“Two Bags”

Here’s a description by Rick Reilly of Sports Illustrated, remembering the lucky day he got to fly in the back seat of an F-14D Tomcat:

Someday you may be invited to fly in the back-seat of one of your country’s most powerful fighter jets. Many of you already have. John Elway, John Stockton, Tiger Woods to name a few. If you get this opportunity, let me urge you, with the greatest sincerity…

Move to Guam.
Change your name.
Fake your own death!
Whatever you do, do Not Go!!!

I know. The U.S. Navy invited me to try it. I was thrilled. I was pumped.

I was toast!

I should’ve known when they told me my pilot would be Chip (Biff) King of Fighter Squadron 213 at Naval Air Station Oceana in Virginia Beach.

Whatever you’re thinking a Top Gun named Chip (Biff) King looks like, triple it. He’s about six-foot, tan, ice-blue eyes, wavy surfer hair, finger-crippling handshake — the kind of man who wrestles dyspeptic alligators in his leisure time. If you see this man, run the other way.

Biff King was born to fly. His father, Jack King, was for years the voice of NASA missions. (”T-minus 15 seconds and counting …” Remember?) Chip would charge neighborhood kids a quarter each to hear his dad. Jack would wake up from naps surrounded by nine-year-olds waiting for him to say, “We have a liftoff.”

Biff was to fly me in an F-14D Tomcat, a ridiculously powerful $60 million weapon with nearly as much thrust as weight, not unlike Colin Montgomerie. I was worried about getting airsick, so the night before the flight I asked Biff if there was something I should eat the next morning.

“Bananas,” he said.

“For the potassium?” I asked.

“No,” Biff said, “because they taste about the same coming up as they do going down.”

The next morning, out on the tarmac, I had on my flight suit with my name sewn over the left breast. (No call sign — like Crash or Sticky or Leadfoot. But, still, very cool.) I carried my helmet in the crook of my arm, as Biff had instructed. If ever in my life I had a chance to nail Nicole Kidman, this was it.

A fighter pilot named Psycho gave me a safety briefing and then fastened me into my ejection seat, which, when employed, would “egress” me out of the plane at such a velocity that I would be immediately knocked unconscious.

Just as I was thinking about aborting the flight, the canopy closed over me, and Biff gave the ground crew a thumbs-up. In seconds we were firing nose up at 600 mph. We leveled out and then canopy-rolled over another F-14.

Those 20 minutes were the rush of my life. Unfortunately, the ride lasted 80. It was like being on the roller coaster at Six Flags Over Hell. Only without rails. We did barrel rolls, snap rolls, loops, yanks and banks. We dived, rose and dived again, sometimes with a vertical velocity of 30,000 feet per minute. We chased another F-14, and it chased us.

We broke the speed of sound. Sea was sky and sky was sea. Flying at 200 feet we did 90-degree turns at 550 mph, creating a G force of 6.5, which is to say I felt as if 6.5 times my body weight was smashing against me, thereby approximating life as Mrs. Colin Montgomerie.

And I egressed the bananas.

And I egressed the pizza from the night before.

And the lunch before that.

I egressed a box of Milk Duds from the sixth grade.

I made Linda Blair look polite. Because of the G’s, I was egressing stuff that I never thought would be egressed.

I went through not one airsick bag, but two.

Biff said I passed out. Twice. I was coated in sweat. At one point, as we were coming in upside down in a banked curve on a mock bombing target and the G’s were flattening me like a tortilla and I was in and out of consciousness, I realized I was the first person in history to throw down.

I used to know ‘cool’. Cool was Elway throwing a touchdown pass, or Norman making a five-iron bite. But now I really know ‘cool’. Cool is guys like Biff, men with cast-iron stomachs and freon nerves. I wouldn’t go up there again for Derek Jeter’s black book, but I’m glad Biff does every day, and for less a year than a rookie reliever makes in a home stand.

A week later, when the spins finally stopped, Biff called. He said he and the fighters had the perfect call sign for me and said he’d send it on a patch for my flight suit.

What is it? I asked.

“Two Bags.”

