Wednesday, March 30, 2011

the view from above

Take a ride in a helicopter over Baltimore--NOT on the list!--DONE!

Alright, I'm gonna have to interrupt my story of our California trip to blog about something A-MAZ-ING that I got to do over the weekend.  Let me just say...


Seriously one of the coolest things I've ever done, EVER.  And I've done some pretty cool things, but this one takes the cake.

I'm sure some of you are probably thinking, why in the world would someone who claims to be afraid of heights want to fly in a helicopter?  Well, to be honest, I LOVE them.  I know, it doesn't make sense, but I love helicopters.  MUCH more than planes, despite the fact that they are much more turbulent.  Look, Sadira and I fly ALL THE TIME, but that still doesn't make me LIKE it.  I still get anxious before every take off and landing, and I definitely don't ENJOY flying.  I know all of the stats, I know it's safer than driving, and I recognize that although there is risk in everything, it's still a very safe way to travel.  People fly all the time, everyday.

I still don't like it.

But helicopters?  Now that's a WHOLE nother story.

I actually had my first flight in a helicopter when I was 24.  I was in Vegas with a friend for my birthday.  We got a little lucky playing some Black Jack one night and next thing we knew, we used our winnings to book a helicopter ride from Vegas into the Grand Canyon the next day.  Next morning, I had a SERIOUS case of the nerves...but with the help of a little friend I call Vodka-at-10am, I was just fine by the time we boarded.

It was truly one of the most amazing experiences EVER.  Not only was it just AWESOME to fly in a helicopter, because unlike a plane, there is no dramatic take off and landing--you literally just float up into the air, higher and higher until you realize, "Holy crap, we're REALLY high up..." and when you land it's the same deal--you just gently float down out of the sky....but it was also AWESOME to fly in a helicopter from Vegas to the Grand Canyon.  It was surreal to fly out of the artificial bright, loud, craziness of the Strip into one of the country's most amazing natural landscapes.

Here's a shot of the Colorado River I took during that Vegas trip in 2005:

Fast forward to few years later, and I'm sitting in traffic on 95 on my way home from work one day.  I remember looking up in the sky and seeing the SkyTeam 11 news 'copter flying above, most likely reporting on the crappy traffic situation.  I remember thinking what a cool job that must be, to get to fly up in the air everyday and report the traffic from the freedom of the sky. Then I thought how awesome it would be to be able to fly over Baltimore one day--a city I KNOW very well--and to be able to see all the familiar spots from a totally different angle.

Fast forward another year of so, and I'm talking to a friend of a friend one night about heights...a conversation that was actually started because this particular friend of a friend and I had gotten into a conversation about this very blog.  Somehow the topic of helicopters came up, and I mentioned how I LOVED them. This friend of a friend happened to mention that he KNOWS someone...whatever that means.

Fast forward to about a month or two after that...and this friend of a friend's friend is calling me on a Wednesday afternoon to say, "hey wanna fly in the helicopter this weekend?"

Ummm.....say whaaa??

"You heard me, are you free Sunday?"


And today's lesson boys and girls is, whenever someone offers to take you up in a helicopter for fun?  You always say yes.  ALWAYS.

As the weekend approached I was giddy with excitement but didn't want to get my hopes TOO high up, in case something came up and our plans fell through.  I mean, this isn't like a plan to meet at the movies, this is a freakin' helicopter for chrissake.

So when I got a call on Thursday asking if we could reschedule for a day earlier--Saturday--because the weather was looking yucky for Sunday, I quickly obliged and was just glad our adventure wasn't cancelled.

The day of got a little hairy, we were supposed to leave from one location, but then that location decided they didn't like helicopters flying our of their Skypark, so we ended up re-routing to Martin State Airport.

I couldn't believe it was actually happening.  I couldn't believe I was about to fly in a helicopter over MY city.

So here are some of my favorite shots of the and the helicopter before we took off...

(And just a reminder, you can click on any of these photos to make them larger...and I recommend it.  Some of these shots just need to be viewed as large as possible!)

Our very appropriately named helicopter:

Taking off!

The houses below:

Canton, and the First Mariner Building in the distance:

Downtown, in the distance:

Getting closer...
Flying over Mercy hospital, where Baby Bunny was born:

Baltimore's Washington Monument (goal for #14 on the list):

Close up of downtown:

Wait...what's THAT in the distance????

My stadium!!!!!!!

