The negotiations went pretty quickly. I’d had total control of the wedding plans – girls in peach lace, cheesecake dessert, gerbera daisies for the tables – so it seemed fair that my dream of an exotic, tropical honeymoon should perhaps take a back seat to his dream of flying his 1974 single-engine Citabria across the country. We would plan according to the prevailing winds and land our taildragger in remote, but friendly, airports. As we took off from Hayward on our first honeymoon morning, strapped in firmly with our parachutes and our headphones, my new husband turned to me with his boyish grin and announced over the roar of the engine, “I’m flying my plane!”
The first two days were magical. We flew directly to a castle outside of Yosemite where we played like royalty. Then we flew to Nevada City where we marveled at the moon which hung over the end of Main Street, on the edge of the horizon, during an art festival. So far, this planning on the fly was perfect.
On our last night in Nevada City we unfolded the aviation map, laying it across the queen-sized bed. The map was large and our bodies clung to the edges of the bed as we scoured over where we’d go next. Every possible destination was cross-checked with the thick book of airports which outlined important details. Our goal was to land someplace interesting, but we also had to adhere to time and weather. We could not fly in inclement weather and would not fly at night. We had no long-range goal, only to find the next destination, somewhere east. And there it was: Battle Mountain, Nevada! According to our book, there was a wealth of WWII history there and even a B-24 Bomber sitting on the runway.
Flying over the Nevada desert was hot and long. Boring even. Rob is an excellent pilot so as we approached Battle Mountain, he did a pass over to check out the landing strip and then touched down on the tarmac with hardly a bump. That landing was probably the best thing about Battle Mountain. The fabulous history turned out to be nothing more than a couple of WWII planes which we could only view from a distance. At best, the town was a truck stop, with one motel and a mediocre, dimly-lit Chinese restaurant across the street. Dinner there was only noteworthy in that afterwards my sweet husband got dreadfully sick and we were stuck in the motel for two days.
Caring for Rob meant leaving him alone to sleep and be sick. I walked around the motel, checking out the vending machines in the lobby. I considered taking a dip in the lonely, concrete pool, but the line of trucks on the other side of the pool’s chain link fence only depressed me. I sunk into self-pity, convinced that every other newly married couple was being served tropical drinks in a luxurious setting. When Rob finally started feeling better, I instigated our first fight as a married couple: If we had just gone on a traditional honeymoon, we wouldn’t be dealing with Battle Mountain. Frustrated, and clearly stung, he grabbed the aviation map and said, “Fine, let’s go home and we’ll fly to Belize!”
Now it was my turn to be stunned, shocked really, because I didn’t really want to fly to Belize. I wanted this plan to work out. I wanted more romantic nights in magical places that we could only reach in his tiny two-seater plane. I wanted something completely our own. So, apologetically, and awkwardly, I opened up the massive map and asked, “Where do we go next?”
Through 20 years of marriage, Battle Mountain has become a metaphor for how we get through the hard times. We have learned that if done right, goodness comes from struggle. Battle Mountain yielded a flight to a sweet bed and breakfast in Yellowstone, where we sat in a hot tub on the roof and marveled at the Perseid Meteor Shower of 1996. That night, we foolishly tried to count the shooting stars. They were flying so fast and furiously, we lost track. With each star we managed to follow we made a wish, and with each wish, we built our dreams. The last 20 years, like those stars, have flown by, fast and furiously. It’s been a mixture of Battle-Mountain-like challenges and Perseid-Meteor-like showers of blessings. Looking back though, it’s been quite a journey — and we’re still flying.