Sunday, August 13, 2017
Two Birthdays Seventy Years Apart
It was August 1947, seventy years ago, when my 20th birthday came around and I wanted a party. The only problem – there was no one to give me a party. I was a single mother living with grandma who took care of my very neat two year old boy.
Sounds like an unhappy sad situation, doesn’t it? Actually it didn’t take long to find a solution. After the divorce I needed a job, and since I wanted to fly, I went out to the airport and began working at Roscoe Turner Flight School.
We had a lot of flight students on the G.I. Bill. I suggested to my boss that there might be a celebration for all the new solo permits and private licenses issued. He agreed. We might have had a cook-out of some kind – I don’t remember. I do see the scene of cutting slices of cake and passing them out, all with lots of laughing and talking and good cheer. And I kept my birthday a secret!
It would be a late evening so I made arrangements to stay on the airport. A very large area over the main hanger had been turned into a room with rows of beds for when country-wide fly-in’s were scheduled. After I had finished bidding everyone ‘Good-night,’ I went up to the loft and chose my single bed nearest a big window looking out over the Airport.
I was content. A lot of people had come to my birthday party. And now I could blow out the one candle I had brought with me. I looked out at all the airplanes parked below me and the runways beyond and made Four Wishes: -
shown at the end of this story along with the results.
Fast forward to August 11th 2017. 90 year old birthdays don’t come along every day. And I wanted this one to be special. What did I want to do? Easy. I wanted to fly a Cub once more.
Emails went out to the flying clubs around the Valley asking if there were any J-3 Cubs around. I received good answers: A 1945 Cessna, an Ercoupe, a Swiss Pilatus turboprop, and a “high performance“ plane. All exciting - all maybe someday.
The one that fit would be a Super-Cub at Chandler Air Service. My niece, Alice, drove in from the boondocks to take me. Son Fred said he preferred this to my first suggestion, parachuting out of a plane, and appeared happy to put down $192 for an hour of flight. A reservation was made for 10:30 am on my birthday.
My instructor, Curt Murphree, and Alice and I walked out to my Cub. Back when I was 20 years old and 30 pounds lighter, I swung into the back of the J-3 with ease. Now I put my foot up on the iron step and I needed Alice’s help to lift my leg up and over into the narrow space. Fortunately I still have strength in my arms. I could reach up to the overhead framework and pull myself into the seat.
There were other differences. Instead of a seat belt, a shoulder harness kept me tight. A radio head set instead of yelling back and forth. And flaps and trim helped to smooth out the 165 h.p engine instead of the 65 h.p. in my J-3. Once I settled in, the cockpit had the same feel as “the olden times.”
I had my hand on the stick on take-off. Curt let me climb and when I reached around 3,000 feet, I did a 360 very shallow turn in each direction. I didn’t have quite the nerve to push that stick over for the steep ones. Another hour and I would have done it, though!
Then a little more altitude and I did a power-off stall and another power-on stall, climbing, climbing, until it reached the place of no-flight, fell off on one wing and stick forward, level it out. Just like at least a thousand I’ve done before.
Then Curt made a wonderful suggestion. We went down to warm altitude, maybe 500 foot about ground level, and I followed the dry Gila River along its path. We came up on the San Tan Mountains and I’m right on top of them, then going down through an opening between the hill tops, buffeted a bit by wind thermals and the Cub and I handling those together.
I’ve flown around a lot of the air of Indiana and of south Florida, and I have had land exploration in Arizona, including the Grand Canyon, -- but, honest to goodness, there is nothing like our Arizona desert. I held my breath with its beauty.
Now comes sad news. My phone/camera had worked its way loose from my pocket and was traveling around the bottom of the plane. So these aren’t my pictures.
Alice is the official photographer for this trip, learning her new Apple phone, and going over to the Apple store so that she could “air-drop” the photos to me.
