For the next few weeks, we’ll be observing an anniversary: 10 years since we left San Francisco and moved to Ann Arbor. I’ll repost articles Frank and I wrote at that time for our Ann Arbor blog, aSquared. Bittersweet, very definitely they will be, bittersweet.
[It’s aSquared’s First Birthday … we’re celebrating by looking back at events from a year ago … skip these retro posts if you’re not into sentimentality.]
‘Day Six started out wonderfully and with lots of fun in Don’s airplane flying above Sundance Airport northwest of Oklahoma City. We then drove around Norman and around Thunderbird Lake to rejoin I-40. Then things got ugly as we hit Arkansas and Tennessee. Let’s reminisce, shall we?
‘Day Six — Oklahoma City, OK, to Memphis, TN
‘Oh dear lord, what have we done coming to Memphis, Tennessee? This is NOT a good neighborhood, Elvis Presley lived in a slum, our hotel is located between the two active runways at Memphis International, which would normally thrill me, but after 548 miles from Oklahoma City and encountering some VERY scary neighborhoods near Graceland, I’m sorry, I’m just not in the mood.
‘More on all this at the end of this post. I was unable to post the adventures from day 5, so look below this post for that one first.
‘Here we go then. Today’s statistics:
‘We travelled 548 miles from Oklahoma City, OK (making aroundabout trip through Norman and Shawnee before rejoining I-40). Spent $40 on gas, $18.75 on food, $7.53 on miscellaneous expenses, and $0 on a hotel (bill comes due tomorrow).
‘And here yet again: All the boring, exhausting details, almost as they happened:
‘—I-40E, Approaching Russellville, AR, 18:00 CDT | 20-Aug-04d
‘Boy, did we have fun today … after we were roused by Don playing Elvis singing ‘In the Ghetto’ on the stereo, we got up and had some breakfast, and played with the Artie-pooch, we loaded the Jeepy and the Beagle. And the thermometer on Don’s back porch really did say 116, I swear it; I just forgot to get a picture of it, as promised earlier. At any rate, it was hot. Very, very hot. We said goodbye to Jean, the consummate hostess, and followed Don out to Sundance Airport, where AirDonpy has its base of operations.
‘AirDonpy (which to the uninitiated is the shortened name for the pilot/owner of the airline, Don P. B——-, get it?) had a reserved ticket aboard its flight 1, service from Sundance International to Sundance International with a stop at Sundance International, aboard a beautiful Cessna 150, for Frank. Yes, it was to be Frank’s very first ride in a small private plane, which, as Chief Pilot Don P. pointed out, has HALF the horsepower of the engine in Jeepy.
‘It was very hot and windy when we arrived at the hangar where AirDonpy has its base of operations, which means that the ride was going to be slow, hot and bumpy. But after the usual preflight briefing, conducted by moi and a preflight check and briefing from the Chief Pilot, Frank boarded AirDonpy Flight One for his maiden Wafting On Silvered Wings Through the Skies of Oklahoma.
‘[Insert standard verbiage about the very mad, very hot, very whiney, very uncooperative, very concerned beagle here. Beagles simply do NOT do hot airport hangars while the people who slave for them vanish mysteriously in very loud, noisy vehicles. Beagles also do not appear to enjoy grass by the side of truck stops in Texas and Oklahoma, but that’s another story.]
‘After a pushback (performed also by the Chief Pilot), the flight was ready for departure. There being no traffic at the moment, clearance to taxi was granted and AirDonpy Flight 1 taxied out to runway 17 for an immediate departure. After seatbelts fastened and tray tables stowed, the flight did a circle on the apron to check for traffic and prepared for takeoff. Departure was quick, with the stiff prevailing wind providing much-needed lift in the hot conditions, departed slightly to the southwest, then turned back to the north for an approach back to Sundance International and completion of the first leg.
‘Frank, apparently deciding that he did, indeed, enjoy the flight, elected to continue on the second leg of the journey, which was completed with perfect on-time performance and a smooth landing. A short taxi off the runway and flight 1 was completed.
‘Frank is happy to report that he thoroughly enjoyed the service provided by AirDonpy and would certainly fly with the line again. ‘It wasn’t as bumpy as I expected,’ he said.
‘It was noted that the hot conditions had produced a hot engine, so AirDonpy’s Cessna was allowed to cool off while we took a rest and … then the beagle spit up. He also spit up while flight 1 was in the air, but he did again, this time within the AirDonpy hangar headquarters. He was a very hot dog who had just drunk water the wrong way, I suppose. The concrete floor of the hangar was cooler, so he took a rest and quickly recovered and gave his nervous consent for me to board Flight 2.
‘The Chief Pilot once again made his checks, started the engine and we taxied back out to runway 17. Since AirDonpy’s airconditioning is provided by opening the windows, and since said windows must be closed during flight, said windows were closed and sweat began to build, as did our airspeed as we pushed down the hot, dense air along the runway.
