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For all who know me, I am by no means a see-the-world-through-rose-colored-glasses type of guy.  So me saying that almost everything has some sort of silver lining on it may surprise you (notice I said almost…).

My Stateside visit (the first one in 4 years!) really became a 3-week rockstar tour covering 4000+ miles just to see immediate family!  To bolster my resolve, my Old Man gave me the keys to his airplane for the duration.  Three hours of supervised flying practice was what the doctor ordered to build confidence through numbing my lightning-quick reflexes to cope with the world of 150-mph civilian flying…  after all, the entire Snakeye lineage is on the line for this one.

False Start

The adventure began shortly after Christmas.  A 6am wake-up ensured the maiden voyage would take place during the shortened winter daylight.  We pulled the plane from its hangared slumber into the chilled Texas air, Ready to flyloaded up all the luggage, and got everyone strapped in and situated.  Pam took a “selfie” to commemorate the moment while I hit the start button.  The propeller chugged and chugged, but nothing came to life.  This went on for about 10 minutes with my Dad’s coaching.  Then fuel started spilling out of the engine bay.  I thought I had only flooded it, but my Dad seemed a little more worried that it could be a sign of more serious issues (including the potential for an engine fire).  By myself, I probably would’ve pressed, but the Snakeye Lineage needed caution. Begrudgingly, I pulled everyone out, we put her back into the hangar, and got a rental car to traverse the 1200 miles to Cleveland.  About 4 hours into the drive, I couldn’t help but think that we’d be half way there had everything worked out; as it was, we still had about 16 hours to go.  To rub salt into the wound, the weather was perfectly clear throughout the entire 20-hour drive up.  Oh well.

We did New Years up there in the Lisa-and-John tradition (boy, has it been a while!).  In fact, our entire time in Ohio probably prescribed a liver replacement.

Lisa and John's New YearsLisa and John's New Years

On that Eve, a polar vortex parked itself over Cleveland and didn’t move.  When it came time to go back to Texas, we were faced with 12 inches (and continuing) of snow and ¼ mile visibility due to a white-out:

Snowed inSnowed in

Yep… I was extremely disappointed when my hands were tied to drive up to Ohio. But now that we were leaving and in dire need of a dog sled team, the silver lining of the aborted flight shone through. Hell, I’m in England now, and I can honestly say that my Dad’s airplane would still probably be in Ohio buried under a bunch of snow (I guess we were destined to drive a car back regardless of whether we flew up or not!).

1st Down

After 20 hours on the road, we pulled back into the home hub of Texas to attempt another swap-out for the airplane.  This time, after 9 rounds in the ring to start it, she fired up and we were airborne… further distancing ourselves from the polar vortex of Ohio and off to the desert oasis of Phoenix, Arizona.  I know I really don’t have to brag about the silver linings of flying yourself to a destination of your choice, but because it’s my blog, I’ll take the next minute and do it anyway:

  1. You don’t have to go through security.  Not that I’m smuggling drugs or that I truly care about a pat-down… I just hate taking the extra hour to take off my 7 pieces of flare so they can go through an XRay machine, only to put all my flare back on… just to board an airplane.
  2. It takes 1/3 of the amount of time a car does (using civilian plane speeds…).  They say time is money, so cutting a 20-hour car drive into a 7-hour airplane ride saves time and money well, I guess you more or less break a little below “even” considering the gas and operating costs of an airplane.
  3. You can go anywhere your heart desires… well, anywhere there’s an airport to land.

By choice, we decided to make Roswell, New Mexico (home of the US Air Force’s first contact with aliens) our half-way stop to gas up.  While there, they gave us a car to go get some fresh (New) Mexican food.  The freshness was up to interpretation though: I’m pretty sure I heard the sound of a microwave door open and close a few times.  After the pseudo-authentic meal, we figured it was a good opportunity for a nice family photo before taking off again.

Pit stop at Roswell, NM

Though since leaving New Mexico, I’ve just never really felt quite right… just some residual sensations of being poked and prodded or something… maybe it’s just flashbacks from visiting the optometrist.

My little flight-plannerWe landed in Phoenix a little after sunset and spent the next few days with my sister and her family; some of whom I was meeting for the very first time.  It was enjoyable and relaxing.  I even got to check-up on a few Nickel friends I made while in Italy.  The icing on the cake was that I even had help (at right) planning my flight back.  My initial plan was to change it up and take a right at stop at Albuquerque for fuel, but the little one (helping me flight plan) suggested otherwise… instead recommending a destination that I swore would take an act of God for me to ever step foot in again.

A kid's goodbye before boarding the plane

With goodbyes in order (that picture, by the way, was abducted from my sister), we were off back to Texas to close out our Stateside Tour.  Flying high above Arizona however, an act of God I did indeed witness… Winslow Meteor Crateras we flew over the mile-wide meteor crater near Winslow.  They say the rock impacted 50,000 years ago and was the size of a large yacht.  It was impressive even from the air.

Well, that (and the favorable winds) settled it.  Albuquerque was scratched and we pressed on (as the little one wanted) to Clovis, New Mexico to gas up.  Once we landed, I realized the reason I had swore my oath to never return…  My Mom once told me that if you can’t say something nice, then don’t say anything at all… so here’s what I got: the people are friendly.  That’s it.

Leal's in Blovis, NMOk, and they have the world’s best Mexican restaurant: Leal’s.  So as the plane got fueled, we paid a visit to Clovis’ only Saving Grace to get a bite to eat (at right).  This indulgence was only short lived though, as we had to beat feet back to the airplane before being swallowed by tumbleweed.

From there, it was a 2-hour flight back to Texas, only to get immediately whisked off back to England which concluded the Snakeye family rockstar tour.

It was busy, but I learned that no matter what, there is some silver lining in (almost) every situation.  It may not be apparent right away; it could take a week to see (as in being potentially snowed-in) or it could take years or decades to slowly materialize, but it’s there… and I also learned that I really, really want an airplane when I return to live back in the States…

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