Saturday, December 30, 2006

Things I've noticed flying around.....

Since I started my training with Continental I've been flying back and forth between Houston and Minneapolis a lot. Now, since I've worked for the airlines before I'm a not stranger to riding in the back but I've noticed a few things lately about riding on airplanes.

First of all, whenever someone finds out that I work for the airlines they always start asking some great questions. For example, "Why aren't you flying the airplane?" That one always comes up when I'm in uniform. One of my favorites is, "I know a guy who's kids friend is going to school somewhere to be a pilot. I think his name is John, do you know him?" Uh, probably not.

What's also funny is when someone doesn't know I'm a pilot and they try to explain to their significant other what everything is. "Okay, that chime means we're cleared to land." Uh, no it doesn't. "Did you hear that, that was the landing wheels coming down." No, those are the flaps, and they're not called landing wheels, it's landing gear, or just gear. One of my favorite things is when we're taxiing into the gate but have to stop and wait for another airplane to move, you always here someone on their phone saying, "Hey, we just landed but we're still on the runway." Alright, let me explain, if we were still on the runway, they'd have to close the airport down because all those other airplanes you see, need a place to land. We're on what's called a taxi-way, or the ramp, you can even call it the tarmac if you want, but we're not on the runway.

Speaking of things that happen when a plane taxi's into the gate, why is it that people can't seem to stay seated or keep their seat belt fastened for an extra two minutes while we taxi to the gate. I know it seems childish but if you stand up, the plane has to stop, because you stood up. That doesn't only stop our plane, but the 30 airplanes behind us too. Also, when the seat belt sign does get turned off, you can stand up, BUT YOU DON'T HAVE TO! If you're in row 45, you're not going anywhere for a while. Take a breather, sit back and watch all the other people stand in a tight cramped space for 15 minutes while 200 people in front of you deplane.

You know where there aren't any tight cramped spaces? First class! I've been fortunate enough to ride in first class a few times over the past few weeks and when you sit up there, you tend to forget all about the one bag of peanuts the people in coach are getting. Actually, you kind of forget that there is anyone else on the plane besides you and the other 7 people in first class. The flight attendants treat you like royalty! Just the other night I asked for some more bread, not only did I get more bread, but the flight attendant also asked me if I wanted more soup, but warned me to save room for apple pie. Okay, no problem. If you ask for more of anything, they give it to you with a smile on their face! It's amazing!

One thing I've always wondered is, do people actually buy stuff from Skymall? I see a lot of people looking at it (probably because they have nothing better to do) but I've never heard anyone say, "I think when I get home, I'm going to order that doggie ramp for my SUV so my old, out of shape dog, doesn't have to jump into the truck." Or how about the $20,000 lap pool for your house? Is that really the kind of thing you buy from a magazine on an airplane?

Another thing that always makes me laugh is that when people get into a terminal, they seem to forget how to function in daily life. It's like they always need to be asking someone what to do. "Okay, so I just take this boarding pass and go through security, and then to the gate? Is that right?" Yes, you can even get food and beverages inside the airport if you want. "Where's baggage claim?" Uh, follow the signs to baggage claim. "Where's gate E4?" I don't know, follow the signs to the E concourse and go about 4 gates down, you should see it. I don't know the layout of every airport I go to, but I do know how to read and I've never been to an airport that didn't have any signs.

Everyone always seems to be so frantic in an airport too. "I know we got here three hours before departure but what if we don't find the gate?" You'll find it, don't worry about it. These seem to be the same people that want to get on the plane as soon as they say, "We're going to start boarding here in a few minutes." Okay, listen, if you can hear that announcement, you've made it! You're going to get on! Now, would you rather sit in the spacious terminal for the next 25 minutes, or would you like to sit in your one square foot area while 200 people push and shove their way down the aisle. Unless of course you're in first class, then board as soon as you can so you can show off to everybody else that gets on and walks past you as you have your first free glass of wine.

So, to make it simple I've made up a few rules about traveling:

1. Look at the signs in the airport before you ask someone where something is, odds are, they need to find something too.

2. If you get to the airport early, relax, take a load off, get some food, have a drink, but not too many, because airlines can't accept an intoxicated passenger.

3. A pilot in uniform will be happy to help you find something, but you don't need to tell him about a guy you knew a long time ago that was a pilot. If you're a pilot though, feel free to share! Fellow pilots love to talk shop!

4. If you're on the phone while you taxi in, that's okay. Just don't yell so loud that everyone around you knows what your plans are for the night. And don't tell them you're still on the runway.

5. Go for first class if you can afford it, especially on a flight over 5 hours!

6. Lastly, don't make up stuff about the airplane's noises. If you don't know, that's okay, just say I don't know what that was, but I'm sure the pilot sitting right over there would be glad to tell you.

Flying should be fun and it's truly a great way to get around! I love getting to see families re-united, military personnel coming home, and kids going for their first airplane ride. Now go out there and explore the world!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Welcome to Continental...but before you start....

I started my training with Continental about 4 weeks ago! On the first day of class I was assigned to fly the Boeing 737 and will be based in Newark, NJ. The 737 is the airplane I wanted to fly, but I would have been happy with just about anything they let me have my hands on.

Sometime, over the next few months I will switch bases and be based in Houston, TX. So far, training is going well, I've finished systems training and am now getting into FTD's (Flight Training Devices) and will be "flying" the simulator shortly after the first part of the year. They have me slated to be done with training on Janurary 16th and shortly thereafter, you can see me sitting in the cockpit of one of the many Continental 737's.

