Posts tagged flying
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Discovery Channel is currently airing a show on Friday nights called Flying Wild Alaska. It’s a really interesting show in its own right, but Jose and I are particularly interested because it follows a family that lives in Unalakleet — a tiny, tiny village on the west coast of Alaska that just happens to be the hometown of Jose’s good friend Meryl. (It was Meryl’s wedding that took us to Alaska — though not Unalakleet — in 2008.)
It’s crazy to think that I know someone who grew up on what’s basically the modern day equivalent of the frontier. You can’t get there by road — only by airplane or snowmobile. And the winters there have to be CRAZY cold.
The Christmas decorations went up at JSC over the weekend. I noticed this as I drove in with my windows down, because it is almost 80 degrees outside. Yep, feels like Christmas to me…
I saw a couple houses decked out in lights as we came home from dinner on Saturday night. It must have been a weekend project for a lot of our neighbors. It’s a weekend project for me too — only it’s on the list for NEXT weekend. I will admit that I’m anxious to decorate for Christmas myself — I like decorating the house — but I will hold off until after Thanksgiving. Other people in our neighborhood do not buy in to that “wait till Thanksgiving” mentality.
We were supposed to go flying yesterday. The original plan was to meet up with Jason and Becca in Victoria and have lunch, but the winds in Victoria were pretty strong. So we decided to fly down to Galveston instead so Jose would still be able to practice talking to the tower, but when we got to the airport in Pearland, we found that the winds were pretty strong HERE as well. You wouldn’t think that winds would be a big problem, but if they’re blowing perpendicular to the runway, it’s an issue. We ended up not going anywhere. As Jose said: “I’d rather be down here wishing I was up there than up there wishing I was down here.” (That’s a commonly quoted aviation truism. Another of my favorites? “There are old pilots and there are bold pilots, but there are no old, bold pilots.”)
The warm weather made for a rough long run yesterday. I had planned to go 14 miles, but I ran out of time (since we had to leave for the airport at 9:30) and out of energy. Around the 7-mile mark, I passed John who was also out for a run. He was on the other side of the street but he waved, so I waved — but it wasn’t until he was past me that I realized that I KNEW him, and he wasn’t just another neighborhood runner. When I got to the 10-mile mark, I called it a day. I finished with 10.5 miles. It wrecked me for most of the day — I felt worse yesterday than I did after my 12 miles a couple weeks ago — and those 12 miles were done faster too. Oh well. Next weekend I’m going to do 12 miles, then do a mild taper before the RunGirl half on December 12. I’m not sure what my goal for that race is. On a flat course, I’d be aiming for the 2:15-2:18 range — knocking on the door of my 2:15 PR. But the course is hilly — at least hilly for Houston — and I don’t know how much that will affect me.
This weekend was the annual Wings Over Houston airshow at Ellington Field. We went on Saturday, but I haven’t downloaded my photos yet, so for now you can enjoy this iPhone photo of me inside the wheel well of a B-52 bomber. After some really lovely weather early in the month, it’s gotten hot again — yesterday’s high was 90, only 2 degrees off the record. But it’s not as bad as August, and the clouds and stiff breeze kept it comfortable enough.
Jose and I actually debated whether to go at all this year, despite the fact that we already had one free ticket. The traffic gets pretty bad over there, and the lineup of acts hasn’t really changed in years. I love airplanes, but it’d be nice to see them shake up the schedule a bit. (And frankly, I’m totally over the whole “air power” demo that takes up about 2 hours in the middle of the show each year. I’ve seen it a lot, and didn’t feel like running through the aerial history of every war since WWII again.) We finally decided to show up really late, just before 2:00 — and this worked out rather well, since by that time there was NO traffic and we were able to breeze right into the parking lots. We saw the F-18 demo, Sean D. Tucker’s always awesome aerobatic performance, and the USAF Thunderbirds. Then, while everyone ran for the exits after the Thunderbirds, we wandered around the static displays for a while. We didn’t leave until they kicked us out just before 6:00, at which point the traffic had already died down again! Perfect timing!
