To Write or To Ride?

My soon-to-be ex-husband hated motorcycles, so I bought a burgundy Honda 350 Custom bike. He also hated snakes, and my daughter wanted one, so we acquired a lovely little Ball Python. Was I spiteful? Heck, yes. But I’d always loved to ride (as a passenger), and I’d always wanted a snake. Keeping the snake in a warm terrarium was easy, but I had one little problem.

I didn’t know how to handle a motorcycle.

In order to add it to my license, I had to take a free state-run riding course. It was a no-brainer.

I liked the little 100cc bike provided by the state, until I had the distinction of being the only person in the history of the course to wipe out around an easy curve. I got right back up, laughed, picked up the bike and finished the course. It must have impressed Tom, the instructor, because he bought me a coke afterward and we talked about things we enjoy. The conversation got around to flying.

“Have you ever been in a helicopter?” he asked.

“Once,” I answered. “We flew in a gigantic military chopper over the Alps from Italy to Germany. I thought I’d never regain my hearing.”

“How would you like to fly in a small chopper over Philadelphia?” he asked.

When he noticed my skeptical look, he said, “My friend Walt does the traffic report on the news. He sometimes takes passengers along, if it’s for a good cause. You can say you’re writing an article about it.”

The next day, Walt McDonald himself called and invited me to fly along. Heck, YES!

I met the pilot, Walt and Tom on the helipad at Jonathan’s Landing where a tall sailing ship had been permanently moored. They handed me headphones with the mic turned off. I was able to hear Walt’s live traffic report and wasn’t deafened by the engine noise. They, in turn, could not hear me every time I yelled “Wow” or “Will you look at that!” Thankfully, neither did the rest of the folks listening to the traffic report.

We rose above the masts, turned toward the city and flew by Ben Franklin standing on top of Philadelphia City Hall. We covered the major roadways around the city and through the suburbs.

The view from the air was stunning that close to the ground. We flew low over summer green forests and fields; waved at people in their backyard pools; and saw a herd of deer run from the chopper noise in the park. I noticed that the helicopter banked differently than fixed-wing aircraft. Instead of leaning down to turn, it seemed to flip up on its side.

Walt reported a burning car, an accident on the freeway, and advised where to avoid congested traffic. We were in the air for two wonderful hours. I thanked Tom, Walt and the pilot and went home to ride my bike for the first time.

It’s been a few years since I said I’d write an article about that flight. Consider it done. Now stay tuned for the rest of the story….

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