Home > Dispatches > Daily Dispatches 2014 > Daily Dispatch #70

March 11, 2014: Up, Up, and Away

Even the best metaphors go awry. Right after I wrote my Monday dispatch, Pete went to the computer and found a relatively cheap plane flight to Fairbanks. Then he found a really cheap return trip train ticket to Talkeetna.

I was, when he was telling me about this, preparing for my interplanetary voyage. I had packed my clothes and was on my way to move the car kit that my sister Eleanor gave me, from the Mother ship to Sputnik. Inwardly, I was also thinking about how I’d deal with icy roads, should I come to them. I was turning the steering wheel one way, and

then the other, in my head.

As I understood it, I had two choices. I could either go with Plan A, which was to fly and take the train, or I could go with Plan B, which was to go by Sputnik. I did not deliberate long, because my decision making time was limited. Going by plane/train was faster, easier, but more expensive. Going by spaceship was slower, more difficult, but less expensive. Speed turned out to be of the essence. I opted to go by plane/train.

It was right then that I had to abandon metaphor. This was not without considerable regret. It was a good metaphor, and most likely it would have provided me with imaginary belief on my journey north.

I called my friend Fran, who said that my midday arrival time would work with her, and as well it fit in with our plans to see the ice sculptures. I didn’t say that this meant that we’d have to get going early, because this was extraneous information.

We did get going early. Amazingly, we got the morning chores done and were out of here in short order. We listened to the weather report on the car radio. Oh, oh, it was said to be windy in Anchorage, on the hillside area, and in the Turnagain Arm area.

There really can be no metaphor for flying because it is what it is. The metaphor of interplanetary travel works because it is something else.

Flying, to some may seem like something routine, a day-to-day activity that gets you from point A to point B in a timely fashion. Not so to me. Flying terrifies me; perhaps this is because I have what some would say is an overactive imagination. I think it’s because I’m a realist. So much can and does wrong with high flying machinery. And I, who have remained attuned to such things, know what most of these things are.

Nearly everyone feels this way. This is why we have TSA. This supposedly reduces the odds that a terrorist will highjack the plane. This is supposed to reduce passenger apprehension. However, it does not take into account many other things, things that we have no control over, like bombs in the luggage, explosives up the ying yang, or self-detonating eyeballs.

And there is always the prospect of bad weather. So my worst fears were confirmed when immediately after I was seated, the co-pilot told us all in a tired voice that we were waiting for permission to take off because “there had been several bumpy flights this morning.” He added that it would be a fast flight, 45 minutes, because we’d have tail winds.

This, I knew, meant no beverage service. This was a decided drawback for me, since I like to crunch on the ice in my water. I also like to keep an eye on the flight attendants. Things are bad when after being told by the pilot to do so, they scurry back to their seats.

That was it. I was fortunate enough to have a window seat, and no passenger beside me, so I was able to curl up into a ball and shake like a leaf. I alternated between doing this and doing deep yoga breathing.

The take-off was extremely bumpy. Don’t like the elevator sensation. Don’t like feeling like I’m in a lobster’s tail. Don’t like it when planes shudder like hypothermia victims.

The flight was 45 minutes too long. But amazingly, once we got above the clouds below, it was not too bad bump-wise. It was blowsy out, but apparently not so bad at the height we were flying. I saw Denali, surrounded by clouds. Saw the tundra below. Saw the Alaska Range.

I also thought about all the people I know who have flown recently. And I spent a lot of time thinking about my friend Marj, who flies back and forth from the North Slope on a routine basis. Brave, brave people, I think, taking their lives in their hands. And unlike my hands, theirs don’t break into a sweat every time they get on a plane.

I breathed a sigh of relief as we began our descent. Now I know that landings are the most dangerous part of plane travel, but this is of little concern to me. The way I figure it, the closer you are to the ground, to the runway, the greater the odds are that you are going to survive. That bump, bump, bump – that means that you have once again cheated death.

I made my way to the baggage area with a decided bounce to my step. My friend Fran was there to meet me. She asked me how the flight was, and I said “bumpy.” What I didn’t say was that I was glad to once again have cheated death.

Next: 71. 3/12/14: Ice Carving Festival