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Phantom Photo: The Yellow T6

While getting a manicure, I engaged in friendly conversation with the woman at the adjacent station. She mentioned the current month’s InStyle magazine, featuring Diane Keaton.

Later that day while shopping at Publix, I grabbed a copy as I passed through the checkout lane.

How do you explain that, as I perused the brand-new magazine, a photograph fell out of the pages – an older photograph – of a yellow North American T6 airplane?

Where did this photo come from? It was just nestled within the pages of a fashion magazine.

Yellow North American T6 Trainer Aircraft

This plane was flown as a trainer in WWII. In this image, it appears to be parked as a static display, perhaps at a museum?

I’ve searched – but I cannot explain anything about it.

But that is what I’ve come to love about it – the mystery. This little scene happened about four years ago, and I still keep the picture in my studio. If you know anything about this plane, or the photo, I’d love to hear about it! – Julie

When Creativity Visits, Part Deux

Classic literature is my favorite genre to read; My current pick is Jules Verne’s Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. Mike took an interest in the title, but he’s not an avid book reader. We decided to watch a movie version, which we both enjoyed. But it got me thinking…

Jules Verne wrote that book in 1870, in French, and an English version followed in 1872. Amazing, an idea, a tale, that Verne articulated nearly 150 years ago is still reaching people – and will continue on for how many years beyond? This idea got me thinking about ideas, and creativity, and their reach.

I’ve always imagined creativity like a mystical bird,
flitting around, landing on curiously open minds
like bright flowers…

I’m amazed that we appreciate art imagined hundreds, possibly thousands of years ago – or, even that when we use a device, such as a telephone, that was imagined so long ago, we are interpreting an idea, a manifestation of creative energy. I’ve always imagined creativity as an energy in the form of a mystical butterfly or bird, flitting around, landing on curiously open minds like bright flowers. An idea may come but it won’t necessarily stick, or it may change. Some fester and die. But I like to think of the world as full of this creative energy, flowing all the time.

I think an artist’s greatest hope is that their work engages someone, touches them in some way. Even if that moment is simply to evoke the briefest happiness — like a tactile sense of appreciation, that hope is enough to finish what was started. Painting is no doubt a selfish reward, for all the intricate joys it produces. But back to Jules Verne, or Edison or anyone that receives and engages their creative muscle – you never know who that act will reach. It may not come in your lifetime. How many artists suffered penniless humiliation only to be lauded long after they’ve passed?

It’s an endless curiosity to never know, to not particularly care, who that energy reaches, but rather that it reaches someone. Create for the sake of creation, to fulfill the quest of the mystical bird, bounding through the universe.

Once in a Lifetime

Stella Mae. This is our twelfth summer and I am grateful for her, every single day.

She was at an adoption day at PetSmart. Amid a corral of frolicking puppies, she lay aloof, by herself. As I approached the perimeter, she stood and calmly walked to meet me. She sat in front of me and looked up to me with her soft eyes. DONE! I’ve said and will always say she is a ‘once in a lifetime’ kind of friend.

Here we are in the studio, taking a bothie (not a selfie, cuz that’s just of yourself). ❤

No judgement on the lack of housekeeping in my studio…
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A Bit of Treasure

A wonderful act to reflect upon, that every human creature is constituted to be that profound secret and mystery to every other. – Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

I so very admired my great aunt; her name was Gizella. To my family and I, she is known as Aunt Giz.

She was the epitome of chic, which is the perfect balance of humbleness and sophistication. One of my earliest memories is feeling enchanted by this marvelous woman. She conversed with me not as a little child, but as a lady, and as such, she made me feel valued and grown-up – which, to a little girl, is everything! She was so genuine; Her generous affection was pure, radiant and sincere, but her dislike for something was not unknown either. I admired that about her: such an honesty of being.

I think many people feel as I do, about relatives and friends passed on: I didn’t get to know her as well as I’d have liked to. Much I know about her was, very sadly, gained after her passing.

