Ditching the average life: Six ways to say yes to Adventure

First, have a definite, clear practical ideal; a goal, an objective. Second, have the necessary means to achieve your ends; wisdom, money, materials, and methods. Third, adjust all your means to that end.” Aristotle

Tomorrow morning I am about to climb in an airplane and complete my goal: a transcontinental flight across the US in a single engine aircraft, following Amelia’s 1937 route. Two months ago, this goal seemed impossible, more of a dream than a plan. Much has been realized about goal setting and accomplishment in this time, and while I by no means have things figured out, I certainly feel like I have discovered some universal tools to success.

1) Do not be afraid to ask for help. If you are anything like me, asking for help seems a sign of weakness. That is not the case. Differing perspectives, new ideas, experience, advice, and a fresh look can make all the difference in the world. Also, when someone wants to help you for the right reasons, let them. It feels good to give gifts. Sometimes you will be the giver, but other times you will be the recipient.

2) Say your goals out loud. When you take the bold step to tell others what you are planning to do, your goals immediately come alive. From that point, details get filled in, dots get connected and accountability comes into play. In my case, I used this blog to put some real gumption behind my goals. Whether it is family, friends, social media, or a blog, just start saying it! For me, it felt great to catch people off guard. When someone says, “how are you” or “what’s new?”, REALLY tell them! I started saying, things like, “I am training for a cross-country flight” and guess what the response was… “Oh really? I know someone who you should talk to” or “how can I help”. You will be quite surprised to find how much people want to cheer you on and hope for the best. For those who don’t cheer you on, decide that you don’t have room for them in your life. As I have said before, there is room for everyone to be great.

3) Don’t set aside certain times to be the kind of person you strive to be. Be it ALL the time. While we all have roles we play in life, there is no excuse for only allowing yourself to be great when it fits into your schedule or when it convenient to how you feel. Feeling like your own role model is a full time job, but trust me, it pays very well. Off days are for lazy people. Take time to relax, of course… but relax in the mindset of someone who is living a rockin’ life, not like someone who is taking the easy road because it feels good to check out.

4) Cheer others on and make friends with your role models. When you see someone making a difference or excelling at something unique, tell them what you think. Tell them you are proud of what they have pulled off and that you look up to their qualities. In terms of role models, it feels great to be able to shoot an email off to someone who you look up to and actually get a response. Maybe it is a friend who is a smart entrepreneur or a successful athlete. Our role models don’t have to be world-famous or historic figures. Those kinds are excellent but we are all surrounded by a community of people who are one degree of separation away from us. When you meet someone who you look up to, don’t go home and sulk about how you have nothing going on in your own life, call them up, email, or inquire as to how they got where they are! Chances are, they will be willing to tell you a lot about how they got to their position. You are completely in control of who you bring into your circle of friends so you might as well choose some amazing people who inspire you to be great.

5) Stop multi-tasking. This one is simple. Stop trying to be 2 (or 346) places at one time. When you commit to getting something done, put your heart into it, be it dishes, flying, data entry, a conversation, or sleeping. Whatever it is, do it whole heartedly and with enthusiasm. Nothing is worse than talking to someone when they are texting or have their mind on the next thing they must do. Let’s start being genuinely interested in our lives and the people and things we choose to invite into them. It feels great to care.

6) Look each day in the eye. Just as you look your loved ones in the eye and listen to what they have to say, acknowledging them as unique and important, you should do the same thing to each day you are given. When you wake up in the morning, you MUST realize that you have just as many minutes and hours in the day as someone like Albert Einstein, Amelia Earhart or anyone you hold in high regard. Not having enough time to reach your goals is a choice, a decision that you make in terms of which items you deem important. What I like to do is get all the tough stuff out of the way early in the day. Work out, pay the bills, make the tough phone calls, get them done so that the rest of the day can be spent in goal oriented focus!

Maybe I am right, maybe I am wrong. These things have worked for me and I have a huge smile on my face a majority of the time.

What works for you?

A difficult promise and a lot of hard work… are you game?