Up close and personal

M&T Bank Stadium with Camden Yards right behind:

 Proof I was there:

 The Inner Harbor:

Another shot of the harbor, while flying over Federal Hill:

The Aquarium, Pier Six pavilion, Harbor East and a lot of other cool stuff:

Fells Point from the air (one of my favorite photos I was able to catch):

The Natty Boh Tower:

Silo Point, site of my big rappel:
Historic Fort McHenry from the air:

One last shot of the whole city:

Typical Baltimore rowhomes:

Heading back toward the airport...

Coming in for a landing:

I loved absolutely everything about this flight; however my favorite part of the day came about ten minutes after take-off.  Our pilot, Rob, was talking to BWI's control tower to get permission to fly into the city and he mentioned, "there's Bayview hospital over there."  Of course I got excited, because I live within walking distance of the hospital.  I told him, "that's my neighborhood!"

Next thing I know Rob cuts the helicopter sharp left, and ALL OF THE EARTH BELOW ME goes sideways into a monster tilt.  Waaay beyond anything you could ever experience in an airplane.  As he's turning I realize what he's doing...we're circling directly over my neighborhood!!

Here's my neighborhood:

A shots of the streets as we circled around:

And another, this is truly directly over my house:

See? (click on the picture for details ;) )

and if I zoom in a little closer...

Yup, that's my neighbor's lawn ornament, Sparkle Pig.  Here is what Sparkle Pig looks from the ground:

(Photo taken without permission from Sparkle Pig's Facebook page. YES, the lawn ornament has it's own Facebook page..and over 50 friends.  What can I say, that's Bawlmer, 'hon!)

What an awesome day!!!! Truly an amazing thing to see m city and so many places I love from the air.  Thanks Rob for an awesome experience!!!!!!!!!!
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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

when you wish upon a star...

24. Surprise Sadira with something amazing. - DONE!

Yes, yes I know I've already knocked this one off the task list, but I can't help it, I just love surprising my kid.  I think it goes back to when I was a kid, and one Saturday morning my mom woke me up and said, "guess where we're going today?"  I had no clue...she told me, "Hershey Park!"  Now, we had been to Hershey Park many times when I was a kid, but it was something about the element of surprise, waking up thinking that it was going to be a regular laid back Saturday, just to find out, SURPRISE! HERSHEY PARK! It was pretty much the best day ever.

That feeling is pretty much my motivation for keeping some things secret from Sadira until the moment of.  I just like to surprise sisters, my friends, but the best surprise reactions usually happen when I surprise Sadie.

When I last left off on the story of our California trip, we had just finished off the Los Angeles leg of our adventure.  We were headed south, on our way to San Diego, with one very magical place in our path....DISNEYLAND!

Now Sadira's never been to Disney World, and certainly not Disneyland, though she has asked to go many, many times.  Considering that we don't really live a close distance to either, I always had a rule in my head that once she was closer to 5 or 6, we could go.  I wanted to wait til she was a LITTLE older so she could remember and appreciate it, but still young enough to get the whole "Magic Kingdom" thing.

My mom wanted to make sure I was old enough to appreciate and remember Disney before we went too...however I was 15 before we got there.  I REMEMBER IT, MOM! ;)

So upon leaving our LA hotel, I announced to Sadira, "Guess what? We're going to Disneyland!"

Let's suffice it to say her reaction indicated she was excited. :)

After about 45 minutes, we arrived in Disneyland.  The VERY first thing out of this child's mouth was, "are we gonna see princesses?"  I assured her yes, we would see them.  "Which ones?"  I don't know, Sadie.  "Are their princes going to be with them?"  I'm not sure, princes can sometimes be elusive.  "We need to see the princesses..are they here?" Yes Sadie, it's Disneyland...they are here.

We made our way to the carousel, the teacups, small world, the flying hippos...all of the rides appropriate for people of her short stature and age.  We rode the teacups. And then we rode the teacups.  And when we were finished, we rode the teacups some more. A LOT.  It's a good thing neither of us get motion sickness.

And then she declared in all seriousness, "Mommy this trip will have been a failure if we don't see princessess."

THOSE were the exact words out of her mouth. Ha! Love. That. Kid.

So we grabbed some lunch, and started our search for princesses. Word on the street was that you had to go to the Royale Fairy Faire, or Royal Walk, or Walking with the Royal Fairies, something like that (someone help me out, I can't remember what the dang thing is called...) but it's this special "exhibit" where you wait in line and you get meet and greet with three princesses.  


So we find this place, and get in line.  Everyone knows how the lines at these parks work, there are the metal bars that wrap the line around and around, to make these monstrous lines look like they aren't really THAT long, right?  Right.  We've all been stuck in that line hell before in our lives.