Aunt Giz

When she passed, my family was tasked with the “final arrangements”, which included the dismantling of her life – in literal terms. What to do with the books she read, the silverware and tableware from which she ate her food, the blankets that warmed her? Sad and stressful, the undertaking altered my perspective of life, particularly about its details. We would call to one another, from room to room: “what do you think should be done with this (insert object)?” (The things we picked through were sorted into roughly three categories: toss, sell, donate.) It was an uncomfortable feeling, crossing into someone’s personal space and deciding how to dispatch their things. After a few days at this task, a sort of numbness came over me and, most of it, was a job to be done. Closing her estate took a long time, but that is another story for another day.

Amid the chaos, there were a few little treasures that begged me to keep. I have three pieces here in my studio space with me.

Photo Album

One is a thick, heavy photo album, brimming with an era of photographs of Aunt Giz and her beloved husband, my Great Uncle Eugene (known to all as “Gene”). It is an intimate portrait, a delightful pictorial story of her life from about 1965 to 1980. They are in love with one another, it is evident. They lived in an incredible home in Malaga, Spain, sparkling Mediterranean on the horizon. There they entertained with fabulous style among numbers of friend; lovely people with smiling faces, of whom I cannot name.

Aunt Giz with Happy the dog and Marta, a 1966 VW Camper Van
Aunt Giz with Happy and Marta the 1966 VW camper van

I wonder if, after my time has passed, someone will look at my photos and feel the kind of radiance and love that I do for Aunt Giz? That, in my opinion, is a testament of a life well-lived.

The second item is another photo. This one is 8 x 10”, black and white, and we believe it to have been taken by Andre Kertesz; he was a close friend. That is an interesting detail to a photo buff —  Here, it is the subject of the photo I love. Gene is seated, looking at a pamphlet of some sort; my Aunt Giz stands just a little behind him, leaning against the wall, looking at him in evident adoration. It’s a beautiful moment; I consider it art.

A moment, a lifetime: Aunt Giz and Uncle Gene

The third item is a page of handwritten prose; I don’t know to whom to credit for the thoughtful and serene discourse. I have it tacked to a corkboard that hangs above a bookshelf; now and then I seek a few moments’ comfort, as I hope you will too.

In closing, I affirm that this is one of those articles about “the best things aren’t things”. The belongings I speak of aren’t of monetary substance, but they conjure the invaluable memories of an Aunt I cherished in life — and even more afterward, in her legacy, that alludes to the colorful, astute woman that will always be representative of Aunt Giz.

Goal

To live content with small means.

To seek elegance rather than fashion

To be worthy, not respectable and wealthy, not rich.

To study hard

Think quietly

Talk gently

Act frankly.

To listen to stars and birds, to babes and sages

With open heart.

To bear all cheerfully;

Do all bravely

Await occasions, hurry never.

In a word, let the spirit be unbidden

And unconscious grow up through the common.

This is to be my symphony.

The Wall

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In February 2018, my friend Darren reached out to me regarding a project at Orlando Regional Medical Center. Darren is the recipient of a kidney & pancreas, and I am a liver recipient. (I have a chronic condition known as Budd Chiari Syndrome, for which there is no cure. Because of this condition, I received my first liver transplant April 16, 1995. Unfortunately, I needed a second transplant on August 5, 2011, due to recurrence of BCS.) Darren and I have worked together on a number of organ donation-related causes, and this one sounded especially interesting.

Still living in Tampa at the time, I traveled to Orlando Regional Medical Center. Darren introduced me to Debbie Alexander; Debbie brought together a small group of hospital staff with the hopes to find suitable artwork for a wall that had been allocated for a project.

The project is called “Wall of Heroes” and was designed by a caring physician named Jeff Sadowsky. Dr. Sadowsky believed something needed to be done to honor organ donors and their families. He explained that when someone passes, and they choose to donate, their families leave the hospital with their grief and a plastic bag containing their loved one’s belongings. They return to their lives within the community without distinction – but they are heroes, their loved ones are heroes, and they deserve recognition.

