Vacation II: Las Vegas, Grand Canyon

So I got checked out on a 2001 C-172SP, which had quite a bit more wear on it than I would have expected. At least it had moving map Garmin GPS and no squawks the entire time I flew it! A few false starts later (dispatcher forgot about me, didn’t give me the pre-flight written test I needed to complete, missing C-172 POH, etc.) the checkout proceeded smoothly. After dragging our asses out of bed early the next morning, we managed to take off around 11AM. The weather to the North wasn’t cooperating, so I plotted us to head west, then north in a rectangular pattern to avoid the MVFR/IFR.

The flight to Blythe was pretty boring, not to mention Blythe itself! Pictures are coming, but let’s just say Blythe, CA is a stinking desert, at least near the airport. After a walk DOWN THE TAXIWAY to the diner at the 76 Truck Stop (depressing), we hopped back in and made it to KVGT in about 3.0 hours total. And yes, as my gf has mentioned, my approach to VGT sucked. I made the standard Showboat 1 approach just fine, but as I came into the airport, I totally flaked, and set myself up for a straight-in landing for 35 — whoops! 17 was active, and I was to fly a left downwind. After calling the tower and admitting my mistake, he asked me to comply with the original request, only to have me screw up and fly a right downwind. After a pretty smooth landing, I apologized once again to tower, upon which he said “Heh, that’s OK, just glad we got you straightened out finally.” Controllers need more attitudes like that; nothing spoils your day more than a nasty tower operator. Kudos to you, mate, wherever you are.

What a whirlwind time we had in Vegas! I made $70 at video blackjack and roulette, and lost $60 at table blackjack, so I’m still up $10. We spent New Year’s Eve down on Fremont Street under the canopy, which was fun. Lots of alcohol and fun, and LOTS of walking to see all of Vegas. At least we weren’t driving all over! We had a fabulous meal at the Luxor (where gf and I were staying) the night of the 30th, grazed through buffets the rest of the time, and generally kicked up our heels. I honestly felt this part of the trip brought us closer together than anything else. Even with the commercial backdrop of Vegas, I couldn’t help but be sucked in by the wonders of a Jacuzzi suite and my love by my side!

Then, all of a sudden, it was the morning of the 1st, and I couldn’t find the key to the airplane — ANYWHERE. Ouch! I asked the hotel security desk if they had a locksmith they could recommend, but the one they sent me to wasn’t available. I randomly picked a few out of the phone book, and ended up with a guy who was a former A&P (!) He did it for $85, plus a photo of him in the cockpit. What a morning . . . thoroughly pissed off my passengers. :(

But all was happy once they came back (from a champagne brunch breakfast, nothing like the bubbly to cheer up your gf!) and we headed west for the Grand Canyon. Words can’t describe how incredible it was. I’ll post again when I have my chart in front of me, but we covered about half of the canyon in the air, eventually landing at GCN, where there was snow on the ground and some clouds at 100 feet AGL! It was romantic and gorgeous. But the sun was setting in the west, and I wasn’t current for night flight with passengers. So we hauled some ass, and I landed back in Phoenix just before dark. The sun setting was gorgeous, and seeing the lights of Phoenix ahead of us was incredible. The mountains along the route were a bit nerve-racking in the reducing light, but my chart and sharp wits kept everything in tune. Plus, no hypoxia as far as I could tell, so the whole thing went swimmingly.

This will all mean a lot more when the photos get uploaded . . . but that’s gonna be a bit, since I have 190MB or so to upload over an ADSL line (whaaa!)

Next: San Francisco and the trip home.

Question of the week

Do you think it’s possible for a friend to steal your friends? Have you ever stolen someone else’s friends? Have you ever felt like someone “stole you away” as a friend of someone?