Something interesting happened on the first day of class. Various people came in and welcomed us to the "family" but one person caught me off guard. He had a paper for us to sign, but before we signed it, he explained what it all meant.

"We've actually been having some trouble finding good pilots to hire," the man explained. If I was surprised, it was overshadowed by my joy of reaching my dream. "Let's just go over a few points before you sign on the dotted line," the company man chortled. "We're going to send you to the world's most renowned medical center. They'll spend two days probing your body orifices, draining and analyzing your blood, and administering psychological exams. They'll literally take you apart and put you back together. If they find any hint of current or future problems, you're fired and can find your own ride home." "Gee, I think my health is OK," I nervously choked out.

The manager went on, "Good, next we'll evaluate your flying skills in an aircraft you've never been in before. If we don't like the way you perform, you're fired!" I was confident with my flying, but this guy was making me nervous. He continued, "Next, if you're still here, we'll run you through our training program. If during any time in the next 10 years you decide to leave the company, you'll have to reimburse us $20,000, or we'll sue you. Also if you fail to measure up during training, you're fired." The man who was telling us about our dream job listed still more hurdles.

"Each time, before we allow you near one of our multimillion dollar aircraft we'll X-ray your flight bag and luggage, because we don't trust you. Also we'll ask you to pass through a magnetometer each time. If you fail to do so, you'll be arrested and jailed."

"When you've completed your flight, we'll have you provide a urine sample, because we don't trust you to not take drugs. Very soon, we plan to take a blood sample to look for more drugs. Also if you ever fly with another crew member who may have used drugs or alcohol, you must report to us immediately. If you fail to notice that anyone has used these substances, you'll be fired, have your license to fly revoked, and be fined $10,000."

"Every six months, we want you to go back to the medical center for another exam. If they ever find a hint of a problem, your license to fly will be revoked and we'll fire you. Anytime you see a medical person, you must tell us about it so we can see if you need to be grounded and terminated. Also, we need to examine your driving record, and you must tell us if you have even any minor infractions so we can remove you from the cockpit as soon as possible."

"At any time, without notice, a special branch of the government will send one of its inspectors to ride in your aircraft. The inspector will demand to see your papers and license; if your papers are not in order, you'll be removed, fined, terminated, and possibly jailed." "If at any time you make an error in judgment or an honest human mistake, you will be terminated, be fined tens of thousands of dollars, and be dragged through months of court proceedings. The government will make sure you never fly again for any airline."

"You will be well out of town most holidays, weekends, and family events - half our pilots are always on the job at any point in time. Smiling an evil smile now, the manager went on. "Oh, and one last thing to cover. Occasionally, we in management fail to see a trend or the country's economy falls flat on its face. If as a result of one of those events the corporation begins to lose money, you as an employee will be expected to make up the losses from your paycheck."

"Now sign here," he pointed, grinning as he handed me a pen. With my heart pounding and tears coming out of my eyes, I signed the paper and got ready for a fun life at Continental. It's amazing what people will do to fly airplanes!

(The above is what some people refer to as humor, they didn't ask us to do any of that and I'm very happy to be with my new company. Continental Airlines has been more than welcoming to myself and all the new-hires. I can't wait to get out of training and start flying again!)

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Moving On Up!

As you probably know, it's been a goal of mine to work for a major airline ever since I was a kid. Well, after years of working through my ratings, "paying my dues" as some people say, and working for a regional airline for the last 5 1/2 years, I finally had the chance to interview with a major airline.

With tens of thousands of pilots out there, all wanting to work for a major airline, you can imagine that even getting an interview can be a challenge. Once you meet the airlines minimum requirements you can apply and hope for the call. As with any job though, it helps to know somebody. Through some of my networking, I was able to meet a pilot that has worked for this particular airline for about 14 years. Thanks to him bugging his chief pilot several times, finally after 9 months, I got a call for the interview!

After doing everything I could to get ready for the interview, I showed up bright and early on Tuesday, October 17th, 2006, a day that shall live in infamy.....okay, maybe not. I showed up that morning wearing my best suit (which happens to be my only suit) and all my documents in hand.

The interview started with a simulator ride. After a 15 minute briefing, and 30 minutes to memorize all the profiles and call outs, I jumped into the MD-80 simulator with two senior captains. They gave me another brief on what they would and wouldn't do to help me. We took off, made some turns, went to a holding pattern, and then came back and landed. The whole thing only took about eight minutes but my whole career rested on how well I flew the simulator in those eight minutes.

I was then taken to another room where three different senior captains were waiting to ask me a few questions. The whole environment was very relaxed but I didn't want to let my guard down, as this was an event that could change my whole career. They asked me questions ranging from technical information about federal regulations to questions about my past experiences. The whole interview only took about one hour. As I left, they wished me good luck and I was on my way back to the airport to fly home and wait for a decision.

Other friends that had interviewed here in the past told me that I'd either find out the day of my interview or the next day. After I got home from my interview, time seemed to drag on and on! Every time the phone rang I jumped and checked to see who was calling, hoping it would be "the call"! That night came and still no call. I woke up the next morning, hoping to see a missed call on my phone, but there wasn't. Throughout the morning, a few people called asking if I'd heard anything yet.....no, still nothing.

The pilot who helped me to get the interview called and asked how everything went. I said, "Well, I think it went okay, I was actually hoping you were calling to tell me I got the job because sometimes they tell the sponsor, and then the sponsor gets to tell the applicant." He said, "Man, that would be cool, wouldn't it." My heart sank, obviously he wasn't calling to tell me that I got the job.

