Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Of wine-tastings, B-17s, and a spot of fun

Lest you think Saint Pat spends all her time worrying over the state of the Anglican Communion and separatist parishes in Central Florida, let me assure you, she's been having some fun lately. It's been most needed.

First, friends took me out Friday night for our annual wine-tasting. This is a local tradition and fundraiser. It always falls near my birthday, and the admission ticket is my birthday present. It involves wandering from one station to another in our little downtown, tasting all the wine you can hold down. A few yuckky samples went into bushes, but I enjoyed quite a few more, and restrained myself, didn't drink TOO much - and I had a designated driver. We met some other friends of mine at I-Hop for late-night coffee.
Saturday, I had lunch with friends and porch-sat, then went to another friend's house for a showing of My Fair Lady, one of my favorite musicals from my youth. Some of it is really dated now, but Rex Harrison can still charm the birds off the trees.

Sunday I went to church, then laid around the house and recuperated from earlier weekend activities. I napped and watched movies on TV.

Monday, oh boy, oh joy, I got to go for a ride on a B-17 Flying Fortress. That's the big bomber that flew missions from England over Europe, and helped us trounce the Nazis in World War II. The ride was a job perk - a publicity flight for the touring aircraft, Aluminum Overcast. She's lovingly restored and maintained.

The plane

What a great experience. Some of you know I have a private pilot's license. I never got to pilot anything like a B-17. What an awesome experience to go up in one!
Here's the take off. Pardon the jiggling camera.

The flight was smooth, with the B-17's four radial engine purring like four big cats in a small room.

Our intrepid pilots, Dave and Bob, after a perfect landing.

What great days!

Thank you Lord, for great friends to share life, and the great experiences you give us.


Linda McMillan said...

That sounds great Saint Pat. Glad you had a fun time. And you a pilot, just like the PB... who knew?

I linked to you in my blog today. Totally unrelated subject. I just wanted to comment on what a brilliant blog title you have.


Charlotte said...

This must have been one great ride!

Somewhat related: Have you ever heard the story of the Bombing of Frostproof? (Frostproof is a little citrus town in Polk County, Ben Hill Griffin's HQ, in fact.)

It seems that the B-17s at the WWII Army Air Corps base just south of Frostproof went on a practice bombing run one night. Orders were to look for three lights in a triangle pattern, then drop their sand bombs. Trouble was, the town of Frostproof had just three traffic lights at the time -- and guess what pattern they made from the air...

Nobody got hurt, but it gave the town something to talk about for a couple of weeks. Someting like the Archbishop of Canterbury's e-mail, I suppose.

Saint Pat said...

Thanks, Linda and Charlotte! It was terrific - I'm still wound up over the B-17 flight. I hadn't heard the Frostproof story. That's funny!

Anonymous said...

Saint Pat - thanks for sharing this. Both of us are envious! As an AF brat I got to ride in a couple of C130's, but nothing like this. Your clips were much appreciated. Glad you had a wonderful weekend. Been to some wine tastings and wish there were some bushes to throw the swill!!

I got to know one of our parishoners at a function the other night. He was a Korean War pilot who also became a mechanic. He went on to fly for Pan Am from MD202's MD404's (if I understood correctly) all the way up to 747s. You guys have my admiration.

Charlotte, thanks for the Frostproof story. We used to live in Sebring and could feel the bombing runs at Avon Park at times. I plan to share the story with my dad over breafast tomorrow. He'll enjoy the history, especially being retired AF.

Thanks again for sharing, safe landings!

The Lakeland Two

Saint Pat said...

There are a number of bombing ranges and target-areas around Central Florida. I've heard about unsuspecting fisherman having their boats blown from under them from bombs dropped by planes on practice runs.

One of my favorite though unverified stories is of the commercial airliner that landed on a little runway at a general aviation airport, instead of at jet-length runway at the international airport a few miles south.

There's so much that's fun, though. I was flying up the coast near St. Augustine northbound at around 900 feet one time, when a couple of Tomcats flew past me going southbound, close enough to see the features of their faces. They tipped their wingtips at me, then were gone.

Charlotte said...

Lakeland Two, the Avon Park Depot Museum might have something on all this. They have a lot on the WWII Air Corps bases in the area. It's a cute little museum that specializes in the material culture of the region. Makes a nice day trip from Lakeland. Your dad might enjoy it, if he still travels.

Anonymous said...

St.Pat and Charlotte - thanks! I'll pass it on. Mom and Dad still travel to Sebring for their dentist.

Dad and I had about two hours of his memories because of this. I wish I had recorded the conversation because I think you guys would have enjoyed it as much as I did. He enjoyed the Frostproof story and told several of his own.

In the very late 1940's and early 1950's, Dad was stationed at Sahuarita, AZ (south of Tucson), where B-29 gunners were trained along with a bombing range for all types of aircraft. Many years later, nothing remained at Sahuarita, not even the macadam of the runway. Now it is covered with developments. Even Dad's best friend now lives in one of the developments after wanting nothing but to get away from the "base" during their enlistment. IRONY. But these, I think, were the best days of Dad's life.

One of the bombers called in that they had hit their night target perfectly and was quite proud of himself. Beers all around.

Until the next day. They got a call from one of the farmers nearby. Farmer said, "There's something in my backyard that I think you lost." Policy was that when they got a call from a neighbor to go check it out quickly and they did. In the backyard, just a few yards from the farmer's house was the "bomb". Luckily this was only a sand bomb. There were, of course, the times when they had to go get and pay for the strafed cattle.

Dad has so many stories about this time. It was his experiences that made me want to follow into his footsteps until I realized that those days were past. I did get to ride in a military helicopter to Avon Park while in AFROTC at UCF (then FTU) in the 70's. Doors open. Pilot showing us cadets how to fly a 'copter and see how green he could make us. Now that was a ride!!

I remember hearing about a commerical jet landing on a local strip, but it's a vague memory.

The Lakeland Two

Saint Pat said...

My dad, who was a Navy pilot, was stationed at Corpus Christi when I was a kid (and where I got part of my accent, and where I learned to ride horses).

The Navy pilots were fond of screaming low over the cattle pastures at the nearby King Cattle Ranch (HUGE), and making the cattle scatter like sheep.

The base got frequent calls of outrage from the cattle barons.

sharecropper said...

Ooooh, sounds like lots of fun, Pat.

I lived in Columbus, MS, for some time and the SAC base there had B-52s that were the most gorgeous things I've ever seen. The runway ended several hundred yards from a public road, and I used to sit at the end of that road and watch the wings gradually lift and the big sucker take wind and fly.

I was also a volunteer in picking up the pieces when one of them crashed at the end of the runway - with loaded but not armed atomic weapons. The volunteers were called in after the classified stuff had mostly been picked up.

But, I can still see and hear them flying - some 40 years later - Egad, has it really been that long?

Hope you had a wonderful birthday!