146. Taking flight

Before a few weeks ago, I had flown once in my life. Well, twice if you don’t count it as a round trip. And that was a LONG time ago…

It’s not that I am was afraid to fly. I just like to drive. Or be with people that I know very well who are driving. Road trips make me happy. It makes me feel like I have really, really travelled to get where I’m going.

I’ve been to lots of airports. But always as the person who is hugging people hello or goodbye, never as the person who is flying there and back again.

And I’ve been on road trips to lots of places — I’ve been to the tip of Nova Scotia to San Diego; from Ashland,Wisconsin to Juarez, Mexico; from Boston to Santa Fe — and because I’ve been in a car, in between I’ve seen Chicago, St. Louis, San Antonio, Big Bend, Boulder, New Orleans, Nashville, Madison… I’d always rather drive, thank you very much.

But then, my daughter moved 2,590 miles away to California.

That’s a long drive.

Google Maps tells me it takes 36 hours to get there by car and that is driving straight through, no stops. 38 hours with traffic.

And maybe in some future life, I’ll be retired with extra time; for now though, we had to fly.

We were leaving Chicago at 8:30 am and flying nonstop to Oakland, landing at 11:15. Supposedly.

At about 7:45 the announcement was made. Flight 1350 to Oakland California was delayed. We wouldn’t be leaving until noon at the earliest. It was a mechanical problem: not anything one could glibly say “Eh, just fix it and let’s get going, shall we?”

So we sat around. And sat around some more. I vaguely wondered if I should be up at the ticket counter with everyone else, jockeying for another flight, another city, another time?

The people at the desk never lost their cool and were ever so pleasant; they gave us each $100 off our next flight.

By the time we finally got on a plane–our original plane from DesMoines never was repaired; they just found us a new one somehow– it was 12:30 pm.

Our pilot apologized and added this caveat: “Our flight time is regularly 4 hours, but we’re going to get you there in two hours. Enjoy your flight.” I think he was trying to confuse us about time zones and real air time — but we did get there around 2:30 with our baggage on the right plane.

I must say the takeoff over Midway Airport in Chicago is disconcerting. People’s houses are right there and very close.

I must say the landing over Oakland Airport is disconcerting. From the little window over the wing, all one sees is water coming up very fast. I was hoping for land to appear soon.

But in between taking off and landing, it was breathtaking.

Looking down at the real topographical map of this country, watching cloud shadows, brown squares and green circles dissected by curving roads and rivers, Rocky Mountains, high desert, green mountain lakes — Mr. H. C. said I was like a kid with my nose pressed against the window the whole time.


Cloud shadows
Brighten an empty
Desolate brown moonscape.
Look far and see
A sea of clouds
Inside out
Top down.
Cloud shadows
Darken the geography of time.

Words scribbled on my phone tried to capture the awe I was feeling; photos taken with my phone were just as unsuccessful as the words.

Passengers mostly seemed unimpressed by the view out their windows. Unaware and unconcerned that we were hurtling through the clouds in a metal cylinder (albeit a brightly painted one), they were busy eating, napping, laughing, reading, laptopping…

Yes I know it was all new to me. And everyone else on the plane probably flies twice a month and finds it all boring. But it wasn’t. It was some of the most amazing landscape scenery I’ve ever seen.

from the air
It’s good to shake up those road trips every now and then.

And so I’m shaking up this road trip that I’ve been on for awhile. I’m taking a break from blogging in November to participate in NaNoWriMo. Don’t know how far I’ll get, but flying is definitely faster than driving…


16 thoughts on “146. Taking flight

  1. The last photo taken from the plane looks like a cool jigsaw puzzle or some kind of mosaic. Very cool. I recently took a plane trip and I have to say that even though I’ve done this a few times before, I love to look at the topography as we are taking off and landing. Unlike your anxiousness about the water below, I love to see the waters of Lake Michigan as I fly into Milwaukee. It tells me I’m home. Much like you, I prefer road trips with friends. It always creates good conversation, laughter and sights you don’t see from the air. And the snacks in the car are much better than what you get on the airplane.

    Enjoy your November novel writing and 30 days of creative success to you.


  2. I flew for the first time last April. We have ALWAYS taken road trips – I am sure you remember me telling about our experiences! But Tom and Betsy live in Fort Worth and so we flew to visit. It was breathtaking! I also had my nose pressed on the window most of the time. The grass was brown when we left Cleveland and green when I woke up from a nap!!! So nice to see green grass. The things we do to visit our dear children! It is amazing to view the topography of this fantastic continent! Enjoy your November. But we will all miss your blogs.


    • I didn’t know they lived in Ft. Worth! It’s terrible to have kids so far away…
      The most frustrating thing was I wanted to know what I was seeing. Was that the Great Salt Lake? Which mountains? And we passed over a most extraordinary giant round structure with spokes radiating out from the middle– in the middle of the desert! Area 51? :-) Next time I’m paying for WIFI location services.


  3. Yes, flying into Oakland and seeing nothing but water is unnerving. Across the bay at SFO, you are not only over the water, but they land two planes at about the same time on parallel runways. I’m with you on the road trip. On my last business trip, I could drive or fly to Los Angeles. My co-worker’s actual travel time, home to hotel, was 5 hours to fly. My drive time was five hours. Plus I had transportation during the week long class and was not searched.


    • Yes! We flew out of SFO and we watched from our plane window on the tarmac two planes looking for all the world like they were going to crash. I thought about you while we were there, friend. But even if we’d had our car, we would have likely been afraid to drive. Luckily we had a CA. native as our tour guide and chauffeur.


  4. I love that you’re doing this! Oh, how I hope that we get to see the fruits of your labor! Flights always amaze me. The fact that we are flying in a silver tube of metal and glass and plastic and turbine engines… It’s dizzying to my mind. And, to look below and see the beauty from a different perspective is surreal. Go write ‘Em!


  5. Love the pictures. While we lived in AZ, we flew a lot but I always had my nose pressed up against the window when I could. Love the pictures!


  6. I fly all the time and that photo of the landscape with the farms and streams is absolutely breathtaking! Beautiful! Welcome back. Was wondering about your blog just the other day. Nice to see you!


  7. I just learned about NaNoWriMo. Sounds kind of fun. Maybe next year… I hope you muse is being generous.

    For many years I flew at least twice a week, often more. I spent way too much time on airplanes. Now I’ve flown only once in the last 4 years. Much better. :)

    But even when I flew that much, I usually took a window seat. I always liked looking out the window. And, it’s easier to sleep in that seat. :)


    • Yes. I realize that we had beautiful sunny days to look out below. Even on the flight back there was a 30 minute period where the cloud cover obscured the view.
      A friend of mine just took a two hour flight that was extended to 15 hours on the ground because of storms — reminding me why I like driving. 😀
      And today it’s raining and I have a short to do list, so I’m hoping to accumulate some thoughts and words. Thanks.


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