I explained to him how I thought I did, of course by now, I was second guessing everything I said and wondering what I could have done differently. Then he said, "Well, you must have done something right because I'm here to offer you the job! You GOT IT!" I couldn't believe it! Erin could tell by the look on my face that I had got the job and came over to give me a big hug! After thanking my sponsor for everything he did, I hung up with him, and now I had a lot of phone calls to make.

I called my close family and friends the rest of the day and went over to my best friends house that night to celebrate. Today I got the official e-mail that on November 28th, 2006, I will be starting as a first officer with Continental Airlines.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

The Neighborhood Stalker!

From time to time, I'll let our cat Norman outside to do things that real cats do, like catch wild animals, you know, like moths and flies. Occasionally I may forget that he's outside and fall asleep on the couch or go upstairs and spend hours on the computer.

Erin has always been worried about him being out there without us watching him because she swears that there are wolves wondering the neighborhood just waiting for a little kid or pet to be it's next meal. Now, we don't live out in the country, actually, we live in a suburb of one of the biggest cities in the United States. I asked Erin one day, "When is the last time you saw a wolf, or even a fox, walk down our street with the neighbor kid in it's mouth?" Her defense was that wolves and fox are so "sly" that you won't ever see them. That may be true, but you would probably know if the neighbor kid went missing.

Last night, Erin and I went to a show at our local movie theatre. We walked out of the movie theatre at about 11:00 PM and I saw what I thought at first to be a dog walking through the parking lot about 50 yards away. As I looked at it closer I realized it wasn't a dog, in fact it was a coyote! Before I realized what it was, I said to Erin, "Is that a wolf?" Her exact words were, "Oh Crap!"

Now, we were the last two people to leave the movie theatre so as we walked out, the manager locked the doors behind us, but we still had about 20 yards to walk (or sprint) to our car. A question came into my mind, do we race for the car or run back toward the theatre, pound on the door, and hopefully get let back in before the coyote gets us. If we race toward the car, we are running toward the coyote, if we go for the theatre, we are running away from the coyote, but we are also running toward a dead end.

We decided to hustle to our car! As we got close, and we were sure that we would get in our car before the coyote did, Erin decided to make a clicking noise with her mouth, as if she was trying to call the coyote over to us! I said, "What are you doing? Do you really want to be his next meal?" Fortunately, the coyote kept moving and didn't really seem to care that we were there. It scurried off into a townhouse complex.

Now, what would any good American do if they saw a wild animal go running through a neighborhood? Chase it! We drove over toward the neighborhood where we last saw the coyote but by the time we got there it had already disappeared into the night.

Hopefully nobody is waking up this morning, wondering why their cat went missing last night. Speaking of that, I wonder where Norman went too? I should go find him now that I just spent hours on the internet.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Target Practice! Look out Bad Guys!


After we thought someone broke into our house and we had the police come to check it out (see the story called COPS!), Erin asked me if we could go to the gun range and shoot the gun I have. I said, "Sure!" I think it's awesome that my wife wants to go and learn how to shoot my gun (as long as she's not shooting it at me).

I gave her a basic gun safety class at home before we went to the range and once we were there she strapped on her "eyes and ears" (that's gun range talk for eye protection and ear protection). She was ready to shoot! With very little instruction, she was soon putting a lot of holes in the target!

She shot mostly from 21 feet and on her last target (see picture) she shot about 50 rounds and about half of those were one handed. Every single shot was right in the center of mass! She was shooting better than me! She asked if I wanted to shoot at all, I politely declined, mostly because I didn't want her to show me up. After I saw her shooting, I was a very proud husband! She looked pretty good too in her camouflage cargo pants!

So, if any bad guys break into our house when she's home alone......look out! You do not want to be on the receiving end of my wife with a pistol!

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

COPS!

Erin's sister Brook is visiting this week from Michigan and after spending the day today at the Renaissance Festival (which is a whole other story) we grilled some dinner and then headed to Cold Stone Creamery this evening for some ice cream.

When we arrived home, we came into our house through the garage and all three of us instantly noticed that something wasn't right. There were too many lights on, and then I noticed that the screen door was wide open! I told the girls to go back outside through the garage as I pulled out my phone to call the police. I told the police what was happening and asked if they could send an officer out. The dispatcher told me someone would be there shortly. As we were waiting for the police to show up, there were a lot of thoughts going through our heads; "Is there still someone in our house?", "Did we leave the lights on?", "What if the cops find someone?", "What if some of our stuff is missing?"

Within minutes, two police cars showed up with their headlights off (to make for a covert approach). They both got out of their cars, I briefed them on what happened, and they got ready to search our house. They entered through our screen door and said (in a tone that would make anyone realize they were serious), "POLICE DEPARTMENT!" The seriousness of the whole situation hit me when I saw both of the officers had their guns drawn as they entered our house. They did a complete search of our house while we waited outside. A few minutes later they came downstairs, told us that the house was clear, and had us come inside to see if we had anything missing.

The girls checked their purses to see if any cash or credit cards were missing and I went upstairs to check things up there. Fortunately, nothing was taken and the police said that we should call them if anything comes up missing and we could file a police report. As they left, we thanked them for their time, although I think this might have been one of their highlights of the night in our small town.

It's a little frightening to think that someone might have actually been in our house when we weren't, but it's good to know that we did the right thing by leaving the house and it's also nice to know that our local police department was quick to respond to what could have been a more serious situation.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

The Great Minnesota Get-Together!

