My Birthday

Well, here it is again; another birthday.  This one is a milestone though.  It isn’t a decade gone by, but an end to a decade – my 60’s.  Today I am 69.

I will have to cram a load of stuff into this year because once I trun 70 it’s supposed to be all downhill.  I thought of starting a bucket list, but couldn’t think of anything I’d really like to do that I already haven’t done.  Normal stuff seems a bit mundane and some of the more exotic things are now memories.

Like, for instance, driving a steam locomotive; I’ve done it.  Not one of those amusement park rides, but a real, honest-to-goodness, smoke spewing, steam hissing, black-painted locomotive coupled to a string of three passenger cars, a diner, a generator car, and a kitchen galley car.  This was while I was on vacation up in Connecticut, on the scenic rail line known as The Essex Steam Train (Or, the Valley Railroad).  Their web site is found here:

If anyone else is interested in doing something like this, check out the part of the web site called “Your Hand on the Throttle”.  It is an awesome experience.

Here is a shot of me in the hot seat:

For years I wanted to do some flying.  Not in an airliner (although I’ve done a whole lot of that) but doing it myself.  One of my past birthdays my daughter and a couple of friends set me up at a local airport for a series of sailplane lessons.  The introductory package consisted of three launchings (and, hopefully, an equal amount of landings).  The first, from 4,000 feet was handled completely by the instructor who sat behind me.  He guided the plane upwards behind the Cessna towing us and yanked the T-handle to disconnect the tow rope.

Then he showed me some basic plane-handling maneuvers.  I followed him with my hands and feet lightly on the rudder pedals and the stick.  We turned for the home field and landed.

The next launching went up to 4,000 feet and I got to pull the disconnect handle.  The instructor then showed me how to use the wind indicators to find thermals to keep us aloft.  I had to “unlearn” some things from powered flight in order to learn about gliding.  For instance: when you feel a wing lift in a powered plane, you try to stabilize the plane.  But, in a glider, you turn INTO the rising wing and gain lift.  It’s not quite that simple, but that’s the general idea.  You look down and try to overfly light-colored fields and roads as thermals will rise off them and take you upwards.

The third, and best, launch took us to almost 6,000 feet.  We couldn’t go higher because of the runway patterns from Greater Cincinnati Airport (in Kentucky) or CVG for short.  On this flight, I did pretty much all of it from release to even attempting a few mild aerobatics.  I was too chicken to try a full loop, so the instructor took me through a series of three of them in a row.  It was grand.  I turned for home and lined up for the landing and then he took over.  I even have the logbook to prove it.

Here are some other things I’ve done (and some of them I don’t want to do again).

I spent five, almost-year-long tours in a war zone (Vietman &Thailand)

Gone through a major typhoon in an old Liberty ship (USS Oxford – detailed in this blog).

Been in two larger-than-normal earthquakes (in Japan – also in the blog)

The wife and I have taken 4 wonderful cruises (East & West Caribbean, Panama Canal, and Mexican Riviera) for a total of over 30 days.

Lived in Alaska back long before it was a state (1946-1950).  While I was there I learned how to drive a four-dog sledding team at age 7.

I’ve milked many a cow.

Been present at the birth (finally) of a relative.  My granddaughter, 21 years ago.  Holding that pale, squirmy little girl was indescribable.

Watching that self-same granddaughter pass her driving test for a license 20 years after her birth.  The grin was ear-to-ear (hers, too).

Watching a huge thundershower cross the Continental Divide when I was higer than it at almost 14,000 feet.

After hunting in Colorado for over ten years, bringing down my first Elk.

And, finally, the most awesome one of all:  being married to the same wonderful person for just under 50 years.  We will celebrate that in 2013.