That didn’t take long

I got pulled over for the first time since the rebuild last night.  The first time is always the sweetest, right?

We finished the Corvette on November 4ish. Got one small ride in. The following Sunday, little longer ride, that’s it. The weather hasn’t been cooperating, and we’re so far behind on errands and laundry and cleaning that I just haven’t had the chance to take it out, never mind wring it out a little. Until last night.

My buddy Mary and I had been planning on meeting up for  since last week and since the weather was cooperating and she was up for it, I thought it might be fun to take Tina and give her an old fashioned beat run.  No problems running around the restaurant parking lots and a couple of straight strips … car ran fine, we had fun.

Met up with D and S … S wants a ride. He hasn’t had one yet (well, not since it started shifting again). Happy to oblige.  D falls in behind us. It’s pretty late; there’s no one around. The light changes … I boot it in the ass … wind it out uphill to yellow line … sounds GREAT … let off just before hitting second gear, crest the hill and drop back down to the speed limit.

Truly, I can’t even guess how fast we was going … for one thing, I was watching the tach, for another, we took off the useless cruise control equipment during The Project, and we’re still waiting for the non-cruise-control-length speedometer cable to come in.

Go maybe a mile … look in the rearview … uh oh.  Not one, but TWO cruisers are mooooo-vin’ my way at hyperspeed. Pretty sure who they want, too. I pull over.  A third cruiser joins us.  (I believe this represents the sum total of this particular small community’s law enforcement staff for the evening).

#1::License and registration.
Me::I’m so sorry, officer, we *just* got this car done. It was stupid. I’m sorry.

*gives over paperwork*
*hangs head*

I’m mentally calculating how much all this shit is going to cost, and if it was worth it. About five minutes, maybe seven pass.

#2::  We were parked at Jiffy Lube, we HEARD you.
#1::   WHAT have you got in this thing?
Me::  It’s a modified small block 350  bored 30 over, we decked the head and the block .018″ … Want to see it?
#2::  He has no idea what you just said.
#1::  [smiling] I do so!  *turns to me* I have an El Camino Super Sport I’m just about to drop a load of money into …
Me:: You DO??? Well, I know a great machine shop …

We chat a bit, they wish me well, I do the same for them, we’re all laughing and shaking our heads and we take off.  I think I may have levitated with my relief.  We go back to the garage. Shut her down and close the door.  We’re counting our blessings and pile into the Honda to take S home.

D’s telling me about his conversation with Officer #2 … the “don’t I know you?” conversation, which can go either way considering the way we were in our 20’s.  As it turns out, this went well, too.  D’s oldest son drives tow truck for a big local company, this man knows him.  Then D says, “Look at your cell phone.” So I looked at the phone and there’s two text messages … one says “Dont admit to anything” the other “They said they heard u not saw u” 

“One of the officers walked back to me to see why I had pulled over behind you guys.  I told him you were my wife (this is pretty funny because the officer who was talking to me asked if he was my DAD), that we’d *just* finished the car; he asked me if you had a cell phone … and if I knew how to text you … that they hadn’t SEEN you speed, only heard you.

“So?” says I.

“Remember the time I got pulled over in Littleton? They couldn’t give me a ticket because they hadn’t SEEN me speed, only the distance I’d covered since they first saw me, before they turned around over that hill.  There was no visual confirmation.”

“OMG … That’s right! So … that’s why I didn’t get a massive ticket?”

“Well, that, and you’re cute.”

My appearance completely aside, if those officers had decided to be … shall we say … less impressed with the situation at hand … and trust me, they could have … my night and S’s could have gotten a lot worse.  But it didn’t, and I will be forever grateful to them for making Tina’s “first time” as pleasant as it could have gone.

It gets better … the next morning morning I saw my Mr X online; he and his family live on the same road we got pulled over on. Asked if he heard me go by last night … he said, “What time?” Little before 11ish.  “No, but two cruisers in maximum overdrive went by … you should have heard them winding up past my house! I was going to turn on the scanner, but didn’t feel like getting up. Was that for you?”

That car is soooo sweet, even cops are impressed.  With the *stock* exhaust.

Wait’ll I tell Mike.