Flying Journal - Never Wrong Not to Fly
I was sorely tempted to fly on this trip. Actually, it started out as two trips. Dianne needed to go to Madison,
Wisconsin to pick up a dog. Conveniently, my daughter, Katy, lives in Madison so we could visit her at the same
time. It wasn't critical exactly when we needed to go.
I had known for several months that I needed to be in Lincoln, Nebraska on March 28 to read a paper at a conference. Since our MPA friends, Roger and Naomi Ferguson, now lived nearby in Omaha, I wanted to visit them on the same trip. I considered borrowing a plane.
Everything seemed to converge on our Spring Break that last week in March. Now Dianne wanted to attend a dog show in St. Louis the weekend before my conference. I had really liked the idea of combining the four possible legs of these two trips into three logs, preferably by air. But hauling two dogs and luggage for over a week seemed daunting. Weather is always so unpredictable and often violent in March as well.
So, since you may have heard me often say, "You're NEVER wrong to NOT fly!" I decided to be sure I wasn't wrong and not fly. Plus, if we drove, I could grade papers and practice my presentation while Dianne drove. That clinched the decision and we loaded the van.
As it turned out, we were NOT wrong, both on account of dogs and on account of weather. We ended up bringing a third dog home with us and it was easy in our van. Furthermore, the middle of the week, as we drove across Wisconsin, Iowa, and Nebraska was rainy and low skies. Almost the entire week was quite windy, and one day and night in Lincoln the winds were gusting over 30 and even near 40 for a while.
Ironically, I have flown all the places along this "round robin" road trip, and I enjoyed the scenery almost more, having seen it on high as well as "flying low" in the van. Spring almost seemed more advanced in St. Louis with forsythia in full yellow array, but as we drove north through Illinois into Wisconsin it became obvious we had moved the calendar back. Ice was still melting off the four lakes of Madison. But the rolling fields of southwest Wisconsin were already bursting out in green.
As we crossed the Mississippi at Dubuque and began rolling across the Grant Wood farmlands of eastern Iowa, I marveled again at the beauty and the riches of the land and now the industrialization of my birth state. Roni Burns and I had flown over some of this land in earlier this winter. Several years ago, when I wanted to travel to a conference at Lake of the Ozarks to pick up an award for Ozarks Greenways, an airplane was the only way to do it. Suddenly, just before the conference, my aunt in Fort Dodge, Iowa was killed in an auto accident. An airplane made it possible to attend both those events.
On this happier occasion, we were able to stop for a nice visit with my uncle near Fort Dodge. Finally, we were back in the "almost-but-not-quite-flat" farmland I remember from my childhood. But that didn't last long, as we came into the rolling river valleys of southern Iowa. What a change in scenery from Omaha to Lincoln! Omaha, on the Missouri River, looks a lot like Missouri, but Lincoln is pretty much Out West, on the plains, in fact the home of the Center for Great Plains Studies.
I had flown to Lincoln once before-oh, I'll NEVER forget that memorable flight. Actually, it was the flight home, during which 45 seconds of hail did about $25,000 damage to the Piper Aztec Twin I was flying. I was flying to AVOID storms, and nothing showed on either Flight Service nor ATC radar, but BOOM, there it was. I wasn't even sure until I landed that it had been hail. The landing light had been shattered, and the leading edges of all surfaces were dimpled (but like a golf ball, the dimples seemed to help it fly!)
But again, a happier occasion in Lincoln this time. I had a good turn-out for my session and a lively discussion followed. Then on the way home, we met Roger and Naomi in Omaha for breakfast. It was good to see them. They had just returned from visiting their new triplet grandbabies for the first time, and they send greetings to all their friends in MPA.
I always worry about all the awful accidents that could happen (traffic is so heavy these days), but we arrived home safe and sound. But the month was not to be without its sad news. On March 31, Mike Jones sent me an e-mail. He was at work in Chicago and had just signed up on AOPA's website. The first thing he saw was a bulletin about Terrorist Dailey's surprise attack on Meigs Field. AvWeb used to send out a satirical April Fool's e-mail newsletter and for a moment I hoped it was a hoax. But then Mike told me he could just see Meigs from his office, and indeed it was occupied by heavy construction equipment. What a blow. I'm not sure most of us would care so much if Meigs hadn't been one of the first airports you learn to recognize on a flight simulator, but we all wanted at least one pilgrimage to land there at least once.
Even sadder was to learn that Bill Cheek's father, Dewey Cheek, departed this world last week at the age of 90. I am gladdened to have known him, to have had him fly in an airplane with me, and to know he lived a long and vital life. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Bill and Maret and family.
Enough unflying for now-Fly with currency, proficiency and safety and share the joy!
[Copyright 2003 - Earl Holmer]