Saturday, April 05, 2008

Flights of Fancy on the Road

Flying in the springtime can be just as indefinite as it was back in the days of the Ford Tri-motor “airliners.”

Don’t get me wrong, I’d much rather sit on the ground for two hours in a Boeing 737 than a 10-passenger Ford Tri-Motor.

But it’s not an enjoyable experience, especially if you're sitting over the wing in a seat that won’t recline.

I once took a ride in a Stearman bi-plane.
It was part of a flight of five such aircraft, touring the country on behalf of Red Barron Pizza. I think the pizza sucks.
The Stearman, on the other hand, was like no other sensory experience I have ever had.

The bright red plane was an open-cockpit aircraft, with the seats positioned in tandem, pilot sitting behind the passenger.

We took off on a day that was threatened by a few random puffs of clouds forming up regiments in the sky, getting ready to rain later in the afternoon. No sitting on the tarmack for two hours.

We lifted off the runway at a speed slower than my car can negotiate a freeway connecting ramp, and I felt the gentle sense of increased gravity tugging on my body as the plane slipped away from the ground. I could feel the updrafts in the wings as we flew over pastures and farm fields, warming in the morning sun.

We flew straight up until the plane stalled, and then dipped gracefully on one wing to point back towards the earth. We did barrel-rolls, we flew in a tight circle, opposite another Stearman, and we flew inverted.

If I ever get a pilot’s license and buy an aircraft, it will be a Stearman.

You learn a lot about people sitting with them for two hours on the runway.
People who can sleep anywhere.
People who shouldn’t try to sleep anywhere outside their own beds.

And people who should really think twice before getting that tattoo at the base of their spine…and wearing undergarments that reveal their taste in body art and underwear brand when they get up and down in their seat on an airliner.

My own personal travelling tips are these:
Take along things you could throw away if you had to—older shirts, socks, and those aforementioned unmentionables.

I like to slip my cell phone into my carry-on bag before going through the security check point.

Those hourly-wage TSA people will see it on the X-ray, recognize it, and let it pass…instead of asking you to take it off your belt, power it up and down, and maybe giving them an excuse to conduct a random body cavity search, etc,. wasting your time in line.

My Bride confided that those paper seat covers in the restrooms are great blotters for excess facial oil. Be sure to do that before the liner is placed on the toilet seat.

For my money, the best shoe shines in the world are obtained at the airport.

I believe the shoe shine crew at Houston ‘s Bush International Airport are among the best, although you may have your own favorites elsewhere around the country.

Still, $4 plus the tip, is a hard value to beat, and you come off the plane looking like a million bucks no matter how long it took to get there!

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