A few days ago, Erin and I decided to go spend the afternoon at the Great Minnesota Get-Together, also known as The Minnesota State Fair! We had been talking about going for a few weeks, we clipped the schedule out of the newspaper, we had our parking spot all picked out, we knew exactly what our itinerary was, we knew what food we were going to eat, what food we were going to avoid, I even put my "fat-pants" on in preparation for all the eating that was about to occur.

That morning we woke up to rain showers which eventually turned into hail and heavy thunderstorms (and unfortunately twenty people were injured and one person killed in tornadoes in a town about 45 miles to our south). It wasn't looking like a great day for the fair! However, we had been talking about it for so long and looking forward to going so when it stopped raining in the afternoon we decided we were still going to go!

We parked exactly where we wanted to, well, when I say exactly, I mean on the street we wanted to park on, still about 8 blocks from the fair (but it was free)! We bought our tickets (which by the way, did I mention that it was thrifty Thursday, hey, I'm an airline pilot, I have to hold up our image of being thrifty....aka cheap) anyway, into the fair we went!

We started out by visiting some booths, both of our alma maters, the State Senate booth where Erin used to work, various other buildings with a bunch of crap that nobody wants to look at except the person who put it all there. We stopped at our first food booth, ate some corn on the cob and then we moved on to the AM 1500 KSTP cabin where they were broadcasting one of my favorite talk shows.

Now I know, it sounds funny that I listen to an AM talk show but what can I say, I'm becoming an old man (I am 27 already) and I get sick of hearing the same songs over and over again. My favorite radio show is called Garage Logic and aires from 2:00 PM - 5:30 PM on AM 1500 KSTP (a little plug for Joe, Rookie, and Angie). We walked up to the booth and it was like a dream come true! There they were in all their glory, Joe was outside on the porch doing an interview with some guy who was putting swords down his throat, Rookie was in the cabin keeping all the sound bytes and everything else going, and Angie was running around making sure everyone knew what was going to happen next! I've always had a thing for radio and I love to see all the action unfold before my eyes!

We watched them broadcast for about 30 minutes and then a torrential downpour started! All of the "garage logicians" were hovering under their umbrellas and trying to stay dry when Joe said, "Hey, why don't you guys stay dry and come up here on the porch." At first I thought he was kidding but then he motioned for everyone to come up "on stage" with him and before I knew it we were just feet away from the stars of the show! We stayed up there for about 10 minutes while they did the news and everyone up there made their radio debut at the end of the weather after they read the records for the day when we all said, "More proof of global warming!"

I wanted to stay all afternoon but Erin wanted to keep moving because there was a lot of fair left to see! We stopped by some of the animal barns and saw horses, cows, sheep, pigs, etc. but I think the most interesting animal to watch at the fair, is the fair-go-er! There are so many interesting people walking around! You get to see Minnesota's good, bad, and ugly! From mullets to people walking around in frog costumes, you'll always see something new at the fair!

Last on our itinerary was a K-9 demonstration by the St Paul Police Department that I've always loved to watch. We started making our way over to the Pet Center where the demo was to take place but stopped in a different building along the way. We were looking around when all of a sudden, the building became jammed full of people! We looked outside to see black skies and heavy rain! It's amazing to see how quickly the streets at the fair can empty when it starts to rain.

This wasn't good, the show starts in 20 minutes and we were stuck inside at the Norwegian Festival with at least a 10 minute walk to the Pet Center! As desperately as I wanted to just make a run for it, we would have been drier had we jumped in one of the hot tubs we had seen earlier. Eventually the rain slowed down and we hustled our way up to the K-9 demo. Erin's umbrella broke in the wind and we were walking through ankle deep water but eventually we arrived, albeit 10 minutes late, and we got to see the last half of the K-9 demo. Afterwards we talked to one of the officers and learned more about the dogs and even bought a few shirts to help support the St Paul Police K-9 Foundation.

It was now time to leave the fair and of course, now the sun started to come out, but we had our "fair" share of fun and were ready to go home! We bought some (well okay, a pail) of cookies for the road and off we went! It was a fun-filled day am I'm glad we went but I'm kind of glad it's only once a year! Unfortunately the State Fair means the end of summer and the start of a new season but next year will come around soon enough and we'll be back for more! Until then, blue skies and tail-winds!

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Fun on the lake!

The other day our friends Suzi and Kelly invited us over to their place to do some water-skiing and a BBQ. They live on a beautiful lake in a suburb east of the Minneapolis area. Once we arrived, we decided to hit the boat right away to do some skiing and tubing. I was to be the first one in the water so I strapped on my life jacket and jumped in.

I told Kelly (the guy driving the boat) that I have only skied about 5 times in my life so don't be surprised if I don't get up right away. I got situated with my skies and gave him the thumbs up. As I started to come out of the water, I thought I had it and then I went down. When Kelly came back with the rope, he said that the boat sputtered right as he was powering up. I'm going to attribute that to why I fell, but it was probably my lack of skills. On the second attempt I got up right away and started cruising around the lake. After I got comfortable, I started going outside the wake, trying to use the boats energy to whip me across the wake. This is fun! I went around a couple times and then my legs were starting to get sore so I let go and sank into the water without looking like a compete fool.



I remember telling Kelly when I got back on the boat, "It's fun when you go to the inside of a turn and then whip out to the outside of the turn 'cause you get to go fast." He kind of agreed but didn't say much. I thought I had discovered some new trick in water skiing but I was soon to find out that I'm not the first guy to discover this.