“You are never given a wish without also being given the power to make it true. You may have to work for it, however” Richard Bach

Never before, in my nearly twenty-nine years have I experienced such a straight line of learning in direct coordination with practical application of a skill. Just three months ago I was sitting in my downtown apartment, feeling like my aviation goals were out of reach. I knew I wanted to do something big but I didn’t know what it would be. The flight around the world will come in time, but there had to be ways that I could become a smarter, more flexible pilot in the meantime. When the decision was made to commit to completing my instrument training a huge internal sigh of relief was taken. It felt good to simply make a decision, rather than sit on the fence and wonder which way I would fall. It was a confusing time for me, knowing that I wanted to fly, get more involved in general aviation and be in the sky as much as possible. It seems that sometimes choosing the goal and making a concrete decision is more difficult than the execution of the goal. Once I was finally getting myself back at to the airport, I started to feel that energetic charge that comes with being around the plane, the people, the community that exists at small airports. From the hangar flying that goes on before and after actual airtime, to the studying for my check ride, to getting to know the aircraft inside and out, it started to eventually feel right. It started to feel like home.
 Committing to a month solid of instrument training was intense. Each day I arrived at 9News for the 4:30am show, reported for four and a half hours, changed into jeans and my pink Puma’s and bolted to Centennial Airport. Rather than think of flight training of something that I HAD to do in order to the fly the plane, I decided to shift my perspective. I decided that flight training was as important as the outcome and it was something that I GOT to do, and began to thoroughly enjoy. About half way through my instrument instruction, I began to get an itch for a really long flight. I had already began blogging about my experience, but there was something bigger going on.
Truthfully, there was no big event, no spark of inspiration that led to wanting to retrace Amelia’s flight. It is almost like I knew I would do it all along, which made it easy to accept the idea when it came to mind. I made a video blog the day I decided to do it, put the idea out there and the rest has flowed very easily. Weather has cooperated, we have received a lot of help along the way, and overall the timing has been great. However, there was nothing easy about this trip. The planning, the coordination, the connections in each city, the media side of it, it has consumed my life. Here is the kicker- I absolutely love it. When a goal that is so close to your heart is acknowledged in your mind, you will find the energy to accomplish your ideas. The work will be tough, the hours will be late, but the feeling will be all the payment you need in return for your exhaustion. Each night over the last several months I have fallen asleep with a huge smile on my face, knowing that I looked each day in the eye and got everything accomplished that I possibly could have.
 When we departed Burbank this morning at 6am, winds were calm and Los Angeles was just waking up. For once, that town felt calm. The calm within me came from the fact that I was literally holding the tools in my hand to rise above the city and head East. We had filed the night before, did a dark and cold pre flight on the plane, and jumped into the cold seats of the Cirrus. Two doors closed and all I had to do was fly the plane. We got our clearance, departed on runway 5, and flew over the San Fernando Valley.
 As we continued to fly towards the high desert of Southern California, the sun rose over the mountains. From that first sliver of bright orange light came full sunlight, spreading over the silver wings, fuselage and tail. We were bathed in the pink, blue and golden colors of the sunrise and everything was calm, clean and fresh.
Right now, the autopilot is in command, John is to my right and we are cruising at 174 kts at 11,000 feet. I would say I feel lucky, but that would be a lie. I feel in control, smart and focused on completing this goal, enjoying each and every take-off, landing, heading change, and altimeter setting. The end of this trip will mean a new goal and all the difficulties that come along with the planning and the preparations. I feel like I have all the tools and the power to make any dream come true and I know that you do too.
It is going to take time and be hard as hell, but the satisfaction that comes from whatever your version of flying is, will be worth all the hard work in the world. I promise.

My biggest fan came for a visit in Burbank

Day 2: Oakland to Burbank

Within all of us is a varying amount of space lint and star-dust, the residue from our creation. Most are too busy to notice it, and it is stronger in some than others. It is strongest in those of us who fly and is responsible for an unconscious, subtle desire to slip into some wings and try for the elusive boundaries of our origin. K O Eckland, ‘Footprints On Clouds.’