Well, these bars wrapped around like 7 or 8 times, something ridiculous like that.  And at the end of the last "wrap" there was a sign that said, "from this point, the wait is approximately 75 minutes;" however THIS particular line was only filled with people up to the second "wrap."  The last 5-7 rows of wraps were EMPTY!  

GREAT! I thought, this should only take a half hour or so, right?



We spent an ETERNITY in that line.  Probably close to two hours, I stopped looking at the time. Seriously, FOR EVER.  With a bajillon little girls, some dressed up like princesses, half of them whining their heads off, all just to see these princesses.

I kept waiting for the whining to start coming from my child.  I kept waiting for her to say, "Mommy, is it our turn, YET?!"  But it never came.  She just stood there in line like a little soldier, stoically waiting for her turn to meet the princesses.  At one point I asked her, "are you doing okay? This is a long time to wait, isn't it?" And she just replied, "Mommy, they are princesses."  As if that was all the answer I needed.
And so we waited.  

The thing about waiting in those lines is that by the time you start to get really irritated and sick of waiting, well, you're already invested.  Like, it happened to me around minute 50-55.  I realized that we had already been waiting close to an hour, and still had almost half the distance of the line ahead of us yet to go.  At that point I really wanted to leave, but then the whole past hour would've been a waste.  We've waiting THIS long, might as well stick it out, right?

There was no budging this kid.  We weren't going ANYWHERE until we saw some princesses.

(Patiently waiting in line.  Mommy was not so patient.)
And finally--FINALLY!--that magical moment came.  The moment when we were at the front of the line, just SECONDS from meeting princesses.  We didn't know which princesses, and frankly we didn't care, we just wanted to see some Disney royalty.

So when it was our turn, we walked back, and the very first princess we saw was Ariel!  Awesome! The Little Mermaid was one of my favorites when I was a kid, and Sadie loves Ariel!

Except not today.  

No sooner did we turn the corner to find Ariel that Sadira started SCREAMING BLOODY MURDER.  After almost two hours of waiting in line, the very first thing she does is scream.  She doesn't want a picture with her.  Who am I kidding, she didn't even want to go NEAR her.  Determined to not have wasted two hours of my life, I pick her up and over to Ariel we went.  

And got our picture taken.

Screaming. Bloody. Murder.

God bless Ariel, she stayed in character the whole time Sadie was screaming at her.  She tried her best, "awww, whatever is the problem my little dear?" talking in that high pitched sing-songy Disney voice.   I mumbled something to Ariel as to not offend, "Sorry Ariel, it's not you, it's her..." but there was nothing that could be done.  She freaked her freak.

(My friend Steph later told me that her daughter freaked out over Ariel too...something about the kids expecting her to have a tail, but then seeing feet and it kinda freaks them out.  I don't know, it's a valid hypothesis.  I was just glad we weren't the only ones to torture the poor Little Mermaid.)

So on we went to the next princess.  Sadie was CLINGING to me, practically hyperventilating.


The next princess was Snow White---one of Sadie's FAVES!!  This time she wasn't as horrified...she still wouldn't let go of me or let me put her down....but she DID agree to smile in a photo with her.  All while keeping her distance of course.

Finally we got to the last princess.  Not gonna lie, I was feeling kind of hopeless about the whole thing.  I mean for as much as this child talked about prnicesses....DANG! What a let down!

A let down until...

....she spied Cinderella.

And this happened...

...and then this...


...oh and let's not forget this...

...and finally, this.
I guess that pretty much explains why they call it the "Magic Kingdom." ;)

A big SHOUT OUT to Cinderella, for saving the day, thrilling my darling girl, and making those two hours of my life that I stood in line, worthwhile.

It's no wonder that when we left the Royale Walking Faire (and were immediately greeted with a princess gift shop) and Sadie asked me to buy her a Cinderella dress, I said, "sure, fine.  Anything for Cinderella."  I guess I was temporarily blinded by my love for Cinderella and failed to see the $65.00 price tag---YIKES!  So now we have an authentic Cinderella get-up, complete with dress, gloves, purse, headband and shoes.

Other highlights for Sadira included meeting Minnie Mouse and taking a tour of her house:

Other highlights for me included chasing down Pluto to take a picture with a sleepy Sadie.  She REFUSED to go anywhere near him earlier in the day when she was awake...guess Pluto and I got the last laugh!

But BIG thanks to Cinderella, for making our day in the Magic Kingdom so MAGICAL!

Next stop on our adventure? Casa McLeod! :)

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