After I got back on the boat, Erin jumped on the tube do go for a loop around the lake. Since she was in a car accident a few months ago and suffers from whiplash (I know, sounds like a scam, but she actually has some damage in her neck), she was worried about her neck getting hurt so she wanted a nice and easy ride on the tube. As we started going around the lake, Kelly noticed that we were about to hit a big wave from another boat, by this time Erin was sitting backwards on the tube and as she hit the wave, she bounced about 5 feet into the air and into the water she went. She decided that she'd had enough so she climbed into the boat and Suzie jumped in (after thinking about it for 20 minutes). Suzie went around the lake a few times and then it was Kelly's turn. I said to him, "You are probably some expert aren't you." He says, "No, I'm just a regular guy."

He says this as he's pulling out this fancy slalom ski from the bottom of the boat. He jumps in, has his ski strapped on in seconds and is ready to go. We throttle up and he's instantly out of the water on one ski and before I know it, he's whipping back and forth. At one point, he was almost 90 degrees to the boat, yeah, I'm just a regular guy my butt. When I told him about how it's fun to go to the inside of the turn and then whip to the outside, I have a feeling he already knew that.

I decided to give one ski a try, after all, I've skied about 6 times now, I'm probably ready to drop one. I jumped in and got up right away and as I tried to drop one, I soon realized that it's not as easy as it looks. I was down into the water with my shorts in places I never knew about before. I tried it one more time and for about 1/2 second, I was skiing on one ski, and then I wobbled all over the place and fell finding more unknown places for my shorts to go. You can tell from the picture below how successful I was on one ski.


I tried to get up a few more times but was getting tired so we went in for dinner. Our thanks to Suzie and Kelly for a great BBQ and lots of fun on the lake. We were going to try skiing again later that evening but with some threatening weather moving in, we opted not to. Kelly seems to think I have a black cloud following me everywhere I go because it stormed last time we were out at their house.

Maybe next time, I'll get up on one. We're headed out to Flathead lake, MT later this summer, hopefully I'll get a chance to try it again there. Until then, tailwinds and smooth water to ya.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

A Long Ride!

I just got back from a relaxing trip to Erin’s parents house on Lake Michigan. After an early morning flight I was ready for a nap when I got home. I awoke to my phone ringing, it was my friend Mark asking me if I wanted to go mountain biking. “Yeah, that sounds great” I said to him. It was a beautiful day outside plus the trail we were going to was minutes from my house making it an even more alluring offer. I stuffed my bike into my car and a few minutes later I was rolling into the parking lot. I arrived at the park just a few minutes before Mark arrived.

We started out on a pretty easy winding trail, dodging an occasional rock or stump, I thought to myself, this is going to be a great ride. Soon, we arrived to a fork in the road (or trail in this case). There was a sign directing us to a “More Difficult” trail or our other option, the “Most Difficult” trail. It made me realize that it was going to be a “difficult” trail regardless of where we went. Anyone that knows Mark knows that he will always take the “path of MOST resistance” and therefore we were soon headed down the “Most Difficult” trail.

It didn’t start out too bad, it was pretty fast with a few more rocks to go around and some bigger logs to ride over. I was starting to get a little tired but I had a feeling we had a long way to go. After about one hour into the ride, I was about to jump over another set of logs. Apparently I didn’t pull my front tire up at the right time which I soon realized as it was pounding down onto the first log in the pile. I found myself looking straight down at this huge pile of logs, well, it looked huge as my face was plummeting towards it. Before I knew it, my left upper leg was slamming into the log and I was bracing my fall with my hands. I yelled some expletives, only so Mark would come back to check on me and found myself laying there on a pile of logs with my bike tangled and laying on top of me.

I wanted Mark to feel like he was helping so I let him pull the bike off my limp body. He asked if I was okay, “Yeah, I’m fine” I responded. Then he laughed at me, of course by this time I was laughing at myself. In the future, I’ll know that if I’m feeling a little too lazy to pull my front tire high enough to clear the logs, I can think back to this incident and realize that a little more “oomph” will prevent me laying in the dirt for 5 minutes.

After I got back on my bike, we continued down the trail. It got a little more complex with more logs and some narrow bridges and even a teeter-totter. However, by this time I wasn’t biking quite as fast and didn’t feel up for all the challenges the trail presented. I was having fun, however I was anxious for the trail to dump out into the parking lot where my car was located.

We arrived at what I thought was the end of the trail, chatted with another biker for a few minutes and then headed to the parking lot. I was ready to be done and it looked like we were getting close. Mark was ahead of me and the last time I saw him we were meeting each other on a switchback. Every time I hit a switchback, I thought it was going to pop out into the parking lot, but it never did. I found my legs starting to cramp up, after all, one of them was developing a huge bruise from my run-in with the log earlier. I also realized that my rear brake had gotten damaged in the crash and was now dragging, adding insult to injury.

After I couldn’t find the energy or leg strength to muscle my way up another hill, I found myself pushing my bike up a through the woods. I noticed a group coming up behind me. As they got closer, I realized it was a dad with his two 8 year old daughters. I can’t believe this, I’m getting passed up by a little girl with streamers on her bike. I asked him how to get back to the trail head, he told me, “Well, if you stay on the trail, it’s another 6 miles to the trail head.” What!! Somehow I had missed the turn to the parking lot and I was already a mile back into the trail. I asked him if there were any shortcuts and he agreed to show me how to get back on city streets.

A few minutes later I was pulling into the parking lot. The whole ride was about 8 miles but I felt like that guy on TV that collapses after finishing an Iron Man competition as I pulled up to my car. Mark had called my cell phone (which was located in my car) asking where I was. He said he had been out of the trail for 30 minutes already and was worried that I had crashed. I touched base with him and we met up a few minutes later.

