First Flight

26 07 2015

In the event of am earthquake, the safest place to be is… in the air. (Right?)

So, it’s about time I went flying again.

A first flight in a new place is always really special. The anticipation of going somewhere you have never been, figuring out airspace particulars (for one’s own safety and to keep the authorities at bay) and to experience what aviators native to this corner of the world also experience. Every place is a little different. The procedures are basically the same wherever you go, but the details are what make flying in a new location a challenging, learning and thrilling experience.

The pledge I made to myself when I earned my pilot’s license 14 years ago was this:

  • I will always fly for fun, and fun only.
  • I will not fly if it is work, or requires more risk-assessment, concentration and thought than chopping an onion.
  • I will only fly for pleasure, and in good weather.
  • I will only fly when the conditions promise something so spectacular that I forget how to describe it in words.

Since then, I have operated small aircraft as pilot-in-command in seven countries. Within the United States I have flown in the Northeast and in Florida. This week I played in the sky on the west coast for the first time.

And whenever I get back into the cockpit after a few weeks away, the tower clears me for takeoff and I line up on the runway, the great big numbers and a clear blue sky in front of me… I always wonder… “What took me so long?”

Bay Bridge.

Bay Bridge.

xxxxx

Golden Gate Bridge and Marin Headlands.

The Golden Gate Bridge in the afternoon.

Golden Gate Bridge with a view to the City.

Financial District up close.

Financial District.

The City between spinning propeller blades.

Mission accomplished, pledge fulfilled, again.

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First Earthquake

23 07 2015

When we moved to the San Francisco Bay Area a few months ago, all our non-Bay-Area friends talked about was the earthquakes. We laughed it off…. Yes, the earth moves and shifts all around us all the time and no, we are not overly concerned about this. Somehow a couple of million people seem to live here and go about their usual daily business like normal human beings all over the world.

I did take, shall we say, a new interest in this natural phenomenon, as any new resident would take an interest in something that is unique to the region to which she has recently moved. I installed a free app on my cell phone called, appropriately, “Earthquake Alert!” and I look at it at least once a day. As one does.

Then two nights ago at 2:40 am the earth literally shook under me, ripping me out of sleep. It was very freaky. It felt like someone had grabbed onto our solid wood headboard for dear life and was shaking it violently. There was little noise, just some creaking and the movement. I was wide awake in half an instant, sat upright, grabbed my cell phone and tapped on “Earthquake Alert!”. Turns out it was a 4.0 magnitude tremor on the Hayward Fault, and the epicenter was 7 miles / 11kmĀ  south of us. Nothing super-huge in the great big world order, but enough to unnerve me. I am, after all, a Yankee, and they don’t really have earthquakes on the East Coast.

First earthquake.

First earthquake.

My husband, about half a mile away in our king-sized bed, stirred a bit and I asked, “Did you feel that?”

“Mropohghllrr….unh-huh.”

“I think that was an earthquake.”

“Mmm-hmm…”

Next thing I hear him peacefully snoring away again.

Eyes wide open, adrenaline spiking at a moment I was supposed to be deep in my REM phase (and jealous of my husband who was able turn around and pretend it never happened), I lay there totally awake, wondering what would come next. Sirens? Evacuation orders? Gas main fires? People running into the streets? About a half hour after the first jolt there was another, weaker, shorter tremor, that, turns out, was a 2.7 aftershock. According to my smart app there were a few more, but they didn’t reach me.

I was still wide awake an hour later but it seemed the rest of the world, like my husband, had gone back to sleep. There was no panic, the coyotes went back to howling in the dark, our neighbor’s chimes continued to tinkle in the wind. Just everyone going about their usual business.

Then this afternoon someone at the US Geological Survey used the words “Hayward Fault”, “major quake” and “any day now” (or something similar) in the same sentence.

I’ll just pretend I didn’t hear that.





First Bike Tour

21 07 2015

So there are a bunch of exciting new firsts when you move to a new place, right? First night in your new home. First barbecue. First load of laundry. That kind of thing.

The other day I went on my first bike tour. My birthday present from my husband this year was a brand new bicycle, the first new bike I have owned in almost three decades. The last time I owned a new bike I was still in my teens and Ronald Reagan was still president (1988). It was a blue Bianchi mountain bike that, after 27 years, creaked and squeaked with every turn of the pedals and most of its parts had been replaced over the course of those three decades. It was a trusty old ride and it served me well, but it was also time for it to retire to a good home.

My new ride is a gorgeous, sleek, black and silver number, very chic. I feel very young and very cool while riding it. After taking it around our new neighborhood, I decided it was time to venture further afield and show it off.

Me & my brand new ride.

Me & my brand new ride.

I chose an early Sunday morning and the Iron Horse Trail for this baptism of my new iron donkey, figuring a 20 mile ride on a paved trail (with no cars) would give me a good idea if I could see myself still riding it 27 years from now.

The trail is really beautiful. It stretches 30 miles through the hills of the East Bay and follows the Southern Pacific Railroad right-of-way established in 1891 and abandoned in 1977. It’s flat and wide and full of folks just like me looking for a place to spend a few quality hours with their bicycles, dogs, spouses and/or kids. It is also, apparently, covered with invisible thorns, one of which found its way into my rear tire when I wasn’t looking.

When we bought the bicycle last month, the folks at the shop tried to sell me a membership to their “Flat Tire Club” – a $40 deal that would pay for all flat tires (materials and labor) for the life of the bicycle. My old Bianchi had had a total three flat tires – one per decade of my ownership. I declined the membership.

Silly me.

So suddenly on this gorgeous Sunday morning in the middle of nowhere, my nice new bike got sluggish, and I looked to see what the problem was. Most of the air had escaped already, and I was practically riding on the rim. I was already on my way back, but still about seven miles / 11 kilometers away from my starting point (and my car). I continued on, gingerly, standing in the pedals and shifting my weight to the front as much as I could. (What, was I supposed to walk back seven miles??) But after about 20 minutes of this the tire itself seemed to be coming apart. I had no choice but to get off and start walking.

Many passing cyclists took pity on me (“You’ve probably got a thorn! Happens all the time! It’s thorn season!”) but strangely none of them had a pump. About a mile from my car, a good Samaritan named Rob helped me out with a blast of gas into the tire so that at least I could ride the last little bit back. He told me to pay it forward and spread the good Karma.

I loaded my bike into my car, drove to the shop and joined the Flat Tire Club.