Dr. Sadowsky chose to act, founding the organization GR8 to DON8 in 2009. Merging his love of fitness to the cause, he formed the GR8toDON8 8k Run for Organ Donation. Contributions from the GR8toDON8 8k Run were allocated for a second passion project of Dr. Sadowsky’s: The Wall of Heroes. Dr. Sadowsky thought families and loved ones should have a place to go in which they could honor and memorialize their hero. A wall within Orlando Regional Medical Center was designated for the memorial.

Currently the Associate Director of the Medical Intensive Care Unit at Orlando Regional Medical Center, he was initially impacted by the power of donation during his early years in training, where he often saw very ill patients in need of transplantation.

One organ donor can save up to eight lives (hence the 8K Run for Organ Donation) while tissue donation can improve the quality of life for dozens more. Last year, nearly 31,000 lives were saved due to the generosity of organ donors. Today, more than 120,000 children and adults await that precious gift. Hundreds of thousands more patiently wait for the gift of tissue donation.

Dr. Sadowsky’s vision for the wall was a piece of artwork that would somehow convey gratitude and honor for organ donors. Darren and I brainstormed on an interactive project that educates the public about the importance of organ donation and will hopefully inspire individuals to choose life and register to become a donor (if they have not already). Meanwhile, Dr. Sadowsky and the collective group of Team Orlando assigned the concept of the ripple effect. How would we create – and fulfill – the vision of these caring people?

The blank wall

As a liver recipient, the mission to honor donors resonated deeply. I sketched a few designs but the painting that was ultimately selected came together quickly. I named the painting “the Odyssey” in honor of my beloved physician, Dr. Michael F. Sorrell, after something he said many years ago.

The Odyssey. The droplet signifies the act of donation, which triggers the ripples to begin moving. Like water, emotion runs deep, with each ripple representing the different aspects of the donation and transplantation process.

Dr. Sorrell is now retired, but in 1994, he saved my life. I was an eleven-year-old child with an undiagnosed disease. I went from being a healthy kid to deathly ill and spent a year bouncing through countless doctors and tests, to no avail. My parents had heard of Dr. Sorrell, and although he did not typically deal with pediatrics, agreed to see me. My family traveled to Omaha, Nebraska to meet him, and I was finally diagnosed with Budd Chiari Syndrome. Due to the advanced state of my disease, I learned that I would need a liver transplant to survive. I’ve always appreciated Dr. Sorrell’s kind but matter-of-fact way of speaking, and he described the transplant experience as an “odyssey”. In all the years that have passed, I’ve yet to find a better term. This odyssey begins as a patient, hoping you’ll qualify to be listed, despite that your opportunity at life means tragedy for another. Then the call comes that the transplant team located a match: you’re simultaneously so many emotions that it leaves one breathless. It’s an experience in extremes.

My painting is a simple design: a cascade of ripples that are created by a single water droplet, comprised of a bold but limited palette of blues against a bright white background. The water droplet represents the action of an organ donation, and the ripples are all the lives positively impacted. Some ripples will be organ or tissue transplant recipients, some represent organ donors. There are eight definitive ripples that represent the eight transplantable organs.

Darren and I contacted an organization called Intermedia Touch to take the second part of our idea to fruition. We wanted to fulfill the message of the project through means of a digital and interactive product. This piece is especially unique in that while it resembles static artwork from a distance, it is live and interactive on a 70” monitor. The painting was animated so that the water droplet falls, causing the eight ripples to move. As viewers approach, they’ll notice the soft sound of water moving. Users can touch any one of the eight ripples to learn about organ or tissue donation, to dispel the common myths and misconceptions about donation and transplantation, to register to become a donor, or to register for the GR8 to DON8 race. The piece honors donors by allowing families to recognize their loved ones in the Heroes gallery, where they may share up to five photos as well as video. It is a place where families can honor their loved one and by sharing their story, hopefully pass on a message of hope to others.

