This blog explores the history of Phoenix, Arizona and a little bit of Los Angeles and San Francisco, California

Flying over Phoenix, Arizona


Unlike the vast majority of people that I've met in my life, I love to fly. I really haven't done much of it, but when I do, I soak up the sensation for all it's worth.

I don't usually talk about this, because of course adults aren't supposed to act like ten-year-old kids. And I have learned to behave in a more mature manner, and pretend to be bored, reading a magazine, looking at my phone, ostensibly joining in in the common misery of being jammed into a plane without room for my long legs, wondering how quickly we'll get to the destination, etc. I can even do a weary smile for you, if you care to tell me how awful the experience is of being in a plane. But if you'll excuse me, I'm in the window seat for a reason. I love to fly.

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I start sight-seeing before the plane even leaves the ground. The airport at Phoenix, which is called Sky Harbor, is an amazing place. Even the name is cool - Sky Harbor, as if it were a space station or something. And it is. If I'm lucky the plane will roll around on the tarmac for a while before it takes off. And I can look at the mountains that surround the valley, and I'll say goodbye them for a while, and they'll be the faces of old friends when I get back.

I'm an old Motorsports guy, so the first thing I do is to sit back and enjoy is the acceleration. If you've ever been in a really fast car, you know that sensation, not of squealing tires, or clouds of smoke, but the feeling of being pushed back in your seat by the power of an engine. I can feel the exact moment when the pilot puts the "pedal to the metal" and unleashes the power of a 737.

The next sensation is when you can feel that this gigantic space capsule that you're in has left the ground. Yes, it's flying. I'm such a ten-year-old kid at that moment, smiling like an idiot. Hopefully people think that I'm reacting to something humorous being said over the loudspeaker. I glance over to review how to use seat-belts from the 1960s (you lift a lever) and then get back to looking out of the window.

I really have no idea which way the planes are supposed to go, nor do I care to know. I have great respect for pilots, and I know that they're doing their job keeping their eyes on the traffic in the sky, and I'm doing mine being a passenger. I'm looking out of the side window. I assume the pilot is looking out of the front window, and looking at the dashboard, and doing all of those things that pilots, and drivers, do. They don't need my help flying the plane, besides I don't know who has the right-of-way in the air. Do you need to pass on the right? I have no idea, and really no interest. I'm interested in looking out of the window.

I spend a lot of time looking at Google Satellite view, so seeing Phoenix from the air IRL (In Real Life) is a treat for me. Some landmarks are easy to recognize, like Camelback Mountain, the tall buildings of downtown, and the freeways. When I see the White Tank Mountains on my right (I try to get a window seat on the right side of the plane going out and the left coming back), I know that I'll be in California very soon. If I can see out of the left window I'll say goodbye to the Estrella Mountains, where I know Montezuma sleeps. I love to look down at clouds.

The only place that I fly to nowadays is Los Angeles, and I try to figure out stuff that I see along the way. I've flown into Burbank many times but I really don't recognize it from the air. By the time I think I recognize something, we're on the ground. And it feels real good getting off the plane in Burbank in the middle of the summer, which is when I go. But when I'm almost home again, and I can see the mountains, the faces of old friends in Phoenix, I'm the happiest.

Thank you for flying with me.


Image at the top of this post: Sky Harbor Airport in the 1980s, Phoenix, Arizona.