Yesterday was a more relaxing day. I started my 7-mile run around 9:00 which turned out to be a big mistake — it was HOT. I finished the miles without a problem, at a slightly slower pace than my recent long runs, but at least I finished. I’m really glad it was a cut-back week and I’m crossing my fingers that cooler weather will return before my 12-miler next weekend!
So I can’t lie: I love random government holidays like Columbus Day that give me a three-day weekend in the middle of October when the weather is gorgeous! This was pretty much the best weekend ever. Or at least in a long time.
On Saturday we hit the Bayou City Art Festival downtown. We’ve been looking for something to put above our fireplace since we moved into the house, but found nothing at the art festival last year or in the time since. This year, we finally found something that we both liked and seemed to fit our personalities! It’s a canvas print by Texas artist Chris Smith. He creates hand-drawn maps and other historical illustrations. I actually remember admiring his work last year because I LOVE maps — but I also remember thinking “if only he did some maps of something other than Texas.” I wasn’t quite ready to put a giant map of the Texas Revolution on my wall just yet…
Apparently, I am now ready. I’ve been living in Texas longer than anywhere but North Carolina, where I grew up. I’m married to a native Texan. I don’t see myself leaving Texas anytime soon, so my kids will be probably be Texans. And Texas DOES have some truly crazy state history!
So now we have a giant map of the Texas Revolution hanging over the fireplace! It really is a super cool piece of artwork, and reminds me a lot of a hand-drawn map of the UNC campus that my mom has hanging in the kitchen at home. I loved looking at that. Heck, I love all maps in general. We were talking to the artist as we decided which print to get, and asked him why he decided to draw maps. He said something like “well, as a kid I always loved looking at maps. I’d spend car trips paging through the road atlas to follow along with where we were. I couldn’t get enough, and drawing them seemed like a fun niche that no one else was filling.” I totally understood what he was saying.
Once we got it home I was hesitant to hang it above the fireplace since at that height, you can’t get up close and personal to really appreciate all the detail. But it does look pretty awesome.
I ran the USA 10-Miler on Sunday morning, and we spent that afternoon waiting for a man with a tree! We bought a crape myrtle from Maas Nursery last weekend and arranged to have it delivered since it was too big to fit in the back of my Xterra. They arrived on Sunday and 20 minutes later, we had a tree in our backyard! It is actually a gift from my mom, so thanks Mom! We went to the nursery over the summer when my parents were in town, but they said fall was the best time to plant trees around here, so we waited. It looks great, although I don’t know if it will flower anymore this year. It’s the “Tuscarora” variety, so it should have dark pink flowers; I can’t wait to see it in the spring!
While at the nursery, we also bought a satsuma tree. (They’re similar to mandarin oranges.) We watched carefully as the delivery guys planted the crape myrtle so we’d know what to do with the satsuma tree. We also bought a hibiscus, which I know will grow like crazy if the other hibiscus I’ve seen around here is any example. We put the hibiscus next to the crape myrtle, and planted the satsuma in the other corner of the yard. They said the satsuma will be more round, and we should plant it farther from the fence than the crape myrtle. Hopefully that is a good spot for it!
I love our new plants! As I keep telling people: I don’t really have a green thumb, but I WANT to have one. Cross your fingers for me!
We topped off Sunday with dinner at Maggiano’s for Jen’s birthday. There was SO MUCH FOOD. And it was all really good. (Let’s just say it was a really good thing I’d run 10 miles that morning!!)
We spent Columbus Day flying to Brenham for a “$100 hamburger” at the 50s diner at the airport. It was a great day for flying with lots of puffy, cottony clouds to admire. Unfortunately the clouds meant that things were a little bumpy, and I didn’t feel very good on the flight up. But with a yummy burger in my stomach, I felt just fine on the return trip — I even took a video where you finally get to see Jose actually flying the plane. (Side note: propellers show up really strangely on iPhone video.) Jose passed 100 hours of flying time on the way up there! And he taught me how to taxi the plane (difficult) and let me make a call on the radio (fun)! It was the perfect thing to do on our day off work.
