Turning Toward Home

Today we waited for weather to clear at Melbourne and then made a dash to the northwest trying to reach the front edge of a slow moving storm front so it would pass us overnight. To get around a rainy patch we went due west for a while and ended up passing not far south of Disney World.

Even with the distance and haze, we recognized two of the four massive areas in the complex.

Turning northwest toward the panhandle, we saw smoke stacks in the hazy afternoon sun in a somewhat developed part of the otherwise mostly wilderness Gulf coast.

Sundown approached as we drew near Tallahassee, so we decided to stop here rather than press on to the corner of AL. As with so many impromptu choices on this trip, it was enchanted. Little did we suspect that tonight is a Big Deal related to team homecoming. Several blocks of the downtown (serendipitously right outside the hotel where we got a good rate) are given over to a festival. At one end a bandstand with cheerleaders and other performing to loud music. An inflated trampoline with Spiderman "dancing" from the kids bouncing inside seemed to keep the beat.

At the other end a bandstand with live rock performers.

In between kids of all ages, food, crafts, face painting and general merriment.

What a great start to our return journey! Tomorrow we might reach New Orleans in time for Halloween. Will we be swept up in some celebrations there? If you know anything about this, please post a Comment!


Beach Day

Went to the beach, and Anne waded in the warm Atlantic. Flash is all serviced and eager to get flying again. We went on a quest for Key Lime pie, but not finding any of the "genuine" meringue type maybe we'll make a hop down to Key West tomorrow and get some.

Today we saw many aspects of this area, ranging from old Floridian seaside homes to the ultimate in New Florida this evening: Disney World.

This was a very full and entertaining day, and our precious hosts tirelessly showed us a small slice of what they love about living here. Delightful!


Different Places

Greenville was cool and foggy this morning, then suddenly brilliant clear. We hopped in Flash and headed South, curious whether things might be different. They are! Crossing into Georgia, we opened the air vents for the first time since leaving San Diego. It's hot! Not just the fact it's in the 80s, but especially the humidity. Attracted by the Halloween-ish name, we decided to make our first stop in Jekyll Island, GA. I was startled to see masts moving behind the trees lining the runway, and realized it wasn't a pirate schooner but a shrimp boat.

On the other side was a sweet little airport office with a long row of golf carts parked outside next to the aircraft parking. Inside was air conditioned, and our trip almost ended there.
As you've guessed though, we soon got our courage back and braved the humid heat. I can assure you, our first order of business was to get the "fan" running!

Our next stop was in Spruce Creek, FL for my FAA medical certificate. Now we've seen a few airports, and they're all different. The one in Jekyll with its shrimp boats and golf carts was more different than most. But the one in Spruce Creek easily out-differents them all. It's not just a runway, nor does it have the typical few aircraft hangars and a fuel pump. No, this is an entire small town for pilots and their planes. We taxied along one of the main "streets" with car lanes on both sides of us and all the typical resources of a small town just beyond the car lanes. Say you need cash - just taxi up to the bank. In my case, we taxied up to the doctor's office. I guess the closest thing I can think of is the typical movie western town, where hombres ride up to a business and tie their horse outside. If this place were in Santa Barbara, we'd wish we could afford one of the many houses that also connect via taxiway to the runway. The humid heat helped us taxi past the real estate signs.

It was fun knowing that every person we saw on the "street" loves to fly, and is completely comfortable with the idea of an airplane moving down the middle of their main drag as another plane turns into a "driveway." As we took off, I looked back smiling at how these people have built their lives, businesses, homes and swimming pools around their flying. Oh, and after the doctor had taken care of me, he hopped into his Piper Cub to join his buddies flying in formation.

As we passed Cape Kennedy, having missed the news I wondered if the new NASA rocket might still be there. I guess it had recently left one of the launch pads we saw. There's an airport nearby that people fly to for watching launches, and it got me thinking again about whether there's something similar near Edwards where people fly to watch the rare west coast shuttle landings.

