Goodbye, Chicago… I’ll miss you!

I can still hear the “ding dong” alerting riders that the doors are about to close on the CTA train. I miss it already, even though just hours ago I was on my early morning train ride from downtown to the airport.

I sat tiredly in a daze on the Orange Line. I leaned against the window and looked back toward downtown—the buildings were dimly lit against the dusky mauve sky. I thought I’d realize my dreams in Chicago… and I guess in a sense I did, but I just didn’t think my time here would be so short. It was so, so short.

I made the decision to look back only once more. I turned my head and stared in awe at Willis Tower. I vividly remember sitting outside of what was then the Sears Tower as a 12-year-old, proudly holding my geography book as I posed for a photo to bring back to my seventh grade class as part of our “Where in the world has your geography book been?” project. And even now as a 31-year-old, that building never ceases to take my breath away, if only for a split second.

I passed Willis Tower every weekday morning as I walked from my South Loop apartment to Boeing’s world headquarters, and every evening as I returned home. I remember exactly how it looked at sunrise and sunset. I remember exactly how it looked in the rain and in the snow. I remember exactly how it looked in my “favorite light” (the golden hour) and exactly how it looked when clouds completely engulfed the structure from the tippy-top of its two antennas all the way down to the 80th or 90th floor.

I really love that building… and I’ll sure miss seeing and living within the Chicago skyline.

I was now about halfway to Midway Airport. I was loosely holding onto the luggage tag on my suitcase as I noticed it still showed my Chicago address. I then realized that our downtown St. Louis apartment will mark our eighth residence in eight years—Jeez Louise. But I’ve loved each and every place that my husband and I have together called home.

Before I knew it, we were pulling into Midway. It took me all of 20 minutes to get from my seat on the train to my seat at the gate, coffee in hand. After a last-minute flight change yesterday evening (from 6:50 tonight to 7:45 this morning) I was certain I’d get a boarding number in the C30-60 range, and was astounded to see A32 on my boarding pass. This told me two things, I’d get my coveted window seat and our flight would be really, really empty. Turns out we had a total of 45 passengers, meaning we had about 100 open seats and everybody got their OWN. ROW. Now that’s what I’m talkin’ about.

I hopped on board the pitifully empty Southwest 737-700, situated myself in seat A7, and waited for pushback. The MDW-STL flight has us airborne for a mere 45 minutes. Now for most folks… that’s awesome, but for me… I find myself wishing I had just a little more time in the sky. Once we hit our cruising altitude of 26,000 feet, we were up there for only 10 or so minutes before beginning our initial descent into St. Louis.

I’m of course so happy to have been able to get back to my new home ahead of Winter Storm Gia, but I hated having to leave The Windy City so hastily. However, my quick exit was so in line with how my one year in Chicago was… it was always go, go, GO!

I had visitors seemingly every other weekend, which helped make Chicago feel a lot homier. I took seven day trips to six new cities. I traveled to Florida once to see my dad, made it back to Minnesota several times to visit family and friends, and made one trek each to Los Angeles and Seattle. I explored so much of Chicago on foot, and even more of it on my bike. And that’s all on top of doing what I was there to do in the first place—work for Boeing.

Working in Executive Communications was fun at times, difficult at others. I worked mostly 10 hour days, but plenty of 11, 12, or even 13 hour days too. I was never truly unplugged… I almost always had my work phone in tow, and some days I found myself spending more time on my work computer than on my own iPhone. That’s not to complain, that’s just how it was… it was an adjustment for sure, but it’s an experience I wouldn’t trade for the world. I gained so much knowledge and so many skills. I made lifelong friends and I learned a lot about Boeing and a lot about myself. I’m so thankful for that.

I think my new adventure in St. Louis will be a bit more my pace, but only time will tell. Several of my coworkers told me they couldn’t think of anyone more fitting to work in the Boeing Archives… which is music to my ears and makes me that much more excited to start on my new team.

I’m really glad that I’m the type of person to go wherever my dreams take me… wherever life takes me. Not a lot of folks are fortunate to live that type of lifestyle, so I do consider myself extremely lucky. So, for now, here’s to fond memories of Chicago, new beginnings in St. Louis and following your heart. Right now mine is in the sky—literally and figuratively—and I couldn’t be happier.

Peace Out, 2018!

My 2018 Top Nine

Wowzers, 2018 has been one heck of a year. As most of you know, I spent the majority of it in Chicago in my new job with Boeing. My brief stint in the Windy City was great, but living apart from my husband was—and still is—quite tough. I made the best of it though… by exploring new neighborhoods, making new friends and spending a heck of a lot of time out at O’Hare—my happiest place.

Looking back on the past year, I’m so glad I did all those things, and I’m really proud of myself for making it a priority to embrace being a Chicagoan… as I had no idea my time there would be so short.

