Thursday, February 18, 2010

A Loooooooooong Day!!!--February 17, 2010


Woke up at 8:20 A.M.  Grabbed some breakfast and headed for the airport.

Matt and I were headed for the skies...which were wonderfully clear.  The winds were still howling, but they had cooperated with Matt yesterday in the early part of the day, and we were trusting them to do the same for us today.  We were close to finishing!

I grabbed one flight plan and finished in 1 1/2 hours.  Matt grabbed another of the same time.  We both tag-teamed the last one, and we finished the entire project at 12:20 P.M.  BEAUTIFUL!!!  No clouds!!!  No turbulence!  The other pilots had to quit VERY early due to excessive turbulence...they were down at 3100 feet...just 2000 feet below us.  It's amazing what a couple thousand feet can do.

We landed, and I had a package...more bank papers!!!  I signed them, had them notarized, then sent them back.  Then Matt and I headed for a restaurant that one of the ladies (very cute, I might add) recommended for us.  We found ourselves in a Jaguar...and driving by these ridiculously nice southern homes.  I still crave owning a brick house...complete with the parlors on the sides.  I am just madly in love with southern homes, that's all there is to it.  I was gawking out my window the entire time.  We drove by the Masters golf course...where they were already setting up for the tournament in several weeks.

And then we found ourselves at the restaurant...a hole-in-the-wall.  We loved it.  It was dark, made out of wood, and had picnic tables as the main eating area.  Names were carved into the tables and walls...and large animal heads looked over you.  It was fantastic.  I ordered the shrimp and fries....their #1 seller.  And it was cheap...and good.  I was pleased.

We drove back to the airport, loaded up our bags, and pointed ourselves west.  We were heading BACK to Little Rock...the place I had left just seven short days ago.  But there was just one problem.  THE WINDS.

I climbed up to 6500 feet and was doing 70 knots across the ground.  On my climb-out, I seriously saw traffic passing me on the highway.  NOT cool.  But 4500 feet was too this was going to have to work.  My GPS showed the time enroute to be over six hours.  Oh boy...we didn't take off until just after 3 o'clock in the afternoon!!!

Well, we just's all we could do.  About an hour into it, we were a bit bored, so we made up our own Battleship playing fields.  I kid you not.  We had it A-O and 10 rows deep.  Matt and I went back and forth on frequency shooting at each other's ships.  It was a welcome change to the monotony of flying slow.  Very very slow.

Around Atlanta, Georgia, though, we put the game to a stop.  The traffic was obviously heavier, and all of a sudden, we had aggressive winds again.  The turbulence had reared its ugly ahead again...this time at 6500 feet.  I figured the winds were rolling off the hills in the distance...and I also noticed that I was hanging around the inversion layer...where the clouds were forming.  Not a smooth place to be.  I requested 8500 feet...which I was given after 10 miles.  I was doing 57 knots on my climb.

I did end up hitting 85 knots, though, at 8500 feet.  Sometimes.  The winds were so variable that you never knew what you would see.  My lowest was that 57...and the highest was in the upper 80's...but average was right around 75 or so.  We just simply were not moving.

I did have a problem, though.  I had to PEE!!!  And bad!!!  The sweet tea from this afternoon was going straight through me.  I looked and looked and looked around my airplane, but I didn't have any empty bottles.  I had a half-bottle of apple juice, but I didn't want to waste it.  I considered using a cardboard box, just going in my pants and letting it dry (it's crazy what you'll do up there), but I decided against both.  Then I remembered!  I had an empty quart of oil that I had used earlier!  That would have to work.  I searched for it blindly with my hand behind my seat.  Found it.

And then I did the crazy ritual.  It's not the first time I've peed over a mile above the earth, but it's still a difficult practice.  In these tiny airplanes you can't just sit and do the deed.  Nope.  It's a little bit more difficult than that.  For me, I have to pull the pants a bit below the waist, turn sideways, hold the missile launcher with one hand, and shoot the goods into the bottle which I am holding with my other hand.  It's a bit cumbersome.