Nearing our final destination of Melbourne, FL we were struck by another difference about this part of the country: lots of water housing. That is, small lakes and canals are built into subdivisions so that many homes have some sort of waterfront.

So tomorrow I'll look into getting Flash her routine oil transfusion, and we'll go exploring the area with our sweet hosts who absolutely love the different life they have here. Their car and home have excellent air conditioning.


Water Everywhere

We had a quietly playful day in Greenville. The few times I checked aviation weather for our route, it felt wonderful to be on the ground. It was a refreshing day, after so much flying yesterday, and in such a fun place. Strolling the spiffed up downtown and splashing in puddles, ducking into shops and cafes along the way until we reached the (Reedy?) river again. A heron was patiently fishing next to the rock wall below last night's restaurant, highlighting how well the city has integrated nature and development.

I caught this angle on the footbridge that conveys some of the sweeping arc it makes over the river.

This is the view up-river with our restaurant at the right lower corner of the building and next to that on the left is one of the several theatrical venues we saw. You might be able to make out another pedestrian bridge beyond the Main Street bridge across the river.

Downtown has slow traffic and wide sidewalks, with an elegant canopy of trees.

It rained very hard once, but most of the day was light rain and fairly warm. We shot this from today's dinner choice a couple of blocks away from the river on Main, with a wicked muffin/ice cream/Kahula dessert at Trio across the street.

Tomorrow we hope to take flight again, hopping across GA for FL. We'll probably stop often to check weather, since scattered thunderstorms are possible and I'd like to stay well clear. We've also found a small airport in Daytona near our next destination where we can land and get my FAA pilot medical certificate. I just had a complete physical, but I need the mini one from an FAA "AME" because time "flys" (so to speak) and I thought mine wasn't due until next year. Pretty cool that we can take care of it right at the little airport!

We're refreshed from our day off, and Richmond feels like several weeks ago. Hope only two new states tomorrow doesn't seem too slow. :)


Rain Delay

We're sitting in last night's hotel room with checkout kindly extended by the front desk, hoping for weather to lift just enough for us to scoot closer to FL. Meanwhile we've been browsing the web and our pix from NYC. I just posted one to the Photo page (see Links, upper-right on this page). Since several people have expressed interest in a snap of us riding Central Park, I took another look for one. This is the closest we have, and none of us both actually riding.

We'll try to find someone willing to stand and snap us riding by next time we ride it. Meanwhile there are probably several dozen pix of us in C.Pk. already online, because even the most jaded New Yorkers at least took a furtive glance when we passed. Many took pictures and cellphone videos, and when we stopped by that angel fountain near the lake three cyclists examined the bike in detail. One was snapping away and taking closeups of the methods, so maybe she'll try to patent it.

As for today, it looks very unlikely we'll be flying so we'll probably shift to a hotel a few blocks further into town. We're so glad to be in a city we enjoy, with so many small reminders of home.

Time Travel

Several times tonight we've expressed amazement that yesterday we were in DC. Jot down your guess as to how many states we were in today. Late in the morning we rose out of Richmond and gazed in silence at this historic spot. Where the river ran we imagined legions of grim civil war encampments. None of the dozen or so people we spoke with during our overnight stay made any mention of that time, and we didn't bring it up. Instead we asked people what they most like about living there, and received vague answers about work and family.

We headed into West Virginia, and were surprised by two things. First how smoky the Smoky Mountains are, along with the Allegheny, Blue Ridge, Appalachians and Shenandoah ranges we crossed. They're scenic, but the photos make the haze even worse so we're relying on our mental images rather than our hazy pix. Another thing that stood out in WV is how many mountains no longer do. That is, vast areas are chopped flat where entire mountains have been blasted flat to extract coal more cheaply than by mining. The rivers and lakes look polluted, and we imagined what's no longer there reflected in stagnant black pools.

Surrounding states like Kentucky didn't seem to have much mountain mauling going on, and the colors in KY were bright as you can see looking back at Pikeville where we turned south.

