By Beth Hardy Duff
HUMAN MAILING TUBE.. After having returned from a wonderful trip to Washington, DC on Tuesday, we were chomping at the bit to get in Caddie and go somewhere – ANYWHERE! Caddie came into existence for a number of reasons, one of which being my (our) dislike of traveling via commercial airlines. Human Mailing Tube, as it is lovingly referred to by the aviation community, is far from my favorite means of transportation – right on up there with bareback bronco riding – in summer – with hemorrhoids! Anyhow, I digress, once again, our experience with the commercial airline wasn’t exactly grand, but I can’t really blame them this time (much). It was weather related – ugly weather. We had already boarded the plane in DC headed to Atlanta and even pushed back from the gate at which point the captain came on the intercom and stated, “Bad news, folks, we’re going back to the gate. Atlanta has closed due to bad weather and they are not accepting any incoming flights. We expect the delay to be about an hour.” The transmission ended with the abrupt click of his microphone. Now we know the REAL reason the cockpit crew stays behind locked doors! He did tell people that they could disembark and go get something to eat, that they had about an hour. It seemed the minute everyone left that wanted to leave, he then came back on and announced, “Well, it might not be quite an hour, looks like the weather is clearing up and Atlanta will open shortly.” Thankfully, Paul & I didn’t fall for the “get off the plane if you want to“ trick and stayed put. Think this was a dirty trick to cure an overbooking problem? Hmmm…Surely enough, not 35 minutes later, we were cleared to once again leave the gate. A few calls were made for “missing passengers” for those who had decided to disembark, then we pushed back from the gate. I can’t imagine who we left and how ticked they were when the passengers (former passengers) returned from standing in a very long line at McDonald’s for a delicious McRib to find their plane had “left home without them”. Heh heh, it’s funny if it doesn’t happen to you.
LONGING FOR LULU’S… Friday afternoon, Paul began making some calls to see if we could scrounge up some friends to make a “Lulu Run” down to Gulf Shores, AL on Saturday. This is one of our “most fa-vor-ri-tist things” in the world to do. Getting a bunch of pilots and (normal people too) together and all flying down to KJKA (Jack Edwards) in Gulf Shores, hopping in their courtesy car (which is always a very nice vehicle) and heading off to Lulu’s for lunch and non-alcoholic beverages – BUUURRPP!! The weather was going to be beautiful and we were about to DIE to go somewhere! Call after call came up empty, one of our friends even told us that they had made a Lulu run while we were gone to DC and that they just couldn’t go again right then. WHAT? I can’t BELIEVE they went without us! Well, I can, actually. We’ve been gone a lot lately. Anyhow, Saturday morning rolled around and we did scrounge up a couple of takers, but by time to depart, we were once again down to 3 of us, Paul, myself, and Mike Dalton. It would have been fun to fly our own plane, but it just didn’t make sense to take two separate planes when Mike’s Bonanza E-33 could easily carry the 3 of us — in a cushy ride I might add, and our plane could only take the two of us. So, a deal was struck between Mike and Paul and we headed southeast for Lulu’s in Gulf Shores. Nice trip down, and in about an hour, we were getting out of Mike’s plane when he recognized the Baron belonging to Bob, a friend of his. Next thing we knew, Mike was on the phone with his friend, Bob, and we changed our Lulu plans to meet up with Bob and his fiancee at Shipp’s Harbor Grill in Orange Beach.
WHAT A RIDE!… Now KJKA is known to have pretty snazzy courtesy cars as Paul and I had found out in the past when we were handed the keys to a very new, bright and shiny yellow Camaro! We were expecting something pretty great this time as well, when we were handed the keys to the courtesy vehicle. Paul and I went to get the car while Mike was finishing up some business inside. While we were indeed happy to have a courtesy car at our disposal for about an hour, we were a little disappointed that this was not the usual “status quo” courtesy car we had come to expect from Jack Edwards. Although it was parked right next to a bright, shiny red Corvette, that’s as close as it came to being “snazzy”. A bright white van decorated with the words, “Shrimp Basket”, “Mikee’s – A Place for Seafood” and “the Steamer” proudly awaited us! The look on Mike’s face was priceless as he walked out of the FBO and saw us waiting for him in the van. Immediately, he yanked out his phone & snapped a picture of “Driver Paul” in the Van, while not even trying to conceal his fits of laughter. Regardless, we found our way to the Harbor Grill and enjoyed a fantastic meal while making new friends to boot on our day trip to the LA Riviera. Paul and Mike had the grouper sandwich, (I think) and Angel, Bob’s fiancee convinced me that if I really loved a wedge salad, that this was the best one to be found anywhere in the US. I have to admit I wholeheartedly agree and that this might also be the LARGEST one also, as I boxed up half of it. You gotta admit, that was some “well traveled lettuce” that accompanied me on the flight back home that day.