Curt is my new love. He was so patient, allowing me to handle the stick throughout, even though his hand was close by if I needed help. He did the landing, but I followed him through and pulled that stick back tight when we touched down. Just like the good ol’ days.
When you’re in a Cub, you are flying. You and the plane are together. And I have a date with Curt next year to fly the Great Lakes bi-plane in a few acrobatic moves. Actually I’m double-booked because Alice and I are going to indoor sky dive.
Back to the Airport Café for a very good hamburger and beer.
Then Alice pulled out fun extras. The pot of succulents from my brothers and sister waited for me. Alice reached down for the cake she had hidden. And then my beautiful new blue blouse that only Alice could have chosen for me. There is no way that I could tell everyone how much I appreciate this wonderful, wonderful, never-to-be-forgotten 90th birthday.
And as for those Four Wishes: - to fly and to travel and to write and to raise my kid properly.
It has all come true. Seventy years later, I write this to tell you – If you want something, don’t wait for it to land in your lap without any effort – Go for it!
Thursday, July 13, 2017
Fourth of July and Fireworks.
The three weeks fly by far too quickly. Sister Nan starts out the first week with the check-ups, teeth and eyes, both of which I pass with no problems.
We take our time placing them on the wall and reminiscing with Mom.
The second week has been reserved for Tyler State Park. It’s a comfortable fit for the three of us in the ‘Minnie Winnie,’ the 13 foot Winnebago camper.
I have slowed down from the previous year but still enjoy hiking several trails, getting my breath when I stop to take photos of the wild flowers.
We explore the Tiger Creek Wildlife Refuge with tigers and lions and leopards, learning much from the young cute volunteers.
Another different kind of day is the First Monday Trade Day in Canton, the largest continually operating outdoor flea market. A scooter has been reserved for me but I allowed sister and Mr. B the fun of operating it also. Money spent? My contribution amounted to four dollars for a glass bear paperweight.
High on my bucket list – kayaking on the lake in front of our camp. However, last year I sailed the single seater kayak right into the weeds, so I was outvoted in favor of the paddle boat.
Our front yard is the perfect place for naptime. Weather in the 70’s, light breeze, warm sunshine. Who can want for more?!!
I looked forward to our three day visit with my niece and family and this year she had a new toy for me. The Harley Davidson Trike has lots of power and I knew I could handle it. Well, at least from the back seat.
Back home in Phoenix again, clearing up paperwork, trying to decide on another plan. The big Nine-Oh comes up next month. Son Fred will not hear of me making a chute jump. I’m trying to think of one last big adventure that I can get by with and show the world I am not yet old. I wonder if there are any Piper J-3 Cubs still flying. I know I could bounce it in easy.
Tuesday, April 4, 2017
For anyone born in Indiana basketball is part of the DNA. Thus it’s Big News with the Final Four right next door in Glendale.
And the March Madness Musical Festival is a stone’s throw away from my apartment. I can see the ferris wheel turning from my balcony. However windy weather had blown in some aches and pains for my 89 year old bones and I didn’t think it wise that I walk close to a mile for the action.
I watched about ten minutes of South Carolina and Gonzaga. The sun came out. I couldn’t miss the chance of a lifetime. I changed shoes, put on a pullover for warmth (a mistake), put cell phone, ID and a few dollars in a (no larger than) 5x8” pouch and got a bottle of (unopened) water out of the refrg. If the aches got bad, I’d turn back.
Anticipation took over. The heavy grass on the west part of Hance Park slowed me down, but I could see the action ahead. I entered the airport-looking security gate about a quarter to four. Here the plastic sack, a handy way to carry my water bottle, had to be thrown into the garbage barrel. Music sounds came across the park; I could hear Capital Cities on the stage.
The price tag for the three day event – FREE. That’s my kind of admission. The information sheets read “Come early, Seating is on a First come, first served basis.” The only seating I saw was of the BYOB type, that is Bring Your Own Blanket.