We got fuel, junk food and sweet hospitality from the kind people of beautiful little Elizabethton, TN.

After crossing the mountains we stopped briefly in Asheville, NC where we'd visited a friend several years ago, and we enjoyed seeing it this time from the air.

We reached Greenville, SC just at dusk. Last night in Richmond we rummaged the web for a nice place for tonight, and I was struck by the tales of this place. Waterfalls in the restored downtown, and an airport in the city. Lots of art, theater, music and the sorts of things we enoy in Santa Barbara. After checking into the hotel we walked Main Street looking at menus and wound up at an affordable gourmet place overlooking the waterfalls. Walking back we took a detour down along the falls and up across the majestic curving pedestrian footbridge. Here's a long exposure of the view back across to our restaurant.

Now it looks like weather might conspire to give us another night here, so we might go back to the airport and fetch our bike for some daytime exploration. Anne's eyes filled with tears tonight as she realized the end of this Big Adventure is approaching. So many places still to look at and to briefly sample, but not much more than a week remaining.

Oh, states we've landed in today: VA, WV, KY, TN, NC, SC = 6 + Confusion. The state of Confusion is enhanced when we think about also being in DC, DE, MD for a total of 9 within 27 hours. You might recall my mention of "prop advance," where flying for an hour makes everything you did before that seem like it happened yesterday. I doubt you can really imagine that taken to an order of magnitude, but lest you feel concerned I can assure you it's FUN! We're experiencing a sort of time travel, both back and forward. Walking "home" we talked about our early childhoods and our approaching old age, all stimulated by this amazing trip. It's as if all we have ever been or could be opens beneath us in an arc over this enchanted orb we linger upon.


Migrating South

This morning we got a relatively early start so we could gobble up more of our "must see" highlights of DC. "Let's skip breakfast now and grab something along the way." As you've already guessed, aside from a cookie and some coffee we didn't eat until on the train at 1:30.

That did buy us time to visit some meaningful places and chat with people from all around the world, including DC. A couple from UK told us DC is a 5-visit minimum city, and their favorite in the world. We got misty at the Supreme Court contemplating rule of law, where two Presidents with vastly different style and values can peacefully and amicably transition.

We got misty on the steps of the Capitol where our representatives can disagree vehemently and still (sometimes) find common ground in the interests of the people. Adding a note of populism was some sort of Marine Corps marathon with a band playing and people along the route cheering them on (and nearly all transportation in the city shut down to make way for them).

We were moved by the new native american exhibit on the Mall, and wished for time to go inside.

By the time we reached the Air & Space Museum, I had tears in my eyes. This is a place I've yearned to go since childhood, almost since the birth of my dreaming of flight. Even looking at this dinky pic of The Spirit typing this, I'm misting up again. Dreams can come true.

The bird's eye view of the city we'd been told of turned out to be great for small birds. There were vertical cables an inch apart perhaps to keep people from jumping as they do from bridges. We didn't even get off the elevator, instead racing to catch the next train back to a real bird's eye view: from Flash.

Taking off from New Castle (Wilmington, DE) we got permission to land near Patuxent River, MD. That's where Anne was born while Dad was there as a test pilot, and today was the first time she's ever been back.
After a short stop, we took off over Leonardtown where she lived as a toddler.

It was so smoggy we decided to skip our initial goal of seeing Chesapeake Bay and just head for historic Richmond, VA. Our decision was rewarded by a spectacular sunset.

Tomorrow our plan is to do some state hopping. Possibly the most in one day we've done so far. As you know, there are often differences between the flight we plan and the one we take.


Two Great Cities

I've added to the Photo page, and here's a snap of some favorite buildings from our second flight down the Hudson. Already feels like a week ago.

Amtrak from Wilmington to the Capitol was fast and comfortable, putting us near enough to walk. Instead though, we first got on one of the step on/off bus tours that run continually because it was raining buckets. We decided to get off and brave the elements though, because it was impossible to take pix and difficult even to see much. We bought one of the $5 umbrellas that seemed to appear on the streets, and that lasted us until the clouds finally parted at sundown.

