Thursday, October 20, 2011

Taking Flight

It’s a bird. It’s a plane. It’s…yea, it's a plane. But it’s me flying a plane! My boyfriend, Nick, and I had the chance to go up in a little 1999 Cessna 172R with our instructor, Josh, for a lesson in flying. We arrive at Justice Aviation at the Santa Monica Airport with butterflies in our stomachs. It isn’t so much nervousness as excitement and an overdose of coffee consumption. Justice Aviation trains aspiring pilots to become certified, but they also offer special packages if you’re looking for a unique one-time introductory experience. Some students from the school walk in with books and ask questions. The instructors all seem really knowledgeable and friendly. I glimpse a flight simulation machine in one of the side rooms. We will bypass that completely and head straight to the clouds. No books. No lessons. No idea what I'm doing.  

I'm up first in the cockpit. The plan is that I fly over the coastline past Malibu and back. We land and switch places at the wheel before Nick flies us over Beverly Hills and Hollywood.

Headset. Check. Seatbelt. Check. Tray tables up. Um.

The only other time I’ve been in a small airplane was when I jumped out of one a few years ago on my birthday. But that’s different. That is a complete lack of control. You’re just a passenger in a plane until someone opens the door and attached to someone else, you fall out. This time, the fate & well being of three precious, young lives in this hunk of metal lies in my smooth novice hands. Dramatic enough?

And we’re flying! High in the sky where humans were never intended to be. The steering is surprisingly sensitive. A heavy-handed lean to the right and you’re practically at a 45 degree-angle. Once we hit the desired altitude we pretty much coast; cruising at 120 mph and taking it all in. It is an absolutely perfect day to go up as Josh said in his four years of flying he’s never seen L.A. so clear. Focusing on one point is hard because every road, building, and car fight for your attention like amateur night at The Pink Possum. We can see all the way to Catalina Island, the Canary Islands, Pasadena, to Hermosa Beach. Los Angeles is fickle, but today - she's never been finer.

Flying is a high man’s sailing - all that open space. The 180 degree turn around is the best part. The plane is on its side and out the front window is a full ocean view. For a few seconds, I seriously expect to use my seat as a floatation device. 


1. Pop some Dramamine if you’re sensitive to motion. I took one and still got queasy towards the end. 

2. Cher’s Malibu house is the size of Texas even from 2,000 feet high.

3. This may be a no-brainer, but be sure to bring a camera. You’ll want to document this unless you’re a bird and this is your everyday. And if you are, teach me how to poop on people.

I've been thinking of flying a plane as one of those once-in-a-lifetime experiences that you never forget. But Nick brings up a good point. If you have a great time up there it doesn't have to be a historic one time thing. You can always do it again.

Point taken. 

Sunday, October 2, 2011

River Rafting Like Never Before (Because It Was My First Time)

Last weekend, some friends and I went where many a men & women have gone before, but it’s still fun to talk about. Bakersfield. More importantly what we did while there. We traversed the rage-iest of frigid waters seeking that ultimate rush of adrenaline. We went…White. Water. Rafting. 

This was my first time on any sort of rapids outside of a theme park’s manmade one and it was awesome! If you want the anticipation and excitement to begin hours before you hit water, I highly suggest accidentally not realizing how far Bakersfield is from Los Angeles. Weave in between traffic at 95 mph for 2 hours straight to arrive 30 seconds before your assigned bus pulls out of the River’s End Rafting Company parking lot without you in it. Adventure at it’s finest!

The Kern River is a 5-minute bus ride from the RER headquarters off little old Hwy 178. Once waterside, there's a briefing of how to’s and what if’s before breaking into groups of 7. Our river guide’s name was Joe - a knowledgeable, fun dude with a dry sense of humor.

Despite a few rapids and a dozen or so dips, the Kern River is pretty calm - great for beginners. Though this varies on given water levels and the time of year. We all squealed approaching the first rapid. If one of my teammates didn’t have lightning reflexes to save me I would have dipped like a roast beef sandwich in au jus.

It’s funny. You do absolutely anything in your power not to fly out of the raft. You lean inward like the water has leprosy or wedge your feet in between the raft’s crevices - hanging on for dear life. But as soon as Joe announces we can hop out and swim suddenly we're Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn splashin' around in a river before it’s back to painting fences.

The trip lasted about 2 hours with a few surprises along the way that I don’t want to spoil for anyone. But I can say at the end of it all my cheeks were sore from smiling. And sunburn. RER also offers a half-day river exploration for anyone interested in more time on the water. 


Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before the Trip:

1. You actually sit on the sides of the raft. Having this knowledge doesn’t change anything. I just thought it was interesting.

2. The oars are harder to push through the water than it looks. Again this doesn’t change anything. Or start push-ups now and tear through the water.

3. Wear water shoes or no shoes. The only water-resistant shoes my land-dwelling, totally unprepared friends are I own are flip-flops. While they did stay on our feet it would have been easier without them. Ask your guide to keep your shoes on the bus if you don’t have water shoes.

After rafting up an appetite we found the perfect spot nearby for burgers and shakes at the 1950’s style diner, Moo’s CreameryBacon bits in a shake?! Need I say more?