November 11, 2006
Aviatrix Does Berkeley
We'd arranged to meet in Downtown Berkeley, at one of my regular haunts, but after 30 minutes of standing on the corner waiting at the appointed time, it dawned on me that maybe Ms Aviatrix's urban traffic survival and navigation skills weren't quite as well-honed by driving weedwhackers around the Frozen North as you might expect (I'm being polite :-)). Sure enough, when we finally met (after a couple of hurried cell phone calls as she drove around claiming to be not-quite-lost), she had some, erm, deeply-resonant things to say about Bay Area traffic and California driving in general, subjects close to my heart. And she turned up driving a rented PT Cruiser, about which I've promised not to make cheap jokes or snide remarks (I'll let her do that). And yes, she was wearing that shirt (hey, it's mid autumn in Northern California, which means it's t-shirt time).
We took a pleasant evening stroll around Telegraph Avenue, the University, and Downtown, with a long break for coffee and bad pastries at the Mediteraneum (a classic Berkeley coffee shop on Telegraph a block from People's Park), where she spent some time very patiently trying to explain to me where the various companies-posing-as-mammals and animal-named places really were. But since she was talking to someone who thinks Seattle is the Deep North, and who knows about (aboot?) as much about Canada as he knows about Kansas (read: "very little" it's sort of Baja Greenland, isn't it?), some of it went right over my head. But hell, it sounded exotic, and some of the names stuck enough that I was able to find them in my atlas later. I was entranced by stories of a part of the world where you can fly literally hundreds of miles in any direction at 2500' MSL and not hit anything (try that in California ) and where they have snow that's not on the sides of high mountains and not primarily for skiing on.
I got to hear some very funny (but sadly unrepeatable) stories about her experiences in the industry, and we did a lot of the typical pilot talk about approaches, weedwhacker flying (there's a bunch of weedwhackers based at Oakland that I see a lot), general life, etc. I was surprised to discover that she'd flown GA out of Oakland (which was where I did my original training at roughly the same time as she was learning to fly). It's funny (but, I guess, predictable) that even though she typically flies steam-gauged piston twins out in the Middle Of Nowhere for a living (where NDB's rule, VORs are rare, ILS's almost non-existent, and towers a luxury), and I fly little glass-cockpit 172's for fun in a chaotically-busy airspace with a huge choice of approaches and airport types, there was a lot of stuff in common. This extended to a fascination for old navigation techniques like A-N ranges and celestial navigation, oddball airplanes, and weird gear (she'd just been down at the fascinating Hiller Aviation Museum, where's there's plenty of that).
All in all, as Sam also discovered, it was a lot of fun meeting The Person Behind The Blog. I think next time she's down this way we'll organise a fly-in lunch or dinner or something at Napa or Livermore. We shall see