And, as if all those fun activities weren’t enough, Jose decided to make a pumpkin pie last night! He found a small “pie pumpkin” at the grocery store on Sunday which actually proved to be enough pumpkin for TWO pies. (If you would like some pie, please come to my house and eat some so we don’t get fat all by ourselves.) It is a very tasty pie.
Husbands who bake pies? Highly recommended.
Three day weekends? Three thumbs up.
Hooray for Friday and the three-day weekend that lies ahead. (Thank you for the day off, Christopher Columbus.) It’s been a weird week, for reasons I don’t fully understand and can’t explain. I feel just OFF somehow, both physically and mentally.
I’m chalking up the physical to random allergies. I never had allergies growing up, but in recent years I do notice that I sneeze more often and my eyes itch. Ever since the weather cooled off two weeks ago, I’ve been sneezing like crazy and my eyes have been itching. Last week, I thought I was coming down with a cold because my nose was stuffed and my throat was sore, but nothing materialized. The cold-like symptoms continue. My eyes were bothering me so much last night that I had to switch to my glasses for the evening. Coworkers tell me it’s ragweed. Joy.
It’s been a busy week. On Tuesday, Jose and I went downtown to hear Richard Dawkins give a talk at the Wortham Center. He’s a famous evolutionary biologist and has written many books about evolution and natural selection. (Although these days he may be better known for being an outspoken atheist. Because of that, he’s a bit controversial especially in a state like Texas.) Our tickets included a pre-talk reception where we got to talk to Mr. Dawkins briefly. Everyone got a signed copy of his latest book, “The Greatest Show on Earth,” but Jose brought along his favorite one, “The Blind Watchmaker,” which he also got signed. The talk itself was good, and the question and answer session that followed was even better. It was a fun night.
On Wednesday, we took advantage of the continued fantastic weather and went flying after work. Jose wanted to do a few landings and I was just along for the ride. We flew around the pattern once, then headed south towards Angleton for a while. A T-38 passed us heading in the opposite direction, towards Ellington, I assume. I’m usually a pretty good “pilot’s assistant” — a job that involves listening to radio traffic and keeping my eyes open for other planes in the area — but on Wednesday I spent the whole time watching the ground pass below us. It’s always interesting to me to see what kind of patterns are down there. Roads wind in strange directions, giant houses sit on big open lots in the countryside, container ships leave long wakes in the gulf, rivers and bayous and marshes reflect the sunlight. It was very peaceful to be up there as the sun started to set. Despite the abundance of pilots in my group of friends, I still don’t have any real interest in learning how to fly myself…but I do LOVE being a passenger.
It was a fabulous weekend with fabulous weather. On Saturday we took full advantage and went on a flying adventure to Fayette County airport just outside La Grange, Texas. (For those wishing to get their bearings, La Grange is about 2/3 of the way from Houston to Austin. It’d be a 2 hour drive, but was less than an hour’s flight in a small plane.) Every so often, the airport hosts a fly-in and BBQ. Lots of people fly there so you can admire a variety of airplanes, and $7 gets you a plate of BBQ and sides that was actually pretty darn tasty!
Takeoff from Polly Ranch
Jose had reserved one of the aero club planes that had been “down for maintenance” all week. (The front passenger seat needed to be fixed.) It was supposed to be fixed by Friday, but of course it wasn’t, so on Friday afternoon we were without a plane. So instead of Jose flying us there, we both rode along with his flight instructor, Jeff, and Jeff’s wife. They have a cool Cessna 205, a six-seat airplane that is both larger and faster than the planes Jose flies. It was a really comfortable ride!
They live in a neighborhood called Polly Ranch. It’s a fly-in community — there are 30-40 hours lining either side of a small runway! I knew it was there, but had never seen it until Saturday. The houses all look normal from the street, but if you peek between them, you notice some very large garages behind each house. Of course it’s not actually a garage — it’s a hangar!
