Friday, May 18, 2012

Hubba Hubba Hubby

A few weeks ago, with all of our family in town, we had some family photos taken. You know, because the last time we did it was in 2002. So it was indeed time to update the walls of our homes. We like our spouses and even the grandkids, so photo proof that they existed was a good idea.

This was my favorite of Hubby and me. He is so dashing, and this was one of the few we had where my hair wasn’t in my face. I’m not sure how important that is to the general public, but I played it safe by sharing this one instead.

I’ve got a great man, and sometimes I forget how blessed I am. I’m glad he is mine. And that he is so handsome. Double-bonus.

Mama and Charloe, I will be sending your CDs soon. Lee did a great job, so I think you’ll like them! It could even be considered worth the almost-ten-year wait.

Also, guess what? I updated My Airplane page to reflect Gladys joining my life. Feel free to check it out if you, like me, think three days is too long to go without seeing an airplane ‘round these parts.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Only Three Pictures?

Just a few weekends ago, we had lots of family in town for a baby blessing. It was a fun-filled weekend involving bra shopping, Joe’s BBQ, updated family photos by our wedding photographer (since we’ve all gotten married since the last one in 2002), swimming, and lots of good food and visiting.

My parents and two little brothers stayed at our house, and it was a treat having such pleasant house guests. I was gone for work when they left for home on that Monday, but Hubby said that they cleaned up so well that he got to take the week off of housework and just kick back.

Somehow, in all the fun and glory and eating, I managed to get a whole three pictures capturing the weekend. Three!


I know my excuse. One sub-family in my family prefers to stay out of the online spotlight, so pictures of them aren’t allowed to show up on my blog. I think that rather than try to work random photos without accidentally getting them in the shot, I resigned before the weekend even started to just enjoy the four days without taking pictures constantly.

This decision is regretted, of course. I wish I had more fun photos to document the great times we had, even if I couldn’t post them for all the world to see.


My memories of the weekend will simply have to be based on these three lone shots. Of four cute kids in swimming suits ready to jump in for the day. I have to admit, though, that they are really cute captures of really cute kids. Even if only three shots exist.

Thanks for coming down, everyone. It was such a nice weekend with you. I’m so glad that you’re my family and that you let me be a part of it.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Leaving Paradise (Cue the Sappy Violin)


I couldn’t just lounge around on a beach forever. Well, I could. But eventually, I had a hunkering that people would want to be returning home to see significant others and small children, etc.


So last Friday, we loaded up an airplane with lots of bags. Then six passengers climbed on board for the three-hour flight to Fort Lauderdale to clear Customs.


We got some fuel for the flight home. Lots of fuel! But it only takes about ten minutes to get lots of fuel in this airplane. Even the fueling is rocket-like!


It was just awful leaving Anguilla. I truly hope that this isn’t my last visit here.


I knew that it would be a hot morning, so I loaded the airplane with lots of cold beverages. Water, and three different type of diet, caffeine-free sodas, to be exact.


This, as you can see from this lovely placard, is a water barrier. Once everyone was loaded and the main door was shut, I unfolded this plastic barrier around the bottom of the door. In the terrible situation of opening the door in water, this would keep the water out of the airplane long enough for us to inflate our raft and get out.

I also found out that it is a convenient place to store small carry-on luggage in a stuffed airplane! Good to know.


Goodbye, my sweet, lovely Anguilla. My heart strings already stretch in agony when I think of you. You were very good to me this week. I’ll be back.


Goodbye, wonderful Caribbean islands! You shouldn’t have to go through this life without me fully appreciating every aspect of your beauty. In person. Pencil me in.


I’ll see what I can do to come visit each and every one of you. Team player!

(Look at those sandbars…can we please just go snorkeling here already?!)


I took this as we descended to land on the eastern coast of Florida. Ft. Lauderdale Executive Airport caters to business and general aviation, so we avoided the big airliner airport of Miami.


Hello, Florida!


We taxied to the Customs building and got the awful news that everything had to be unloaded from the airplane. Though I didn’t go to the gym today, I certainly got my workout from loading, unloading, then loading and unloading again this airplane today.

Lots and lots of bags. And I am happy to report that mine was neither the largest nor the heaviest.


After a quick bite to eat and a quick fuel turn, we were on our way again. Because of how full we were, we needed another fuel stop before we could make it home. We got to dodge some convective activity during our climb out of Ft. Lauderdale, but Florida always has thunderstorms!