Some thoughts before I go on…

I keep scribbling things I want to say in the back of my work notebook — and now there are enough to put together a “hot dog sausage” of an entry :)

I had this dream a few weeks back that I couldn’t shake for a couple of days. I was revisiting my high school jazz ensemble, a close-knit group of people into which I didn’t quite fit. (Well, that’s a bit harsh, I guess I fit with them more than anyone else back then, but I was definitely a loner.) Somehow, I ended up spilling my guts about all the things I’ve done wrong over the past 10 years, the choices I’ve made, and confessed that I was a failure. Then Matt Lewis, trumpeter and brother of my fellow piano player Ben Lewis and 1999-2000 Kennedy Center Jazz Ambassadors, told me it was all right and that no matter what I did, if I was happy, I’d be ok. I burst into violent, refreshing tears, tears so strong that they woke me up. I cuddled my gf closer and nuzzled softly, thoroughly confusing her in the process.

I searched the web for Ben and Matt’s recent work, and I continue to be humbled by my classmates’ successes. I have this tendency to expect way too much from myself, and I know it’s because way too much was expected of me as a kid. I’ve internalized it, and cause myself to get very depressed when I don’t live up to what I expect, no matter how unreasonable it is. What a struggle it’s been to get rid of that baggage (and yes, I wholly blame my parents for giving it to me). Each time I feel like it’s gone, it resurfaces — looking at my gf’s beauty and feeling unsure of my own looks has been my latest trick. Yet it’s not jealousy: I don’t want her looks, I don’t want their jazz talents, I want my own abilities and capabilities to be respected and loved. It doesn’t help when I can’t kick my ass into action on some things (when was the last time my dimply thighs saw a gym?!?!!) but I’m trying my hardest to shore up my self-esteem.

Some random bits before I’m swept off to lunch:

  • What does it say about me that I no longer have any sort of UNIX or PC machine at home, just my Mac, which I barely use for more than a few web page accesses?
  • Why must I take all my important revelations of what’s wrong with me as a person and just “shovel them underground?”
  • And why must I replay my personal mistakes over and over in my head, torturing myself infinitely for a nasty thing I said to my jazz band leader in 1989 (for instance)?
  • Why do I, a headstrong and upstanding person, sometimes just let myself be controlled by silly things I could fix with a few strokes of a pen or a simple phone call?

Yeowtch.

Vacation I: San Jose, Phoenix

(I don’t think I can do justice to the vacation my gf and I just took in a single posting, so I’m breaking it up into sections.)

After the kick-ass holiday cocktail party we had (did you see any of the pictures?) I wasn’t sure we’d top it with the vacation, but we did. Because I was silly and didn’t feel like calling up American Airlines on the phone, I ordered our upgrade certificates by regular mail – only to have them arrive after we left. :( But they were running a promotion, and with the remaining miles I had, I managed to upgrade the two of us to business class anyway! So we spent 9 hours from Tokyo Narita to San Jose in luxury, getting drunk and attempting to sleep on each other. What a trip for her — her first business class flight. I spoil her so much. :)

San Jose was . . . surreal, mostly because we were both sleep-deprived. My friend Joe, on furlough from his U.S. Army Reserve duties, picked us up, drove us to Palo Alto to collect his wife (what a hottie Rowena is!) and the four of us did an American-sized lunch. I keep forgetting how much food you’re served in the States, and I over-ordered and over-ate. I had to unbuckle my pants just to get back into the car! We drove around boring San Jose for a couple of hours, then headed back to the airport to work our way to Phoenix.

John (my GF’s best friend) took us to our hotel room, and bleary-eyed we staggered to Albertson’s for some Cup Noodle (?!?!!!), some cranberry juice, and some strawberries. CRASH!

Next day John had to work, so Mercy and I explored old downtown Scottsdale together, heading straight for the Fashion Mall, where we went overboard buying all the rest of her (and my!) holiday presents. If only I could have justified buying those $300 boots . . . they were so supple, and fit so well (FINALLY!) We snagged some great plush robes, Pier 1 candles (courtesy of John’s corporate discount), tops and bottoms, and cramps to boot (damn American food!) At least P.F. Chang’s was a welcome break, though still entirely too much food. But that terrible bar he took us to in Tempe — ACK! His friends were nice and all, and (to be fair) he didn’t like it either . . . all I can say is “white hip-hop.” Just say no. But the lesbian bar we headed to later, “Ain’t Nobody’s Biz” was much much better, the sort of place I wish existed in Tokyo. Hrm . . . no, focus on your current career.

Next time, plane checkout and the Vegas round trip! It’s great to be back!