Jeff takes very good care of his airplanes, and the windows are very clear with a minimum of scratches (unlike most of the aero club airplanes). This made for much better pictures, since I didn’t have to shoot through dinged-up windows!
Polly Ranch is very close to the Pearland airport where we usually take off from, so I was able to get this nice shot of Pearland as we passed by on our way to the bbq.
There’s a cluster of VERY tall radio towers just east of Sugar Land. We were probably flying at around 2000 feet when I took this photo, and you can see that the towers are even higher than that. You can tell this since the top of the tower is above the horizon. When you’re flying, the general rule is that anything below the horizon is below you, and anything above is above you! If you see another plane near the horizon, you better keep an eye on it because they’re at the same altitude that you are! (FYI — I just looked it up, and those towers are 2049 feet tall. Or, as Becca put it, “plane-destroying tall.”)
We eventually climbed all the way up to 5500 feet, which might be higher than I’ve ever been in a small plane like this. (When we go flying just in the general Clear Lake area, it doesn’t make sense to waste the gas to climb that high.) It sounds obvious, but being up higher really does make a difference. I could see for miles since there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. It was hazy, but not nearly as bad as the usual summertime haze.
If you’ve ever taken the I10-to-Highway-71 route to Austin (which is how I usually go), you might recognize this big power plant. It’s just off Highway 71 near La Grange. I had never seen it from the air, but there it is! You can even see the highway in the foreground.
Can you spot the airplane in this picture? (And no, I don’t mean the wing strut of the plane I was in.) In the middle almost 1/3 of the way up from the bottom is a tiny white airplane. That’s where Becca, Jason and Debbie were! They took off ahead of us (and from a different airport) because they were in a slower plane, but we caught up to them right as we got to Fayette County. They passed underneath us as a half-dozen planes started maneuvering to get into the landing pattern. It was kind of hectic! These small airports don’t have air traffic control towers, so it’s up to the pilots themselves to keep track of where everyone is and space themselves out accordingly.
We ate lunch and admired the planes. Here’s Jose with Debby Rihn-Harvey‘s aerobatic airplane. She’s a three-time US aerobatic champion who lives here in Houston!
She took off and flew an impromptu airshow for us after lunch. That was pretty cool, to put it mildly. Wish I’d had my telephoto lens!
It was a little less hazy when we started descending on our way back to Houston after the fly-in, and Jose snapped this nice picture of downtown in the distance. I’m not entirely sure, but I think that’s I-10 that you can trace all the way into the city.
Here’s the full set of pictures from the day!
Back at the end of April, we had our last gasp of absolutely gorgeous weather, with low humidity and crystal clear skies. One Wednesday after work, Jose and I decided to thoroughly enjoy the evening from the air, so we went flying! I’m late posting these photos, but better late than never! It was just a short jaunt around the Clear Lake area, but it was lots of fun. I hadn’t been in a small plane in months, and it’d been a year since Jose flew me anywhere. Crazy, right? He took an unintentional break from flying after we got married last year — not my fault! I’m not one of “those” wives! — because we were busy with the house and various other things, but he brushed up on everything this spring and is back in the saddle. Or pilot’s seat, to be accurate.
We flew right over our neighborhood and were able to see our house from the air for the first time! If you click over to the Flickr page, I put a note showing where it is.
It was just as nice a night for sailing as it was for flying, and we could see the white dots of sails all over Clear Lake. As far as I know, they still have sailing races there on Wednesdays, so I’m sure that was the reason.
Even the interstate and massive shopping center at FM646 looked pretty in the clear light and setting sun.
As we headed back to the airport, we passed over our neighborhood one more time. I like how the hills on the golf course left shadows everywhere. That golf course runs through the middle of our entire neighborhood. Sadly, we do not have a golf course view.
The landing pattern for Clover Field always gives the passenger (me!) a great view of downtown Houston. Most of the time it’s hazy, but on this day it was clear, and everything from downtown to the Galleria was visible on the horizon.
It’s so hot now, even early in the morning, that I don’t know if I will go flying much more this summer. The heat makes me feel a little airsick. If only our weather was always as nice as it was in April!