Sailing Through Air
29 August 2016
Every year, we rent out our house on Martha's Vineyard for the month of August. The same two families have been coming for over fifteen years. They feel as if it is their house and they take good care of it, so we continue. That means we are homeless for four to five weeks. Sometimes we do road trips on the east coast but mostly we come back to California.
Our friends Alison and Allan, who live on the canals of Mandalay Bay, have consistently opened their home and their hearts to us and for this we are grateful. Their home feels like our home and we love staying with them. Both sailors and pilots, they are adventurous and love stepping out of the box.
One day they took us out for an afternoon sail on board their Catalina 38, Risa. (Appropriately named after the STAR TREK pleasure planet, Risa.) And one day, Jay and I had a chance to go flying in their two-seat, tail-dragging plane; a Luscombe. Here's how it came about.
I was sitting at Cabelos Salon in Oxnard. My favorite hair stylist, Jovan, was trying to save my damaged and uncontrolled do. She was coloring, toning, conditioning and trimming my hair. Our conversation was quietly private as we shared personal stories of our lives. Suddenly my purse was vibrating. I reached inside and picked up my phone. "Going flying." was the text I got from Jay.
"I'm so jealous!" I replied. (This was Jay's second flight with Allan. I had yet to be invited.) Minutes later, my phone vibrated again and I looked to find a new text from Jay. "We can meet for lunch and you can go up in the plane."
"Yes!" I said, smiling at Jovan. Then I shared with her my coup.
Alison and I met up with Allan and Jay at Sea Fresh for lunch, one of our favorite harbor-side restaurants. After our meal, I went back to their house to change from my dress into shorts as I was told the climb into the tiny aircraft would be a bit awkward.
Allan and I arrived at the Oxnard airport where they keep their plane. We parked behind the hanger and I stepped out onto a deserted tarmac. Allan unlocked the hanger to reveal a small aircraft with long wings and an even longer tail. After checking all systems and doing a once-over of the exterior, Allan got under one wing and pushed it onto the runway. It was that light! One man can move this airplane!
I stepped up with my short legs, grabbed a hand-hold and lifted myself into the seat. I couldn't quite reach the pedals - probably a good thing - but the control stick stood tall between my knees. (I wondered what I would do with it should Allan suddenly have a heart attack.) Allan handed me a headset and instructed me as to how it worked, when to speak and when to listen. There would be lots of conversation between him and the various towers as we flew through the airspace that formed the miles we would cover.
I wasn't afraid, exactly. In fact, when I was a child, I absolutely loved flying. It's just when I got older and I considered what could happen that I started to hesitate, started to second guess whether or not it was safe to fly. I do love to fly. I do. It's just... a very small plane...with just one pilot...
I was nervous, excited. Pushing myself to cross the edge. For some people, this would be nothing. Our friends who are pilots thrive on every flight. They love it. I had to quell some stomach ruffling. But I did it! I loved it!
There is a whole other perspective from the air. On a small plane, flying at a low altitude, the cities and farmlands look, well, so organized, linear. We passed over Oxnard, Camarillo and then up and over the Santa Monica mountain range. Allan pointed out a house built out of a 747. I wondered if the owner was a pilot.
We continued down the coastline, heading toward Malibu. We did a fly-by over our previous home. Twin Peaks we called her as she stood tall on a mountain top with two chimneys reaching out to the sky. Circling around to head back home, Allan asked me if I wanted to drive. I choked and said, "No, thank you. Maybe next time."
I think my favorite part of our flight was when Allan descended and flew close to the ocean as we headed north along the Pacific coastline. The kelp beds looked like spider webs as I watched kayakers fish from their boats, bobbing in the waves. I looked for whales, dolphins, any sort of sea life, but spotted none.
"Would you like to do some touch and go's?" Allan asked me. "Sure. I'm up for seeing what that's about." I replied, having no idea what he was talking about. Allan got on the radio and asked for clearance to "...do some pattern work." That means, he could touch and go; touch, stop and go; or, land.
On our first approach, he did a touch and go. What a rush! We just barely touched the ground when he picked up speed and up and away we went. We circled around and landed a few more times before we finally taxied back to the hangar.
I climbed out and stood staring at the tiny plane with a smile on my face. There's nothing like stepping out of one's comfort zone and realizing it's all okay. It's all good.