Blue Skies Grill was a typical airport restaurant: patrons sat at the counter on the swivel chairs to order, booths lined the windows so diners could watch the planes take off, and the waitress was also the cook and cashier. I’d been loitering around asking people for rides for a couple days, but the weather hadn’t cooperated.
When the rain cleared up, it seemed like everyone in the restaurant was rallying to help me find a ride north so I could make it to my sister’s high school graduation on time. She is 11 years younger than I am and lives in upstate New York with my parents. Missing her graduation was not an option, no matter where in the world I was.
Nora and Kent had just landed and were grabbing a bite to eat when they heard about my quest and called me over to their table to explain my crazy adventure.
“Where are you trying to get to?” Nora asked casually as she cradled a coffee mug in her hands.
“North,” I said. I need to be in upstate NY before Saturday morning, so I’m trying to get anywhere in that general direction.”
“Does Harrisburg, Pennsylvania help?” she asked.
“Yes! I said.
“Well, you’re in luck. You see that pretty purple airplane out there?” she asked and pointed out the window at a Columbia 350. “I just bought her and all I’m doing today is playing in the sky!” Nora explained that she had been flying for more than 20 years, and Kent was a flight instructor who has been helping her get accustomed to the new avionics system in the plane. “You’re welcome to come with us if you’d like.”
So, we said our goodbyes to the friendly crew at Hampton Roads Executive who had been trying to help me with the next leg of my journey, and within minutes we were in the air.
“You see this nonsense?” Nora exclaimed, pointing at the zigzagged route we’d been given by air traffic control as we approached the Washington D.C. area, which was laden with flight restrictions. After 9/11, a number of regulations went into effect, particularly surrounding the skies near the nation’s capital.
Within an hour or so after landing in Harrisburg, I found myself listening to a talented, father-daughter musical duet at a country club somewhere outside of the city. Meeka was a singer and songwriter who answered my last-minute request for a place to stay, and the next morning I woke up on yet another couch with her cat circling my feet. I was on my way to the airport to thumb another ride when my phone rang.
“Amber? This is Todd over at Volo Aviation. I hear you are looking for a ride to New York.”
“Yes, I am. I was just coming over to the airport now.” I had spoken to the line crew the night before in hopes that they knew someone flying out in the morning. They must have passed the message along.
“Well, if you can get here in 30 minutes there is a King Air going to upstate NY with an extra seat.”