Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Into the wild blue yonder (WTF is a “yonder” anyway?)

Since his earliest days in the hazy and primordial past, man (and the occasional woman too I suppose) has yearned to soar above the heads of his enemies and drop things on them from great heights.

At first, this was best accomplished by tricking his enemies into hanging out at the bottom of really tall cliffs, then pushing boulders on them, (a technique later perfected by Wile E. Coyote.) But man’s enemies soon became wise to this, (what with all of them suddenly having flat heads and developing rock-based headaches) and learned to stay away from cliffs.

For the next few million years, (or just a few thousand if you’re into the whole Intelligent Design/creationism thing) no new developments were made in the field of flying. Oh sure, there were a few experiments, but they all ended with a girlish scream and a big greasy smear on the ground.

Eventually, thanks to the hard work by such pioneers as MacGyver, man was able to better understand the world around him, and how gravity works, (something to do with static electricity and certain phases of the moon if I’m not mistaken) and the result was the 1920s era open cockpit biplane, the epitome of air travel.

This is where I come in.

Ever since that first daring escape in an open-cockpit plane (which was named C-3PO if I’m not mistaken) by Indiana Jones, I’ve yearned to ride in such a contraption. Ever since Ernie and Bert flew one to find Big Bird in that smash Sesame Street movie Follow that Bird, (of course there was a Sesame Street movie! And it was great, it had the first fully frontal nude interspecies sex scene between Big Bird and Snuffy) I’ve wanted to try my hand at getting around in such a manner. Ever since Snoopy fought the Red Baron I’ve… well, you get the idea.

So when my chance arrived I jumped on it like Oprah jumps on Stedman’s masculinity, (honestly, am I the only one who thinks that Steadman doesn’t so much have sex with Oprah as much as he is violated by her on a nightly basis? And who wouldn’t want to be, that Oprah is sexy!)

Over the weekend, my sister and I had the opportunity to ride in a 20s era biplane, (hereafter to be referred to as Mad Dog, for that is its name) somewhere in the Deliverance area of Pennsylvania. It was an experience I will never forget, (at least until my next alcohol-induced black out).

Our pilot’s name was Earl, and it looked to us as if he were a close personal friend of the Wright brothers. I’m sayin this guy was old! He was so old that he had us flying at 30 miles an hour with the left blinker on the whole time! He was so old that his tongue had liver spots! He was so old that he remembers what life was like before the Internet! But I digress. He was still a great pilot, even if he did confuse the gas pedal and the break pedal constantly.

Now, my prior experience in the army had prepared me for what I was getting into. Back when I was a soldier (remember that? I got out eight months ago! Seems like longer to me) I was in the 101st Airborne Division. We had hundreds of helicopters, Blackhawks, Chinooks, Apaches, and of course Air Wolf, we had it all. And as a journalist I rode in helicopters more than 95% of my division. There’s nothing like flying in a Blackhawk, 20 feet above the Tigris River, while the guy next to you is puking in his helmet. Ahh, the good old days.

Mad Dog wasn’t much different. With no canopy the wind and rain can easily blind even the most steely-eyed flyer. So I made sure to wear my super flaming Bono-style sunglasses. They kept the wind out of my eyes and made sure I looked fabulous! The double set of wings block a lot of the view (which is why so many of the pictures I took are of poles and props) but there’s still enough open area to really see the ground as it rushes up to you an a hundred miles an hour. Breath-taking I tell you. It was quieter than a Blackhawk but with about the same amount of leg room.

I wish I could say that something exciting and uber neat happened while we were in the air, but it didn’t. We didn’t foil any daring mid-air robberies, (and I was so hoping to catch D.B. Cooper, ah well, I was 35 years late anyway) nor did we do any barrel rolls or loop-de-loops. But no matter. The 30-minute ride was quite enjoyable and relaxing.

Join me next time when I recount my experience of riding in one of those little cars they have outside of Safeway. Now that’s a rush!

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