A couple months ago, I was offered a position working on the Boeing Archives team—an opportunity that I truly believe would have been foolish to turn down. And even though it meant packing up and moving to St. Louis (even before my husband made it down to Chicago!), it felt right, and I’m all for doing what feels “right.”

So, this New Year’s Eve, I’m once again a Missourian—for those who don’t know, my first full-time job was at KCTV in Kansas City, so this isn’t the first time I’ve called the “Show-Me” state home. Having only lived in St. Louis for a few days, there are things I like an awful lot: rent is dirt cheap, it’s a bit warmer, I have my car back, there’s a lot of neat little neighborhoods and I’m quite fond of the arch AND the fact that I can see it from our ninth-floor windows. There are also things I don’t like at all: it’s SO spread out, it’s the most dangerous city in the U.S., it doesn’t have even close to the same vibe as Chicago…much less the awesome donuts and pizza that I loved to veg out on, yada yada yada.

But, one of the greatest lessons I’ve learned from my other half is to always make the best of things… and that’s exactly what we’ll do here together. I’m working for the greatest aerospace company on the planet, and now I get to truly embrace my inner AV geek and tap into my writing skills to help tell the story of this company that’s been going strong for more than a century—it’s a complete honor and privilege, and I can’t wait to embark on this journey with my family, friends and all of you fellow AV geeks.

Thanks for the support and here’s to another solid year of peace, love and airplanes!

The Golden Age of Travel: An Evening at the Pan Am Experience

Man, I’m lucky. I really am one lucky, lucky girl.

About a month ago, I received an invitation to a friend’s 50th birthday celebration. I saw who it was for (Chris Sloan, Managing Editor at Airways Magazine), when it was taking place (Friday, December 7) and where it was taking place (Pan Am Experience, Air Hollywood, Los Angeles).

“Yep, I’m going.”

That’s what I said to myself the second I saw the invite, and here’s why:

About two years ago in an effort to help me get my name out there, Chris graciously allowed me to write a few stories for Airways with next to no aviation journalism experience. My mentor, Benét Wilson, introduced me to him after I had written a few pieces for her blog, Aviation Queen. Both Benét and Chris are two of the most selfless people I have ever met… it’s really, really inspiring to be around them, and an honor to call them my friends.

This past weekend was incredible, to say the least. I flew into LAX Friday morning and was dead set on getting to my Burbank hotel—a roughly 30-mile trek—without calling a Lyft. I took the Fly Away bus to Union Station, and from there caught the MetroLink train to downtown Burbank (this is SO “The Californians,” right!?), where I meandered through various neighborhoods in the 70-degree sunshine and eventually made it to my hotel. Success!

I settled in, cleaned up and headed to Air Hollywood, knowing for certain this would be one of the best nights of my life—and it sure was.

For those of you who don’t know, Air Hollywood is a filming studio in LA with various aviation-themed sets… we’re talking analog and glass cockpits, airplane interiors and exteriors, and a full-fledged terminal mock-up.

For instance, the famed airplane scene in “Bridesmaids” was shot here (you know, when Kristen Wiig stumbles down the aisle, completely hammered, and says to the flight attendant, “Stove… what kind of name is that? Are you an appliance?”). The studio also houses the actual analog cockpit used in the movie “Airplane!” I mean… COME ON.

Air Hollywood is more than just a building full of movie sets, however. They run several amazing programs like Fear of Flying, Open Sky for Autism and K9 Flight School. These are good, good people… but I wouldn’t expect anything less from friends of Chris.

When I arrived Friday evening, I walked into the building not knowing the caliber of what I was about to see… Outside were the huge “LAX” letters that one would typically see outside of… you guessed it, LAX Airport. I followed a red carpet that led me to an entrance with a large Pan Am sign above it that read “First & Clipper Class Terminal.”

Inside, I was greeted by a ticket agent at a spot-on replica Pan Am check-in counter—here I got a boarding pass for the best flight I’ve ever taken without leaving the ground. All of the guests spent an hour or so mingling in the lounge, which was complete with a full bar and chock full of vintage posters, airline seats and other Pan Am memorabilia.

Then, the time came to board the plane. The entire crew more or less appeared out of thin air, perfectly on cue, dressed just as they would have been back in the 60s or 70s. They boarded the plane, and we all followed.

The “in-flight” experience itself was insane… I mean it was so, ridiculously cool. Lucky for me, I was seated with friends and acquaintances at a four-person table (some folks, for instance, were seated in a typical airline seat with an individual tray table to dine at).

After settling in, we enjoyed more cocktails and were given nuts and chocolates to snack on, before the full smorgasbord was served. It started with bread and butter, followed by caviar (no, I obviously did not partake in that), an incredibly tasty caprese salad and then our entrees. Being a vegetarian, I opted for the ravioli, which was truly delicious—on the side were potatoes, green beans and carrots.