This was my last view of land via the western coast of Florida (somewhere near Venice). We would be over the Gulf of Mexico for the next few hours. Bye, Florida!


And this is the only photo proof I have that we stopped in Midland, Texas for fuel. They were so fast and had a GPU (Ground Power Unit) hooked up to the airplane before my passengers were off the airplane. Midland is known for its oil drilling, and this photo shows some drill sites in the lower left-hand corner.

Sorry that I don’t have any more Texas pictures. I was busy getting everything ready and paid for so we could be on our way home.

I have never stopped in Midland before, but we would certainly stop again.


You may know this by now, but I really love Gladys, my Phenom 300. One of the many perks that just make this little lady awesome? I can listen to XM Radio on our flights. It comes through my headset unless someone (pilots, controllers, or usually me) talks. Then it goes silent so I can hear other transmissions.

The rest of the time, I get to enjoy Prime Country. It is so good…all of the wonderful country songs from growing up. I don’t like modern country, but those old George Strait, The Judd's, and Randy Travis songs from the early 1990s never get old at 43,000 feet!


Here is a screenshot of our flight plan. We are headed to San Simon (SSO) VOR towards the SUNSS7 Arrival into Phoenix. “TOD” is our Top of Descent, which is always fun to see on the moving map since it means we are close to our destination.


This is one of the many clean, simple panels on the Phenom 300. (Hope you like this shot, Susan and Ken!)


And another. This one is for airplane pressurization and the air conditioning in both cockpit and cabin, though they can also control the cabin temperature. It’s better that way, since passengers can get pretty cold.

That’s why I also have warm, fuzzy, good-smellin’ blankets on board!


Look, Torey! I can see your house! Here we are flying over Queen Creek and San Tan Valley on our way into The Valley.


Descending for downwind leg to land on Runway 21. Scottsdale is a beautiful city indeed. Expensive, but beautiful. Maybe it’s beautiful because it’s expensive?


Hi, Home! I’m happy to see you! It’s been a long day. And I’m glad the winds are straight down the runway at eight knots. Makes for a smooth landing after all-day of flying.

Pure heaven, I tell you.


Home at last. What an incredible week in the Caribbean. I want to go back. Maybe I will in a few weeks.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

My Last Day in Anguilla (sniff sniff)


With a little sunburn from Tuesday lounging around on a white sand beach, I tried to avoid direct sunlight on my last day in heaven.


This is the sign at the entrance to my resort. I still am not 100% sure how to pronounce it, but I think it is fran-gee-pawn-nee. At least, that is how the nice groundskeeper kept saying it! In a thick accent, so it was hard to understand everything.


I found a comfortable padded lounge chair by the infinity pool and pulled out my book to read. I actually got through 2.5 Harry Potter books this week on my Kindle app. I love reading but feel too guilty to do so when I’m home since there is always something more important that I should be doing.


Reading by a pool in the Caribbean? No reading guilt whatsoever.


I am so thankful for photography. It is going to be really hard to not be on a white sand beach next week. I am glad that I have these pictures to remember how incredible this week has been.


The infinity pool was cool and refreshing. When I got a little too warm, accented by the high humidity, I just hopped into the pool and laid on the lounge floater for a while. Again, I was very careful to keep my shoulders and legs out of the strong sunlight.

Staying underneath an umbrella is completely bearable. It was also a little cloudy today, so the sun wasn’t as much an enemy as on Tuesday.


Soon it was time for lunch. I walked a whole thirty feet to the Straw Hat once again. I know I should have tried somewhere else, but the convenience of being so close couldn’t be beat.


I had a turkey club sandwich.


With those incredible fries from my meal on Tuesday. I openly admit that they may have been a big factor in me coming back to this place to eat yet again. They were even better this time. Now I’m trying to figure out how to make them at home! Like I need more fried potatoes in this place…


And then it was back to my lounge chair. It was a pretty hectic day, as you can see.


I visited with this friendly little guy. He kept blowing out a yellow fin, but I kept missing it with my camera. And then I started to think of that scene in Jurassic Park where the cute, friendly little dinosaur turns into a monster and eats the fat computer geek.

So I backed away slowly, and we parted ways.


Several hours later, my stomach reminded me that dinner would be nice. I showered and changed into proper attire for dinner (shorts and a t-shirt), and walked down the beach by the water while carrying my flip-flops. I promise that I didn’t pick this eating establishment based on the colors alone.