We agreed that I was an idiot for missing the exit from the park and that we would do it again next week sometime. My goals next week are, (1) Don’t crash, (2) Don’t get lost, (3) Don’t cry, and (4) Have fun!

Friday, June 02, 2006

The biggest wasted hour of my life!

The other night Erin and I were watching TV, she was getting ready to go out with a friend, I was getting ready to go ride my motorcycle, when someone knocked on our front door. I went to see who it was and found a younger fast talking gentleman who handed me a can of carpet cleaner. He asked if we had any carpet stains, I told him yes, and then he asked if he could have U of M student come inside and demonstrate something and he would get the stain out for us for free. "It will only take a few minutes of your time" he said. Okay, I have a few minutes, so I let his salesperson come into our house.

He comes in with two huge boxes and a backpack. He starts setting up this vacuum cleaner and all it's accessories like our living room is his showroom floor. Then he asks if he can use our vacuum to clean up an area of the carpet. Sure, so he vacuums an area with our vacuum and then vacuums the same area with his fancy vacuum. His vacuum didn't have a bag, instead it had a filter so every 3-4 strokes of the vacuum he could pull out a filter and show us what a great job his vacuum was doing. Then he'd put this filter on our floor as a "visual aid".

I thought he would do this a few times.....nope. After about 100 filters are laying on our living room floor, he gets ready to move on to his next demonstration. He asks, "How often do you vacuum?" Erin replies, "About once a week". He says, "So, once a week is 52 times a year, say you go over each spot twice, that's 104 times you go over your carpet." Okay, what's your point, I was thinking to myself. Then he did something that was the straw that broke the camels back. He took our vacuum and went over one area of our carpet 104 times! "One, two, three, four.......Eighty-one, eighty two, eighty-three.....a hundred one, a hundred two, a hundred three, a hundred four."

I just about went ballistic! After he went over this one spot with our obviously inadequate vacuum, he went over it with his fancy vacuum that apparently is God's gift to cleaning. Guess what, his vacuum still picked up dirt which obviously meant that our vacuum is worthless and we better bring it to the nearest dumpster as soon as possible.

I asked him how much the vacuum cleaner cost. He said, "Oh, it runs $1975." WHAT!! There's no way I'm going to pay TWO GRAND for a vacuum cleaner! He says to me, "We have very good financing options." HA HA!! I'll finance my house, a car, a student loan, whatever, but I'm not going to finance a vacuum cleaner!

About now, I was getting very ticked off. This guy said he'd be in our house for a few minutes, now it's ONE HOUR later and he hasn't even talked about the stain that he said he'd get off for free. I told him that I needed to leave in about 15 minutes (to go enjoy the Minnesota freeway system on my motorcycle) so he'd better hurry along.

So, he puts together the shampoo system of the vacuum and mixes this soap and water combination and starts getting suds and water all over our living room floor. By now I didn't care about the stain anymore, I just wanted this guy out of our house. He starts talking about how great the shampoo system is, but by then I wasn't listening anymore. I was starting to get tunnel vision, kind of like you do right before you kill somebody!

I think he could tell I was getting agitated as he sucked up the suds pretty quick. He asked if I'd ever be interested in purchasing this vacuum. NO! WHAT ARE YOU STUPID???!!! Not for $2000!!! He quickly cleans up the 3,000 filters that are all over our floor and packs up his little mobile showroom. As he's picking up the filters (which have dirt and hair on them), the dirt and hair is falling off back onto our floor AND there are still soap suds on parts of our carpet! I quickly escort him out the front door.

I said to him, "Good luck and have a good night." He says without looking at me, "Yeah." Not, "Thanks for the last hour and a half of your time" or "Sorry this didn't work out", not a word of appreciation for my time!

So now, I just spent the last hour and a half watching my blood pressure rise as this kid was trying to sell me a $2000 vacuum and now I have to clean up after him because there's dirt and soap all over my floor! After I got it all cleaned up I went out on my motorcycle for a few hours and during the last 8 miles I got caught in a torrential down pour with strong winds! Not a great night for Smiling Paul.

What I didn't realize until after he had left is that my vacuum cleaner was picking up dirt and his vacuum cleaner was picking up dirt which didn't prove anything other than that both of our vacuum's worked. His never picked up so much dirt that eventually it ran out of stuff to pick up. There was always more dirt which didn't prove anything. I wish I could have asked him about that when he was at our house.

By the way, I just sold the motorcycle which was a sad day but there will be more bikes in my future!

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Motorcycle For Sale! Boooooo!

I'm trying to sell my motorcycle, as much as I don't want to sell it, we're doing it for financial reasons that I'd rather not go into....not that we're in trouble financially, just need some money for something else. Anyway, if you know of anybody that needs a new toy let me know.

2001 Suzuki Sv-650s. It's in great condition, never been crashed or laid down....thank goodness. 13,000 Miles. I put in a new battery at the begining of last season, and it got new front and rear tires at the end of last season (less than 1,000 miles ago). At the begining of this season it got a major tune-up. It's a great first bike, as it's not overly powerful that you'll scare yourself, however, you won't be bored with it a few years down the road. I'm asking $4,000.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

A Day at the Beach!

What a great life I lead, I know it's a tendency of airline pilots to complain a lot, as a matter of fact, that reminds me of a joke:

Q: What's the difference between a jet pilot and a jet engine?

A: A jet engine stops whining when it gets to the gate.