The project went live January 7th at Orlando Regional Medical Center. It will be officially revealed in April for Donate Life month.

The painting remains in constant motion

Meanwhile, I have been trying to put The Odyssey into words:

The Odyssey.

IV’s embedded: in your hands, the tender flesh at the crook of your inner arm, in your neck, a port in your chest.. they go on.

 Labwork at 4am, or some timeframe like that; the phlebotomist going in before you can fully wake, lights suddenly on, elastic tourniquet snapping around your arm, searching for and hopefully finding an irritable vein.

Transplant Team arrives, you get bad news. They leave in a flock-like formation, white coats, sympathetic smiles and heads nodding. An hour later, the door bursts open, a uniformed aide whips a wheelchair into your small room. They usher you out of bed, filing your attached IV cart in sequence with the awaiting chair. They wheel you and your IV down the hallway, into an elevator, and into a freezing cold, darkened room. A tech awaits with an ultrasound, CT or MRI, or some machine. You cooperate as they direct, the test is performed, and you come and go. An aide rolls you back to your hospital room. As you ride through the crowded hallways you notice that most people do not look at you, or make eye contact, with a person in a wheelchair.

You take a moment to recognize your own slim, jaundiced face in the mirror of your hospital room bathroom.

The hospital at night, quiet finally falls, the pace slackens. You try to sleep.

But the worst.

Beyond any physical pain or anything a patient endures;

Is watching others watch you.

Seeing the effect it has taken on the people you care about, that care for you. You identify sorrow, grief, deep worry, bone-deep fear.

There are no plans for the future. A baby shower for a baby you hope to live to meet; an engagement party for your best friend — and she asks you to be a bridesmaid. I think to myself, I hope I am still alive to see my best friend on her wedding day.

And then the call comes, perhaps the most significant in your lifetime: we found a liver, it’s a perfect match for you. In disbelief — As the news washes over you, you realize with your heavy, heavy heart that another family has arrived at their darkest hour. It is a surreal feeling; you are being given a chance.

Despite the heartbreak and pain, something miraculous is taking place. So many people come together, no matter the hour of day, they rise to the occasion, they are at their best. An orchestra plays beautiful music.

You wake on the other side. You have crossed over.

A new kind of fight begins: The journey to recovery: who knows what life will become? Will life be like it was before all the illness and pain?

It will be better; Each day, you strive for that. It’s difficult, there are setbacks, but there is the victory that you are on the other side and you can look forward to things again. There are lots and lots of small victories, like the first day in months that you can sit properly at a table and enjoy a simple meal with your family. There are the first stairs you ascend, wobbly and quite weak but determined.

Is He okay? I made a pact, took a vow, that I am going to be the Guardian of this new liver, and I’m going to LIVE!

So many put their hearts into saving your life, so go LIVE your life, gratefully humble. ion(e){retur

Ghosts

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Mourning the loss ofsomeone very important to me, lost in an aviation accident, my father offered consoling words that have ever remained in my heart: “You will never again turn the key in the ignition without thinking of them.”

I became interested in general aviation in 1998. I worked in the field until 2008, though I still fly and consider it a passionate hobby. In the wake of losing friends, as has unfortunately happened, I came up with my own assessment: aviation’s greatness can be equaled only by its terribleness.

I’m referring to the bleak days in aviation, when the news spreads that an accident has happened. We check in with one another and find relief when they respond back – they’re okay.

Some people do, but I do not consider flying to be dangerous. We train for emergencies, we are hyper-aware of our own well-being and take precautions to make our flights safe. But. Things happen.

Aviation has taken some very special people; people I admired, that mentored me. These people were hugely influential in inspiring and sharing the passion for airplanes and flying that I hold dear. Not all were aviation accidents, but they all left an impression.

When we lose someone dear to us, there is of course grief. But when it is an aviation accident, a whole other dynamic comes into play, another layer upon an already devastating situation. These were good pilots, people worthy of respect, flyers far more experienced,talented and dedicated than I.