We woke in Oakland, CA to a bank of fog that keep many a pilot on the ground. Rather than taking off at 6am and heading straight to Burbank, we waited until 9 am to head to the airport when the fog cleared. We thanked the crew at Attitude Aviation for their hangar space and gracious hospitality. With a cliff bar in hand, we climbed in the plane and started a cold engine. We decided to fly VFR to Santa Barbara in order to turn on the exterior N Flight Cams on the plane so that we could fly low-level on the coastal route towards Burbank. Haze, ocean waves and some good music flooded our surroundings as we crusied at 1,500 feet above the water. Check out the take-off video from KSBA.

When we arrived in busy Burbank, we dodged other small aircraft over the San Fernando Valley and parked at a small FBO on the West side of the runway. A quick lunch and a facebook status update about a safe landing meant it was time to meet with Jessica Ambats of Plane & Pilot Magazine about an interview for the inspiration issue of the aviation mag. We told flying stories, laughed about cockpit conversations and talked about what a thrill it is to take part in a real life adventure. Jessica arrived by plane from Santa Monica Airport, which added to the romance of this meet up.

Burbank is where Amelia did much of her flight training in the 1930′s. There are photos, sculptures, street names and parks in her honor through Burbank and also North Hollywood. We checked out the bronze sculpture of her on Tujunga just of the 5 Freeway… Amelia stands tall, flight jacket and propeller always nearby.

The flight was amazing, the views spectacular, but the best part of the day was seeing my Mom, who drove in from San Diego to cheer us on and have a relaxing dinner. As she crawled in the plane, she asked lots of safety related Mom questions, but she also told me that she loves seeing me happy, adventurous and spending lots of time in the plane. She beamed as we went over GPS buttons, auto pilot settings, the PFD and the headsets. My Mom gets what I mean when I tell her that this is what I must do. Thank you Mom, for instilling in me a desire to soar.

In 1937 or 2011, it is still Amelia’s Airspace: A photo recreation over Treasure Island

Day one: Denver to Oakland

As we launched out of Centennial Airport at 7:00 am on Monday December 26th, a huge mountain wave cloud sat over the foothills of Denver, waiting to rock our wings and remind us that flying is still a challenge and a feat that is not for the faint of heart. After a clearance for a Rocky 7 departure, Red Table transition, then direct to Oakland, we were told that we would climb to 16,000 feet in our single engine aircraft. It was a tough climb. Airspeed wavered, our bodies bounced and we shot on Westerly course towards Golden, CO. Once we made it through the light turbulence, we were on a smooth path over Colorado’s fourteeners, snow covered ski areas, and the most beautiful pinkish-orange-puruple sunrise.

Winter Park, Aspen, Rifle, Eagle, and the Utah State line passed below us as we cruised at true airspeed of around 190 kts. I stared out the window and watched as smooth and deeply snow-packed Colorado mountains transitioned to jagged mesas with only a dusting. The shadows were deep and the sun was low in the East. The colors were an intensified burnt orange hue, reminiscent of the Fall colors of an Oak tree. Utah felt open and vast, speckled with neon blue lakes that still had patches of floating ice. I searched to find shapes in the formations on the water, much like I search for shapes in the clouds.

Because of our 45-50 knot headwinds, we had to stop for fuel in Nevada. We used our Garmin 1000 to locate a nearby airport with 100LL fuel, which is a bit of a task in this desolate area. We chose Tonopah, a small airport with a 7,000 foot runway. Save the crows flying above, we were the only ones around for miles. We landed smoothly on runway 15 and taxied to a double-wide trailer with a fuel tank outside. Did this place even have running water? John and I nervously laughed as we made our way towards a man in coveralls and work boots. He greeted us with a smile and filled our tanks. Fuel is cheap in Tonopah, NV! We paid around $5.40 a gallon, which would take us to Livermore airport in California. As we left this one horse (one airplane too) town and looked to the South East, we saw what looked to be a storm in the distance. With squinted eyes we saw what looked like the mature stage of a thunderstorm as the anvil of a cumulonimbus cloud arcs to the side before rain pounds the ground below. How could this be? We had blue skies all around… as we lifted of into the air, we found that our eyes had deceived us. A desert mirage appeared as we climbed into the quiet and mysterious Nevada sky.

