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!!!!!!!!!!


Emily said...

I love the descriptions in your funny! Off to friend request Sparkle Pig ;)

Anonymous said...

I l0oove your pictures of Baltimore, I grew up in Brooklyn during 50's and 60's.

thanks for sharing

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