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Early Years

I'm switching the rest of the story to the Flexible Flyer banner.  I have always thought that would be a good title for my memoirs.  My ...

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Braxton Hicks

Caitlin was born August 3, 1983.  That morning, I was scheduled to fly the early morning departure from Chico.  When the alarm went off, I saw that Doreen was already awake.  She told me that she was feeling something going on.  She said she thought it was Braxton Hicks.  I told her I did not know she was into country music.  Actually, Braxton Hicks is kind of fake contractions the pregnant woman's body does to work out in preparation to give birth.  

I asked her if she wanted me to call the company and say I couldn't come to work and she said no.  She was afraid it would be a false alarm.

I went to work, did all the preflight stuff and was strapped into my seat, ready to close the door, when some guy who worked in PR came running into the cockpit saying Doreen was on the phone and she was having a baby.  Wow.  I was still in my probationary year and was worried what would happen if I just got up and drove home to take her to the hospital.  Baby needs a daddy with a job.  

After a brief discussion, the PR guy said he would drive her to the hospital.  I gave him the home phone number and address.  Scheduling was notified and would have a reserve guy replace me once we got to San Francisco.  I could then jump seat back to Chico on the commuter and rush to the hospital.

The PR guy had a Porsche and Doreen always talks about riding to the hospital in that car, bouncing over the RR tracks, etc.  Guess which captain I was flying with.  He was pretty cool about things.  I was very distracted and probably making lots of mistakes.  

We went to Sacramento, then San Francisco and I got off the flight and rode home on the Twin Otter.  By the time I got there, Doreen was home.  Our landlady, Shirley, had come to pick her up.  The doctors said she was not ready.  We waited around a few hours then drove to the hospital.  I was there for the birth of my first child, a beautiful baby girl.




By this time, I was starting to get the hang of things and feeling better about my career.  The flying out there was spectacular.  Flying up and down the West Coast is very rewarding.  California, Oregon and Idaho are beautiful.  Lots of mountains.  One day one of the captains pointed out Mt. Whitney.  It is the highest mountain in the United States outside Alaska, 14,500 ft.  He said he thought there was a hiking trail to the top of that mountain, which I found fascinating.

One night, I was flying with my friend, JP, who had just upgraded to captain.  We were flying a trip we called the Oregon Trail.  It started in San Franciso, then flew to several smaller cities in the interior of California and Oregon, ending in Portland.  There was usually a layover, then a return over a similar route.  The cities changed frequently, but on this particular night, we were flying from Klamath Falls to Redding.  We circumnavigated Mt. Shasta at about 12,000 ft.  Shasta is 14,180 ft. tall, so we were below the summit and above a cloud cover.  It was a beautiful sight on a moonlit night.


We were making plans to do all the great things there are to do on the West Coast.  Going to Yosemite National Park was just one example.  Doreen and I had been doing lots of outdoor things like that since we met and thought we could continue doing so with our new baby.  We thought we were going to be in California for a long time.

My mother flew out to give us a hand for a while and Doreen's two sisters came to visit.  Part of our routine for such visits was to rent a Lincoln Towncar and drive down to San Francisco to do all the tourist stuff with our visitors.  With the sisters, we drove to Lake Tahoe and then to the Reno Air Races.  Caitlin was only a month or two old and the big unlimited, former WW II fighters made so much noise as they flew over, that they would wake her up.  We bought a papoose backpack at a yard sale and took her on a hike to Feather Falls.  For some reason, Caitlin was not impressed by Feather Falls and she was crying most of the time, very loudly.  She was turning the tables and scaring all the little animals.



After our visitors left, our landlord and next door neighbor, John Bay (great guy),  offered us the use of his pickup and Scotty Trailer.  We decided to try camping at Mt. Lassen, which was an active volcano.  We put Caitlin in her little car seat between us and headed north.  We arrived at the campground with enough daylight remaining to eat a small meal and get into the tiny Scotty for the night.  As we were eating, we were visited by several small, black tailed deer.  I'm guessing previous campers have fed them.




It didn't take long for us to realize the error of our ways.  Caitlin was crying and it was getting very cold after the sun went down.  We decided to break camp and drive down to civilization, because we knew we would get no sleep and it might be too cold for the baby.  We drove to Redding, found a hotel and got a room.  This was the first time we learned the trick of using a dresser drawer pulled out with a blanket inside as a crib for the little Boo Dinks.

Next morning, we really didn't have a plan, so we drove north toward Mt. Shasta and up to where the old ski resort had been.  It was closed because of an avalanche that had occurred there in 1978.  We walked around in the woods with Caitlin in the papoose backpack.  Then we were getting a little hungry for lunch and drove down to the town of Mt. Shasta.

This is when it gets a little weird.  I suggested going to a super market and getting stuff to make sandwiches.  Doreen went into the store as I waited with the baby in the pickup.  I had my head down, looking at a map and trying to formulate a plan for the rest of the trip.  I began to feel as if I was being watched and was startled to see a bearded dude standing right beside the truck, peering into the window, watching me as I looked at the map.  He looked mild mannered and benevolent, but I suppose Charles Manson did at one time also.

The guy looked like a hippy and when he noticed my reaction, he said he saw me looking at the map and thought I might need help.  I explained what I was doing.  He suggested driving to the old ski resort.  I explained that we had just come down from there.

I suppose I asked him a few questions about the mountain and the ski resort and he started talking about having climbed to the summit.  He said that sometimes people appear to have an aura around them while on the mountain.  He also said that, because it was a volcano, it was kind of honeycombed and had chambers, where UFOs frequently resided.  Stand by, it gets even more weirder.

The more I encouraged this guy, the deeper he went.  Eventually, he told me that during one of his climbs, he had met William Randolph Hearst and had carried on a conversation with him.  I knew that Hearst hadn't been around for a long time.

This was the point where I began wondering what the hell was taking Doreen so long.  I didn't want to just tell this guy to buzz off with my infant daughter sitting next to me, but I was really getting a serious case of the creeps.  As I looked past this hippy dude, I saw Doreen coming with the grub.  She loaded it, got in the cab and I said adios to my new friend.  Unfreaking believable.  Welcome to California.

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