Wednesday, April 1
We wanted to have dinner in Atlanta with Nell’s great-uncle Abbott. There was some weather over New Orleans when we woke up, but we waited it out (I went to the aquarium with the boys while Nell finished the re-write on her script). On the way to the airport I called the FBO and asked them to bring up the plane and make sure it was fueled. They called back in a few minutes and said, “Where did you park it?” I said they had parked it. “What time did you come in?” I glanced at my phone. I had called the Lafayette branch of the FBO instead of the New Orleans branch. I apologized and called the right one, and imagined the huge relief of the line crew when they realized they HADN’T lost some guy’s plane.
[Part of our Spring Break 2009 Trip.]
We took off at 2:40pm and headed northwest.
We banked over Lake Pontchartrain and I pointed out to the boys the I-10 snaking along an impossibly long bridge stretching across the lake. I remembered Lucinda Williams singing:
This town has said what it has to say / Now I’m after that back highway / And the longest bridge I’ve ever crossed over Pontchartrain
I wish our iPod system in the plane was as good as the system at home, where I can easily pull up any song out of the ten thousand was have in iTunes. I know we had Lucinda with us, but it would have been hard to find her. Goodbye to the Crescent City, we’ll be back at some point.
Dexter posted from the FBO as I was loading the plane:
I’m so glad to have finally seen some kids. In Marfa and elsewhere there were no kids that were older than me, or younger, aside from babies. In New Orleans there were tons of kids and one said I looked familiar but I told her that I was from California and I was not familiar.
We crossed unbelievably huge swamps on the way north. I would look down to see tin-roofed encampments, with no way to get to them except narrow waterways snaking through the swamp. I don’t know how people know their way through those mazes of mangroves and brown water. I always have an emergency landing spot picked out and I am sorry to say that a lot of the time over Louisiana and Alabama it was a water ditching. (Sorry for the passengers having to swim. Water ditching is statistically safer than forced landings on terra firma.)
We flew over Selma and Montgomery. As we flew past Tuskagee Nell wished we could stop, but we were trying to make it to dinner. There were a lot of clouds as we approached Atlanta and the approach controller vectored us all around the Class Bravo before letting us head directly for Peachtree Dekalb. The FBO had the first porte corchere for business jets that I have seen. You can walk out to your Gulfstream without getting wet. They were super and let us borrow a car to drive the two miles to Abbott and Harriet’s house. It took longer to drive to dinner than it took to get from cruising altitude to parked and chocked in the plane. We managed to hit rush hour head on.
After a wonderful home-cooked meal (we’re so desperate to have those when we are traveling) and a good discussion of fedoras (Abbott took his out of the coat closet, Harriet was surprised to see it and he said, “I haven’t worn it since the war”), we headed back to the airport. I studied the weather, which included a few overcast layers at different altitudes. But it looked like with some good planning we could make it to Charlotte, NC that night. (That was key because it would let us make it to DC in the morning.)
We climbed out of the Atlanta area. A night flight is a good change of pace, although when there is an overcast layer below it makes it a lot harder to see the way that the bunching of lights describes the villages and civilization below. It was rainy as we approached Charlotte, and we were a small fish swimming into a big pond. Huge pond. Charlotte is US Airway’s hub and there are three huge runways (one of them is ten thousand feet long). We bounced along over the low hills around Charlotte, with me a little anxious about the rain we might get vectored into (it’s not dangerous, but it can be loud, distracting and frightening for the passengers). Finally we were lined up on the approach to three-six right. We did a nice soft roll onto the tarmac and a lineman with lighted wands waved me into a spot in front of Wilson Air Center.
We had left Atlanta at 7:30pm and it was 10:00pm when we landed. That was enough flying for me for the day and I was very glad to have Nell handle the hotel selection. We were in a gorgeous atrium hotel that the boys loved. I collapsed onto a bed with a lot of pillows.