To most people, it just looks like a baseball cap – and a ratty one at that. But I’ve come to realize that my old AirVenture hat holds some kind of magic that seems to provide openings to people I would have never met and places I would never have seen.
In mid-April of this year, my cell phone rang early on a Saturday morning. The screen indicated that the call was coming from a number in Colorado that I didn’t recognize, but our daughter and her family live in Denver, so I figured I’d better answer.
A male voice introduced himself as Dick and stated that he had run across a note displaying my contact info while cleaning off his desk. He went on to say that he and his wife had met me and my wife while we were hiking through Chaco Canyon two years earlier. He remembered that I talked about having family in Denver and also that I had mentioned a Sonex project.
A light finally clicked on in my head and I remembered meeting the couple outside the ruins of an ancient kiva on a hot New Mexico day. When he spotted my EAA AirVenture hat, Dick apparently recognized a kindred spirit. What followed was an introduction that quickly spiraled into “airplane” talk, resulting in our spouses rolling their eyes and moving on without us.
Now, fast-forward two years: here I was, confessing to my lack of Sonex progress, to someone halfway across the continent who I once had had a fleeting conversation with out in the middle of nowhere. Dick explained that he and his wife lived about an hour northwest of Denver and invited me to give him a call the next time we were out West.
Then he offered to give me a tour of his part of the Rockies in his C182.
Now I’m feeling something special about that hat…
I grew up here in Illinois, one of the flattest states in the country (“Mount” Prospect…really???). So, an out-of-the-blue invitation for a flight in the Rockies has to be some sort of magic.
On top of that, my wife and I actually were planning a drive to Denver to visit our grandkids within a month of Dick’s call.
I was ready to leave as soon as I put the phone down.
Finally, three weeks later, Dick and I met at 7AM at the airport outside of Longmont, CO. I climbed into his twenty-nine-year-old, well-kept 182 and proceeded to have the most spectacular ride of my life.
As we zigged and zagged across the continental divide, I found myself looking down, over and occasionally up at the various peaks that Dick pointed out. He was not only a great pilot but also an excellent tour guide. We flew over the eastern portal of the Eisenhower Tunnel along I70, spotted skiers on the slopes of Winter park and Breckinridge, looked into the deep recess of the open pit Climax Mine and marveled at the awesome beauty of stair-stepped alpine lakes.
We landed in Leadville-Lake County Airport which, at 9,934 feet, bills itself as the highest paved airport in North America, and were the only airplane on the field. Dick borrowed the airport car and we headed into town to enjoy a hearty breakfast.
By mid-morning, minor turbulence had crept in and we bounced around some during the flight back but the views remained absolutely stunning. It was the flight of a lifetime for this flatlander. Thank you, Dick!
So sure, that old hat may look a bit ratty, but you’ll never convince me it’s not magic.
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