Does anyone else have that song in their head right now? You know, "I'm learnin' to fly, but I ain't got wings. Comin' down is the hardest thing"? No? Then I'm guessing you haven't listened to quite as much Tom Petty as I have.
Thanks for voting for me to write about the most misleading title on the list. Not sure what you were expecting here but technically, this post is not going to be about me learning how to actually fly. Or even figuratively fly. I thought about bending it into an analogy wherein I have learned to let my soal fly or something to that effect but I just don't have it in me. Besides, the title was just my attempt to trick you into letting me tell you about a beautiful October day I spent in the Hudson River Valley looking at airplanes, riding in a Model-T, taking a ride in a biplane, dressing up for a fashion show and then watching an air show.
I never learned how to fly.
How did I end up there? Well, a few months ago I decided I needed to change a few things. For one, having just married off the last of my friends, I realized I was going to need to put some actual effort into making new ones. The usual places - church contacts and work contacts - were not working. Interesting things were happening, beautiful days were dawning and opportunity was presenting itself, but without a companion I was letting all of these things just slip away from me.
Instead, I was spending far too much time either in my office or on my couch. So I decided to create new opportunities by becoming a joiner. For well over a year I had been receiving an email for an activity group that actually did some really interesting things (uh, like biplane rides over the Hudson River Valley) but I never had anyone to sign up with me so I let one fun thing after another just slip by. Until I decided enough was enough and I held my breath and jumped in.
The trip to the aerodome (that is what the place is called) was my third event (the Appalachian Trail was my second) and unlike either of the two previous in terms of the activity, the mix of people and the overall atmosphere. So far, the drill for each event has been to meet at the place where the trip leader rents a van, pile into the van, drive a couple of hours to the activity location, do something fun, drive back, fun times, the end. And that is sort of how this one went as well, except two factors made me a bit wary at the beginning.
First, other than the trip organizer the group was comprised of four other girls. Fine, not promising on the meeting guys front but not necessarily a bad thing. But when we got in the van, I stole shotgun because no one else was claiming it and I hate sitting in the back of vans where things get bumpy and I get pukey. Three girls crowded themselves in the very back row and even when offered to share the middle bench with the one other girl, they declined and stated that they were here "together." Ooooookay. The driver/organizer guy and I get along pretty well by now and he kind of feels like an old friend even though I really don't know him too well so we managed to keep up a lively conversation for most of the two to three hour drive and I tried to pull the middle bench girl in but struggled with this as I didn't like turning around in my seat too much (quesieness always follows that maneuver). At times we also tried to join in the often bizarre conversation happening in the back of the van but they either never heard us or didn't want anyone else butting in.
Second, we left the City at 8 am. On a weekend! For those of you who have forgotten what is like to not have children or a spouse or whatever it is that forces you to go to bed at a sensible hour and wake up early even on the weekend, that is early. Especially in Manhattan. Saturday and Sunday mornings pre-10 am are blissful tranquil - very few people and not much traffic. Mostly it is an opportunity to see what people wear to walk their dogs first thing in the morning or to catch any number of people on their walk of shame. The day after holidays like Halloween and New Year's are the best for spotting the walk of shame in the single digit hours of the a.m. when most people are still sleeping off the previous night's revelry. Anyway, we were lured out of the City at this early hour because we were told we had to get to this place by 10 to sign up for the biplane rides which could not be reserved in advance.
When we arrived, we were all pretty overwhelmed by the quaintness of the place - the fall foilage in all its autumnal glory, the wide green air field, the brightly painted old planes lined up just on the other side of the fence, the old red caboose on a strip of railroad tracks, the workers dressed up in sort of 20s-ish garb and the old timey music emanating from unseen speakers.
We signed up for our biplane rides and then the three girls who were "together" branched off on their own pretty quickly (along with the cute little pastry box they were carrying by the string, I might add). I busied myself by playing with various settings on my camera trying to capture the large and small details of the place and revelled in the blue sky and the bright sunshine that would later lead to me wandering around in only a short sleeved t-shirt.
As I took photos and basically wandered around the place on my own, I started to wonder what in the world are we going to do to keep us occupied here all day? I had pretty much looked at all of the planes on display within 30 minutes or so of arriving. I figured we would eat lunch at one of the little snack stands at some point and, of course, take our biplane ride but would we really stick around until 2 pm for the airshow? I reassured myself that if nothing else I would enjoy just being outside on such a beautiful day, but I was still pretty skeptical about how the day would proceed.
