April 13, 2001

Gone flyin’

The usual daily minutiae:

This morning I rowed in a lightweight women’s eight, in a new boat that is actually designed for people only somewhat bigger than us (instead of for 220-pound, six-foot-three men -- in rowing, heavyweight is the default). It did set better -- that it, not much rocking from side to side. Other than that, we were terrible. My timing was better (not the case for everyone) but I could feel that my body control was off. After a bunch of short power pieces, we switched several people around and I ended up coxing (steering and calling commands, not rowing) a very mixed boat -- male, female, short, tall. I did get them to do a couple of good strokes. Later, I was able to get a good description of what I was doing wrong from another coach/rower who happened to be in the launch watching while I was rowing. I was definitely doing some weird stuff, compressing my body too far, but she had some good analyses of why I was moving so awkwardly, and pointed out that some (not all) of it was a response to other peoples’ moving awkwardly. Rowing is an odd sport -- you can only concentrate on yourself, but you depend implicitly on the others in your crew and if one person is off, it can throw off a whole boat.

I took the day off work today, because T had it off for Good Friday (his company is European-owned) and I couldn’t let him have all the fun without me. One problem with all this rowing is that it leaves us very little time for other hobbies. Specifically, neither of us has been flying much in the past year (well, ok, I haven’t flown much in the past three years and wouldn’t go up without an instructor at this point). A year or so ago, we bought a lot in an airpark, just off the runway of a private airstrip. It’s up on the Mogollon Rim, which is the edge of the Colorado plateau that bisects part of this state. As a result, though it’s only 2 hours away by car, it’s about 5000 feet higher and much cooler than the desert here.

We’d only driven there, and T has been wanting to fly up, so today we did. Since he’s also a bit rusty, and because the runway there is narrow and sloped, we took along an instructor just in case, sort of like taking life jackets in a boat. I rode along in the back seat, where my greatest challenge was staying awake. Something about the vibration and noise in the back seat of a lightplane always send me straight to sleep, but I hadn’t flown in so long that I wanted to stay awake to appreciate this trip.

Most of the flight was over mountains and pine forests. Arizona has quite a lot of both, and surprisingly little of this state is infested with humans. Every once in a while we’d pass a small town, solitary house, or rural airstrip, but I occupied myself on quite a lot of the trip deciding where would be the best place, if we had to do a forced landing right....NOW. (I wasn’t being panicky. This is the pilot’s version of defensive driving and is actually good practice.) The trip is quite bumpy, but fortunately my stomach has never entirely figured out the possible link between motion and nausea. It makes up for that by being very sensitive to food, but that’s not a topic I’ll expand on. Sorry, bad pun unintended.

Once we got to the airpark, we walked around a bit, showed the instructor our lot (he seemed impressed with the whole thing) and listened to the old guy working in the hangar next door tell stories about aerobatics in his Glasair. This is an occupational hazard of hanging around airports, but you never want to cut the old guys off becase a) they’re usually interesting and b) they all seem to have tens of thousands of hours of flying time and they know things that you would otherwise learn through unpleasant experience. If an old pilot wants to tell me something, I want to listen. (Related saying: there are old pilots and there are bold pilots, but there are no old, bold pilots.)

It was beautiful up there; the instructor had good reason to be impressed. Our neighbors there have built some large and comfortable houses/hangars that fit nicely into the terrain. If we’re lucky, we’ll be able to build on our lot sometime before we retire, 40 years or so from now. We do have a septic tank and a picnic table; we don’t get a lot of use out of the former (no plumbing to hook up to it) but I spent some very rewarding moments lying on the bench of the latter, watching tree branches moving against robin’s-egg sky. The temperature was perfect, too -- sweatshirt-and-jeans weather, no jacket needed. Today was probably the first day I’ve had that lived up to those words at the top of my page since I added them. My modus vivendi still needs work.

Posted by dichroic at April 13, 2001 07:31 PM
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