About half a mile away was Blanchard’s Shack. Isn’t it bright and fun and happy? Doesn’t it make you want to eat some Mexican food?!


I fell in love with their tables and chairs immediately. Did you know that I love blue and green? These are the exact shades that I love so much, actually. I also loved the hanging lights above and the lanterns on each picnic table. Casual elegance at its best.


It took a while to look at their vast menu and decide what should be right for me. I knew I wanted Mexican food, so I decided on the shredded pork rice bowl. And, while waiting, I got a drink.


A mango pina colada, minus the alcohol. I’m glad that I only discovered this place on my last night here, because this drink was insane! So refreshing and cold and perfect with my Mexican dinner!


Everything tasted so good. Reading can really work up an appetite, you know?


The view from my table in the sand was gorgeous as well. I got to enjoy the sunset while I chowed down. I think this was my favorite meal of the week. And only $16 for the whole lot, too! Food here on the island was pretty expensive, so I was tickled to find something so delicious that didn’t cost a small fortune.

On my walk back to the Frangipani, I wanted to lock in memories of this beautiful piece of earth. I will happily reflect on this image every time my tan needs some work.


This is a picture of one happy camper. Too bad I don’t have any say in staying longer, huh?

Tomorrow will be showcasing the pictures of the flight home, so don’t miss it!

Monday, May 14, 2012

A Day in the Dutch West Indies


Traveling to such tropical and foreign destinations this past week was absolute heaven for me. These are places I’ve always wanted to see in person but haven’t had the chance. And, being realistic, I don’t know if I ever would have made it here on my own. So it was just perfect to go to the Caribbean for work. I just can’t believe I got paid to do it!


If you’ve been living under a rock, you might not know that I died and went to heaven last week in the form of a work trip to the Caribbean. You can catch up on my posts about Anguilla here, here, and our flight over to Saint Maarten here.

My day in Saint Maarten was just like the rest of my stay in the West Indies. I didn’t want to leave!


The most important thing to do once we landed and cleared Customs was to get a bite to eat. The local FBO, TLC, took us to the other side of the runway where we ate lunch at Taco Macho. I don’t think I would ever turn down Mexican food.


I ordered shredded beef tacos with the small rice and beans. They weren’t kidding about the “small” name, since the beans came in one of those plastic sampling cups! By mixing them with the dry rice, a nice side dish was created.

IMG_4413  IMG_4414

Hey, I should go into the food industry! These were good, but tacos are always better in a soft tortilla. I should have specified! No habla espanol!


The view from the restaurant couldn’t be beat. I was just a few hundred feet away from landing traffic on Runway 10. Just an hour prior, I was landing on the same runway!


Look at all those crazy people behind the landing Boeing 727. They are hoping to get blown away, despite signs everywhere saying to not do anything so drastic. It cracked me up. People can be so silly! I have never liked sand and dirt and hot exhaust being blown onto my face at 150 MPH! Do I need to get out more?


The airport was hopping all day. In addition to the larger traffic, several smaller airplanes took off to hop to other nearby islands. I saw at least five of these mini airlines trucking people to St. Maarten. Lots of people come to visit this popular location!


After my belly was full, it was time to explore. I hit the road on foot and was at the famous Sunset Beach just a few feet away.


The place was packed, and a little too full of men in Speedos for my liking. I prefer none, so perhaps I was being too strict.


Despite these signs all over the place, people were clambering to get action against the chain link fence. Hubby told me about a video he saw of a lady getting blown backwards into the cement barrier and having to make a visit to the hospital via ambulance. Doesn’t that sound like fun?

I treated this sign as an airplane placard and followed its advice.


I could sit on Sunset Beach all day to watch arriving traffic. I found out later on in the evening that the Sunset Beach Grill (where we ate dinner) had speakers listening to the Tower Frequency.

Isn’t this ship beautiful, too? I know nothing about nautical stuff (like ships, etc.), and I’m OK with that.


Yet another “airliner” making a pit stop in paradise.


Some airplanes don’t even look like they should be able to fly! This fat airliner looks so un-aerodynamic that I would have reservations getting aboard. But, then again, I am always baffled when an airplane that weighs 750,000 pounds leaves the ground, too.


The crowd was disappointed that this landing DeHavilland Dash-8 didn’t spray them more with exhaust. Landing traffic is usually carrying very little power, so not much exhaust comes off these guys. I doubt we hurt a single tourist when we landed.


