  1) Write or call your representatives in Congress and tell them to Modernize, not Privatize, our ATC system, and 2) Book a flight with an instructor TODAY and see for yourself what joy flying brings!  If you need some advice, contact me…I’m always happy to talk flying.

There’s a whole world out there, waiting to be explored…see it from the front seat!

Short Final

Celebrating National Aviation Day

August 19, 2017 is National Aviation Day. For me, it’s a reason to celebrate.

I grew up around airplanes. I remember as a very little girl, going to pick my dad up at work at Griffiss Air Force Base and him letting me sit in the Link Trainers he worked on.

Airshow around 1968

From that base we moved to more Air Force bases … Nebraska, Nevada, Texas, Illinois, Mississippi, Ohio, Germany … almost too many to count. The one thing that was an absolute constant in my life was the sound of airplanes. Propellers, jets … it didn’t matter what kind of plane to me. I was too young to really understand the difference between bombers, fighters and cargo planes. I knew that sound, though. It really is the sound of freedom.

Every base had an airshow in the summer. We always went to the airshow. The US Air Force Thunderbirds dazzled my sisters and me with their feats of acrobatics.

Touch a Thunderbird

Bombers and fighters showed off in the sky. The idea of flying was magical. My fascination with the Thunderbirds led me to an airshow a couple of years ago where I got to touch one! I met a Thunderbird pilot and got her (yes, HER) autograph.

I didn’t actually fly in a plane until I was in 7th grade. My dad had orders for Germany and he and mom wanted to make sure we would be able to tolerate flying since we had all experienced inner ear problems as kids. On the way home from a vacation, Dad dropped Mom, me and my sisters at the airport in Montgomery, Alabama, where we caught a short flight to Mobile. He drove down and met us when we landed. It was AMAZING! I was hooked!

We flew to Germany and back a couple of times then returned to the states. I was in high school, so I joined the Civil Air Patrol in the hopes of getting into a cockpit. It didn’t happen.

When I was in college, I enrolled in ground school.

City of Dover

I passed with flying colors (no pun intended) the day before the nation’s air traffic controllers went on strike. Flying lessons were no longer an option.

I enlisted in the Air Force and kept an eye out for opportunities to fly, but I was never at the controls. I managed to swing an assignment for the base paper when I was at Dover Air Force Base that landed me in the crew section of a C-5 for an extended mission.

I had a family. Kids, money, time commitments all played a role in slamming the door on my dream of flying a plane. I wrote off the dream and did what I could to travel by air just to be up there among the clouds.

Then I met Greg. A private pilot, he had let his license lapse. When I asked why, he only offered the typical excuses … not enough time, not enough money, blah, blah, blah. We made it a priority to get him back in the air. He introduced me to friends he had flown with years earlier. One even let me take the controls of the experimental aircraft he had built! I FLEW IT! Sure … it was only for a couple of minutes … but I actually FLEW IT! The dream came back to life!

We visited the nation’s largest airshow, EAA AirVenture Oshkosh, three years in a row.

Log Book

We check out aviation museums, local airshows and just about any aviation event we can find.

When we got married, he gave me my own pilot log book and I took my first lesson. I’m headed towards making my first solo flight, but in the meantime, Greg got re-certified. We’ve climbed into a Cessna and taken a few short trips.

The HangarWe even created an aviation-themed bar in our home – complete with a replica wing for a bar and aviation nose art on the wall.

Recently, he got back into the cockpit of a Piper Arrow and the flying bug came back to life in him. We were off the ground. It’s a priority for both of us. From here – the sky’s the limit!Sky is the Limit

Friends, lists and going with the flow

A friend recently posted a blog about her lists. She’s one of those people whose incredible organizational skills mean she not only writes lists, but remembers where they are!

I write lists, too. In fact, I write lists all the time. My problem is I stick those lists somewhere then I either can’t find them when I need them, or I forget about them altogether.  Last week, my husband and I sat down and wrote out a list of all the friends we haven’t gotten together with in awhile. We stay in touch on Facebook and at work, but we never seem to connect in person when we are off work.

We put the list on the kitchen table and promptly shuffled it from one end of the table to the other, marking off names as we made plans.

The list is already out-of-date anyway. We’ve made new friends in the last two weeks and they need to be added to the list. Oh, shoot, I also need to add the friend who writes all those lists to my list.

Tonight is the first of our in-person connections. A friend whose birthday we missed is coming for dinner with her husband. I cleaned off the table and moved the list again. It’s now in a stack of papers I need to go through. I will probably lose it or throw it away accidentally when I’m going through the papers.

The good news is, we are so social it won’t take long to connect with everyone on the list. Besides, even if I lose that list, I can always write a new one. In any case, we have a lot of fun being spontaneous – going with the flow. As I mentioned to my friend, the most important thing to remember to take anywhere is a sense of humor (add in a good healthy dose and adventure and you’ve pretty much got everything you need).

What do a Kiss and Exploring the World Have in Common?

Five years ago today I was on a trip for work. It involved a trip (by TRAIN!) to Stamford, Connecticut, a short walk to the hotel and a meet-and-greet style evening where coworkers from the northeast and mid-Atlantic would connect and spend some social time over dinner and drinks before a full-day event kicking off the next morning.

