Archive for October, 2004

Back to Flying, ever?

22 October 2004 at 11:48 am
by Berck

Scheduling flights in is proving to be a major headache. I haven’t flown in the month of October. I intended to take a week-long break, but it’s turning into permanent retirement.

When I called my instructor on Wednesday morning, he said the earliest he could get me in was Friday at 4pm. It’s Friday around noon, and the OKC Terminal Aerodrome Forecast isn’t pretty. In fact, just to annoy Sydney, I think I’ll subject you guys to it.


That means that from 3pm-7pm they’re predicting 3 miles visibility, thunderstorms and rain, mist and an overcast layer of cumulonimbus clouds at 2,000ft. So I don’t think I’m going anywhere today.

I’m on the schedule for tomorrow at noon, and possibly Sunday as well.

All these flights are solos. Ought to be fun since I haven’t flown in several weeks, and have only flown solo once in the last 3 months or so.

All I’m really worried about is getting lost. I don’t know why, but finding my way around just by looking at a sectional in the middle of Oklahoma scares me. It all looks the same.

I think that tomorrow I’ll fly to Stillwater, which is north of OKC, so I’ll be in fairly populated areas which means lots of landmarks. The tricky thing about that is that I have no idea how OKC approach will route me since the direct course goes right over Tinker AFB. And in the middle of the day, that’s not usually permitted, at least not at 5,000 feet or so.

There’s a VFR corridor through the OKC/Tinker airspace, but you have to remain below 2,500ft in it. And there are 2,000 ft towers at the end of it. I don’t much like being that close to big scary-looking towers.

It’s funny, I’m an instrument rated private pilot and a big baby when it comes to VFR navigation. Instrument flying is so nice because I don’t have any trouble knowing where I am. Most people are actually just the opposite– they’re leery of instrument navigation but have no problem looking at a collection of buildings that looks just like every other collection of buildings and saying, “That’s the town of Dibble.”

I’m also annoyed that I sit at home all day while wifey works, and it seems like the only time I can fly is when she’s home.


20 October 2004 at 5:19 pm
by Berck

Public bathroom graffiti intrigues me. I’m not the only one. The graffiti in women’s restrooms are typically better, I hear, but I don’t get to see much of it.

I’m not sure why people feel compelled to scrawl on bathroom walls. There are lots of theories, and more than one post-graduate has attempted to study the phenomenon. In a public restroom at a gas station, the owners had hung a sheet of butcher paper titled, “Write Here!” The sheet of paper was covered in scrawling, but the bathroom walls were clean. A novel idea.

Political graffiti seems to be common these days. Somewhere in the plains, I saw a bit of graffiti that seemed to say it all.

“John Cary
is a

Someone had inserted “smart” just before “mother”.

I fear for what’s left of our county.

Geographical Displacement Continues

18 October 2004 at 5:55 pm
by Berck

So I’m back in Chicago. And, you’ve got it, not for long. I’ll be leaving in the morning to get back to a more stationary life in Oklahoma. At least for a little bit.

It seems that I left off somewhere around LAX. I’d paid for a “ShuperShuttle” reservation the night before. I’d never really used them before, so I wasn’t sure how it worked. I eventually found their agent on the “traffic island” and told her I had a reservation. After about half an hour, she told me to get into one of the many vans that drove by. I gave the driver the address, and he looked it up in a Mapsco. And then we drove around the airport for another half hour collecting other people. That done, we departed on a grand tour of the greater LA area. He dropped everyone else off before driving up the mountain. I suspected that finding the body shop with the Miata was going to be difficult, but he managed with no difficulties.

The place was closed for lunch. I put my backpack down and sat on it. Eventually a clean, rather modified, early 80’s Porsche 911 drove up with two mechanics. They said that they didn’t have the key to the office, but that I might want to go next door for lunch at the malt shop. So I did.

I had a very good burger as well as a milkshake and headed back to the body shop. They turned over the car with a minimum of fuss. I stopped at Carol Ann’s to pick up what few things I could fit in the Miata and started driving east.

When I started getting tired, I called Joanna and asked if she could find me a cheap place to stay for the night. She got me reservations at a Motel 6 in Tempe, AZ. Having a navigator on the other end of a telephone line is useful, though not as good as having one right there with you.

The Motel 6 couldn’t find my reservation. There was one woman working there, and she didn’t know what to do. After pleading that surely there was someone she could call, she called someone. Who told her to check me in and worry about matching the room to my reservation later.

I slept soundly and got up about the same time as the sun and kept driving east.

It seemed to be a nearly endless drive. The desert goes on and only changes form every so slightly over many hundreds of miles. It’s beautiful, but I had no one to share it with. Of all places, I desperately wanted to be in Norman, OK. I drove on and on listening to NPR where I could get it, recorded episodes of This American Life where I could not. There were lots of public radio stations on the drive, but most of them seemed perpetually out of reach. I wanted to stop at an In-N-Out. I was sure that I would find one in Arizona for lunch, but it didn’t happen.

It rained off and on. At some point Joanna called and asked where I was. I thought it was New Mexico, but it might have been Texas. The question seemed terribly unimportant as though all that mattered was that there was desert. And not much else.

It’s nice to have a home and to come home to it.

After enjoying the rest of the weekend with Joanna and fixing the car, I set off for Nashville on Tuesday morning.

While driving through Oklahoma City, I got stuck in an exit-only lane that’s not well marked. It says “Left Exit” but doesn’t say “Left Exit Only”. There was a line of trucks and it looked like I was going to be forced off. But, just at the last minute, I noticed a space in front of the trucks, which I could just make. I accelerated and changed lanes just as my lane exited. Not two seconds after changing into my new lane, a woman on the right side of the trucks changed lanes. Into my lane. My being in the lane didn’t seem to faze her.

