“For once you have tasted flight you will walk the earth with your eyes turned skywards, for there you have been and there you will long to return.” – Leonardo da Vinci
“Don’t live the same life 75 ties and call it a life.” – Robin Sharma
Stephen Coonts Inspired Memories
I’m addicted to travel books, and nothing pleases me more than finding one I haven’t read. So it was with quite a bit of delight that I came across suspense and thriller author Stephen Coonts’ book, “The Cannibal Queen.” I found it in the used book section of the Golden Goose Thrift Store in Catalina, Arizona, just 20 miles up the road on Highway 77 from my apartment. I felt as if I had found a golden egg.
The book’s subtitle “An Aerial Odyssey Across America” is the topic of Coonts’ book, which follows his plane travels with a teenage son in the summer of 1991. The Cannibal Queen is a rejuvenated 1942 Stearman open cockpit biplane. Coont’s tales of flying it reminded me off how much I love flying in small planes.
The first time was in a four sitter that took off on a sunny day from Logan, Utah, which took me and a music professor from Utah State University to Roosevelt, Utah, where he was to teach an extension class. I was along as a reporter doing a story on the professor.
The flight back to Logan that night was a windy, rainy one, and the professor clung to me for comfort. I was elated (by the adventure, not the professor), loving every moment of that wild, dark ride through the sky.
Another time, another story I was writing, found me buckled into a Pitts Special aerobatic biplane flown by an F-16 pilot who let me handle the controls for a couple of show-off rolls over Great Salt Lake. This was one of those bucket list check-offs that had my head spinning for days afterward. I was loving my life.
But the flight that Coonts’ stories most brought to mind was a more mild-mannered flight in the back seat of a four-sitter Cessna of a friend’s uncle who took me and his niece to lunch in Smiley Creek, Idaho. We took off from an airport in Twin Falls, Idaho, for the 125-mile or so flight, and landed on a grass runway across Highway 75 from the Smiley Creek Lodge. If I remember right, I had the lodge’s famous chili.
I think what made me remember this fine day was Coonts’ description of setting his plane down on a grass runway. I guess there are still several like the one in Smiley Creek that exist. But the Sawtooth Mountains that provide the backdrop for the Smiley Creek primitive airport still make it the most scenic landing spot, I suspect.
Thanks Stephen for jogging my little gray cells back to this magical day.
Bean Pat: Janaline’s World http://tinyurl.com/nxsww4f Great armchair travel piece on Babylonstorem, a place I never knew existed before.