Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Adventures in travel...

I'm not fond of flying. I do it a lot, but that doesn't stop me from wondering each time I get into an airplane if this will be the time I win the game of russian roulette. Of course, the odds of winning at russian roulette are much better - indeed, the odds of getting killed in a car are much better. But the feeling of being out of control makes it different - someone else is in charge of your destiny for the time that you're up in the air.

Anyway, I discovered an interesting factoid about my own personal fear of flying: I feel much more secure when flying in bad weather than in good weather. Yesterday, our flight was delayed out of Austin, but we finally got on the airplane and were cleared for takeoff, and actually on the runway, when a light came on and the pilot diverted us to a parking area to check it out. After a little while we taxied back to the gate. Mechanics boarded the plane. The pilot said there was a problem with the pitot tube heater, and they might be able to fix it. There was a loud bang above our heads at one point - the sound of someone whacking the metal pretty hard, probably to put the equipment back together or something. Finally we were told "sorry, guys, we're canceling the flight - go get rebooked." Big relief - I would rather that they did a careful repair than a rushed repair.

So we spent last night in the Austin Airport Hilton. A pretty nice place, although the windows are remarkably narrow. The restaurant is good there, but watch out for the linguini alfredo - they add wine to the roux instead of cheese for flavor, which, if you want to avoid wine, is a problem.

This morning, we were back in a plane, on the runway, taxiing for takeoff, when the pilot came on and told us we were going to have to park for a while and wait for some thunderstorms to pass. So fine, we wait for about forty-five minutes. There's some dramatic weather. Finally we're cleared for takeoff, and we do take off, at a very steep rate of ascent (because if there's turbulence, higher is better, I guess). There was some turbulence, but nothing special. What was interesting were the occasional flashes, like flashbulbs going off. Apparently we were flying into some interesting territory.

The best part was that about ten minutes into the flight, I was looking out at the storm (having a pretty good time, by the way - I really didn't feel like we were in danger) and saw a lightning strike directly below us - a beautiful spiderweb of lightning, and the thunderclap came almost instantly. The woman in the seat behind me closed her windows, and Andrea looked a little worried. I was a little taken aback, but there wasn't any St. Elmo's fire on the wings, so I felt like we were okay (and realistically, we really were okay - modern airplanes can handle lightning a lot better than the ones you see in old movies). We were never in any severe turbulence - I've had more exciting turbulence experiences when there was no storm in sight.

Sure enough, a few minutes later we emerged from the back of what looked like an anvil cloud, into a beautiful scene of cumulus cloud tops. The weather got progressively better, and by the time we landed in Dallas about 30 minutes later, the plane was mostly dry.

The next flight, we had a little clear air turbulence at 30k feet, where it's really not a problem, and my palms were sweaty. Go figure. Landing in Tucson was uneventful. It was only 22 hours after we left Andrea's parents' condo in Austin. The apricot tree is covered with new leaves, and the redbud is too. Andrea planted some tomatoes today. Nothing really major to report...


Anonymous Anonymous said...

You have an apricot tree? And a redbud? Cool!

Friday, March 31, 2006 4:24:00 AM  
Blogger Ted Lemon said...

At this point I would say we have an apricot sprig and a very small redbud tree. But as the years go by, I'm sure the situation will change, and at some point the apricot sprig may in fact become a tree... :')

Friday, March 31, 2006 4:46:00 AM  

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