I’ll think of them at themost random times when I’m in the plane. Sometimes, I’ll hear their voice,coaching me on a landing or reassuring me about a quickly-executed decision. We lose them, but we never really lose them. They teach us, guide us, and will forever be our friends, no matter where they are.

Across the Years, Over the Miles

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While living in Tampa, Mike and I shared a spacious hangar at Brooksville airport (KBKV). Upon notice that we were being assigned to Albuquerque, we had many things to consider and plan for, including moving two planes out west. Mike took his Pitts S1S at the end of summer, flying short legs, completing the trip in three days. In Albuquerque, we chose Double Eagle (KAEG) as our new home airport. We moved to New Mexico at the end of August, and the Champ (named Daisy) remained in the hangar at Brooksville. I wished to wait for cooler, and hopefully, less stormy weather.

One of our hangar neighbors from Brooksville had, over the course of months, expressed a repeated interest in buying the Champ, and as life in Albuquerque picked up, the idea grew on me (I had initially waved off this notion with a flattered decline).

In November, I had to return to Florida for an art project I’m collaborating on. I had been in communication with the prospective buyer and planned to show the plane while I was in town. As the time grew near, the reality was giving me horrible anxiety; I had never wanted to sell Daisy. While I try not to get wrapped around the axle with possessions, my fondness for the sixty-year old Dame ran deep.

As the time grew close in which I was to show the plane, there was no word from the prospective buyer — and I made no attempt to reach across the silence. An excitement began to build for the next step: bringing Daisy home.

Prep

My trip kicked off to a picture-perfect VFR forecast and outlook.

When it comes to packing, I’m a total chick: I did in fact possess a hair dryer, curling iron, cosmetics, and a diverse array of clothes for an uncertain climate. However, there are three things that are absolute essentials, when it comes to flying:

• Garmin 495 handheld GPS, mounted on top of the dashessentials
• IPad, for ForeFlight, as well as music (I cannot fly without music!)
• My trusty grey New Balance “flying shoes” – they have the perfect thin sole and rounded heel for flying, especially with Daisy’s heel brakes (that were intimidating at first, but I’ve come to love)

Lastly, I went to Publix and gathered a bag of assorted snacks and lots of water. And then, I felt ready.

The Ship: a 1958 American Champion 7EC, powered by a Continental C90; electrical system with lights, Mode C transponder, intercom & radio. Flight instruments limited to altimeter, airspeed indicator; RPM gauge and oil temp.

The Trip
11/16/2018: I departed Brooksville into clear-blue-and-a-million skies. North/northwest bound and skimming the coast, I drank up the views of the shimmering flats that had played host to so many wonderful memories of my life. Manatees, grey torpedo-like shapes, loitered over swaths of golden sand. I observed a pack of dolphins aggressively circling and crashing upon a school of fish, the powerful thrust of their bodies and the frothy shockwave of water brilliant.

IMG_0653
Daisy of the Gulf coast of Florida

My first stop was Tallahassee for fuel and a quick break. The airspace was buzzing with traffic, mostly military. As I waited to takeoff, I held short for a C-130 on a missed approach. (A novelty, as this is the airplane my husband, Mike, flies for the Air Force.)

I continued west, communicating with flight following in the congested airspace. As I hummed along in the golden afternoon light, I heard the Blue Angels jet team interacting with controllers.

The sun had begun to slant in descent, casting long shadows on the acres of trees below. In the way distance, I could still see a little sparkle of the Gulf, and I felt a pang of nostalgia for the place I’d called home my whole life.

IMG_0700
The Florida coastline

I had hoped to go a little further, but decided to stop for the night at KMVC, Monroe, Alabama. ForeFlight gave promising reviews, so I decided to see what was there. (When flying cross-country, at some of these out-of-the-way places, it’s never assured what you’re gonna find on the ground. This is all part of the adventure!)