Now we’re talking! JetBlue can blow up a mighty storm on takeoff!


This is the view of the runway from the crazy people’s perspective. If you want to get blown away, this is where to stand. Don’t do it! You can still be cool with your face intact!


I found out later that the reason the beach was so packed was because a Carnival Cruise Ship was docked on the other side of the island. When I came back to the beach after wandering around town, this place was almost deserted. It had come time for all the boat passengers to leave, and that left hardly anyone else.


This time of year (April through October) is considered the off-season for the Caribbean. I bet this place would stay pretty busy during the Christmas holidays when hotel rooms go for $500 a night!


I always wondered if St. Maarten would be friendly. I was glad to see that confirmation in the form of the local license plate.

Luckily, these people drive on the correct side of the road.


Welcome to St. Maarten! Someone stole the “T” in the sign, though.


We were on the Dutch side of the island, and the eastern side is French. I didn’t go over there but my passengers did.


Just a half a mile from Sunset Beach is a cute little shopping area. This whole island seems to be very touristy, and the entire economy is based on people coming to spend money in these shops.


I did my share by enjoying an ice cream. Team player, remember?


After buying some water for the airplane (the bottles in my trunk in Phoenix weren’t doing me much good), I walked back to the airplane on the ramp. This was the entrance to go to the ramp where Gladys was parked.


I had to clear security each time I went out, but they didn’t seem to mind anything too much. Does everyone who lives on an island have to be so laid-back?


While my flying partner was enjoying the ocean (and getting sunburned like you wouldn’t believe), I had the airplane fueled for our long trip back to Anguilla later that night.

The same trucks who fuel the airliners also fuel the general aviation airplanes. We only took about 45 gallons, but we could have made it home without taking any fuel. We wanted to support the locals and show our appreciation for their being so good to us during our stay for the day.


This airplane makes my heart go pitter-pat. You, too? I thought so!


I had to get a ride to and from the airport from the FBO, since we shared the same ramp with the airliners. After I got some fuel, I decided to head back to Sunset Beach for some dinner.

Though it doesn’t seem like very long ago that I was eating lunch…I promise that several hours had passed! My stomach decided that dinner was in order.

IMG_4432  IMG_4470


While I waited for dinner, I got a lovely view of arriving airplanes. This would never get old to me!


It was surreal to be here. I never in my wildest dreams imagined that I would be on the same beach that inspires numerous videos online of people being just feet under landing airplanes.

Man, I love my job.


Dinner came and was delicious. I probably took a risk eating such an Italian-American dish, but the entire island seems to cater to the tourist palate. This was yummy and gave me the energy needed for the long trek home.

Perhaps they don’t have fresh basil on St. Maarten? This is supposed to be a Margherita Pizza with mozzarella and basil…once of my favorites. Sprinkles of the dry stuff counts for some effort, I guess.


At around 5:30 that evening, it was time to head home. I was actually looking forward to the quiet serene location of Anguilla after such a busy day in a tourist trap.


Hello, St. Maarten Tower! Thanks for being so nice to us gringos!


This was just before our passengers arrived. They brought the flight crew some homemade fresh macaroons from the other side of the island.

So, let’s recap. Not only do I have an awesome job getting to fly to awesome locations, but my bosses bring me treats. Are you starting to see why this life is so wonderful?


Taxiing to Runway 10 for takeoff. It will be facing the mountains, but this little rocket climbed right above them. Mountains mixed with airplanes usually doesn’t work.


Goodbye, Saint Maarten! Thanks for such a lovely day! I hope to see you soon, too!


Rural Saint Maarten before we head over the ocean to Anguilla…five miles north.


The island of Saint Maarten is in the distance as we come over the island of Anguilla to land at the airport in the middle of the island. See how close they are?


Cleared to land, Runway One-Zero.


It felt wonderful being back in paradise once again. And I heard crickets when we opened the door. Silence at last! After such a busy day, it was nice to have that peace back.


With our passengers loaded in the air-conditioned ride for the trip back to their hotel, I locked up the airplane and got it ready for just one more day on the ramp in Anguilla.

Goodnight, Gladys!


I got to clear Customs again in Anguilla. Make that two stamps in my passport from this wonderful island. It feels good to be home for the night!

My Wednesday to Saint Maarten was wonderful. I could deal with days like this more often.

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