Monday, August 19, 2013

A Summer Away

A week ago, an anonymous commenter to my previous post asked if I am still blogging. I can see why he asked the question - I haven't posted in two months, and I did recently start writing for a major aviation magazine (as well as several smaller publications). But no, I fully intend to keep blogging as well. I just simply was not around much this summer. At the moment, I'm enjoying a nice quiet Saturday at home. By my count, it's the fourth full day I've spent in Minnesota since mid-June, and maybe the tenth since the beginning of May. It's been the busiest summer of my life, and Dawn and I have been having some grand adventures.

In early May, Dawn graduated with her master's degree in education, ending the travel moratorium she had imposed on herself for 18 months while she read textbooks, completed assignments, and wrote papers on top of an already full teaching schedule. A few days after the ceremony, we flew out to North Carolina, where I had purchased her a Yamaha FZ6R motorcycle, and me a Honda CBR-600F4i. Inspired by my success buying and selling the DRZ400 for my Baja trip, I found the bikes cheap on Raleigh and Charlotte craigslists, with the plan of selling them once our east coast riding is complete. We started off with four fantastic days of riding some of North Carolina and Tennessee's most scenic, most challenging roads, like Moonshiner 28, the Cherohala Skyway, the Tail of the Dragon, and the southernmost section of the Blue Ridge Parkway.

A few weeks later I came back out with my dad, who rode Dawn's bike (his first experience on a sport bike; he loved it) and covered much of the same territory. This was my fourth time on many of these roads, having crossed them twice during my round-the-country ride in 2010. And then in June, Dawn and I rode the rest of the Blue Ridge Parkway as well as Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park with our friends Brad & Amber, who rode Brad's most recent ebay purchase, a Suzuki VStrom. Dawn and I stashed our bikes near Washington's Dulles airport, where they're still sitting until I get the time to go out and sell them; Brad sold his bike the very same day, a half hour before his flight departed, in true Brad fashion.

The next week, we flew to Ireland for ten days. Dawn's extended family, who has Irish roots, was there on a big trip. There were 24 in all, including her mom and dad, aunts and uncles, and several cousins. They reserved blocks of hotel rooms and were traveling around by coach bus, which sounded pretty hellish to me, but Dawn wanted to take advantage of the rare opportunity to travel with her parents, so we hit upon a compromise. We rented our own car and stayed in B&Bs on an itinerary that paralleled the big group's route, allowing us to occasionally meet up with them for activities, dinners, and pints at the local pubs. It worked splendidly. Ireland was as beautiful as ever, the people still wonderfully friendly, the roads dangerously fun, the music excellent, the beer tasty, and even the weather was shockingly cooperative. It would have been a good trip without the family there, but their presence made it a really memorable one. Despite my expectations, everyone was still on speaking terms by trip's end, and while I've always got along great with Dawn's family, I got to know several of them much better. Getting home was a bit of a pain; we ended up going through London to catch a five hour delayed flight, then spent an entire day picking our way home from New York.

And then, in July and August, the main event: the most ambitious trip we've ever taken and probably the last big one in a while, a four week journey through South Africa, Botswana, & Zimbabwe. I'll actually be writing a few separate photo-posts on this one. The short version is: we nonrevved to Johannesburg through Amsterdam, bought tickets to Cape Town, rented a car for 9 days up the coast to Durban, took the train back to Joburg, rented a fully tricked out Land Rover for 16 days spent on self-drive safaris through Kruger National Park and Botswana's Moremi Game Reserve & Chobe National Park, crossed over to Victoria Falls, and returned through Zimbabwe in the wake of their recent contested election. It was the trip of a lifetime, at least until the next trip of a lifetime.

How did I get all this time off? Surprisingly, only one week of vacation was involved, in late July. Otherwise I just bid very efficient pairings all bunched up in early June, early July, and late August. This wouldn't be possible if not for my current high seniority level. The reason I say it will be our last big trip in a while is due to some news I got while on the trip: WidgetCo has announced they will begin their long-awaited pilot hiring in November, NewCo flows will start in December or January, and I can expect to be in class in January or February. Nothing's set in stone, obviously, so I'm trying not to count any pre-hatched chickens...but regardless, it's very welcome news, even if my new-found juniority will inhibit big trips for a while.