The cold front had left behind limitless skies, streaked with a few feathery cirrus clouds. The airfield was quiet and not a soul stirred as I taxied in to a deserted ramp. I discovered a couple of employees inside the FBO, who assured me that I’d find decent lodging and food just across the street. I secured Daisy at the tie-downs, apologizing to her for the lack of hangar for the night. Lugging my three duffle bags, I bummed a ride to the hotel, which was only about a quarter-mile. If I didn’t have so much stuff.. (Please!)

The hotel was decent and after getting settled, I headed to the diner-style restaurant next door, AJ’s. The fried catfish and cheese grits were absolutely delicious and a perfect ending to my first day “on the road”.

catfish
fried catfish, cheese grits and hushpuppies from AJ’s in Monroe, AL

11/17/2018: Up early, I bummed a ride with Betty, the hotel housekeeper, back to the airport. 8am, and Army helicopters were already coming and going; many of the small airfields in the region rely on the military traffic for a sizeable part of their fuel business. Conditions were ideal for the flight and I was eager to get airborne. Taxing to the run-up area, I swung Daisy’s tail around and held the brakes, sliding open the side window, pulling off my headset, and listening carefully to the engine (as I always do). However, my magneto check was frighteningly ugly, the engine violently lurching and struggling to make power, even on both mags. I tried the left magneto again, thinking fouled spark plug, but quickly decided this was way over my head. I taxied back to the ramp, befuddled.

The lineman at the FBO called someone, who then called someone else and a mechanic was located. He was nearly two hours away but willing to come out if he had the correct parts in stock. The plane had just come from its annual inspection in October, and I just so happened to have my logbooks aboard (thinking I would need them for the sale). Stored way in the back, I dug out the retro suitcase containing the logs. With this magnificent streak of luck in possessing the logbooks, I was able to tell him exactly what was equipped. By even greater miracle, he had the parts in stock. Freddy and his son Beau were a Godsend, overhauling both magnetos on the tailgate of their pickup truck.

tailgate repair
Just a Saturday afternoon magneto overhaul…

Meanwhile, I drank coffee and killed time on the veranda at the FBO, enjoying the cool morning air and bright sun, watching the planes come and go.

I observed a woman setting up a small corral in the grass adjacent to the tarmac. A moment later, she returned with a litter of the cutest puppies I have ever seen. Naturally, I was over there in a hot minute. She was an employee of the county, the animal control officer. She explained that while the county operated a “kill” shelter, they worked with various programs to get as many animals adopted as possible. In this case, the pups were going to Florida through a program in which private individuals donate the use of their aircraft and their piloting time to transport high risk animals to new homes. I was becoming rather attached to the sweet little black puppy I had been holding; I inquired about his availability and learned that he, and all his littermates, were already adopted and enroute to their new homes. A bit misty eyed, I nuzzled his soft ears with my cheek and wished him luck. I handed him to the people that were flying him to Florida, to a new and hopefully wonderful life.
puppy
Inside the FBO, I was offered lunch. I learned that they cooked an assortment of food every day, which was hungrily devoured by the droves of military crews and hungry travelers. I helped myself to the soup, which was excellent, just as Freddy was finishing up on Daisy. He suggested that I make my next stop in Madison, Mississippi (KMBO). Starting the engine, I could instantly tell the difference – she felt like herself. I made one approach over the airfield, my confidence in Daisy’s repairs rising as I felt the returned strength of the engine.

It was a perfect, quiet, late-afternoon flight in crystal-clear air. I landed and taxied up to an elegant plantation-style FBO building. Quite impressive, it greeted travelers with soaring columns and potted topiaries. I was able to get Daisy into a hangar for the night and took a Lyft to a nearby Hilton Garden Inn. I was delighted at the availability of Bonefish for room service; hungry and beat, it was the perfect ending to a crazy day.

