Remember the trip I took last fall to the West Coast, and the promise to write a story called, “Flight Across America”? I recently found the little notebook where I had jotted my notes for that story; and this quiet Christmas night is a good time to share something I’m sure will never happen to me again.
Due to severe claustrophobia, I always sit on the isle seat when I fly, and I beg for more air the entire flight! The last thing I want is to be stuffed next to the window with solid body mass blocking the three-inches of escape space while I press my nose against an unbreakable six-inch pane of glass that sucks up what little oxygen comes my way.
Imagine my unexpected surprise on this Delta flight when I noticed two unoccupied exit seats after the captain said we were free to move about the cabin. Thinking that my lack of oxygen was playing tricks on me, I figured the people sitting there must be invisible to my oxygen-starved brain. I stood up and walked past the unusual double seats brushing my hand through the air. “Empty!”
Positive that there was a good reason why no one was sitting in those golden cubicles of free space, but desperate enough to take the chance, I asked the flight attendant if I could sit there.
“Sure” she said without hesitation. She didn’t even ask if I could throw large objects to the back of the plane in case of emergency.
I’m completely convinced that my old Dusty Angels hid those seats from view when everyone was boarding the jet in Salt Lake City, Utah. They were prize seats on a full plane.
Dropping my purse and jacket into the empty isle seat, I felt giddy with relief as I sank into the chair with a window view, lots of leg space and more than enough free air! Grabbing my always-handy notebook, I spent the next three hours recording everything I saw below me from Salt Lake City to Columbus, Ohio.
The first thing I noticed was that the Salt Lake City International Airport sits deep inside a large earthen bowl surrounded by very tall hills - so high the tops are engulfed with fog and clouds. I wondered just how our tightly-packed sardine box with wings would escape the high walls of stone. I took note of the jets ahead of us that seemed to make a quick turn to the left and head straight up.
The scene reminded me of a story I heard during the catastrophic events of 9/11 when Air Force One, with President Bush aboard became a virtual rocket spiraling straight up into the safety of higher altitude. I hoped that the government had shared some of its secrets with our pilot as we taxied straight toward the edge of the Grand Teton Mountains! I observed that the sides of the mountains were mostly bare of timber leaving a mixture of browns and clay-red earth exposed to the elements.
Here is where I must interject that I witnessed a UFO moving like a streak through the air straight up the side of the mountain. The date was September 7, 2007 at 7:22 p.m. EST as our plane coasted in line for take-off. Outside of my little window at that moment, we passed a small runway sign that says H2 16L-34R, and beyond that sign about a mile or two from our plane, I noticed the strange movement near the edge of the steep hills.
As we slowly rolled across two squares of the runway, I watched in amazement as a large round white object floating upward at increasing super speed along-side the mountain. Within five seconds, the unidentified object had cleared the entire mountain, and in an instant, disappeared from view into the clouds.
After we got airborne, I saw many military aircraft parked in a separate area near the airport. A military base? A weather balloon? Yeah, that’s what they all say! For sure, it was moving faster than anything leaving OUR airport!
As clouds close in at the end of the runway, our lumbering jet makes three circles getting us out of the airport bowl. Wispy clouds below make way for me to enjoy the scenic trail of murky ponds of water connected by small roads. More land than water. I question the purpose of a strangely shaped building set secluded on a mountain top. The two white domes remind me of the bright decorative light bulbs in our bathroom. A riverbed snakes along a road dotted with miniature houses, and then the thin pale clouds become a lake of pure white creating shadows under shadows and obstructing my once-in-a-lifetime view.
The pilot announces we are moving up from 24,000 feet to 36,000 and we are going to make the 1,300-mile trip in 2 hours and 50 minutes. The flight attendant offers me a drink and peanuts. “Two packs, please. This is fun!” We are flying due east with the sun setting behind us, casting longer and longer shadows on the sandy-colored mountaintops below. I hope the daylight will last longer!
Imperceptibly, the mountains began to resemble small ridges set close together like many railroad tracks going in the same direction. Then, the land becomes covered with small swirls like feather trails or chicken scratches (for those who have seen chicken scratches). I assume these indentations must have been riverbeds long ago? Soon, the plateau changes to Indian arrowhead shapes surrounded by dark green vegetation that slopes to the earth.
As I sip my cold drink, the lady behind me treks unsteadily to the ladies room. Glued to my tiny window, I’m delighted to see small villages below me sparkle like tiny golden jewels in the setting sun. The landscape has changed from scratch-like markings to tiny rivets like thousands of small moles working their way underground.
Slowly the markings on the ground change to large squares of land alternating with circles of crops making quilted designs as far as the eye can see. Sometimes I see large bubble-like formations that look as if something large has ejected straight up from the earth! Further along, it looks like the farmers are using their farmland to play checkers with each other.
Finally, it appears the farmers have grown weary of checkers, and they have created flags of every size using white windmills as the stars in their homegrown USA flags. Then, not to be outdone, the farmers suddenly resort to geometric signs and symbols in laying out their crops! My algebra teacher would be proud of the perfect Algebraic pie with 1/3 part green and 2/3 brown. Or, two circles inside a square. One is solid dark green and the other circle is swirled light and dark green. The next farmer has planted a set of three circles; one green, one dark brown and the last one swirled brown with his farmhouse sitting in the middle. This is repeated in as many ways as there are geometric symbols. I might not have failed algebra if I’d had this study guide!
Suddenly I spot another plane speeding past us in the opposite direction slightly below our “sky lane”. It is a streak of silver headed straight into the setting sun. I wonder if the pilots have acknowledged each other in some way.
Now the clouds are speaking to me as they have obscured the land below. Below us are numerous tiffs of light gray with bits of creamy white reminding me of ‘rabbit fur’ in the sky. Then, instantly we are bumping around in the air. Little kids cry out and mothers murmur comfortingly. Ahead of us against the horizon, I see ‘night-time’ clouds.
The cabin becomes dark, and our reading lights shine like little suns on our books and magazines. The earth below fades in and out as I strain to see outlines of long highways with rolling beads of lights and the dark ribbon of a rambling river.
I lean away from my window on the world as the plane banks to avoid a large thundercloud that flashes bundles of light pink every few seconds. The pilot has provided me with a heavenly view of an evening rainstorm cloud – something I’m deathly afraid of on earth.
Another plane streaks by much closer to our plane. He has already avoided the storm. I imagine people over there looking out and waving at us. I give a small wave back, and they are gone.
The thundercloud is shaped like a sea lion. Its head lights up with the bright life of lightening. It has small feet and a long body that reaches all the way to the horizon ahead of us. Electric flippers reach out and glow with multicolored balls of lightning. A mystic streak of bright pink drops jaggedly to earth catches my breath, but there is none of the usual trembling fear.
Soon the sea lion has disappeared into the darkness behind us. All is quiet and still. It seems we have stopped in mid-air as I peer into the darkness. There's an instant of colorful stroblights outside my window, but they disappear behind us before I can wave again. The sky is getting thinner. Jet engines are straining and my began ears pop. Small trails of moving lights appear below like slow moving snails. Buildings and sub-divisions are shaped like animal crackers. Glowing back yard swimming pools make faces at me. Clusters of city lights spread out like constellations of stars.
Ding-Dong. “Please fasten your seatbelt for landing.”
Hubby waits smiling at the passenger pick-up area. My dog wags her tail and leans out the window to splash kisses on my face!
Welcome back to earth!
I hope your travels are always this wonderful.
Take Care on the Journey,