Our annual trip in our single engine plane from south Florida, north to Philadelphia and Ohio, began with adventure. Scooting around thunderstorms during takeoff, our airspeed indicator failed. The transponder, what identifies our plane to Air Traffic Control, was intermittent, and the two iPad’s we use for backup navigation were quickly losing power. We only needed to make it to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina for our first leg of the trip.
Weather cleared within a half-hour flying north, so we flew along the central Florida coast with a flawless view of the unusually transparent water. I have an archaeological permit allowing exclusive exploration to search for shipwrecks in a small portion of the Atlantic Ocean. I took the opportunity to visually inspect the area from air, knowing I would return in a few weeks by boat… an anticipated pre-planned mid-July expedition. I spotted a curious dark outline the size of a ship. Scribbling notes, coordinates and drawings, my mind raced through the possibilities as if I was winning the lottery before checking the numbers.
A storm was nearing our destination, competing in a marathon for the runway. One iPad died, the other had 8% power, and our airspeed indicator was still unresponsive. We won by about five minutes, but we would continue the race the following morning.
Mossy trees, crickets and the faint smell of rain greeted me during a morning jog. Roadside motels, restaurants and an amusement park provided visual stimulation as I listened to my audiobook. I briefly peaked at the ocean waves and slightly turbulent sky at my turnaround point, arriving back at our hotel an hour later.
After fixing our airspeed indicator we were again airborne heading to the Philadelphia area, a three-hour flight. I was flying, circling up between the bulbous clouds building in the region. This tropical disturbance would later become the first hurricane of the season, Arthur.
For the first time I found simple but familiar creatures interesting while socializing outside in the summer air. The ubiquitous northeast coast american robin was funny to watch hop around in the grass. I’m sure other birds hop, but robins are like the kangaroo of the avian kingdom. Blue jays and cardinals flew by, sat on fences and studied me as much as I watched them.
At night lighting bugs lit up the fields, bringing back memories of my youth. Similar creatures roamed Ohio, my hometown and our next stop on our journey. I recalled catching lightning bugs and throwing white objects at bats for entertainment. Bats would dive white balls as we dove into the grass to escape. Simple childhood fun. Damn, I hope I don’t see bats this trip?
Our next stop in Georgia brought about a different kind of animal analysis, that of my little crazy dog. Last time we visited our home in the Georgia mountains, just three weeks prior, a mini tornado formed as I was walking my pup. It was brief, just a few minutes of high winds spinning at 70 plus miles per hour, but she remembered. When it happened she didn’t know what to do and I grabbed her before she bolted into the woods. I teased her about being Toto in the classic movie The Wizard of Oz. Now she won’t go outside past 6 p.m. about the time she was almost”Totoed,” she needs a psychiatrist.