10/6 I'm too tired to do much of anything right now. I'm stranded in the middle of Texas without my ground crew, I haven't kept up very well with this blog, and there's a layer of cumulus above me that threatens to hold up further progress to San Antonio tomorrow. I'm nowhere near marathon shape and even after 9 hours of sleep in a dusty Del Rio motel I find myself as lethargic as the airport courtesy car I'm using (the check engine light has been on since I sat in it). The wind is picking up outside; I'm crossing my fingers for more fly able weather tomorrow. Ever since the van's transmission quit three days ago I've been without even my logbook, meaning that the last 7 hours of flight have gone unrecorded. The three cups of Starbucks I've had today aren't working; I salivate for a carefully-pulled, single origin ristretto shot. I'm looking at you to provide, Austin. As if to spite me, Step Out by Jose Gonzalez just came on (the song I blogged about as having inspired me through the darker times of this adventure). This is one of those periods, a dip in the momentum. They are expected, but that doesn't make them suck any less.
Look, I haven't been great at keeping up with this but there's nothing I could have done differently. This has been the most demanding, the most nonstop, intensive thing I've ever done. I'm planning to write a book about everything once it's all over and I promise, if you backed the Kickstarter, you'll get a copy regardless of whether it gets published.
In the meantime, while I'm stuck alone in this Starbucks in Del Rio, let me tell you about Los Angeles.
Flying in LA is beautiful once you've climbed up past the smog layer to 3,000'. Even at 10 in the morning it's hot up there. The Class B airspace (B for busy) is like an upside down wedding cake extending from LAX. Stay clear of that and you're golden. Commercial jets on final approach stretch for miles to the east; at night they're like a never ending stream of lights.
On 9/18 I took some friends flying, edging around the thick marine layer by the coast that obscured the coast below for a bit then cruising back to Hawthorne. It was beautiful and weird to be taking friends for rides in a place I'd never flown before. This was especially true for Christina, who really pushed me to do this, three years ago when it was just an exciting idea. It was full circle. "You're finally doing it!" people kept saying to me. I think I was still so shaken from the enormous repairs that I had completed that "finally doing it" felt way too good to be true. I didn't dare believe it; I was suspicious of my joy.
Cal landed in Long Beach in 1911 -- right on the damn beach actually, because it was 1911 and the FAA wasn't around to revoke his license, and even dipped his landing struts in the Pacific.
In the middle of writing that sentence I received 5 text messages, answered them, started an Instagram post, and refreshed my weather app before I realized I was off track. Maybe this is why Cal's story holds so much appeal for me: it was a time when everything was very focused. The whole country was behind one pursuit, cheering for Cal because of what he represented. He wasn't just flying across America, he was pulling the future along with him.
Very little is still standing when it comes to Cal's story. There's a Vin Fiz replica and a little write up at The Smithsonian, his grave, and then a 1/3 scale replica in the lobby of the Long Beach Convention Center. Our visit happened to coincide with Comicon weekend.
And there it was. In the midst of royalty from Game of Thrones, Suicide Squad devotees, members of the Imperial Federation, The Vin Fiz flew 30 feet above. I looked everywhere for the plaque.
"It had to be removed when we remodeled, we just haven't put it back up yet."
"When was that?"
"About 4 months after we put it up" (5 years ago).
I stopped and asked passerby if they knew what was flying right above us. Predictably, only one person did (and her career had been in aviation). I had a nice, prolonged conversation about Cal and his modern relevance: why he is not remembered and what that says about the state of things. She blamed social media, citing it as a distraction from progress. Yesterday, holed up in my Del Rio motel, I caught a glimpse of her as I flipped through the TV stations. She was on E! competing with other women for a sports star on a reality dating show. She was voted off in the first episode.
The night of the 18th we gathered at a friend's house. I was surrounded with people I hadn't caught up with in months, maybe years. Though I didn't expect it, the night ended with everyone sitting in a circle and telling me, honestly, they're thoughts on Tilt Shift. I was embarrassed in the kind of reddened way I am when people sing happy birthday to me.
it was beautiful though, to hear the honesty of the other side of my experience. It was strange and surreal: friends who thought it was a pipe dream, friends who were proud, friends who were inspired, one friend who actually cried because of its emotional connection to her. I don't think I stop often enough to consider the waves I might be causing. We don't come through life without stirring the motion of everything; we all create a current. Like a cosmic blanket that we ripple and poke without realizing it.
Well, the pressure was on. I still couldn't fathom that I was in Los Angeles, but I soaked in the moment. I felt enormous gratitude for it, was flattened by it. The path ahead would be [IS] rough; I wanted to save the energy in that room for later. I felt the weight of what I was about to attempt, the love lof everyone who wants to see me land Eddie in Montauk, and knew then that I was going to really go for it. Up until then it hadn't taken shape, was still just an idea. Now I would take a shot at Banning Pass, see how I was doing in Indio, set out towards Arizona and weave around the higher mountains, one at a time.