WELL, WHAT DO WE DO NOW?… The next day was Sunday. Paul and I got up and went to church as usual, got back home and noticed once again, it was a perfect 10 out of 10 day. “Well, where do we fly today?” was the question. The real question was, “Why didn’t we start giving this a little more thought earlier in the week?” We thought and thought, surfed the web, dug through the logbook and did nearly everything we could think of to come up with a good idea on where to go. Didn’t want to go too far, that just gets into too much expense. Couldn’t just sit on the ground on a beautiful day like today. We had already finished painting the deck (that only took 3 weeks) and so, we were due a reward! We were already hungry so wherever we decided to go, had to have food within reach. Well, after a great deal of thought, we decided to go back over to Monroe, LA. We had taken 4AE, our former, shared ownership Cessna 172 there to have the transponder repaired at their radio shop and while there, had eaten at the restaurant inside the airport terminal. It was good food and decently priced, so we decided we would just do that again. Deal? Deal! Hmmm…note to self, things change, call next time before you go.
MONROE BOUND… So we took off from Raymond in our plane, since it was just the two of us this time and headed on over to Monroe for food, since by this time it was about 1:00pm and we were about ready to eat the seats out of the 9A. Paul took off and then handed the controls over to me. He’s been doing this a lot lately and I’ve been loving it! In fact, so has Paul. It gives him a chance to look around and enjoy the ride, while still keeping an eye on me and allowing me to have a little fun too. I’m still not proficient at taking off or landing, but that will come with practice and more practice. For now, I can definitely get us there while being pointed in the right direction and staying at the right altitude while following a route and that makes me very happy.
FIVE GUYS… Landing at Monroe, we taxied to our appointed spot and parked. As we were getting out we were assisted by 5, yep, count em’ 5, linemen – obviously a slow day at the airport and a tad bit of curiosity. I can truly say we NEVER get tired of questions and compliments on our airplane. “WOW, nice plane, is that a 7A?” “No, it’s a 9A” “Cool, did you build it yourself?” Paul’s reply is always, “Yep, WE built it OURSELVES.” “Cool, how long did it take you?” Our reply in unison is, “3 years and 3000 hours.” By that time, it has usually sunk into someone’s head that Paul meant me and not some invisible “man” standing in front of me, that I am the other half of this project. “Oh, YOU helped him build this plane?” To which, Paul usually replies, “Yes, she shot all the rivets in it – 18,000 of them.” Now, to tell you the truth, I have not counted (well recently anyhow) the exact number of rivets in our airplane. Back when we were building, I could have given you an exact count of how many were in the piece that we worked on that day. Not that I wanted to count them, but it’s just one of those things. ANYHOW, after all the oohing and aahing is said and done, Paul asked, “So, the restaurant over at the terminal, is it still open?” To which, the reply was, “No sir, they aren’t open on Sunday. In fact, the restaurant you’re talking about is gone. The lady that owned it, died and it closed and was replaced by a more or less snack shop.” Paul’s reply was, “Oh….well, do you have a courtesy car?” and Thank Goodness, the reply was , “Yes sir, we sure do.” This was another nice courtesy car, not a Camaro or Mercedes and certainly not a Jeep Wagoneer with the blown out back window, but a very decent blue Ford Edge SUV. The deal was, you could take it for two hours (hmm…very VERY nice), but after two hours, its $10 for every 30 minutes over that. Fair enough, 2 hours is ample time to go somewhere and eat. We were lucky enough to find one of our favorite restaurants still alive and doing quite well in Monroe and that was Copeland’s. It was in the Pecanland Mall and virtually no distance from the airport – I think it was 3 miles, but don’t quote me on that one. Fantastic food once again and great service. Paul had the Shrimp Ducky and I had the Apple Almond Bleu salad with Honey Balsamic Vinaigrette. At 510 calories, it’s probably the lowest caloric content of anything on their menu and absolutely divine!
The flight back home was fun as always, Paul let me fly again and we arrived safely back home at KJVW after another fun filled day of experiencing the $100 Hamburger. Only now the $100 part doesn’t include fuel! Ah well, that’s why we do make sacrifices to continue with our guilty pleasure of “flying for food”. You give up here and you give up there and then you get to enjoy for a while. Not so very different from anything else in life, really, is it?
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