Sunday, April 22, 2012

Strip malls and test pilots

I flew to PDX last week. It was a roundabout journey to Torrance, CA to participate in the Pilot Safety Course at the Robinson Helicopter Company. My friend Jeff met me at the airport. His wife was supposed to join him but since they left Alaska to be closer to family, they are now subjected to a pop-in visits from Sharon's parents. I was sad to miss Sharon but it was great to catch up with Jeff. He took me to a coffee shop with a perfect blend of hipster and gangster. It was attached to a garage that could fix your car but looked more like it specialized in grinding VIN's off those hard to reach places.

Jeff dropped me off in time to get the rental car squared away and greet my parents curbside. After hugs we headed to Tillamook. We skipped the cheese factory (still the most popular tourist destination in the state) and headed straight to see friends. Mom and Dad wanted to see them at least once more. Depressing isn't it? Planning the last time you can see someone?

We drove the Wilamette Valley south and had lunch on the Rogue River. Before, sorry, just got a glimpse of my toothbrush and about fifty tiny ants exploring the forest of bristles. Don't let anyone kid you, paradise is full of creepy-crawlers. Anyway we slept in Crescent City and drifted off to waves crashing from a serious storm.

I'd seen the Redwoods prior and was excited to share them with my parents. It's rare for the child to watch eyes of the elders light up with discovery. I've been told that's the best thing about parenting, watching everything become brand new through your children's eyes. Anyway, the trees didn't disappoint. I hope I never meet the person that doesn't speak of those towering giants with reverence.

We continued down the coast to San Francisco via the Sonoma Valley. Soon enough we crossed the Golden Gate Bridge. The painting crew was right about in the middle. I remember as a child reading that by the time they get to the other side, it's time to start over again. Job security.

I'd never been to SF. It exceeded my expectations, Italian dinner in North beach, SFMOMA, Giants/Pirates ending with a bases loaded walkoff single in the bottom of the ninth, and getting lost on the way to the airport. Mom brought her GPS but I told her to leave it packed, we'd use my smartphone. I gave her the rundown on the map app but she couldn't seem to keep the blue dot on the blue line. No worries, I'd built some wrong turns into our departure time.

So off to Torrance and the main purpose of the trip. I figured I'd be super-bored but I learned a fair bit and met some interesting folks. Tops of that list was the guy from Veracruz, Mexico that used to fly on a tuna boat. The helis go out and spot the dolphins that are hunting the tuna. In the beginning, one could herd the dolphins just by buzzing them with the heli. Soon enough the dolphins got used to the noise so the pilots had to start throwing flares out the door. Nowadays, they light and toss seal bombs to scare the dolphins and in turn, the tuna, into the nets. Sushi, anyone?

So now I'm in Honolulu, holed up in room under the school. I want to get some Bravo airtime under my belt and into my logbook. At my disposal I have a dorm fridge and a microwave. The bathroom is down the hall which is why I can see my toothbrush while I type. So far Honolulu has been quite a kick. I rented a moped and cruised Waikiki. Then I got smashed by an SUV. My right side is one oozing scab and I'm pretty sure I cracked a rib. The moped was totaled cuz it got pulled under the Lexus while I found a nice soft piece of concrete to land on.

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