Mother’s Day in Tehachapi, CA

Out of the blue we find ourselves in the Mountain Valley Airport RV Park. It was listed in the RV book and was in the right direction and about as far from Las Vegas as we wanted to travel in a day. Sounds terrible, but it’s actually a charming place.

It’s a small airport for private aviation, in a valley, and we’re camped right alongside the runway with bright sunshine and cool breezes. Along the mountaintops to the east are hundreds of huge windmills. It’s one of the largest wind farms anywhere. Once again, an overnight stop has turned into three nights.

It’s also Mother’s Day so, to all who nurture, whether they are biological mothers, adoptive mothers, or spiritual mothers: people of any age and gender who express their ‘mother-within’ and tenderly ‘there-there’ children and creatures of this earth of all sorts, Happy Mother’s Day!

Yesterday, Bruce and Sprocket brought in a bouquet of California poppies, whose bright orange just opened my eyes and heart and made everything wonderful.

Did I mention the sailplanes? We landed on a weekend and there’s lots of sailplane upping and downing. Bruce suggested we go over and take a look. He’d had a memorable flight once when visiting in California, courtesy of Josh, and suggested it just might be my turn to fly, and great way to celebrate Mother’s Day.

I was easily convinced, sometimes I’m easy, and we booked a 10:00 a.m. flight, and had some lunch in the Raven’s Nest, the airport restaurant. While we waited for our sandwiches, we heard there’d just been a sailplane crash at the far end of the runway, which had happened just after take-off. A glider pilot was taking his 7-yr. old son up and evidently wasn’t familiar with the tricky wind patterns coming down off the mountains.

With the sounds of ambulance and fire truck sirens approaching, we finished our sandwiches. The cook told us that the dad was fine but the son might be injured. Sobered and thoughtful, we went into town for groceries. I still looked forward to my flight, but worried about the boy and a bit about myself.

When we returned to the campground, four young boys, 6 to 12ish, were looking at a snake under a juniper in the park. While Bruce went to book two more nights here so I could fly, the kids and I discussed what it might be and I remembered my flora and fauna book in the truck (never travel without it!) We pored over the pages, finally identifying it as a bull snake. They were so earnest, discussing snakes and ground squirrels, and clamored to tell me the places they’d lived where they’d seen other kinds of snakes. I remembered, vividly, how much fun it had been, raising two boys. Thanks you guys!

The oldest of the group mentioned the crash and told me that they’d heard the son’s back was sore, but he was probably OK. Later, we saw the glider, tail broken off, being towed down the runway past the RV park. Hmm.

So, this morning about nine, we had breakfast in the Raven’s Nest, though I was too excited and a bit too apprehensive to eat much.

The time had come, we walked out onto the runway, John, my pilot from LA with 30 years experience (I assume he meant flying experience), got me tucked into the front seat, and explained all the levers and dials in front of me.

He closed the plexi canopy over me, which shut out the chilly breeze, and I began to relax. He climbed into the back seat, closed his canopy, and like a nurse giving a sponge bath, he continued talking, telling me what was happening as the tow-line tightened and we began to roll down the runway being pulled by the tow-plane. Faster and faster we were pulled into the wind and suddenly rose above the runway, then above the tow plane, like a kite.

I had no time for anxiety. John kept us in formation with the tow plane, reading the turbulence hitting the tow plane so as to anticipate and adjust when it hit us. And then, at about 2,500 feet (I don’t remember exactly), he released the cable, the tow plane banked away, leaving us in a smoother, quieter flight of such serenity.

We soared toward the mountains and then banked over downtown Tehachapi, watching baseball diamonds, suburbs, apple orchards, and our own ePod below us. John apologized for the smog from LA that hazed the view, but it was thrilling, nonetheless. He said that when he follows the hawks and vultures in the early morning, they sometimes lead him to thermals where he can stay up as long as eight hours!

There was so much to absorb in my short, twenty-minute, wonderful flight! I’m still processing that I was even up there and am glad I took pictures, to prove it to myself. Heard that the boy in the crash is fine and will probably fly again tomorrow. For his Mom especially, Happy Mother’s Day!

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