‘We gathered speed and parted with the earth; as always, it is a glorious feeling to slip the surly bonds, even if it is accompanied by questions about just what would happen if an engine half the size of my Jeep’s engine suddenly quit at altitude and we were forced to … oh, nevermind.
‘The flight was a bit bumpy, but considering the conditions, it really wasn’t that bad.
‘I’ll go ahead and bore with the following aside: My personal measure for how bad turbulence is remains a flight on the dearly-departed and bankrupt MarkAir 737 flight David and I once took from Denver to Dallas, on a 1995 afternoon when hailstorms pounded Aurora south of DIA and tornadoes hit Amarillo, TX, and Ardmore, OK. It was on this MarkAir flight that we were packed into with a very large contingent of pink-clad Mary Kay ladies, on their way from Los Angeles to Dallas for a convention. The flight departed in the rain and flew south over Colorado Springs, then turned left and headed towards Kansas. Since Dallas is located far to the south of Kansas, I wondered what was up, but the captain told us that a tornado had just hit Amarillo, consuming some tornado food in a trailer park. Being that Amarillo is roughly on the air route to Dallas, it was probably wise to go around the storm.
‘Yet, going around the storm meant flying to Wichita and hanging a right, following I-35 down through Oklahoma to Dallas. Which was great, except for one thing; storms were pounding Oklahoma, and a tornado was in the process of tearing up Ardmore as we made our right turn at Wichita at 33,000 feet.
‘Once we entered Oklahoma airspace, things began to get rather ugly. When it began, a man who was in the lavatory up front emerged with a sheepish grin and blue hands (let’s just say from some lav-related splashing we won’t go into here). It started rough, but as we went further south, it got rougher. Soon, the flight attendants were strapped in tight, praying to Jesus and urging the passengers to do the same or we were on our own; bins opened up and we began to get a bit worried.
‘At first, everyone was quiet, just hanging on for dear life. But as it got worse, the Mary Kay ladies finally couldn’t take it anymore and it commenced to get noisy. With every stop, drop and roll of this 737, there was a pink chorus of ‘Oh, lordy! He’p us Jesus!’ from the ladies, which, of course, didn’t serve to make the rest of us passengers any more comfortable.
‘Finally, we landed intact at DFW, and I must confess that I have never before or since seen a Mary Kay lady, not to mention a whole herd of them, emerge as disheveled and bedraggled as those ladies did that evening. Their cute, pert, peppy … pinkness … was replaced by shades of green not commonly seen among the Mary Kay set. Afterwards, we got the news that, unbeknownst to us at the time, our captain had, indeed, flown us through the remains of a tornadic storm system.
‘Now, I’m not a white-knuckled flyer usually. On today’s AirDonpy flight 2, it didn’t really bother me to be tossed around a bit. But that MarkAir flight was one for the record books. Oh, and one last thing, a short lesson: Commercial airliners DO break up in flight due to turbulence; a BOAC flight over Mt. Fuji, Japan, in the 60’s, Braniff International’s flight 250, a BAC 1-11 broke up south of Omaha in 1965 due to an encounter with a gust front which stressed the airframe beyond design tolerances and Northwest Orient flight 714 over the Everglades in 1963 also broke up when design limits were exceeded in extreme turbulence.
‘But most turbulence that passengers experience and live to tell about is not extreme. The MarkAir flight experience was probably classified as ‘moderate’ turbulence; there was no damage or injuries. ‘Severe’ is very rare and sometimes catastrophic; what most people encounter is ‘light’ or ‘light to moderate.’ Flight attendants and passengers who happen to be up and walking around often sustain broken bones and other injuries in moderate to severe. Today’s AirDonpy experience was pretty light.
‘But I digress. I can go on for hours about commercial aviation. But back to AirDonpy flight 2, which was a short hop from Sundance International to Sundance International. Takeoff was smooth and climbout was not bad; we were swatted around a bit as we turned to the west. As we turned to the north on the downwind leg, we were crabbing a bit and a little bumpy, but as we turned on base, things got interesting.
‘I’m under a confidentiality agreement where it comes to discussing what happened on AirDonpy flight 2 on approach and final, as well as touchdown. But I must just say that it was the most fun I’ve had flying AirDonpy lo these many years. And we’ll leave it at that. Let’s just say that we’re on the ground safe and sound, AirDonpy will fly another day and we’re now approaching Russellville, AR, some hours later. The day has been uneventful since this morning’s flight.
‘After bidding a fond adieu with many thanks to the AirDonpy operation, we drove south to see Jay’s house and the University of Oklahoma at Norman. It was a pretty quick trip. We then drove east on Hwy 9 and north on 102 and met up with I-40, our old friend, at Shawnee. We stopped at Shawnee for gas, a car wash, a Braum’s hamburger and shake … and some beagle business. Frank has been driving ever since.