11/18/2018: The mechanical delay had cost me an important bit of time, as I was now dealing with another cold front passing through the Dallas area. While I had planned a more northwesterly heading, I was going to have to jog south to try an avoid the band of weather. Trying to gauge the edge of the front is difficult: what is going to be safely out of the path without compromising too many miles? I headed to KIER, an airport I could not pronounce, “Natchitoches”. The line guy just smiled and kindly offered the correct pronunciation (which still befuddled me). I took some fuel and studied the weather, as I was starting to see thickening layers of clouds and spots of misty, poor visibility. Limited options ahead, I decided to try for Lufkin, Texas, which was just over the state line. KLFK was reporting VFR conditions, but I was concerned that none of the other airports on the 248nm jog had any weather reporting capability. Those airports were remote outposts, but if I had to, I could always set down at one and wait for conditions to improve. This strategy in mind, I took off, happy to be making progress. The weather to the northeast was daunting, a thickening deck that was pushing me further south. I was able to maintain 1,500’ AGL but felt a pang when I looked behind Daisy to see a curtain coming down. The south was clear, but I didn’t want to use it unless I had to. With fifty miles to go I had two choices: continue to KLFK (which was reporting VFR) or go to one of the “remote outpost” airports. (I had a picture in my head of spending the night sleeping in the plane, not ideal.) Sometimes you can read forecasts all you want, but you just have to see for yourself. Knowing I could go south if I had to, I pressed onward, avoiding misty patches and breathing a sigh of relief as Lufkin airport came into view.

Shutting down and opening the door, I was shocked by an icy blast of cold air (my stop one-hour prior had been warm and humid). The temperature plummeted and as I had a look at ForeFlight, I saw the airport had just changed to MVFR conditions. I was relieved to be on the ground – again, not a complete day of flying under my belt, but I was in a friendly, safe place. Daisy had a large hangar, safe and sound from the cold and damp. The FBO was generous in allowing me use their crew car for the night: a gianormous, mile-long maroon Mercury Grand Marquis that had been formerly used as a law enforcement vehicle.

The light faded very quickly that afternoon and the sun succumbed to wet clouds. I found refuge at a Hampton Inn. At the hotel’s suggestion I tried Ralph & Caico’s, a New Orleans style seafood joint. I loved their shrimp stew and even bought a couple bottles of the hot sauce for home. It was tasty and warmed my belly on the cold and rainy night.

I set my alarm for 6am, hoping to get in the air bright and early. However, I awoke to the sound of rain sheeting against the window pane. I got moving and to the airport early anyway, hoping for the best. However, I was socked in. Even after the rain moved off, the tops of the trees were barely visible against the edges of craggy grey clouds. We weren’t going anywhere. I felt exhausted.

IMG_0792
Daisy tucked away from the weather in Lufkin, Texas

The FBO housed a great little restaurant, a breakfast and lunch place. I enjoyed a leisurely breakfast of eggs, sausage and toast overlooking the rain-soaked ramp. I hung out at the FBO for most of the day, checking and re-checking an unrelentingly bleak forecast. Disappointed, I returned to the hotel and called it a day. Once again, the FBO was generous with the use of their crew car, and I was grateful to have landed in such a hospitable place.

11/20/2018: I launched into the bright morning sky, so different from the day past. Brownwood Regional would be my first stop. A friendly place, the line guy explained with a chuckle that I had to flip a switch to turn off the police light located on top of the Crown Victoria (another former law enforcement vehicle-turned airport crew vehicle). I took the car a few miles into the town to find a burger.

For a few hours I had zero cell service, which is a confusing thing altogether, because I was able to send a receive messages in the air in some very remote places. Back at the FBO, the manager addressed me, telling me to call my concerned husband and directed me to a landline. She explained that Mike had called looking for me, concerned when I had not checked in. So, I used a landline and called my husband, assuring him that all was just fine.

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windmills in central Texas

Pressing on, I made my next stop in Odessa. (Yep, still Texas!) I would’ve liked to make one more stop but was running short on daylight. For the overnight, Daisy was directed to an executive hangar, complete with heat, living it up among a crop of mid-size jets.

