Flying (and Driving) Journal - More observations about technology !

This year we did another driving vacation, really four mini-vacations connected together. Dianne had two dogs ready to start obedience trials. She wanted to start them in Canada. Hopefully, while earning their Canadian titles, she could see how they did in the ring. If they had any problems then she could work on them before starting the American circuit (sort of like opening a play in the hinterlands before opening on Broadway). The city of Mooretown, near Sarnia, Ontario (just across the river and upstream from Detroit) hosts a series of six shows in three days. That dog show strategy had worked for us in the past.

By happy coincidence, grandbaby Claire and family live in Indianapolis, almost exactly halfway to Ontario. So we visited them for a couple days, then continued north. A hundred miles east of Sarnia is Stratford-upon-Avon, named for Shakespeare's birthplace in England. A renowned theater festival has developed there over the last fifty years. So we spent three days in Stratford seeing three plays before hitting the dog shows.

While claiming to be the third largest English speaking theater community in the world, Stratford is a small town, perhaps thirty some thousand people. Our hotel was conveniently located with-in two blocks of everything-the theater, the river walk, many restaurants. We walked everywhere for three days, didn't even move the van. It was very pleasant, but I didn't really think much about it until the morning we left.

We had planned just a little shopping on the way out of town, so we had to drive around a little. Stratford is so small is does not have any bypasses, either, so all the truck traffic goes right through town. After three days on foot, it was quite a shock to get back out into traffic, checking all the mirrors for traffic in front, behind, and on either side. For a few minutes I felt like there were threats all around me. Of course threats are really out there all the time, but we come to take many of them for granted-except I suspect our bodies still register the threats and produce the stress responses accordingly. Then I thought about the twelve years when my family and I did not own a car.

I suppose it's like not flying for a few weeks. The first few minutes back in a plane, it seems strange, the ground rushing towards you on landing. Like a sailor getting his land legs back, I got used to driving again. The dogs both did well in their shows, completing both the titles we came for, as well as placing 1st, some seconds, and a fourth in various shows. I helped a little one day, but I am retired from dog showing myself for a while, so one day I went swimming in Lake Huron, and one day went for a bicycle ride along the river trail, looking across the river at Michigan. One afternoon the wind finally picked up and I assembled and flew a five-foot kite I had gotten for Father's Day.

As we began our trip toward home, I noted again that it's always funny to see the trucks in Michigan with as many as 42 wheels! And we get excited about 18 wheelers. The final leg of our trip was back to Alton, Illinois, just northeast of St. Louis, for a dog-training seminar. Again, I went for bike rides, along the Illinois River, just above where it joins the Mississippi. At first the trail hugged the bluff side of the highway. But as I approached the town of Grafton, the trail crossed the Great River Road to continue only a few feet away from the river. I noticed a small heron in the shallows of the river and across the trail, two wood ducks in a small pool. Soon I came to where the trail was blocked by trees, rocks and other debris from the high water this spring.

I had to stop and turn around where workmen were clearing the trail with chain saws and backhoes. As I pedaled by the little pool, the two ducks decided to take flight. The first one crossed my path on the way to the river. Like a second child deciding at the last minute to run across the street after a friend, the second duck followed its friend but cut it too close. I heard it quacking as it flew in front of me, right to left. I felt the air from its wings and was startled and amazed when my hand on the left grip collided with the duck's tail! I felt the texture of its feathers. My hand bumped the duck, it squawked louder and beat its wings faster to get away.

No damage was done to bike, rider, or bird, but it was the strangest encounter I have ever had in my life. To collide with a flying bird on a rolling bicycle-what are the odds? Instantly, I also remembered a long forgotten memory, from age six, shortly after I had learned to ride my first bicycle on the farm in Iowa. I had aimed my bike across the grass through a flock of chickens and startled myself and one hen by running over her neck. But due to factors of my low weight, fat tires, and the soft grass, she was able to run away unharmed. But I distinctly remember the sensation of looking down at my tire rolling over that outstretched white neck.

I guess it's a rare enough experience that colliding with a moving bird on a bicycle only happened twice in 35 years. Of course there was the bird hit and diverted by the West coast mirrors of my Dad's pickup truck to hit me in the face before falling dead on the seat beside me. But that's another story. Hmm, I guess I've had three collisions with birds. Some of the Native American tribes believed encounters with wild animals held special significance. Makes me wonder . . .
I returned upstream to the van I had left parked at Pere Marquette State Park. I saw a B-2 bomber fly over slowly, probably from one of the air shows at the St. Louis Fair.

We made it home safely, no keys locked in cars or anything. With the dogs in summer we sometimes have to leave them in the van with AC running. This is the first vehicle I've used that would idle indefinitely without overheating (of course some poor soul will get an engine with more hours than the mileage indicates). I did determine that you can be in the van with the doors locked (they always lock at 14 mph anyway) and open the door and leave without the door unlocking. In my old Honda (made in Canada, by the way) I can't open the door without unlocking it first. That's probably what happened in my rental car in New York. I opened the door but it stayed locked. Oh, well, live and learn.

Anyway, we came home and after a couple weeks of driving, pedaling and swimming, I was ready for some flying. I had planned to fly with Jerry and Richard to the board meeting in Columbia, but I apparently picked up some kind of eye infection (perhaps from Lake Huron?) One beach, closer to the industrial cities of Sarnia and Port Huron, Michigan, posted signs saying water might be polluted up to three days after storms or heavy winds. Anyway, I got some sulfa eye drops from the doctor and thought it was about cleared up, but a couple days after I quit the drops, it flared up again. But hopefully I can get some more flying accomplished in the next weeks.

Fly Safely and Enjoy! Keep track of your keys and beware of flying fowl!

[Copyright 2001 - Earl Holmer]

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