Here's some other cool news: I wrote another article for Flying Magazine, included in the September issue, on newsstands now. It's titled "Life & Death Flying the Owens Valley," and long-time blog readers will recognize it as an expanded retelling of an old post on here, "Life and Death on Amflight 132." The opportunity to write a second article was due to the overwhelming positive feedback from my first article, and I suspect I have a few of you to thank for that - so thanks! You'll see more of my writing in Flying in a few months, more on that later.

So now - it's time to pay the piper with a busy work schedule for the rest of August, to mention nothing of playing catchup with friends & family and enjoying what little remains of our short Minnesota summer. But regardless, I plan to get busy writing for the blog again. There are some neat stories & photos to share from the Africa trip, and a few things I'd like to say about the Asiana & UPS crashes, an interesting encounter I had at work, and continued regional airline industry craziness. Stay tuned, as they say....

















25 comments:

Anonymous said...

The anonymous commenter says thanks for tye update. John H.

Bob Collins said...

Well, here's my vote for not staying away from blogging too long. You're a fabulous writer and, Flying aside, the blog allows your personality to come through. I'd really miss it if you were to give it up.

Don Hodges said...

Will WidgetCo allow the blogging? Seems I remember a FA who got terminated but I'm foggy on the details.

May see you someday here in Panama City FL (ECP). Big schedule of 717's this winter. {Well, seven - which is all the flights to world wide widget HQ.)

Anonymous said...

Sam,
Great you are still travelling. You were one of my inspirations to get going and for me to fly around the outside of the US this spring in a 172RG.

Others were Richard Bach in Cannibal Queen and "Tailored Around the USA" by Richard Pearce. He did it in a T-Craft with no electrical system, no GPS, no transponder.

Greg

Tom B. said...

Awesome! All of it.

Anonymous said...

Cool pics...glad to see your blog back up and running. I had begun to fear that you had fallen off the face of the earth like Captain Dave (FL390).

Anonymous said...

Welcome back! We have missed you.

Anonymous said...

Impressed by everything in this post. Will you be able to link to your magazine work?

MarkH said...

Excellent article on this month's flying magazine, I was on the edge of my seat the whole time I was reading it!

Anonymous said...

Glad to read you again...

I was worried you had given up the blog...

I read your second "flying" article this morning and was very moved by it. I hadn't seen your blog entry about it. In any case, I hope you become a "flying" regular, but would hate seeing you abandon the blog.

Glad you are back!

Abrazos,

SEQU

Cedarglen said...

Fun post and glad to see back. -C.

Sean said...

Sam,
Always enjoy your posts. Which company did you use to rent your safari vehicle? I'm planning a similar trip and would be interested to know.
Thanks...

Sam said...

Sean--

http://www.southafrica4x4.co.za/index.html

It's a small company, basically one guy with nine Land Rovers, but he has them really well set up, and the rates are better than the generic Britz Toyota pickups you see running all over (and his Land Rovers are as well equipped if not better, as well as far more iconic) . Highly, highly recommend it. We'll be using Carel again, for sure.

Everyone-- No intention whatsoever to give up blogging. Writing here has helped me improve my writing and lead directly to writing for Flying...the two articles and beyond, more about that later. In any event, writing for a magazine means I need to hone my writing more, not less, and like most things, practice makes perfect. So I'll keep writing & posting here.

Don - That particular Widget FA got terminated not so much for blogging as for posting somewhat provocative photos of her in recognizable Widget uniform. Sorry, but no sexy double-breasted blazer pics from me! ;-)

Habeib Khan said...
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Anonymous said...

Sam,
Thanks for the 4X4 recommendation. Happy and safe flying.
Sean.

Shawn michel said...

I like your blog but pics is fab.
Thanks
CPL student

Azhar Hussain Qureshi said...
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Pete Templin said...

Any forecast on when we'll hear your commentary on the Asiana and/or UPS crashes? You teased us nearly three months...inquiring minds keep returning to see if there are new posts. ;)

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