Trains are cool, for a few hours. Then boredom begins to set in as the scenery remains the same as the station from whence it departed. Cars? Forget it. I can't stand to be cooped up in a car for a 10-hour drive if I can get there in an hour cruising in a Beechjet. There really is no better way to see the country than in a private airplane. It just so happens that I have access to one, and a pretty nifty one at that! I've become a spoiled traveler, thanks to my job as a corporate pilot. It's just part of the rough territory that has to be dealt with. Fortunately, it falls upon me to cope with such anxieties as no TSA security lines, no busy airline terminals, and no being accosted by security just for trying to bring a bottle of water along. It's a rough "job," but I willingly put up with it.
We get to the airplane early, after awaking at 4:00 AM. I pick Terry up at a gas station along the way so his wife doesn't have to drive him all the way to Phoenix. When we arrive at the airport, I kiss the beautiful airplane that I love so much. I then wash windows and leading edges of the wings to make sure they are shiny for the soon-to-arrive passengers. While I fill the airplane with coffee, newspapers, and ice for for cold bottles of water, Terry works on uploading the new navigational database into the airplane computer. It's always nice to be legal and safe! We are kind of sticklers on that! Before long, six people arrive in the lobby. We load up their bags and are wheels-up, just five minutes after Big Boss parks his car. I still get butterflies and a big ol' grin during every takeoff. Is there any better feeling than being thrown back in your seat from 5,800 pounds of thrust provided by two Pratt and Whitney engines?
One hardship of my employment is the constantly-changing scenery outside my office window. It transforms from beautiful and warm Valley of the Sun to barren desert to the Las Vegas strip before evolving into snow-capped mountains towards the green Pacific coast. This all occurs in a matter of an hour and a half. We pick up some light rime icing in the descent into the Bay Area, but luckily we anticipate where and when it will happen. All of the engine anti-ice, wing heat, and tail heater pads are fired up and warm long before they are needed to keep ice from forming on the surfaces of the airplane. It can get pretty cold up there! Minus-sixty degrees is commonly found at altitudes such as 36,000 feet, and when you mix a cold airplane with moisture through a descent, ice is just going to happen. Luckily, in late April, it doesn't last forever. And before long, we break out of the clouds and frozen moisture pellets to find the Oakland International Airport spread out in front of us.
We land. Terry's first in a few months, and of course, he greases it. It's hard to do in an airplane with no trailing-link landing gear to help cushion the touchdown. He makes it look easy, and I yet again feel grateful that I fly with such a competent and pleasant coworker. It's a mighty small space to not get along. I think back on the past few hours...it feels so good to be back in the sky. Can I really be getting paid to have this much fun?
We taxi in to the Fixed-Base Operator, or FBO, where we park the airplane and get some fuel. I hop out quickly to get the passengers' bags loaded into their awaiting rental car. They head inside for a bathroom break and some warm cookies. Evil FBO! Who can turn down warm chocolate chip cookies?! I make sure the passengers get out of the ramp access gate before returning to get our own rental car. We normally don't get a rental but just borrow the Crew Car for a few hours to grab some grub. However, this trip means we have a little more time on the ground than normal, and we celebrate by visiting some local attractions such as science centers and temples, etc.
Before heading out for some adventures around town, we check into the hotel. Nice, but no brand name means no hotel points. It sounds silly, but it is nice to collect those points to be able to travel for leisure and not pay for a hotel! On the bright side, the king-size bed has an indentation in it for a body, so I know exactly where to sleep. John and I have found that neither of us sleeps when I am gone for work, and tonight will be no exception. After ensuring the hotel is up to our not-very-high standards (just clean, please), Terry and I head down the block to try an Indian buffet for lunch. It is good...Chicken Tikka Misala is about as adventurous as I get with Indian food, but I love that stuff. I soak up the sauce with some Naan bread before getting too full. Then we battle a rain storm as we drive up higher and higher into the mountains of Oakland to arrive at science centers and temples, etc.
Getting to Oakland can be a pain for some. When I do it through work, it is nothing but pure bliss. I absolutely love my "job."