We noticed a gentle mood in people. Everyone seemed solitary in contemplation, almost reverent, yet happy and so warm it reminded us of some global extended family. The kind that might disagree, but is well aware of closeness and reaching out to maintain it. We felt that the most here, and were moved all over again reading Lincoln's words in this thoughtful historic place.

Sure wish we could fly near enough to get some pix from the air! A helpful Metro employee gave us a tip on a place we can easily get a bird's eye view, so hopefully tomorrow we'll get some panoramic pix from there.


Mad About NYC

Something we enjoy about flying the way in which we do it, is change. There's the change it makes to the psyche, somehow altering time and space as we know it. The change in our perspective on this incredible planet of course. Also though, there's change of plans. It turned out that the airspace was locked up for flyers of our sort (poor), so rather than Linden our best option was Westchester. We connected with an exceptional couple near there who offered two of their places for us to stay, and their many kindnesses enhanced our brief NYC experience exponentially.

Our first night was in midtown in a loft of their business. Dropping our stuff (including the bike which I'd lugged on the subway and partially assembled outside Grand Central to the considerable enjoyment and/or annoyance of thousands), we set off to explore. This scene anticipates our adventures that Herman Hesse might say are best enjoyed by "Madmen Only."

Dinner at Mario's got us off to a great start, then we walked. A lot. Mostly up Broadway. Times Square is perhaps the most descriptive in this size of photo, but if time ever catches up again (maybe in a few days?) I'll post some larger pix on the Photo link.

Meanwhile, there's one detail from the Square that conveys what substance helped us stay so awake at 1am with little sleep and many travails.

Next day with the bike fully assembled we rode from 36th up to the park. Don't do this if you are a fearful person, because the bike lanes are considered hunting preserves. We survived, and actually enjoyed it. These two outcomes might have been partly due to what we were riding: my custom bicycle for two, consisting of two seats and double-wide pedals on a cheap old standard mountain bike. People laughed, did double-takes, stared, took pictures, and perhaps decided to spare us as unique specimens of bike riders. It was also delightful to be riding rather than walking or sitting in a bus or subway, and being able to actually converse about what we saw. The park of course, totally blew us away. There's simply no way to describe how amazing our time was there, as we rode around and through it all the way up to the Reservoir. Lots of pix of course, but here's one I especially like for the size of pix on this blog (remember this from any movies?):

The day continued getting more magnificent as evening approached and our friends joined us for a truly breathtaking flight. With the Hudson now open to us, we four flew down and back. From all the pix, here's one I like in this size:

Here's another, of the Lady who symbolizes so much.

Wish I had time to write and to process/share more pix, but instead I'm going to sleep for the first time in three days (not counting truncated dreamtimes). Tonight we're in Wilmington (change brought us here rather than the several other options we'd planned). Tomorrow we're on Amtrak into DC for at least one night. At least that's the plan tonite...


Vineyard, Nantucket, Cape and Long Isl.

Our ride back to Providence airport offered the opposite of last night's driver. Joe has led a long and fascinating life. "I like the seasons," he offered. He loves living and working in Providence, and going dancing with his girlfriend. He also seemed to enjoy flirting with the desk gals at the hotel, so there's life in Providence after all.

After much discussion we decided to fly out and have lunch at Martha's Vineyard. Along the way, RI offered some intricate interactions of wind, sand, sea and hardy plants. We wondered what would cause the shapes in the lagoon.

It turned out the airport is a long ride (when you can get one) from the tourist areas, so we grabbed a sandwich to go at the airport restaurant and then became captivated with the WWII memorabilia and stories from the days when this was a stalwart guardian of the north Atlantic and a training base for pilots. Now it seems to have become an outpost of the FedEx flocks from Providence, and a stop for tasteful tourists.

