Thursday, June 10, 2010

"Adventure of a Lifetime"

I think I have mentioned before that things move pretty slowly here in Turkey. (Except for all moving vehicles that is). I have been here for two weeks now and I am still waiting to be cleared by the Civilian Aviation Authority of Turkey so I can start flying the very big balloons. I have had a seven hour aviation medical exam. I have registered with the local police who verified my visa and work permit, and my place of residence here in Turkey. I have done everything they have asked and I am still waiting. I have been told, that all is in order, that the only thing left is for the CAA to schedule my check flight. For that I will fly with a Turkish check pilot and 10 very brave volunteer passengers. During the flight I have to demonstrate that I can safely fly the 210,000 cubic foot balloon among the 40 + other balloons flying in very close proximity over the tricky Cappadocia terrain. The flight must also include 3 full stop landings, which means I have to find not one decent place to land this monster, but 3 separate ones. No problem. I am a bit nervous about the check ride, just because it is a “check” ride. But that is normal, at least for me. In my 39 years of flying small single engine airplanes, high performance jets in the U. S. Air Force, and hot air balloons, I have never liked “check” rides. I know they are necessary, but I just don’t like ‘em. I just want to get it over with so I can start the job I came here to do, flying very big balloons.
I can’t believe that I am actually here and getting to do this. Ever since I started ballooning over 20 years ago, I always thought about flying tourist in some exotic place. It doesn’t get much more exotic than the beautiful mountains and valleys of south central Turkey. Just another classic case of “be careful what you wish for”. You might get it. I am thankful that I did.

Everybody who knows where I am and what I am doing just goes on and on about how exciting it is, “an adventure of a lifetime”. I agree. But be assured, it does not come without sacrifice. I will be here for about five months, which in the big scheme of things, as we all know, is nothing. It will go by in a blink. But during that blink there are a few things I cherish that I will miss and never get back. I will miss our annual trip out west to Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming. Joy and I just live for those times. I will miss getting the faithful Skybird crew together for an early morning flight out in the country so that some couple, young or not so young, can experience the once in a lifetime adventure on their first and probably only hot air balloon ride ever. I will miss breakfast at Lea’s with the girls who have taken more than their share of hard times from me and the crew. There’s some pretty good talk that goes on around that table while we wait for our breakfast. My favorite thing to tell folks that have never been there, about Lea’s is …there is no menu, you just order what you want, and they bring you what they got. But it is always good.
I will miss whatever it is that the grandkids are into, baseball games, birthday parties, or just hanging out at Papa’s house in the woods. Those times are precious and go by way too quickly to miss even a minute of it. I will miss hanging out at the river. It’s kinda like Forest Gump said, “life, (the river) is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re going to get”! You just never know who is there or who will show up. Like one day when the guy walked up out of nowhere with a chicken perched on his shoulder. But that’s a whole other story.
I will miss being there for my kids. They are all grown ups, but sometime ole Dad just might have the solution for whatever catastrophe is presenting itself on any given day. I will miss my log house in the woods. It’s not fancy, but it is home and it gives me peace and comfort when I am there.
And I will miss Joy. Time lost with my wife at this stage of our lives is tragic. We can’t get it back, and we just don’t know how much of it we still have left. None of us do. Every day, every moment is a gift. I have wasted some of that gift in my life and I regret it. That is why it is hard to be away now. But for this, which we will share once she makes the trip to Turkey, we agreed to sacrifice the gift, for a few moments, to get to share the “adventure of a lifetime”, here, together.
It is not just my sacrifice. It is shared by my family and friends whose lives have been altered, greatly or slightly, so that I could be here in Turkey flying very big balloons. And I thank all of you from the bottom of my heart.

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