I just have a hard time complaining when not only do I enjoy my job immensely, but I get to travel for free, which obviously comes with the territory of being a pilot, but I still get a kick out of it.

This weekend I went to Miami, FL for a career fair. I had to go down a day early (because of flight schedules) and originally I was going to stay at a Holiday Inn Express by the airport but on the way down there I asked the flight attendant what the crew hotel was. She told me that there was a hotel called the Sherry Fronetnac in Miami Beach which is right on the water and limited to crew members only.

After I arrived in Miami, I called the Sherry Frontenac to see if I could stay that night and what the rates were. As it turns out, the rates were $40.00 LESS per night than the crappy hotel at the airport! So, I rented a car for $30.00 and came out $10.00 ahead.

The hotel was AWESOME!!!! I had an ocean view room and when I walked in to my room the blinds were pulled closed, I went over to open them and I realized how close we were to the beach! It was right on the beach, and when I say right on the beach I don't mean it was across the street from the beach, or the beach was a block away, it was literally on the beach. The moment you stepped out of the huge pool area, you were on the sand, and twenty feet later you were in the pond (pilot's term for the Atlantic Ocean).

In addition to being close to the ocean, the entire hotel is catered to flight crew members which means there's no kids running around, they have cleaning staff on all the time so when you need to check out at 6:00 PM, they can clean the room and check someone in at 8:00 PM to the same room (whereas at most hotels, they have to burn that room for the night because housekeeping has gone home already). They don't use powered vacuums, they use push vacuums so as not to disturb crew members who have just flown all night long. That along with a huge gym, salon/spa, pool tables, shuffleboard, etc., makes for a great hotel.

I didn't put on any sunscreen when I went out to lay by the pool, and thinking I was only going to be out there for 30 minutes or so, I didn't think it would be a problem. That was until, I dozed off laying on my stomach and now my back is a little crisp. Oh well, the joys of being "stuck" in Miami Beach.

After a laying at the pool and a cold shower, I had a great dinner at a bar down the street from the hotel followed by chatting with some other crew members at the hotel bar.

I got up the next morning, had a great breakfast and headed to the career fair. I saw who I needed to see and made my way home. All of this took place in just under 24 hours! Stay tuned for my next little adventure!

Sunday, April 16, 2006

What if Airlines were Ala Carte??

I'm trying to update my blog more often and I saw this and thought it was funny! Have a Happy Easter everybody!!!

Attendant: Welcome aboard Ala Carte Air, sir. May I see your ticket?
Passenger: Sure.

Attendant: You're in seat 12B. That will be $5, please!
Passenger: What for?

Attendant: For telling you where to sit.
Passenger: But I already knew where to sit.

Attendant: Nevertheless, we are now charging a seat-locator fee of $5. It's the airline's new policy.
Passenger: That's the craziest thing I ever heard. I won't pay it.

Attendant: Sir, do you want a seat on this flight, or not?
Passenger: Yes, yes. All right, I'll pay. But the airline is going to hear about this.

Attendant: Thank you. My goodness, your carry-on bag looks heavy. Would you like me to stow it in the overhead compartment for you?
Passenger: That would be swell, thanks.

Attendant: No problem (grunts). Up we go, and done! That will be $10, please. Passenger: What?

Attendant: The airline now charges a $10 carry-on assistance fee.
Passenger: This is extortion. I won't stand for it.

Attendant: Actually, you're right - you can't stand. You need to sit, and fasten your seat belt. We're about to push back from the gate. But first I need that $10. Passenger: No way.

Attendant: Sir, if! you don 't comply, I will be forced to call the air marshal. And you really don't want me to do that.
Passenger: Why not? Is he going to shoot me?

Attendant: No, but there's a $50 air-marshal hailing fee.
Passenger: Oh, all right, here - take the $10. I can't believe this.

Attendant: Thank you for your cooperation, sir. Is there anything else I can do for you?
Passenger: Yes. It's stuffy in here, and my overhead fan doesn't seem to work. Can you fix it?

Attendant: Your overhead fan is not broken, sir. Just insert two quarters into the overhead coin slot for the first five minutes.
Passenger: The airline is charging me for cabin air?

Attendant: Of course not, sir. Stagnant cabin air is provided free of charge. It's the circulating air that costs 50 cents.
Passenger: I don't have any quarters. Can you make change for a dollar?

Attendant: Certainly, sir! Here you go!
Passenger: But you've given me only three quarters for my dollar.

Attendant: Yes, there's a change-making fee of 25 cents.
Passenger: For cryin' out loud. All I have left is a lousy quarter? What ever will I do with it?

Attendant: Hang onto it. You'll need it later for the lavatory!

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Summer is Here!

Finally some nice days have come and I've deemed summer officially started. I don't really know when the official start of summer is but I deem it summer whenever it's nice enough to bring the motorcycle out and not have to put on a parka to ride it. The bike is in the shop getting a pre-season inspection (because I'm not mechanically inclined enough to know what to look for) and I should have it back tonight!

Along with motorcycle season is mountain bike season. Towards the end of last summer my friend Kevin and I worked on tuning up my 13 year old mountain bike. I would like to go get a new one but I'm too cheap and mine works just great for what I use it for. I finally brought it out the other day and put a few miles on it, as you know, I've been going to the gym, although it seems you can do cardio all day long at the gym and then when it comes time to do something different, you're out of shape for it. Of course, I'm probably out of shape for the gym too. Well, I'm working on getting into the best shape of my life....Unfortunately, I think the "best shape of my life" has already happened but I'm going to try it again.