As I unloaded my bags and secured the plane, the line guys had questions about Daisy: did it feel different to fly a fabric airplane as compared to metal? How old was the Champ? And, everyone always asks me this question (I don’t know why): how long have I been flying?

Odessa
Daisy makes some classy friends in Odessa, Texas

Making small talk with the Turkish Lyft driver, enroute to the hotel, I hoped this was the last night on the road. As fun as the flying had been, I was weary.

11/21/2018: High clouds made for a grey start, although it seemed to be predominantly VFR across the northwesterly route. Directly west was clear, but I needed to jog more northwesterly, and I was beginning to contend with altitude.

I flew over miles upon miles paper-flat land, oil fields as far as the eye could see, some shooting bright orange flames into the dreary sky. The cloud deck descended, a soft white curtain falling, just fifty miles from my next stop. I was forces to turn back and land at a desolate airfield called Lea County. On the bright side, I was finally in New Mexico. But I felt like the only person on earth, shivering as I walked cautiously toward the small brick FBO building, uncertain as to what I would find. To my surprise, it was cozy and warm, and a television blared from the wall, though no one was to be found. I sat at the table near the window and discovered stacks of pilot magazines, none with a publication date more recent than 1979. I seriously wondered if I fell into a time warp as I pored over articles and advertisements boasting state-of-the-art avionics equipment that was now defunct.

An hour passed and sunlight began to stream through the clouds. I decided to take another shot at getting to my next stop, Roswell. The timing worked out and the clouds were breaking, revealing a changing landscape: small, taupe-tinged hills ranged in the distance.IMG_0834
At Roswell, I was cleared to land behind a C-130 (caution, wake turbulence!). Feeling very tiny, I taxied to the FBO, marveling at the rows upon rows of retired airliners parked on the tarmac.

boneyard Roswell
Rows upon rows of retired airplanes at Roswell

The FBO fueled Daisy while I took their crew car to a nearby burrito joint. I was jittery for my next and final leg because of the mountainous terrain. I knew how the route appeared on the sectional but couldn’t picture it for myself. A lifetime flat-lander, I regard much respect for the rugged terrain of the west. Daisy’s density altitude performance was another unknown. My strategy was to climb and allow myself a wide berth.

As I climbed back in the airplane for the final leg of my journey, the sun shone brightly and the air felt crisp. The engine sprung to life; applying takeoff power, the tail popped up quickly, a good sign at the 4,000’ field elevation. We bid farewell and a happy thanksgiving to the friendly controllers.

On this leg, the landscape changed from flat oil fields, and steepened. I climbed first to 6,500 and as the mountains loomed ahead, kept going to 8,700’. We cut through the Sandias just south of an airport called Mountainair, and then, literally, we were home free. It was the last small jog of the journey, a cloudless, late afternoon, illuminated with bright sun.

Daisy does nothing quickly, always remains humble, but she took care of me, and as we touched down at our new home, Double Eagle, I thanked my sixty-year old airplane for her faithful service. Fabric and spruce, she had delivered me through a time capsule’s worth of technology, amid sleek business jets and modern airspace.

foothills
The terrain changed from flat Texas oil fields to sage-covered foothills

Mike was waiting at the FBO with the dogs and it was a joyful reunion, just in time for thanksgiving. As I begin a new chapter in Albuquerque, I have such abundance that I am genuinely humbled. This trip was extremely difficult for me, physically, and in turn, mentally, but it was an experience I truly wanted to see through. It was 19.7 hours of stick and rudder time and in my opinion, one of the most authentic ways to see the country in which we live. Daisy is from another era of aviation; when I fly this airplane, she forces me to slow down. With permission to live slowly, we open our eyes, our heart, and even our imagination. All of the friendly people along the way that helped get me where I needed to go reassured me that the heart of general aviation is still alive and well, and unspoken kinship still abounds. And with Daisy, I know I can go there – to a place that’s timeless.

ABQ
The final ridge before Albuquerque