Then after more discussion we decided to go out and have a quick look at Nantucket. "It's probably just like the Vineyard." On the other hand, "It's so close and something we've heard of since childhood." Turns out it was completely different, and the rewards for our excursion were many. The lighthouse seems the epitome of courageous guardian, standing on a spit clearly overwhelmed by storm seas flashing its warning to seafarers.

Cruising back over the Vineyard, their light seems tame and protected until you contemplate the ferocious storms.

We crossed over to Woods Hole, and went up Cape Cod to Hyannis before turning into the wind for our dash to Islip before dark. None of our photos over Long Island came out due to smog and sunset, but the images sit sweetly in our memories. We were surprised at how few houses there are in the East Hamptons, until we realized they're all cut directly into little squares of the forest.

Tomorrow we plan to skirt any TFRs and all the myriad airliner playgrounds, and slip into Linden, NJ for the Staten Island Ferry into Gotham.


Rest, Martha & Bohemia

We've decided to take a day of rest. What that means to people with "big eyes" wanting to see the many wonders of this area, is going at a slower pace. What that means for people with a small plane like Flash, is only covering a few hundred miles (remember, when we fly slow it's about 100mph).

So the current plan is get organized and fly from KPVD over to KMVY for lunch. By the way, that's Martha's Vineyard(!). So fun to see from the air, and in this case visit, places we've heard about for so many years.

Then fly Nantucket, Cape Cod, and maybe take another distant glimpse of Boston from the southeast. After that, climb offshore near Block Island and cruise Long Island to our hotel reservation in Bohemia, NY. Well, it's actually Holtsville near KISP (Long Island Mac Arthur Airport, motto: "Easy to leave.") in Islip, NY. I thought it would be cool to stay in Hicksville, but we couldn't find anything affordable there. Tomorrow a short though complicated hop through busy airspace to Linden for the Staten Island Ferry into Manhattan.

It turns out our decision to delay NYC for a day means we'll probably miss our President whom we've heard is there today. That's probably fortunate, because anywhere any President goes, nobody else does. That is, trying to get anywhere is greatly complicated. Trains, planes and automobiles are all instantly thrown into Thanksgiving mode as if it were a major holiday. I just looked at the TFR (air restrictions), and we'll just miss the edge by staying "in" Bohemia rather than Hicksville tonight. This trip has been so filled with synchronicities! As if weather, impromptu choices, Presidential visits, and the rest of the known universe are all in harmony with our happiness. But enough about me, what do you think about me. ;)

So onward...


We took off from Meriden, CT early in the afternoon, stopped at Minuteman Airport near Boston to visit pilot friend Zubair and family, and skirted Boston snapping away (see Photo link). We headed for Newport, RI but nearing the airport at sunset it looked like we might have trouble finding a place to stay (still too cold for camping). So we diverted to Providence. The helpful Tower controller told us to turn right at the end of the taxiway for parking. In that direction all we could see was big jets, while to the left we saw a few planes Flash's size so we went there and parked.

It was after dark by the time we finished getting everything buttoned up. We lugged our pack and bag each over to what looked like the old terminal and tower where we'd seen people inside. "Oh, you'll have to move it to the other side by the jets," they said.

Hike back out to the plane, talk to the ground controller who gave directions vague enough that we taxied toward jet taxiing toward us on the other side of the field. So at Flash's urging (and Anne's) I did a 180 and headed toward where all the jets were parked. Going slowly along a row of hangars and buildings, everything was dark until we reached the end. Turning in there it soon became apparent that was part of a cargo jet operation so we turned and even more slowly started back along the row of buildings. Now we see on the side of the next building, facing away from where anyone coming in from the runway could see it, "Northstar" (the name of the Flash size parking operation).

Turning in there, a guy came running out to direct us to a spot. The moment I shut off the engine he ran away. "Oh no," I'm thinking, "he changed his mind!" He'd run to get chocks for the wheels, so again we buttoned up and trundled our gear in. This time a shorter distance than before, and to be greeted by a helpful gal who arranged the hotel I'm sitting in dreaming of sleep.