There were maybe two dozen of us chatting amiably over dinner at a nearby Italian place before wandering back to the hotel to linger in the hotel bar over wine and cocktails.

As is typical at this type of event, we talked about life and work and work and life. It was a back-and-forth conversation filled with laughter and easy banter. One-by-one, coworkers headed back to their rooms to “say goodnight to the kids” or “check in with my wife” or simply because it had been a long day.

Somewhere around 1:30 am, the bartender came over and informed Greg and I that it was last call. It wasn’t until then that we noticed we were the only two coworkers left. At that moment, we were deeply ensconced in a conversation about the tasks that needed to be accomplished “in the morning” at the jobs event we were attending. Neither of us was ready to declare the conversation over, so we tossed a coin to decide whose room we would go to so we could finish making our plans.

About an hour later, when the work planning was done, the conversation wandered to the past as we discussed the things we missed about being young.

I said, “kissing,” explaining how, as a high school student, kissing was everything. It was a time when the farthest a couple would go was maybe “second base” and the duo could spend hours just kissing. Yep, I admitted, “I miss kissing.”

Greg rose from the hotel chair and walked over to me, leaning down and kissing me. It was one of those tentative, first date kisses. There were fireworks. I saw lightning and felt the Earth move. We broke the kiss and gave each other that “uh-oh-I-wasn’t-expecting-THAT” look. We were, after all, coworkers.

It was just a kiss … but it was life altering. Nothing else happened that night, but it was enough to put into motion a series of conversations and chain of events that helped us both realize that we did have options other than staying in unhappy relationships and living sad, unfulfilling lives.

Since that day, we moved in together, got engaged, got married and regularly remind each other how important communication is to a healthy, happy, thrilling relationship. We laugh about that kiss and how we had no idea then how many dreams and hopes we had in common – and still do.

It’s been five years and thousands of kisses. Sometimes the best trips don’t involve even getting out of your chair. When we say there’s a whole world out there just waiting to be explored, we mean so much more than travel. We mean exploring each other, people in your lives, yourself … everything. So get out there – explore! The world is calling.

Diversion – Getting to Know You

Travel is often about the people we meet on your adventures. Our brief trip to Los Angeles last week brought that home.

Here’s the setup…Judy and I are gregarious by nature; extroverted and always willing to make new friends. So naturally, we have a tendency to “talk up“ everyone we meet…especially bartenders and food servers who can make or break a good meal. We are also people who get to the airport very early. We hate being rushed and would rather spend some time in an airport restaurant than stress about the traffic or the security lines.

This story began in December when we found ourselves at Los Angeles International Airport with about two hours of wait time until boarding. It was late morning, so we sought out a place where we could get a drink and an appetizer or two.  We found ourselves sitting in a window seat at Osteria by Fabio Viviani (of “Top Chef” fame). OsteriaOur server, Araceli, was beautiful, attentive, and sweet. She appreciated our comments about her name.  The drinks (they make a to-die-for Strawberry Basil Martini) and food were fantastic – a far cry from most airport food. But it was Araceli’s service that made the stay memorable. Too soon, we had to leave and board our plan.

Fast forward two months, and we’re back at LAX with time to spare…same flight, same terminal.

So back to Osteria we went, and asked for a window seat.  We were seated in the same place as before, and wouldn’t you know it, Araceli was our server.  We joked about the irony, and she remembered us.  We chatted about her kids…and grandkids!  She told us she was 37…when during our last visit we thought she was a college student! Once again, our flight called too soon and we had to head off, telling Araceli that we’d be back in four weeks!

The lesson here…whether you know them for an hour, days, or a lifetime, the people we meet — like travel — make our lives richer. There’s a whole world out there just waiting to be explored. Go see it…and take the time to get to know those around you along the way.

2017 – Trimming the Fat – A Life Reset – Getting Rid of What We Don’t Need

We’re not New Year’s Resolution makers. We’ve both done it once or twice with great results, but both Greg and I believe resolutions should be made when you’re ready to change your life – not just at the beginning of a new year.rose-bowl

2017 is no exception. We welcomed the new year without a real resolution in mind. I talked about losing weight. In fact, I’d talked about it for a couple of years. When you’re ready to commit, it just happens. Greg and I decided we both had a few pounds to lose and were ready to commit about halfway through the second week of January. We made an appointment at our local Jenny Craig office, did the initial weigh-in and started the plan.

We both felt immediately lighter. Admittedly, it was more the load off our minds than anywhere else, but it led to a few other changes…

We spent an entire day cleaning out our closet. We generated three huge bags of clothes for donation. We cleaned out the bathroom cabinets. We moved into the closet in the guest room that had become a storage place for stuff we didn’t want to think about. We tidied up everywhere! I called AMVETS and arranged for a pick-up.

It’s been less than a week and we are already lighter at home. Less stuff leaves you feeling lighter anyway. There’s more room to move. It’s easier to find your things. We’re both feeling a little exhilarated.

What’s next? Who knows? For now we are just letting this “out with the old” mentality sink in. Stay tuned.