What a day of conflicting emotions.
Jerry, Chrissy and I were resigned to waiting until at least tomorrow morning for weather from an eastward moving cold front to pass before attempting to head west for home.
Late this morning, during breakfast, Jerry and I both checked weather on our phones and found that the route was surprisingly clear. He looked at me, “Are you thinking what I’m thinking?” We were all getting a little anxious to start heading home; spouses were missing us, and we were missing them too as well as our pets and home in general. Even though we have been having such an unbelievable good time with all of our new friends, our internal homing devices were becoming more incessant. I told Jerry that I certainly was indeed thinking what he was, and in a matter of minutes we were at the airport. While I got a full weather briefing showing good conditions with a slight chance of isolated thunderstorms along our intended route, Chrissy and Jerry began assembling all of our gear and packing the planes in Susan and Andy’s hangar. All of our friends were at work, because in spite of their best efforts to act like wealthy eccentrics, they are not. I joined them in their readying at the hangar and was sitting in the back cockpit of the Prince having a nightmare of a time sorting all of the electrical cords for the GPS, handheld radio, push to talk switch, and intercom when Brad appeared. He was clearly surprised to see us all so obviously engaged in preparing to leave. We had made the decsion so suddenly and were so intent on getting packed and fueled that we had not yet called any of our friends to let them know of our sudden departure. Brad, bless his heart, helped me sort out my can of worms with the wires and plug everything into the proper receptacle, and gave Susan a call. Jerry taxiied the Cub to the fuel pumps while Chrissy and I rolled the Prince over. In a matter of minutes via the coconut telegraph, Sophie was there with her parents Mike and Kathie, Patrick came screeching up in a tiny car with the fuel door open, and Andy arrived. We all stood around chit chatting while we waited for Susan and tried to pretend that we were not on the verge of saying goodbye. Chrissy’s eyes were moistening, but I was focused on the flight. Or at least I tried to. Susan rolled up shortly. She gave Chrissy and I each a copy of a gorgeous photo that Andy had taken the night we had arrived at Moraine. It was a photo of Chrissy and I, still in the airplane grinning wildly while Susan, grinning just as fully, handed us a bottle of champagne. And there are, inexplicably, several neon, multi colored hearts that appear to be swooshing up at us all from the flying wires and dancing all around us. A photo of pure love and joy.
We all milled around the airplanes and tortured the poor fueler, asking him to take group photos of us with multiple cameras. First in front of the Prince and then the Cub. Jerry gently reminded us that it was time to go, and after more hugs and moist eyes, Chrissy and I prepared to climb into the plane. Patrick noticed that we had forgotten the fresh box of Dayton browines they had gotten us for the trip home. The box was sitting on the ramp, and we waved to Jerry who was already in the Cub. He graciously gave the brownies a place with him and then started the Cub’s engine. Chrissy and I reluctantly put on our heavier clothes despite the fact that it was quite warm on the ground. Yet one more round of hugs and this time a few outright tears. The Kinner started for Brad on the first hot blade and our friends stood next to our left wing tip. We waved and blew kisses, everyone looking a bit forlorn in spite of smiles. We all knew that the end of a fantastic chapter of adventure, connection and fun was closing. I advanced the throttle and taxiied away, while Chrissy shot some rear facing pictures capturing not only she and I, but the receding figures of Susan, Andy, Patrick, Brad, Mike, Kathie and Sophie. It was sad. Chrissy told me later that she was glad for the wind in the front cockpit helping to dry her eyes.
As is our routine, I took off first toward the west with Jerry following. I could see our friends standing near the right side of the runway. Jerry and I stayed in the pattern and made a low approach, waving the wings and then climbed with the sun to our backs, westward toward the land of our hearts, yet leaving part of our hearts with the diminutive waving figures on the ground at Moraine Airfield.
As Richard Bach wrote:
“Don’t be dismayed at goodbye, a farewell is necessary if we are to meet again. And meeting again, after moments or lifetimes is certain for those who are friends.”