Monterey Bay Logo
Monterey Bay



Meetings | Scholarship | Events | Joining | Links | Scrapbook | History
About Us | Newsletter | Biographies | Local Area | Fly Market | Home

Jet Romance
by Gabrielle Adleman
September 2007

It can be a beautiful experience to take your hand-painted cloth taildragger to the grass strip across the hill and bump down the edgeless, numberless sod as the wind keeps your rudders busy and the sun brightens the fog rolling over the hills, or to pick one hill out of many and add the rotor-blast of a ragonfire-red helicopter to the sea breeze tossing the wildflowers around on its frantic rush inland; but this doesn’t mean that the picturesque is only to be found by the slow, small aircraft that show up in calendar art and greeting cards. Weather radar and pressurization aren’t the stuff of Richard Bach’s novels, but they can make flights possible that weather and a days-long hypoxia headache would otherwise cancel, and you can find some airports and towns out there that are worth the trip, even if they aren’t your final destination.

The goal of this particular flight was to reach Key West during business hours; the only way to make this work and still actually be awake for the flight was to break it up into a two-day journey. I looked at the route of the flight and picked out some major cities along the way to stop. Shreveport worked out the best, but we have found with experience that small airports near big cities are a better bet in terms of price and hassle than the airports at the big cities themselves. So we picked Minden, in northwest Louisiana, instead. There are some disadvantages to the smaller airports, though. Rental car agencies rarely have offices there; so the airport manager (who we got to know better over the next few days) pointed us to a nearby Enterprise office.

Enterprise’s local agent was appalled. “That’s a SUNDAY. We’re closed!” None of the usual offers to leave a car at the airport the day before, or leave a key at the office, no, no, we can’t possibly work on a Sunday, that’s impossible. I called the airport manager back (the conversation was a little scratchy since he was also the fuel island operator and was on the mobile phone at the time) to explain my difficulty and see if maybe there was a taxi? It was as if his favorite cousin was visiting and offered to hitchhike home from the airport, since there was no other way to get around. He couldn’t let that happen. We would have the airport courtesy car overnight.

When we came in for a landing, out of a sky so gentle that students could solo in it, the airport resolved itself from a slash in a uniform field of trees into a rectangular grass-edged space with a modest ramp, and minimal taxiways: a sure sign of light traffic, since a back-taxi was the only option for getting back to the ramp. The manager was there, waiting at the fuel island. We chatted about the couple of Cessnas doing touch-and-goes while he topped us off, offered to help with the luggage, gave us a guess as to tomorrow’s winds and got the key for the car, which turned out to be a city-owned SUV, large enough to haul aircraft engines around in (it even had a detachable rotating light in the back, like a tow-truck’s). The air was warm and grass-scented and full of insect sounds; it was thick, but not oppressive, so you felt that if you tripped, you would fall slowly through it, like through goose-down, to land on the velvet grass.

The Sunday hush on the town that was already quiet from the summer afternoon heat was impressive. Even the gas station was unattended, so our next direct contact with anyone was with the innkeepers, husband and wife, at the tiny B&B where we were staying, the Yellow Pine Inn. They welcomed us, their only guests that night, to their 100-year-old converted schoolhouse with the feather beds, antiques, two resident cats and abundant tomato gardens out back, and even offered to share their dinner with us. I explained that I had my heart set on gumbo, so after some discussion between them of what places were open (Sunday again), they drew a map for us and we were off again.

The restaurant didn’t have gumbo on the menu, but it didn’t have water either, for the same reason:
you don’t need to list what everyone assumes you have. I had gumbo, and catfish pan-fried in cornmeal, and Ken had the brisket, and we both wished we were hungrier and could eat more of it.

I suppose it is possible to have trouble falling asleep in a featherbed, surrounded by country quiet, after a good meal, but the next thing I knew it was daylight and I was filling a claw-foot tub with slightly muddy but warm water and picking out which bath salts to add. For breakfast our hostess fretted slightly over not being able to feed us more than homemade pancakes, fruit, cereal, milk and juice; the cats made another appearance, and our send-off was as warm as our welcome had been. Back at the airport, the manager, who clearly loved his little airport, had picked up ice for us at a convenience store and refused to be paid for it, again offered to help with the luggage, and marshaled us out, giving a final friendly wave as we poured decibels into the morning stillness and headed to the east.

Monterey Bay Ninety-Nines ©2008 All Rights Reserved