So I sat down on a bench and struck up a conversation with the other solo girl. Then we decided to ask if we could go for a ride in one of those cool old cars - they said yes and off we went in our first ride in a Ford Model T!
Our poor driver ended up running out of gas half-way through the ride and told us we could go dress up in period costumes and go for another ride later during the airshow and we enthusiastically agreed. Who wouldn't want to dress up in period costume and ride around in an old car?
We wandered up to the museum for a while which consisted of three large hangars and a warehouse type room stuffed to the brim with old airplanes, cars, motorcycles and even a very old movie projector. It was all pretty fascinating and there was something about the atmosphere with all of the workers dressed in period costume and the scratchy 20s music playing that made us feel like we had stepped back in time. Or fallen into some strange dimension of surreality.
After a quick lunch from the concession stand of grilled cheese and french fries it was our turn to get in the biplane.
We were pretty excited.
For good reason. It was amazing!!
The plane flew low over the Hudson River Valley so we could see the strips of changing colored foilage below us.
As well as the Hudson River and mountains in the distance.
Our red baron pilot gave us a thrill when he did some tricky dips and tipped way to the left or the right.
I believe the flight lasted about 20 minutes and I would have loved for it to keep going.But soon enough the air field came back into sight and it was time to relinquish our seats to the next in line
And before we knew it, it was time to get ready for the fashion show. It is just that no one told us all the other participants would be children. And their moms. But we dove in anyway because how else would we get another shot at riding in another old car? So we donned whatever grubby, ripped-up costumes that fit and had fun with it. And let me explain, these dresses were ratty, tattered and while I'm not really an expert, I don't think they were exactly authentic to the period. Especially the one I ended up wearing. I think I looked like Eliza Doolittle selling flowers on the streets but it was an improvement over the first dress I was given that looked like a 1980s mother-of-the-bride peach/lace get-up. The other two girls got flapper dresses (I'll note there was another flapper dress that was offered to me but it was about 5 sizes too big for me so I declined).
After we were mostly satisfied with our outfits (I really wanted a different hat but the woman insisted this flat little black one was the most authentic), we ventured out of the caboose (the changing room) to await further instructions. As we were chatting with the rest of our group who had chosen not to make fools of themselves, I glanced at my new friend and realized the entire back side of her dress was OPEN!!!
I quickly stood behind her and explained the situation and we erupted in hysterical laughter. Because what else are you going to do when the entire back side of your dress is open for the world to see? Or at least for one woman passing by to snicker at?
We rushed back to the caboose to figure out a way to remedy my friend's caboose situation (hee hee) and the girl passing out dresses was all blase, maybe we should just pin it since the velcro cleary was not doing its job (I told you I questioned their authenticity! Since when did flappers have velcro?). She put on a slip dug out of a box for good measure and we went back outside to find out that we weren't just dressed up to ride around in an old car. No. We were part of a very odd fashion show.
Yes. We had to model these strange outfits for the 200 or so people hanging around in the 2x4 plank spectator stands. The absurdity of it all was not lost on us. Especially me, in my weird dress that we were told was quite fashionable in the 1930s (my guess would put it several decades later in the 70s, to be honest).
But there was really no turning back, so I did my best to show off the outfit and have fun with it so I could read in the 1909 New York City taxi.
After the ride, we changed clothes, got some ice-cream and settled in for the rest of the airshow. At that point we realized the crowd consisted primarily of grandparents and parents with children. We were clearly not the normal demographic for this thing.
There was an absurd little story that went along with the airshow that dragged on a bit too long but was entertaining nonetheless.
And when we piled back into the minivan around 430 pm, we all marveled at how quickly the day went by and admitted to each other that we did not think we would be quite so entertained for the day. And what about those three girls who were "together" and sauntered off with their fancy pastry box? Well, they never did share the contents of the pastry box with the rest of us (to my dismay), but they did sit with us during the airshow and one of them even dressed up for the fashion show. And on the car ride home and at the restaurant where we stopped for dinner, they finally opened up and let us in on their crazy conversations.
Ultimately, I did not learn how to fly. I did, however, learn not to judge anything too quickly. And now, I'm a firm believer in taking a leap and trying new things.