“Hey babe, what would you think of taking a flight in a 1928 airplane?” he says, only about a half a cup of coffee into our morning.
“Um, sure” I say groggily. Then my brain woke up. “Wait, say what now?!? That sounds like a death wish.” I reply. Picture the horrified look on my face for full effect. Of course, at that point I’ve only entertained the question in the most theoretical of senses. Then it occurred to me that it might not be.
Nope. It was not a theoretical question. “No, it’s a Ford Tri-Motor. I’ve always wanted to fly in one and they’re offering flights in Reno today.”
And thus began my day a few months ago as I found myself unexpectedly packing up some minimal camera gear and driving to Reno to fly in a 90-year-old airplane.
That was not the original plan for the day, as you’ve probably gathered. And you know I’ll keep it real. I was kind of scared. It sounded terrifying.
On top of the what-the-hell-am-I-getting-myself-into factor, I wasn’t completely sold this was the best way to spend my time that day. I’m simply not an airplane aficionado and I was quite buried in other pressing life and work tasks that needed my attention.
But I’m no stranger to embracing spontaneous opportunities. Keeping your bucket full is all about recognizing the things in life you probably shouldn’t pass up. I didn’t approach it for the curiosity at first, though. Being someone who is in ever-present work mode, I thought “Ok cool, my dear man is so stoked about this and it would be a really unique photo op. ”
Flying back in time
Little did I understand how cool it would be. Once I had some time to understand a bit more about the Ford Tri-Motor, I became intrigued. The historical importance completely roped me in. I had no idea!
The airplane is unique and gorgeous with its square shape and corrugated body panels. Its exterior controls are both amazing and entirely frightening. The old-school interior is a step back in time. The wooden paneling, the gloriously retro light sconces, the decorative curtains, the huge windows that allowed you to take in the whole view—I adored the details and textures.
The flight itself was amazing. I’ve seen Reno from the air countless times as I’ve flown in and out on commercial flights. But this—a low-altitude loop looking through the blades of the wing-mounted motors, was entrancing. It was a totally visceral experience unlike commercial flights. It’s much like the difference between the joy of riding and the monotony of driving in the bubble of a car.
Holding on to the magic
Serendipity struck just a few days after my Tri-Motor experience when I read a great bit by my Tremont photography pal Steve Zigler about holding on to the magic of travel after you return. I realized that this is one of the ways you do it. You bring the spirit of travel home with you and apply it to your daily life. You give yourself the chance to see your hometown in a new way.
I had no intention of extolling the virtues of the 1928 Ford Tri-Motor airplane on the blog. Yet some experiences just stick with you. So here, almost three months later, I’m still in love with taking the leap that day.
I thought this odd little day in my life was worth sharing. The larger message of keeping the travel magic alive in your daily life is important, of course. But also to be deliberate with how we spend our time. Even with a spontaneous decision, it was deliberate. Although it took a much greater infusion of coffee to figure that out!
One of the decision points that morning was also acknowledging the value of a unique shared experience with someone very important to me. Even though it’s not something I would have sought out for myself and he would have had a good time on his own, sharing it together elevated it for both of us. The same as our travels together do. It allowed us a double-dip on keeping the magic alive at home at a time when we were working almost non-stop.
And finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t encourage you have a take in this particular experience. It was so unique and thrilling. The plane is on tour in the U.S. if you’d like to catch a ride. It’s well worth it!
Adventure on, friends!
[UPDATE: I originally called this a 1929 but it turns out this is a 1928 so the post has been updated to correct my mistake. Please excuse my aviation ignorance!]