Before going in to join Anne who had abandoned me for the warmth of the office, I snapped this pic from under Flash's wing and over the top of her engine. It all felt like a scene from the movie Castaway somehow.

Riding to the hotel, when we asked the twenty-something shuttle driver (a native Providencial) he said, "There's nothing to do here - we're an airport town." They're building a cool link from the fast northeast corridor trains direct to the airport, and when it's done in a year or two he says this will be one of the closest major rail/air links in the country.

Tomorrow, NYC!


Riding Norwalk

This morning the snow was gone, the clouds thinner, and everything smelled fresh. Ed & Dad decided to take us on the drive from Waterbury to Norwalk, to see all the places from their earlier years and Anne's childhood. Being the first outside I took a few minutes to study a leaf dotted with droplets of rain.

We saw the church where her grandparents were married and our friend Dave was a priest, and the cemetery that little sister thought was half named for her. As we stood out in the street snapping a picture of the front porch of the "Union house" where she was snapped as a small child, a warm woman appeared at the door and after hearing the story invited us in. We'd been by some years ago, and wondered what the back yard looks like now. It was an instant journey down memory lane to see the stair bannister and the backyard. We've promised to send the new owner some photos of the place as it was years ago.

In the neighborhood where they lived later, we encountered a group (gobble?) of wild turkeys perusing the manicured lawns.

After stopping on the drive home for dinner in Westfield we rode much of the way home in gathering darkness and silent reverie.


Two Types of Happy Pilots

Sometimes pilots are happy to be flying, and sometimes they're happy to be on the ground. This afternoon falls into the latter category for me, as you'll see on my Photo page upload of today. This morning was passable flying weather, but we were able to work out a deal with the people at KOXC that lets Flash stay there affordably. Instead we took a drive with Dad & Ed, to experience a new Fall color: white. This snap with Anne's camera from the back seat is the best we've captured so far, but I'll probably go out with mine and try a few shots that aren't through wet glass. If I get anything better it will hopefully go on the Photo page sometime tonight.

Meanwhile we're enjoying the warmth of family and watching the news of Santa Barbara's near miss with mudslides.

Home In The East

Today's flight from Bar Harbor, ME to Waterbury, CT proved yet again how close things are on the east coast when you're in a small plane. We took our time, added stops in the states we crossed (chalk up MA) and landed in CT after a couple hours' leisurely flying total. Can you tell I love flying in small planes? :)

We cruised down the coast past Portland and then on an impulse Anne wanted to see the Kennedy's compound in Kennebunkport. Since we'd done no research (do they even have something there now?), I relied on the tiny permanent restricted area over the mouth of the river (see the Photo page for a closer view). Another clue was the congregation of big black SUVs parked there, and what looked like Coast Guard speedboats zooming around offshore. We'd cleared it all with ATC, but the next controller we spoke to warned us to avoid it (luckily that was after we'd already flown over). Looks like a lovely little town.

When we landed at KOXC in Waterbury, another rainbow greeted us. This time it was a vertical band of colors on the sun. Also greeting us were Dad and uncle Ted, who took us to a fabulous family meal at his youngest son's place. Such a great way to begin our days based in CT!

Tomorrow we might move the plane to a different airport (KMMK) on the other side of Waterbury, because the parking here is apparently $25 - 3x the highest price we've paid anywhere in our travels across the U.S. The next highest was Chicago Executive where Flash rubbed wingtips with gazillion dollar jets, and they waived the fee when we bought a few gallons of fuel. Since winter weather is forecast for a few days, it would cost us a lot to leave it at OXC and MMK is free - plus there's a flying club where Flash could commiserate on being tied down or whatever club planes talk about when the pilots are away having fun without them.

Anyway, we're here safe and happy having flown many miles and still only covered perhaps a third of our Big Adventure. We're excited to see what's next.