Sunday, June 21, 2009


Susan has been telling me for a couple of weeks that when I saw by birthday present, I was going to "pee my pants."  I had NO IDEA What she had in store, and while I did manage to stay dry, I was very excited when I found out what it was.

My story starts the night before my birthday.  Susan and I were up late turning the house upside-down looking for the charger for the video camera because she assured me I would want video of my big day (she was right).  Well, we never did find the charger, so I headed out first-thing Wednesday morning to buy a new charger.

While I was gone, the children put a bath towel on my chair, and brought down a change of underpants for me . . . Just in case.  Then Susan gave me a small gift bag and I started opening things.

The first thing out of the bag was motion sickness pills.  I was at a total loss for why I would want these as a gift.  They do remind me of Ethiopia though since they saved my lunch many days from the rough and bumpy "roads."

The next thing I opened was a matchbox helicopter.  This is  when I started to think I was going on a helicopter ride, but Susan insisted I keep opening.  The next item was a helicopter pilot manual and I finally figured out I was going to fly the helicopter.  I really was excited about this.  I also got a hat and a t-Shirt like the brand of helicopter I was going to fly.  This is really cool since the flight was only 30 minutes, but I still have the shirt and hat.

So, later that day, we headed out to the airport.  I sat with the instructor for about an hour to cover some items required by the FAA and a few pointers to make the flight more fun and successful.  Then we went up in the helicopter.  This is something I have wanted to do for a long time.  About 15 years ago, someone asked me what my dream job would be and I told them I always wanted to fly the helicopter and report on the traffic.  Susan was totally shocked when I told her this, and I think it has taken her this long to work up the courage to let me try it out.  

We went up in the air, a couple miles away from the airport, then the instructor let me take control of the helicopter for a little while.  I was surprised how small the helicopter was and the views were AMAZING.  We stayed fairly close to the ground and below the clouds so you could really take it all in.

I guided us back to the airport where we went over to a field for hover practice.  The instructor warned me I would not be able to hover and even demonstrated how the helicopter would shake, rattle, and roll when I took control.  We practiced a few maneuvers where he would demonstrate something then I would attempt the same thing.  Susan told me there was no doubt when I was flying verses when the instructor was flying.  Apparently, it takes about 10 hours of flying before you get even semi-decent at hovering.

After the hovering, we headed back to land which felt kinda funny under my feet.  The flight was over, but the memory of it will last a lifetime.  I will never forget flying a helicopter for my fortieth birthday.  I have the most amazing wife and she really hit the jackpot on this birthday gift.

Later that evening, we went out to dinner at the local BBQ place.  They have the second-best bbq in the area :-).  Then we went to Susan's mothers house to celebrate with her family including more gifts, and the cake which had 40 candles as I had requested.  

It was an all around great day, and my family really made me feel special.  

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