My friend Gary is in phenomenal shape so I'm trying to take after him especially with my eating habits. Anytime Gary and I go out to eat he always makes me look bad by not getting the ice cream, or not eating the chips that come with the meal. I'm sure you've heard of WWJD (What Would Jesus Do) but I made up my new slogan, WWGE which stands for What Would Gary Eat! Hopefully this'll help me get into better shape!

I'm looking forward to a fun summer of mountain biking, motorcycling, a Dave Matthews Concert, some frisbee golf, tennis, and maybe a few vacations!

Monday, February 27, 2006

A Relaxing Vacation!

Well, I'm just wrapping up a little vacation....it was actually just a week long, however with some creative bidding I was able to turn my one week of vacation into 16 days off! What did I do during all those days off you ask....not much.

Erin and I were supposed to make a weekend trip to Big Sky, MT for a little skiing and some fun with our friends that live out there. Well, with Northwest reducing the amount of flights, the flights that they still have are pretty full and when you fly as a stand-by, you usually stand there waving....bye bye! Anyway, all the flights to most every city in Montana were full, and with forecast temperatures below zero, we decided not to go to Montana and made a road-trip to Erin's parent’s house in beautiful Bridgman, MI.

We started out our drive on Thursday after Erin got home from work. About 2 hours into the drive we got into a terrible snow storm. Traffic had slowed down to about 35 MPH....it was going to be a long drive to Michigan at this pace. After seeing over 10 semi-trucks in the ditch, we elected to stop in a town called Wisconsin Dells (about 50 miles north of Madison, WI). It's basically a town that revolves around a water park. I know, you're probably thinking, "What a great place to stop in the middle of a snow storm." Actually, all the major resorts in the town have water parks in the hotel. We stopped at a place called the Great Wolf Lodge, I asked them if they had any rooms in the inn? The girl at the front desk didn't seem too amused with my feeble attempt to be humorous. There were (rooms in the inn) and we decided to stay there for the night.

After a trip to the local Wal-Mart to buy Erin a new $8 disposable swimsuit, we were headed to the water park! We enjoyed watching all the kids running around, and we soon discovered the Great Wolf Lodge's greatest water ride, called The Howlin’ Tornado. It’s a water ride that slides you six-stories straight down (or at least what felt like straight down) through a tube into this huge half-pipe type of thing (the Tornado), you go almost straight up the other side and then come screaming down and back up the other side. After going back and forth a few times you fall out into a pool where everyone is laughing at how much you scream like a little girl.

After a restful night we woke up to a beautiful day and continued our drive home. We spent the rest of the weekend enjoying time with Erin’s parents and sister. On Sunday night we made a much more uneventful drive home. After arriving home late, I got unpacked and re-packed for a trip to Sand Diego, CA the next morning.

The next day, I arrived in San Diego around noon where I met up with three other friends (all airline pilots too). We had lunch at a hole-in-the-wall Mexican restaurant. After the guy with tattoos all over his face asked us what we wanted to eat, I was a little out of place in my khaki pants and polo shirt. We spent the afternoon walking around San Diego and the evening having dinner in Little Italy.



The next day we went to the USS Midway which is a Vietnam era aircraft carrier. We spent about 5 hours finding our way though the ship, we got to talk to veterans who served on the ship, and learned about how this huge ship was run during a war. I climbed into one of the ships many bunks for the soldiers, let’s just say I found a few good reasons I didn’t join the Navy. We spent the evening at a piano bar making fools of ourselves….well, at least I was.

The next morning we all headed back home. The last few days I’m spending relaxing from all the fun I’ve had! Tomorrow it’s back to work, of course, I’m sure I’ll be able to find some time next month to enjoy my days off.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

A Unique Flight!


Okay, I know it's been a while since I posted anything. Let's face it, my life just isn't that exciting anymore! I wake up, go to work, (which has its ups and downs....get it, ups and downs) and then I come home. Well, mabye not quite like that but this past week I did fly one of the most interesting airplanes in our companies fleet.

Most of our airplanes are all pretty much the same. Some have better seats than others (pilot seats that is), some have more passenger seats than others, some have automated announcements and others don't. For the most part though, they are all the same. However, we got an airplane the other day that takes the cake on being the most unique.

After a long overnight in Boston, we arrived at the airport in the morning at 0530! Pretty early considering my body clock was still on central time which meant it felt like 0430. Either way, we arrived at the gate to find no passengers and no gate agent. Our flight had been canceled, at least for the passengers. We were told that we were needed to fly a broken airplane back to Memphis. When I asked what was wrong with it, I was surprised to hear the dispatcher tell me, "The windshield is cracked." "What!" I thought to myself, "I don't want to fly an airplane with a cracked windshield." However, after a couple talks with maintaince, they assured me that it was only the center pane that was cracked and that the inner and outer panes were just fine. So this meant that 2 of the 3 panes were okay for flight.

What it also meant is that as an extra precaution we flew the airplane unpressurized at 10,000 feet (far below our normal cruising altitude of about 33,000 feet) and at a slow speed, as to not put any undue stress on the windshield. That meant instead of a three hour flight, we were about to spend the next FIVE HOURS AND FIFTEEN MINUTES in this airplane!! It was going to be a long morning.

We took off and without any problems made it to Memphis where our fine mechanics were going to fix the windshield. The flight was operated safely and under the direction of our maintaince crew and dispatcher it ended up not being a big deal, but when you look at the picture of the windshield, you can see why I was a little concerned about flying this wounded airplane.