Well, my first major holiday since moving 2,000 miles away from where I spent my last thirty seven has come and gone. Lots of emotions, many visits, and a few observations later, I am on a plane headed back to Denver International, amidst a thrumming chorus of shrieking infants. Let's discuss.
First off, I highly recommend traveling on Thanksgiving Day, if at all possible. I hear that the day before Thanksgiving, and the Sunday that follows, are the worst (well, busiest actually, but more people generally means more hassle, this is a fact) airline travel days on the entire calendar. It meant getting up at 5AM in Boulder to make a 3:00PM dinner date at my sister's house in Joisey, but it was worth it. Newark was a ghost town when I got there at 1:30 on Thursday; the departure terminal had probably five inhabitants. Of course, the NJ Turnpike was its usual ribbon of SUVs -- with the occasional knot -- stretched from end to end, but we got to my sister's house pretty close to on-time anyway. Saw family I hadn't seen since I left in July (and Brenda, who I hadn't seen in a few weeks - more on that in a sec). The interesting thing is, I might not have seen them 'till Thanksgiving anyway. It's that distance that makes the reunion a little more special, I guess.
With Brenda designing the costumes for a show at her old theatre, she had already been in NJ for a few weeks and had an apartment in New Brunswick from which I could stage my visiting missions. Friday I got to meet up with Tim, my old college roommate. Tim built a bar in his basement and I wanted to see it. As he poured me a cold draft from the tap, I admired the pictures of jazz legends he had on the wall, and then, with a flick of the remote control, some riffy trumpet tones filtered through the air as Tim announced "jazz-only at this bar". Good job, Tim. We got caught up on some things, sure, but mostly discussed standup comedy routines and did movie quotes. That's what we do.
Saturday I got to ride up to my Aunt & Uncle's new house, which I did not get to see before I left in July. The house is great, but the inhabitants are even better. It was nice to see my grandmother, aunts, uncle John, and my cousins (as well as my sister & bro-in-law again), and we had dinner and told the same stories. I also got to hear my cousin Greg on the radio, since when we got there he was still calling the Fordham University basketball game in the Bronx. For a kid who said five words all through puberty, I was amazed at what I'd heard. He was awesome.
Sunday dawned warm and calm, with a wimpy thin overcast draped across New Brunswick - a good omen. That was the day I was to drive up to Andover, NJ to visit my pilot pal John. This was a last-minute dealio, and he had students to teach, so all I was hoping for was a handshake and a few moments of chit-chat, but instead, he was resourceful. John's two o'clock appointment is in preparation for his private pilot checkride, which includes solo flights to other airports, so John signed him off for a short local flight to Blairstown, which happens to have a little restaurant on the field. His student would fly himself over there, and John & I would fly John's Cherokee 140 and meet him there for food and chit-chat.
Did I mention that this student is the proud owner of my dear departed little Cessna 150? Yeah. So it was a reunion of planes as well as people, and it was a lot of fun. Despite not having flown since I left NJ, John let me fly his plane for a while, and the short flight from Andover-Aeroflex Airport to Blairstown was, well, it was wonderful. Two old friends chatting in the air, flying over familiar farmland, is something that few pilots get to experience, and that's a shame. On the way back, Jake took off first, and we were able to close the gap on him fairly quickly. John brought us in close, and I got to watch my old plane from a very unique perspective. Seeing old niner-three-fox in its natural habitat was totally cool. Not having my camera with me was not.
All too quickly it was over, and time to come home. The thing is, my trip home began at Newark International, instead of ending there. Hmmm.
Do I miss it? Well, somewhat. Obviously, I miss my friends and family, and I miss the local flying scene. I miss the scenery of western New Jersey, and the best way to remind yourself that New Jersey is a beautiful state is to take a drive up Route 206 into Sussex County. If you can add in a flight in a small plane when you get there, so much the better.
But the list of things I don't miss is longer.