Thursday, October 15, 2015

Flying the Canyon

As you read this, Lana and I are on a cruise with my sister Patti and her husband Mark. We booked this cruise about a year ago and have been looking forward to it for quite some time, but due to some current events, we are definitely ready for it. If you have never been on a cruise, you really should go. For us, it is the best way to relax. For some people, it is too confining. I get it. I do a lot of writing and reading.

As promised, I turn my thoughts and writings back to more uplifting topics. As I was thinking about this cruise, I couldn’t help but think of all the weird, strange things and trips we have done over the years. Granted we are pretty normal people and don’t go out of the way to visit the world’s biggest ball of yarn or something, but we have done a few adventurous things.

Back in the 80’s, I was very much into bowling and was very good. Lana and I traveled with some friends around the country to some national tournaments. We would find ourselves in Vegas a lot. One year when we were in Vegas, Lana and I and one friend decided to take a plane ride to the Grand Canyon. The plane was a small twin engine, six passenger piston powered platform of fun.

My father was a pilot in the Air Force and had owned a small plane when I was a kid, so I was used to planes and loved them. I should mention that Lana had been married before being married to me and he took lessons and ended up with a pilot’s license, and she went up with him, so she had been up in a small plane a few times.

Now that being said, the advertisement for the ride said the ride would take us BELOW the rim of the canyon for an extended period of time. Again, this was the mid 80’s. About a year after we did this ride a plane crashed into the wall of the canyon and rides like ours were stopped, and to this day, scenic rides are only permitted OVER the top of the canyon.

Since we have been married, Lana and I rent a car no matter where we are. That may sound normal to you, but to some of the people in the bowling community, not so much. Cabs and shuttle buses are where it is at with most of them. When they find out you have a car, watch out. It then becomes a comic scene unto its own. Lets see how many people and bowling bags we can get into YOUR subcompact.

On the day of the flight, our bowling friend, Lana, and I loaded into the car and headed to the local little municipal airport north of Vegas. Soon we loaded into the plane with our cameras. That’s right. Cameras. That was before phones. We had real cameras with real film in them.  The cameras were HEAVY and had LENSES. You had to change the lenses and had to change the film. Then you had to take the film to a store where they magically turned the film into PICTURES on PAPER.  WOW!!  And it didn’t happen in thirty seconds either. You dropped off the film and forgot about it and came back a FEW days later.

I digress. We took off. Our friend was up front next to the pilot. Lana took the middle two seats, and I took the back two seats. About thirty minutes later we came upon the canyon. The pilot descended and announced there would be turbulence as we went over the rim. We all started clicking off pictures. The views were spectacular.

I was too restricted. I unfastened my seat belt. I wanted to be able to move from side to side to snap off photos as I chose. I could see Lana smiling and firing pictures as well. The pilot pushed the wheel over and we dove over the rim. Wow, what views! Five thousand feet to the bottom. So many different colors along the walls radiating from the sun back at us, and then...wham! My head slammed off the ceiling of the plane about three times and the pilot pulled a hard left turn as he banked through the canyon first left and then right. I slammed from side to side until I managed to wedge my feet against one side. I looked out the front windshield to get an idea of where he was going to anticipate his moves.  I fired off some pictures and moved around from one side to the other.  Lana looked back at me and I handed her my camera so I could fasten my seat belt.  She gave me that wife look of “dumbass”, and handed my camera back to me.  My head was killing me as well as one shoulder.  I didn’t care. This was a ride of a lifetime.

We rode through the canyon, banking left and right, clicking off photos like mad for fifteen minutes. As fast as it started, the pilot, leveled the wings and pulled back the wheel, and just like that, we were above the canyon rim, looking down on God’s great creation.

Our three mouths never stopped talking the rest of the trip to anyone who would listen about our adventure. It was truly the greatest plane ride I have ever taken. I’m glad Lana was with me.

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