My first flight on an airplane was in 1968 on a TWA flight from Tulsa to Washington, D.C. I was 15 years old and headed to Roanoke, Virginia, to visit my late brother Ben and an aunt and uncle.
I was traveling alone. My brother had sent me a ticket so I could spend the summer on his farm near Catawba, Virginia.
In Washington, D.C., I was supposed make a connection on Piedmont Airlines to fly into Roanoke, where someone from my family would pick me up.
I went to the Piedmont counter and they told me the flight was canceled. In fact, the Roanoke Airport was closed for a week for some unknown reason.
“What am I supposed to do?” I asked the man at the counter.
He refunded me that portion of my ticket and suggested I take a Greyhound bus to Roanoke. So, I grabbed my really big suitcase (I packed for the whole summer) and hailed a cab. I had no idea what a cab cost but I explained my dilemma to the taxi driver and he said he would take me for $5.
He asked me if I really wanted to go to the D.C. bus terminal. I said yes.
I got there and bought a ticket. I had to wait five hours for the next bus. It was an inner-city station with a lot of creepy looking people. I sat on my suitcase so no one would grab it from me.
I had an eight-hour bus ride to Roanoke (they stopped at every little town) and I arrived exhausted. Thank goodness I saw familiar faces at the bus terminal.
Since then, I have flown to Los Vegas, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Denver, Seattle, Chicago, Houston, Phoenix, New York, Orlando, Tampa Bay, Gulfport, Charlotte, Anchorage and Moscow.
Thirty five years ago, I was going to vacation in California. I booked a flight into Las Vegas because it about half the cost of a flight to LA. I could fly to Vegas, rent a car for a week and still save money.
It’s about 270 miles from downtown Las Vegas to downtown Los Angeles (I actually stayed in Whittier where an aunt and uncle lived).
I later made the same trip with a former college roommate and after I got married, with my wife.
I flew to Seattle once for a wedding. It is like 2,000 miles from Tulsa to Seattle and that was a long flight. Another former roommate and I were in the wedding party and we went there in 1980 – right after Mount Saint Helen blew its top.
On our honeymoon in 1982, we flew to Denver and that was the most turbulent flight I have ever taken. At one point, it felt like we dropped a thousand feet in just a couple of seconds.
Of course, the most exhausting flight I ever took was to Russia. We started in Tulsa, flew to Saint Louis and then to Seattle. Then we flew to Anchorage, where we spent a day. By the way, Alaska Airlines is the best carrier I have ever been on. They used to give you hot, moist towels – even in coach – and their coasters had Bible verses on the back of them.
From Anchorage, we flew into Russia where we stopped in some unnamed town to refuel. Then we flew into Khabarovsk in the Russian Far East (near the Chinese border). We took the Trans Siberian Railroad for the last 300 miles to Blagoveshchensk, on the Amur River (the actual border with China).
Perhaps the most dangerous flight I ever took was one week later from Blagoveschchensk to Moscow. We were on a domestic Russian carrier and it was one rough looking aircraft. After a week in Moscow, I took a 13-hour flight from Moscow to Chicago on Aeroflot, which is comparable to American airplanes.
But that was one long flight. We had a tailwind because it was in the fall. If you have a headwind, that same flight stops in Ireland to refuel (that would have been cool).
I was going to Orlando on Continental Airlines about 30 years ago and my travel agent (remember them) booked my flight from Tulsa to Orlando through Houston. I actually had three flights because I flew into Houston Hobby and then flew a shuttle in Houston International before heading off to Orlando.
I flew from Houston to Houston.
The worst weather I ever flew in was in Memphis about three years ago on a trip to Gulfport, Mississippi. We had a terrible delay and there was a thunderstorm watch at the airport in Memphis.
This month, I flew from Tulsa to Orlando/Sanford on Allegiant Airlines. I hesitate to mention Allegiant because they offer such great deals, I don’t want too many people to find out about it.
The fares are dirt cheap. The flights are nonstop. The Sanford Airport is ten times easier to navigate than MCO – Orlando’s big airport.
And in Sanford, people are really friendly. You never feel like sitting on your luggage.