Because the car doesn’t have ABS, I locked up the tires braking while simultaneously leaving her as much room as possible. Because the lane I’d just changed from had disappeared, I’d left myself with no options. So she hit the front right corner of the car knocking it a little sideways.

I slid for awhile, managed to straighten the car, get it under control and bring it to a stop on the grass.

The woman who hit me got out of her car apologizing profusely, which probably would have helped my case had I decided to fight about it. While the accident was definitely her fault, I was certainly a contributing factor. I’m not sure how police/insurance would finally decide about it. Her car had a scrape and some paint damage. The Miata had a not-insignificant dent on the front right fender, baseball sized. Since I have no accidents on my record and really, really don’t want any, even if one that might not be my fault, I asked her if it was okay if we didn’t call the police. Even in the best case scenario, we were both going to be facing an insurance premium hike, which seemed stupid. So we shook hands, and on we went.

This wouldn’t be a big deal at all if it were my car, which is already dinged, and well, mine. Dad had already sold the car to a friend of his. Furthermore, the car had just come out of the body shop because someone had hit it in a parking lot.

I went ahead and drove to Nashville, and the car was in the body shop when I left.

The folks who’d purchased the car were actually on their way to Chicago from Georgia and were passing through Nashville. They picked me up in their RV-thing, and took me to Chicago. They were planning on picking up the Miata on their way back from Chicago, but I have no idea if the body shop had finished by then or not. I managed to sleep a little bit in the night but certainly not well.

They dropped me off at a suburban Metra train station, which took me right to the loop. It was an early morning commuter train, everyone going to work but me.

I arrived at the Loop in something of a daze, not really sure where I was. When I figured it out, I tried to buy a fare card so I could get to Sydney’s. Only all I had was a $20 bill and $1.65 in change. It’s a $1.75 fare, and the machine doesn’t make change– it merely gives you a fare card for whatever money you put in it. I bummed a dime from a helpful CTA employee, reflecting that I probably could have gotten on the train for a dime once upon a time.

When I got to Sydney’s, we got in the car and drove. 960 miles to the western edge of North Dakota. This is definitely one of the weirder things I’ve done. And I’ll have to write about it some other time.

Now I have to decide if I should take the State bus to meet Sydney at work or the Red line. And tomorrow I’m driving home. And plan to stay there awhile.

Rhyme of the Ancient Navigator

16 October 2004 at 8:22 pm
by Jonah

Well, I did go to bed early Thursday night. Before I had fallen asleep, Berck called. He and Sydney were stuck in traffic because of a wreck up ahead, and Berck had to pee. So he didn’t talk to me very long before throwing shame to the wind and stepping out of the car and into the bushes to do what the whole line of cars watching him knew he would be doing. (Perhaps with a little envy).

An hour later or so, I was sound asleep when my phone rang again. It was Sydney this time, asking if I could give them some directions. The wreck had actually been a guy locked in his car with a gun, threatening to commit suicide. A wreck could have been moved out of the way, but this was blocking traffic for hours. So everyone headed off the interstate and onto county roads.

The problem with county roads is that they often don’t show up on road atlases. Berck’s laptop had given up the ghost earlier in the day. So Berck contacted his navigator, who happened to be at home asleep in bed. My computer was turned off, too, and I can only use the mouse on his. While I was booting up, they lost signal, which gave me a little time to wake up and try to figure out where they were (a certain interstate exit in eastern North Dakota; do you know how difficult it is to figure out exit numbers in Mapquest?)

After getting connected and disconnected a couple of times, we finally determined that they were heading the right direction and would get back to the interstate soon. Berck took the phone then and thanked me.

“Uh huh.”

“Are you mad at me?”

“No, I’m just sleepy.”

But then, of course, I couldn’t go back to sleep.

Today he called again. Sydney’s friend’s friend wanted to go to Wal-Mart to buy some ammo for his Glock. Berck drove him into town so he could call me. It sounds like they’re having a fun time.

But it’s really cold. It’s supposed to snow tomorrow.

The weather here is beautiful. It gets down into the forties at night, then the sun shines all day and it warms up to shirt sleeve weather.

Where’s Waldo?

14 October 2004 at 6:40 pm
by Jonah

Berck left a message on my phone around 11 a.m. this morning telling me to call him.

I don’t check my messages until I get off work at 3:30, so I gave him a call then but got his voice mail. He called me back about the time I got home.

“Well,” he said, “I’m in Minneapolis.”

The first thought that crossed my mind was that the motorhome took a wrong turn. And a pretty big one at that.

“What are you doing in Minneapolis?”

“I’m driving to Montana.”

Apparently, as soon as Berck arrived in Chicago early this morning, his sister Sydney told him they were going to Seattle to visit someone. When Berck explained that it would take three days to drive there and a good four hundred dollars in gas, she and her friend agreed to meet halfway somewhere in Montana. Berck is just going along for the ride, because he can’t very well return to OKC while Sydney is borrowing her car back for the weekend. That and he told me, “I had someone to drive around the country with when I was nineteen, and it seems like Sydney should too.”

So the new ETA for my honey is Tuesday night.

But I’ll believe that when I see it.

He sounded pretty groggy on the phone, having gotten next to no sleep in the motorhome. I’m hoping he’ll keep his part of the driving to an advisory role.

I’m not nearly as sleepy as my honey, but all I want to do right now is go to bed. And it’s only six-thirty, and the sun hasn’t set, but hey, I bet I can sleep for eleven hours…