Frankly, the hole in the top of the quart of oil was just too small for my liking.  By a lot.  Having a half gallon apple juice bottle is simply fantastic.  This?  Not so much.  I had to make sure I was spot on.  Of course, having auto-pilot this year helps.  IMMENSELY.  But it's still a fear to have something happen in the sky and be found on the ground with your pants below your waist.  I'm not lyin'!  The thought goes through your mind.

Well, as I told Matt over frequency, it was like trying to shove a 55-gallon drum into a coffee can.  BUT I HAD TO GO!!!  So I made absolutely positively sure that I was firing in the hole, and I braced for release.  And I can't even begin to tell you how unbelievably unprepared I was for what happened next.

Sigh.  So you see, I had a VERY tight seal from the rocket launcher to the quart of oil.  As in very tight.  And as I started peeing, the oil bottle started expanding.  To the point of not being able to expand anymore!!!  NOT GOOD!!!  I kid you not, the pressure shut of my peeing!  I was trying to pee into a bottle that was not letting any more air or goods in!!!  Agh!!!

I can't really tell you how difficult this was.  I am still turned sideways, trying to watch all of the gauges still, and needing a quick release of liquids.  It is simply not happening.  I panicked!  I was only 1/5 of the way done peeing, and I had been forced to cut off!  Not cool.  So I tried to squeeze the oil bottle to send air past my, know.  Of course, I was nervous about liquids shooting out, too!  And as I squeezed, a bit of air released, and I was peeing again!  ha!  Oh man, this was NOT cool!  And then it did it again!  I kid you not, I had this very uncomfortable dance of trying to pee into the bottle, all while releasing air out of the bottle, all while trying to keep Mr. Happy IN the bottle, all while trying to not let liquid OUT of the bottle, all while trying to maintain a steady stream of pee!!!  It was ridiculous.  Seriously.  Simply ridiculous.

I felt my hand getting warmer as the bottle filled up.  Even this thick plastic bottle, I thought?!  I was shocked.  But humored, nonetheless.  Well, I managed to do the deed.  It took longer than I expected, and it probably caused more stress than actually flying the airplane, but I was able to breathe again without fear of peeing my pants.  I kid you not, I grabbed my sweet tea between the seats and started filling up the bladder again.  Right after I peed.  I love that stuff!

What an experience.

We decided to land at Huntsville, Alabama, for fuel...just as the sun was setting.  I LOVE watching the sun set from the sky.  It's so peaceful.  We grabbed the courtesy car and headed for Burger King this time.  We made it quick, as we still had another 3 hours to fly.

We came back to the airport...loaded up...and headed off into the now very dark sky.  And that was that!  I climbed up to 4500 feet this time...figuring the earth would be cooler, and the winds would be calmer.  It worked out great.  And we just flew...talking every now and again...but mostly just sitting there in the dark.  With nothing but the glow of the lights below...and the lights on my panel.

I love flying at night.

I passed through Alabama, Mississippi, hovered about 20 miles south of Tennessee, then passed over the Mississippi River and into Arkansas.  I was wide awake and just having the time of my life.  One of my favorite flights.  THIS is what an airplane is meant to do...move from one place to another!  I loved it.

I landed at Little Rock just after 10:00 P.M.  I was hoping to break double digits, but I came up just short.

All in all, I had logged 9.9 hours today...the most of my career.  And the funny thing?  I felt great.  I have had numerous six-hour flights where I just feel terrible.  Today I just felt wonderful.  It didn't feel like 10 hours AT ALL.

Agh, what a day!  What a night!  Another project done...another half of the country crossed!

The weather is looking great tomorrow...a huge high-pressure system has moved in.  We should have clear skies all day...and that should allow us to finish this project!!!  We are kicking butt!

I had flown 22.8 hours in the first 13 days of February.  And now I have flown 20.1 hours in just four days.  What a crazy job.

Went to bed at 12:15 A.M.

I really do think we'll finish tomorrow...maybe even by noon!

Where am I going next?!

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