‘The much dreaded construction zones on I-40 in Arkansas have indeed materialized and are slowing us down considerably. Mile after mile of one-lane interstate this late in the evening, with Memphis still 200 miles away is rather irritating. We debated whether to avoid Arkansas and Memphis entirely, but ultimately decided that ‘going to Graceland, Graceland, in Memphis, Tennessee’ is an important opportunity that Frank really shouldn’t pass up. Hence, we find ourselves behind a long line of trucks at 50 miles per hour, nearing Russellville, AR. Frank says he’s driving until Little Rock, where we’ll change over and I’ll do the final two hours to Memphis. Gonna be a late arrival this time. And we’re discussing whether to stay an extra night in Memphis and possibly skip Nashville entirely. We’re both pretty tired and there’s lots to see in the City of the King.
‘We just saw the first California-tagged vehicle in the last 500 miles, east of VanBuren, AR. How strange to be the only California vehicle on the freeway …
‘—LaQuinta Inn, Room 117, Memphis, TN, 12:20 CDT
‘Okay, back to the Memphis part of the day.
‘Yes, I took a wrong freeway. I was so mentally tired that I was following my mental picture to Graceland instead of the hotel. It was dark and we had gone almost 550 miles, on top of everything else this morning.
‘But we landed in bad neighborhoods in a bad hotel between two very busy runways. That’s the bad news.
‘The better news: Not all Memphis is bad. I think. The hotel is fine, and we’ll only be here one night. And I like airplanes and the room is sound-proofed enough that you don’t hear much. Not anywhere near as bad as the BNSF trains roaring through Flagstaff every 20 minutes all night long.
‘Still. The security apparatus on the door looks like it was forcibly ripped open (By police? Jealous husband? Marauding drug dealers? Who knows?) and has not been replaced. The bathtub is … only good for showers. The carpet needs cleaning. The bathroom door won’t close and the handle is loose. I’m NOT thinking about the sheets. And don’t get me started on the hotel clerk. Sorry, don’t mean to be snooty, but the girl is right out of Appalachia and I’m not sure she was wearing shoes. Okay, okay, that IS snooty. But she really didn’t understand anything that was going on. It just added to the off-putting time that we’ve had in Memphis … and haven’t even been here three hours yet.
‘I’ll spare you the rest of the details (including the trip back through the neighborhoods to visit the Wendy’s Drive-Through From Hell, because it’s very late and I’m very tired and I had a panic/anxiety attack when we got here. Frank’s not in much better shape himself. But the Xanax is kicking in and we’re ready for bed.
‘Things will be rosier tomorrow, I’m sure.
‘For now, let me thank everyone who has posted comments and sent e-mails. We do appreciate them, especially now that we’re nearing the end and about to come up against the reality of what we’ve done. It hit me tonight in Memphis; after we left Oklahoma and our friends, I’m feeling especially … discombobulated and freaked.
‘But tomorrow is another day, as they say here in the south and things will be rosier come morning. It’ll all be okay, don’t worry about us. We’ll handle it. Just 746 more miles to go and we’re home.
‘The beagle sends very tired and wornout greetings and hugs to everyone, as do Frank and I. More tomorrow!
‘Today’s trip stats. The Arkansas part after Little Rock is missing, because it was dark and I was driving. And you shouldn’t write down trip stats in the dark, while driving in Arkansas. There was construction and state trooper speed traps everywhere.
‘ 11:00 — Left Don and Jean’s House in Oklahoma City; went to Sundance Airport for a couple of plane rides with Don; drove to Norman to take a quick peek at the University of Oklahoma and vandalize the house of a friend who is in Venice and Verona, Italy today. (Just kidding, Jay. We just let Bayley poop in your yard. Oh, no. Just kidding again. But I thought about it …)
• 0 miles | 1906 total.
• 14:40 — Shawnee — 85 | 1991
• 15:28 — Okemah — 122 | 2028
• 15:45 — Henryetta — 143 | 2049
• 16:23 — Webbers Falls Bridge That Fell Down — 193 | 2099
• 16:56 — Arkansas State Line — 234 | 2140
• 17:00 — Van Buren — 239 | 2144
• 18:04 — Russellville — 313 | 2218
• 18:28 — Morrilton — 342 | 2247
• 18:46 — Conway — 362 | 2267
• 19:30 — Little Rock — 395 | 2300
• 21:30 — Memphis, TN — 548 | 2453
‘Good night from Memphis, TN … y’all!
‘Oh, and thank you. Thank you very much.
‘[AirBeagle has left the building …]
‘—Posted by Steve at 00:40 | 20-Aug-03’