If it’s one if by land and two if by sea, light up three lanterns, baby, because I’m airborne!
I haven’t managed to do a whole heck of a lot since moving down here to Ft. Lauderdale, but somehow last weekend I managed to pull the coolest weekend ever out of the bag! I was a bit late leaving work Friday afternoon because I had a few things I was trying to get done when a guy who’d been in my training class IM’ed me to say hey, and five minutes later I had an invite to go flying in a four-seater Cessna the next morning. Score! I’ve always wanted to do that! Apparently a guy he worked with was a flight instructor as a hobby on weekends and asked if anybody wanted to go for a flight. Umm….yeah. Yeah I would. I can hardly stop grinning whenever I fly on ordinary jumbo jet airlines, put me in a fun little thing like a Cessna and I might need a minute alone.
Saturday morning Florin and I drove down to Tamiami airport in Kendall where we met up with his friend the pilot, Florian (yeah I know, confusing!). When we walked out onto the tarmac there were loads of little planes all over the place and a couple of people fueling some up and tying or untying them depending on whether they were coming or going. I still couldn’t believe I was going to get to go for a ride! I’d even looked online one day to see how much flight lessons are, because there’s an executive airport right down the road that does lessons, but they were a bit expensive at around $100 an hour.
Our plane was fueled up and then we untied and got inside. Florin let me have the front seat next to the pilot, which made the whole thing even better. We put on our headphones and I settled back for a nice scenic ride. I was a bit surprised when Florian started instructing me on how to use the foot pedals and adjust the throttle! I thought he was having a laugh, so I just kind of laugh and say, “Ha, ha, yeah okay.” Then the plane starts moving and he says, “Use the pedals!” This plane is wobbling all over the place as we taxi out to the runway because I have no idea what I’m doing because I was only half listening to him because I thought he was joking! I managed to stay on the tarmac despite weaving zigzags all around the yellow line I was meant to be straddling.
Florian went through the take-off checklist and then explained to me how to use the yolk (the steering wheel as I called it until I was corrected) and the throttle, and how to read the various gauges that show altitude, etc. I was seriously nervous. I was watching the news that day the little girl and her dad took off for a record setting “youngest person to fly cross country ever” flight that ended in mangled fuselage and press flashbulbs and I’d seen plenty of other reports of small planes going down in the Everglades or who knows where else, and those people actually knew how to fly! Besides snacking on pretzels in Coach the only other flying experience I have was playing my brother’s fighter pilot video games as a kid.
We turned to face east and Florian told me to push the throttle in all the way. I guess I did it a little too slowly because he called out, “Push it! Push it! All the way!” I mashed it all the way to the console and put my hands back on the yolk. Florian then instructed me to gradually start pulling back, which I did perfectly so as not to get yelled at again! I was so worried about keeping the nose of the plane exactly one inch above the horizon that I didn’t even notice that we’d left the ground! My favorite part of flying and I couldn’t even fully enjoy it! But it was such an amazing thing! It’s so different sitting in the front of the plane and being able to see out. Once we were up in the air we kept climbing to about 2200 feet. It was the coolest thing!
We flew to the tip of Miami and saw all the posh islands where all the uber rich people live that can only be accessed by private yachts or ferries. We flew over South Beach and up the coast to Miami Beach. We went lower so we could really get a good look at everything, and I could make out all the places I’d been recently so clearly! I could see the Bentley Beach Hotel, Lincoln Road, Ocean Drive, loads of people on the beach and even dolphins in a huge tank when we flew further south over the Miami Seaquarium. It was really cool seeing it from the air. I’ve been saying I want to get out and see more…and now I have!
We kept flying further south, over even more filthy rich private islands and yachts, down to Key Largo. The water is really clear from the beach level, but it is just so beautiful from the air! We kept our eyes peeled for sharks, but we were so high that the huge yachts looked like Monopoly pieces, so spotting sharks would take superhuman vision. I managed to keep the plane pretty steady the whole time even though I was leaning over looking at everything below. I flew us back along US-1. When we started approaching the landing strip I kept waiting for Florian to tell me he was going to take back control to bring us in for a landing….but he never did. He told me to swing a wide turn and line up with the landing strip and bring it down slowly. Are you kidding me? I did what he told me to do and pushed down on the yolk to bring the nose down and we got closer and closer to the ground. He told me to fix my eyes on the distance and just keep bringing it down nice and easy, and before I knew it we gracefully bumped down onto the runway. I landed a plane!!! It was so exciting not to be dead.
I didn’t get my very own pair of wings at the end of the experience, but that was okay. It had still been one of the coolest days ever, when I ordinarily would’ve been sitting in my pajamas, drinking coffee and, you guessed it, watching Cash in the Attic. Vast improvement if you ask me.
After such an adrenaline-filled morning I couldn’t go home and settle for an anti-climactic afternoon of shopping or cleaning, so Florin came with me to test drive a Mini Cooper. My car’s not in a good way and I think it will soon need to be replaced, so why not by a cute little red Mini Coop, complete with a dedicated iPod audio accessory jack? Forget engine size; give me iPod compatibility or nothing at all. It was a lot of fun to drive and made getting back into my dusty little black car all the more painful. I wanted to take it home with me, but, alas, I could not. Another day perhaps. I have first to save for a down payment.
Speaking of saving, it was a sad day Sunday when I had to take my Diesel jeans back to the store because I’ve had so many unforeseen expenses lately that I felt guilty about having expensive jeans that I can’t even really wear to work (unless I wanted to cause some waves). So, sadly, I handed them over to the cashier and sullenly walked back towards the mall exit. Unfortunately, Urban Outfitters was on my way to the exit and a top in the window caught my eye. Suffice it to say, the money I’d got back from the jeans was money saved for all of five minutes. But one pair of jeans for a dress, a top, a pair of jeans and some tights? I’ll take that. And I still managed to come out three bucks cheaper. Bargain.
Tags: Florida, Fort Lauderdale, Miami, South Beach, Travel