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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

'When am I going to do this again?'

Friday, September 14, 2012

(Photo)
As I work long hours for a salary that probably translates out to pennies on the hour, I sometimes have to ask myself, why do I do this?

Journalism has its own rewards, and those rewards certainly are not monetary.

I suppose there's a certain level of notoriety that that comes with this job, but it's not something I'd really call fame. That isn't it.

Of course, there is the noble cause of the journalist: We keep the public informed as an essential part of the checks and balances of our democracy.

While I genuinely believe in that and what we do, anyone who knows me realizes I'm a bit too trivial for that explanation.

I guess my favorite part of this job, if you really want an honest answer, is essentially childish.

It's fun.

The duties include talking to people, writing and driving around in my car a lot. I'd do those things if you weren't paying me. (I hope the bosses don't read this column.)

Most of all, though, it opens the door to some amazing and unique experiences.

My editor and his kids still talk about the time the got to "go bowling with the Mamas and the Papas." There's more to that story, but I think it's pretty self-explanatory. They bowled with the '60s folk icons.

On Thursday afternoon, I had one of those experiences myself, albeit without my 2-year-old there to enjoy it with me.

The Experimental Aircraft Association's Ford Tri-Motor, one of the first airliners, is visiting the Putnam County Airport. As members of the media, one of my co-workers and I were invited to go up on the first flight.

The anticipation of flying on an 83-year-old aircraft comes with its own sense of excitement -- some of it good, some of it bad.

To relieve my own stress, I had to start making crash jokes before we even departed the office.

"We'll either see you later or you'll be writing about us later," I said to Eric with a grin.

Lauren, the terrified staff writer about to accompany me to the airport, was none too amused at my joking.

Walking up to the craft, though, I began to feel my own sense of apprehension. The craft is literally like nothing I'd ever flown on before.

As I approached it, staring at the three large engines, I remembered the detail that Ford built these planes with three motors to increase reliability. You know, in case one engine fails, you still have two left.

That's probably good thinking, but hardly comforting to me eight decades later.

Remember, this is the same company that brought you the Edsel.

There's also our pilot Colin's description of how much more convenient a plane like this made travel in the late '20s and early '30s.

Between terrible roads and slow cars, driving to Cincinnati would have taken four or five days.

In a Tri-Motor? You could make in less than a day with only two refueling stops.

My car makes it in 2 1/2 hours and no refueling.

(sigh)

But Colin also strikes me as a pretty sharp guy who knows what he's doing. I soldier on.

Watching a Tri-Motor slowly get started is something to behold. There's no ignition key like my faithful Mini Cooper.

Colin first primes each of the three engines, something like when you press that little, rubber bulb on your push mower.

The three engines then cough to life one at a time -- center, then left wing, then right wing.

After some taxiing and warming of the engines, we start down the runway.

I will say it is remarkable how fast that old bird got airborne. I didn't feel we'd used even half of the available runway space. Good work, Mr. Ford.

The first moments after you realize you are airborne are like no other. For me, there's just this sense of wonder that we're able to take part in this miracle.

God didn't design us to fly, and yet we've figured it out. It took until the last century or so of our existence, but we've gotten pretty good at it in a fairly short amount of time.

The rest of the trip is just about getting your wits about you. Logically, you understand you're looking down at Greencastle and Putnam County, but it's hard to recognize at first. Everything looks more like toys from 1,000 feet.

But slowly, it comes to you.

There's the quarry. Over there's McAnally.

Is that Waterworks Hill? Strange, it looks flat from up here.

I had to call the County Highway Department after the flight and assure them I had no complaints. All county roads look perfect from 1,000 feet.

Of course, the flight came with its own challenges, too. I don't get airsick in the throwing up sense, but my stomach does end up in knots and I start sweating profusely.

But, heck, isn't that like a high school dance?

After the flight, Lauren and I are glad to be back on the ground, but also happy to have had the experience.

As we walk away on our still-shaky legs, she finds the right words for it.

"When am I ever going to get to do this again?"

You said it. Maybe that's why you're a writer.

And maybe that's why we do the job.