Capital Cities belongs to the type of music called “pop.” I didn’t know what this sound would be like since it would not be my kind of pop. If they played Tommy Dorsey’s “Boogie Woogie,” I would understand it. It didn’t matter, I liked the beat, and my feet kept moving. One of the official “March Madness” photographers – the man carrying the big camera on his shoulder - recorded shots of me taking pictures of the crowd and he also has a couple of minutes of my feet dancing.
My biggest surprise – and I don’t know why – the age of the crowd. I’m mixed in with teens and what is called the “Millennials.” (18 to 29’s) I doubt if anyone even came close to 50 and definitely not near my 89. Well, it pays off to get old. These kids were super polite. I was allowed and helped to get closer to the stage. Longer arms held up my camera. And amazingly, these youngsters wanted their picture taken with me. In return I got my picture giving big hugs.
The last time I was on a ferris wheel was in the 1950s at Riverside Park in Indianapolis and with a date. I didn’t plan on standing in that long, long line to get on a free ride, but I couldn’t pass up a chance to get pictures from a top angle.
After the ferris wheel made a couple of circuits and the Capital Cities band had moved off the stage, the time had come for me to head home. The last picture I took is probably my favorite – four great big beautiful policemen protecting me. That can’t be beat!!!
Sunday, January 22, 2017
The Cruise in the Eastern Caribbean
89 Reasons to Stay Home
Nine Reasons to Go
I told my sister, “There’s a 50-50 chance this 89 year old body won’t be able to go.” She didn’t seem concerned. She knew the lure of the chain of nine eastern Caribbean islands would be cause to ignore any yelps from aching legs. The West Indies which has the Caribbean Sea with the Lesser Antilles on one side, the Leeward Islands and the Atlantic to the east . Michener’s tales and the Lonely Planet . . . . They called for me to come and explore.
December 19th, 2016. I had a Phoenix-Tampa nonstop, sister Nan and Mr. B. had a two day drive. Then we had a fun night staying with friends from long ago. On the next day I snuggled down into my nest in the back seat while we drove to Ft. Lauderdale. By early afternoon we were on board the Pacific Princess, the smallest ship in their fleet. After dropping off luggage in our staterooms, we headed for the 9th deck and began acclimating once more to cruise ship routine – eating. We quickly filled our plates, found a window side table and relaxed while the waiter brought us water and our choice of refreshing drinks.
The first two days of this itinerary turned into choppy waters and rolling seas. Swaying from side to side we progressed along the hall to various activities.
Despite the sway of the ship no one appeared to be bothered with seasickness. Six hundred passengers and there wasn’t a first-timer among them. These travelers used their retirement years to meander the globe, both on land and water. This two week trip served a purpose – to spend the Christmas holidays where it would be peaceful without a lot of whoop-de-la.
We were at sea the first two days and explored the ship. I tried the pool but the waves, even in this small area, were boldly swishing around from side to side, hitting me in the face. I retreated to the hot tub and refreshing warm sunshine. Evenings were taken up with the enjoyable shows and our continuing competition of Mexican train.
First stop: St. John Virgin Islands. We had booked a snorkeling tour, equipment included. This area is famous for its coral reef trail and, in my imagination; I pictured gently paddling, face down, looking at the little fishies swimming around.
After a crowded van ride to Trunk Bay, we listened while our tour guide explained that the coral reefs were in eight to twelve feet of water. My swimming is only where I can touch bottom, so instead we found a cove with gentle white sand, laid out our towels and I gingerly waded into the water. Whoops! It was not the reported 80 degrees, it was downright chilly. I retreated to my towel and watched others who were brave enough to try the equipment. So much for my being able to boast of snorkeling feats.
Saturday Dec. 24, 2016: St. Kitts. Our tour starts with the Brimstone Hill Fortress, a UNESCO World Heritage site, the best preserved fort in the Caribbean, dating from 1690, built by the British to defend against the French. The winding narrow honk-before-you-turn-the-curve road takes us up 755 feet with a way-out view.
