Day two of my spur-of-the-moment flying adventure began with a short walk in the sand at Myrtle Beach, after a cup of Joe. The sun was rising and the beach was quiet except for the sound of the waves crashing. There’s only one sound better than that: an airplane’s engine.
It was time to make a plan for today’s flight. I wanted to be airborne as soon as possible before the heat of the afternoon brought on potential thunderstorm activity. One of my “bucket list” airports has always been First Flight Airport. This is the location of the Wright brothers historical first flight, many would know as Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. The exact geographic location is Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina. Surely, this must be on every pilots “must see” list? This morning flight would be fairly simple. My plane was full of fuel and the weather was looking perfect for the less than two-hour coastal trek.
Kill Devil Hills, NC
The flight was pleasantly uneventful and the airport is located on this picturesque, narrow strip of sandy landscape next to the ocean. The approaching view from the sky included colorful beach houses, lined up beach umbrellas and a nearby banner-towing airplane. This was definitely one of my most exciting destinations. It’s iconic! After landing and securing my airplane, I was ready to take in all of the sights of this well-preserved landmark and park. There was a lot to see and it was as hot and humid as one would expect for a summer beach destination in the south. Sweat was pouring off of everyone there and the thunderstorm clouds were rolling in, as predicted.
The problem with summer, afternoon thunderstorms is that you can’t always foresee where they’ll pop up or how extreme they’ll potentially become in a short amount of time. Thunderstorms for me are scary. I don’t want to mess with those tall, beautiful, puffy clouds on any day. The pilots lounge on site allowed me to watch the weather while eating a light snack. It had been four hours since breakfast. Ask anyone who knows me and they’ll tell you that being stranded without food makes me hangry. So, of course, before departing Myrtle Beach, my traveling companion cooler was packed with the healthiest of options from the hotel breakfast buffet. It was limited though: yogurt, an apple, a banana and a granola bar. I kind of like to eat, so that was gone quickly.
Waiting, and Waiting, and Waiting…
The storms moving from the west were large. This was a known possibility from the start of my day. I did, however, think there would be a break at some point for me to takeoff and cover a little ground towards a new destination. My main fear was getting in the air and being “pushed” by building, looming storm activity further east. As in over the Atlantic ocean. The thought of being over the ocean surrounded by storms terrified me.
Two hours later, still sitting, waiting, constantly second guessing myself, fate stepped in. The friendliest couple came up on the porch with their two-week old baby boy and two huge dogs to use the nearby restrooms. The man immediately assigned me the job of watching his dogs while he went to potty! Just handed them over as he walked past me… That’s pretty bold. To say large, energetic dogs frighten me would be an understatement. Several years ago, while running on a two-lane country road, a vicious dog attacked me. That experience left a scar, mentally and physically. My family owns a very docile dog now. I’m not sure my fear of strange, large dogs will ever go away but in that moment, my good southern manners took over and I gladly accepted the job this stranger put on me.
Oh! The People You Meet
The couple were towing a camper and realized that I was the owner of the lone airplane sitting on the airfield. The man, Bruce*, turned out to be the craziest daredevil ever. He is a world-renowned glider pilot who is finishing up his Private Pilots License. He and his wife, Susan*, began telling me story after story of their adventures, travels, and personal bucket lists. We talked for nearly two hours. They kept me company as I patiently waited for better weather. Soon enough, the bottom dropped out and the rain began pouring down in buckets! Bruce helped me run out to tie up my plane because of the intense winds that blew in with these nearly black clouds. Minutes later, we were all in their pickup truck, drenched, and laughing at what had transpired within moments. My hopeful full day of flying many miles was not meant to be. This adorable couple decided to help me find a place to eat and sleep for the night as they continued their journey home to the D.C. area. So, we drove around Kitty Hawk pulling a camper in a King Cab loaded with two huge dogs and a sweet, little, quiet, diapered baby.
Day Two: Success Or Not?
That day didn’t turn out exactly as hoped but that’s part of aviation: being flexible. It truly ended better than I could’ve planned. Two new friendships were made with some very thoughtful, helpful, interesting people. It’s been said by many, including myself, that general aviation is an amazing community and brings many opportunities. The friendships made during the past two years, including last week, have been my favorite part of this new aviation journey.