Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Making Pudding

Oh yes, there are tales to tell. This week it's my birfday, and according to my Death Clock it won't be my last. I should have a good 45 years or so left, so I don't have to go all nutz like the guy I heard about on Bob & Tom yesterday morning (given 1 year to live by his doctor... one year later, he's still alive and not gonna die due to a misdiagnosis). So, I'm a-living. I was showered with goodies by the kids and Spousal Unit this past weekend, and at the risk of being all braggy, I'm fixin' to tell ya about it. First, I got to make breakfast. Fried sliced potatoes, brown-n-serve sausages, and the BEST scrambled eggs ever (add a spoonful of cottage cheese for each egg, salt & pepper, then shovel 'em around a non-stick frying pan with a spatula until cooked). I got a box of chocolate truffles and a flowering plant-thingy for the apartment. Then it was off to a mystery address. But first, we stopped by Best Buy for my new favorite CD. I got their newest one first, and love it. The older one is just as good - a whole new raft of favorite tunes! Buy it. You can thank me later. From there, Mrs. Spiffy handed me an envelope with an address scribbled on it. "Go here," she said. We drove 45 minutes west to the lakeshore town of Grand Haven, found the street, and started looking at addresses. It was an industrial neighborhood by the airport, and the addresses were far apart. We must have driven right by it, because the numbers were going the wrong direction again. Turning around, I realized the address I was looking for WAS the airport. I pulled in the long drive past the airport sign (F-100 Super Sabre on a pedestal) up to the B&B flight office. A tall guy was walking around inside stuffing a chewy granola bar into his face, chatting about the windy weather with the girl behind the counter. "Oh, you must be here to fly. Jennifer will go with you." I was pretty bouncy by this time. In case y'all didn't know, I love to fly. I'm what might be known in Latin as 'pilotus beginnerus interruptus' (or something) - I've started flight training, got my books, completed ground school - but due to time and expense, haven't yet completed. Still an A-list dream though (you know, after securing things like food and shelter and whatnot). I've got about 12 hours of flying time, including 4 takeoffs and one landing. Jennifer was friendly and happy, and handed me a couple headsets while she completed some paperwork. She grabbed the keys and we walked to the hangar across the lawn. Mrs. Spiffy came trotting up while we were pushing the Cessna 172 out of the hangar to begin the preflight checklist. I kicked the tires, sumped the fuel, checked the oil, and made sure not too many rivets were missing. I hit the master switch and heard the gyros whirring to life, another full-body rush at the excitement. Jennifer invited Mrs. Spiffy to climb in the back seat, if she promised not to barf. "I can't clean up that sort of mess, so don't make one." I climbed into the left seat as Jennifer got buckled into the right and we completed the checklist. I primed the engine and turned the key. The propeller spun, engine sputtered and then roared to life, filling all the senses with vibration and motion and noise and power. Jennifer asked if I knew how to taxi. I nodded, and she told me to take it out to the runway. Sure, I know how to taxi - but being good at it is something entirely different. The rudder and nose wheel are controlled by foot pedals, the tops of which operate differential brakes. I weaved down the taxiway like a drunken senator, watching the wingtips to make sure I didn't shear off a gas pump or hit one of the half-dozen planes on the tarmac. We successfully made it to the runway entrance and mashed the brakes for the runup - revving the engine up to 1700 RPMs and checking the magnetos. Everything was set and Jennifer announced our takeoff to area traffic. She gave me the go ahead to get on the runway, and mentioned we should be centered and pointing the right direction before I gave it full throttle. It was a good thing, because I was itching to go. There was a 20-26 MPH headwind, and I could feel the buffeting before we even started rolling. We were to rotate at 50 knots and take off at 70. I pushed the throttle all the way in and we were moving. We had barely reached 50 knots and we were off the ground - the wind had saved us a couple hundred feet of runway, and I grinned like a retard in a dunking booth as I pointed the nose skyward. Jennifer looked back at Mrs. Spiffy, who was gripping the upholstery like a cat over a washtub and rather pale. She instructed her in the fine art of using an airsickness bag in case it got to that point as we climbed to 2000 feet. I cruised around the lighthouse and turned southward, following the beach. It was cloudy and windy, but the warm spring day had countless fishing boats on Lake Michigan and all the homeowners sprucing up their landscaping. It was gorgeous. We neared the power plant and Jennifer said it was time to turn around. I asked if I could do a steep turn, but she thought it'd be a bad idea with Mrs. Spiffy's questionable gastric condition. We began our approach and descent, the tummy-tickling thrill of the first drop in altitude when I pulled back the throttle, and returned to the airport. I added flaps and neared the trees while Jennifer calmly suggested I add some power so we don't land before we reach the runway. The wind was coming at us diagonally, so I had to bank left while steering right with the rudder to keep us on track. We crossed the threshold and cut power, floating ever so gently to a soft landing, flaring as long as possible until the nose wheel finally touched down. I can't wait to go again. Later, we met my dad and sisters at the theater to see Spiderman 3. Very entertaining and pithy, it's fulla villains and morals to the story. I totally ran out of energy while we were waiting for our order at O'Charley's after the movie, nearly falling asleep in my spinach dip. T'was a good day.

1 comment:

kenju said...

You got to fly! How exciting for you (don't know about Jennifer and Mrs. Spiffy)!!

Again, I hope you have/had a smashing birthday.