We had good rain pelting us by the time we reached Romney Manor, reputedly once the property of Thomas Jefferson. We ran inside and stopped in amazement. Rows of the colorful hand-printed Caribelle Batik, (the 2,500-year-old Indonesian wax-and-dye process,) were spread out in front of us. How beautiful! As the rain slowed we wandered around the grounds, among the beautiful crotons and other bright flowers, admiring the 350-year-old saman tree, the bell tower and other buildings.
Enough for one day. Instead of exploring the town, a nap took priority.
December 26: Our tour in Bequia (pronounced Beckway): “Open-air transportation . . . along the Atlantic Coast with alternating ocean views to the Turtle Sanctuary.”
Our ride in the open air tour van was a long one, with several spots for stopping and taking pictures of scenes pretty enough for a postcard.
Tuesday, Dec. 27, 2016: Our excursion today will be to an area designated as “Tobago’s national treasure,” a protected marine area.
At a sandy beach we climb aboard a glass-bottom boat and cruise off to Buccoo Reef. When we reach the coral reefs those with their snorkel tubing pile off the boat, grab on to a long rope and are slowly pulled around over the reefs.
For Wednesday in Barbados we have chosen a 4x4 Scenic Panoramic Drive, a leisurely guided safari through quaint villages and the forest. Our trip will include the island’s first settlement and the beauty of seaside rock formations.
I listened to our entertaining tour guide’s talk with interest, expecting to remember much of it without taking notes.
Today’s nap time continued right on through supper time. When hunger finally woke me up, I took the elevator to the 9th floor, selected choices from enticely-named dishes and enjoyed my variety. The amount of food wasted from each plate hurts my frugal nature, but it is such fun to select dishes different from usual. Even the deserts – custards and cakes and tarts – I try a couple and eat only part. I know that my penalty will be paid on the scales at home.
The last planned tour on December 29th is on Martinique, an overseas region of France.
When we reached the rum distillery, we wandered on our own, and found the place for the small free drink.
The best part of the tour turned out to be Elizabeth, our tour guide with a Paris and London education. Martinique, like many of these islands, no longer has banana or sugar or cotton based economy. The land has been sold and jobs have disappeared. Most of the income comes from tourism. We did not find “poor me” thoughts, but instead “use what we have to find prosperity.”
Again I slept through our evening meal and when I woke up the sun was setting. My absolute most pleasurable times were lying back in the lounge chair on the deck, rolling gently with the waves, following the clouds in their changing formations and smelling the breezes that come from a thousand miles away. These times, these days pass by too quickly and I hold on to as much of them as possible.
December 30th and our destination is Antigua. No tours are planned, and we wander around St. John’s.
December 31st, the last day of 2016, Virgin Gorda, the last island to visit. We took the tender in after a late breakfast, and returned after 15 minutes.
These Eastern Caribbean islands have been an experience that we enjoyed. We learned that hard-working people are trying their best to make a living with what they have – absolutely beautiful landscape – and are doing it with a multi-generation love for their land and a built in cheerfulness.
A New Year’s Eve party was held on the 9th floor. I went upstairs by myself. The dances were couple style so I watched until about 11:45 pm; then headed back to my cabin, out on the balcony, leaned against the rail and communed with the stars. The ship’s loud horn blared out at midnight. “Hello, Twenty Seventeen, what do you have in store for me this year?”
January 01, 2017. I stayed in bed late and enjoyed so much the gentle sway of the ship. Two more days at sea. My preference: deck and sun time. Reading then putting the book down to be one with the ocean.
Time to pack and put our suitcases out for pickup. A quick breakfast in the morning and say goodbye to the Pacific Princess.
After a drive to Tampa, another night with good friends, then flying back to Phoenix, home, and adjusting to life on land.