Our instrument approach into Livermore Airport took us over the Sierra Nevada’s, frigid alpine lakes and windmill farms. The decent was smooth, our landing was on the centerline and our airplane was happy. What more could a pilot hope for? I felt an exciting buzz around the fact that we were here to kick off the start of an adventure.

We met with the crew from A Pilot’s Story, a documentary about the passion of aviation. John’s uncle and cousins were also waiting at Attitude aviation. We looked to familiar faces smiling and waving, as we taxied into the beautiful hangar filled with WWII aircraft and aerobatic planes. Meet and greet, lunch and a short rest and it was time to do the photo-recreation of Amelia’s 1937 flight over Treasure Island and the Bay Bridge.

Here is video from our air to air photoshoot as we cruised as a flight of two, in formation over San Francisco and the bay.

As we cruised over Treasure Island, interacting with the photo ship and cautiously making turns while hitting specific altitude marks and speeds, I couldn’t help but get chills knowing that I was flying in the same spot that Amelia flew 74 years ago.

Amelia surely admired the beauty of this coastal city, she surely watched the barges pass below her shining Lockheed Electra, she undoubtedly skillfully navigated her plane over this town which would eventually become her kick off point for her round the world flight.

Here is the shot we were attempting to recreate:

Here is what we accomplished:

Robert Capps IIPhotographer Robert Capps II and the folks from A Pilot’s Story put together this photo shoot and generously donated their time to making this photo great. (Larger image will be available once final edits are complete)

Pride does not begin to describe how I feel about this photo. From the airspace, the weather, the timing, there were so many variables that could have made this photograph impossible. Instead, it was a safe, accurate, perfectly executed photo shoot that I will remember for the rest of my life. I couldn’t help but tear up a bit as I gazed out the window of the plane, down at the same view that Amelia saw.

 

Day One: Denver to Oakland

The 803 nautical miles from Denver to Oakland proved to be home to some of the most beautiful landscapes I have ever seen. The view from 16,000 feet was spectacular in color, in formation and in diversity.

With skyscapes painted on the tops of our wings…

“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new lands but in seeing with new eyes.”
― Marcel Proust

Every pilot I meet seems to want to put into words the vigor and excitement that flying brings to the table. Photos, words, videos… all of these options come close to personifying our need to soar into the big ole blue sky, but there was always something missing. Until now. I am excited to share the videos that we took today during our Christmas flight in the Cirrus SR22. We mounted N Flight Cams on the left wingtip, the belly of the plane, the vertical stabilizer, and the interior of the plane and this is what we got. I am still just learning how to use these cams, but all in all, they are looking AMAZING! I feel like I am strapped to the outside of the aircraft when I watch this footage. Exciting stuff!

We leave tomorrow morning and wow am I tired… Must get some sleep before it is time to kick this adventure off! I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas and I can’t wait to connect with all of you throughout the week!

Leg 1 D.C. to Denver: If the key fits, turn it and see where it takes you

As I sit at my kitchen counter, uploading D.C. to Denver flight videos and photos, I can’t help but continually glance at the set of airplane keys that are resting next to my Mac. These keys carried me from Washington D.C to Denver, Colorado. They are scratched and used. They are small but important. When this set of keys is grasped by the eager hands of a pilot, they are electric. These keys are never apathetically, absent-mindedly picked up. They are always held tight, with authority, by a knowing hand, who plans to fly.
The flight from D.C. to Denver was filled with focus, intention and beauty. I bounced out of bed on Thursday morning because it was time for a 9.5 hour flight across the country. We filed an IFR flight plan and cruised between 4,000 and 6,000 feet to Spirit of St. Louis, then climbed up to 12,000 ft between St. Louis and Denver. We had no turbulence, but 3.5 hours of time in the clouds.
Here are my iPhone photos from the flight.

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