Throughout dinner, the flight attendants paraded down the aisles in various uniforms from different airlines and decades. I should also mention, we DID in fact get to smoke! OK, not really… they were fake cigarettes but still incredibly realistic—if you twisted them just right and blew into them, smoke came out the other end.

After we finished eating, we all made our way to the front of the plane to watch an incredible video celebrating the evening’s captain (Chris, of course!) and indulged in some birthday cake.

Finally, to round out the night, we took a tour of the Air Hollywood studio itself, where we saw the various cockpits and sets I referenced above, and learned more about the amazing programs that the studio owners run.

I won’t lie, I was pretty pooped by the time the night was over… after all, I had woken up at 6 a.m. CT to catch my flight, and when I got back to my hotel, it was roughly 1 a.m. (3 a.m. CT!). I wouldn’t have missed it though… being able to take part in such a unique event all while celebrating Chris alongside his family and friends was truly unforgettable.

The next morning I awoke bright and early and headed back toward LAX for a day of plane spotting. I was out at various locations in and around the airport from about 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., but that airport gets such a unique mix of airlines and aircraft, that making a day of it was a no-brainer. Afterwards, I checked out a local brewery in Inglewood before heading to my hotel, ordering room service for dinner and ultimately calling it a night.

So, there you have it. Just weeks after finding out that I, myself, would be lucky enough to work on Boeing’s Archives team, and help tell the story of the company’s amazing past and how it shaped who we are today, I found myself transported back in time to experience firsthand what the “Golden Age of Travel” was all about.

Speaking of golden ages, one of my favorite movies is “Midnight in Paris,” mainly because I so closely identify with Owen Wilson’s character, who is accused of “Golden Age thinking.” Wilson’s arch nemesis defines this “denial” as the erroneous notion that a different time period is better than the one someone is living in. He goes onto say it’s a “flaw in the romantic imagination of those people who find it difficult to cope with the present.”

I won’t lie, I’ve often felt that I was “meant to live” in a different era… it wavers back-and-forth between the 40s and the 60s. I’m not sure why I feel that way, but I’ve always had this interest in the past and the idea of “the good old days…” Maybe it is a denial of sorts, but I can’t think that’s completely true, as I am perfectly happy with where I’m at today.

Ultimately, I think history is one of our most powerful tools in navigating the future and its many unknowns. The stories of things, people and places that once were… they’re so special. So, with that, here’s to you, Chris… thanks for allowing me to celebrate your special day with you, and for allowing us all to experience the glamour, beauty and exclusivity of flight as is was in the Golden Age.

Meet Me in St. Louis

I’ve actually never seen “Meet Me in St. Louis,” but with my love of classic movies, and given it stars none other than fellow Minnesotan Judy Garland, I can’t believe I haven’t! More to come on that…

Today is important, because I’ve officially worked at Boeing for a year now. I’ve learned a lot about the company and the industry, and even more about myself. Living alone in a new city has been telling—sad at times, exhilarating at others—but I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything.

To be honest, the last couple months have been really tough. The loneliness of living alone has really started to set in, and a few other things here and there had led me to feel a bit hopeless and unsure of what my future held. But I did my best to “keep calm and carry on” with a positive attitude… and that, coupled with the love and support of my family and friends, kept me going.

And believe it or not, as much as I love the city of Chicago and the amazing friends I’ve made here at Boeing World Headquarters—and despite having only been here for just more than a year—I’m moving on. Heck, I’ll just say it: I’m movin’ on up!

Well, technically I’m making a lateral move career wise… and I guess I’m moving farther south… but to me, this new adventure is a huge step up. In approximately three weeks I’ll be moving to St. Louis to work in the Boeing Archives.

I’ve always been fascinated by the history of The Boeing Company, and to be able to work with a team who shares that passion and in a building that houses and preserves such remarkable artifacts… it’s incredible. Man, I’m excited!

To add to that excitement, I’m currently onboard Spirit Flight 737 from ORD to LAX to celebrate my great friend Chris Sloan’s 50th birthday at the PAN AM EXPERIENCE! And… AND… this morning I got a call from one of my favorite people on the planet: my mentor, Benét Wilson. She said “I told you so…” with regard to my new adventure, and she’s absolutely right.

She DID tell me so.

She knew that despite my having to deal with some tough stuff over the past couple months, everything would ultimately work out for the best. And it did.

With that, here’s to perseverance, positivity and new adventures. Cheers!

Thinking of You

“Fly the wings of an eagle,
Glide along with the wind…
No matter how high,
I’ll be thinking of you the whole time.”

I first heard the song “Thinking of You” by Hanson as a 9-year-old girl who was crazy about boys and even crazier about music. Fast-forward 22 years, and oddly enough this song speaks to me more now than it ever did before.

One year ago today marked the first time I was truly on my own, living in Chicago. It was an unseasonably warm fall day, and I had no idea at the time how different life would be starting fresh in a new town, in a new job, with no family and only one friend—a high school pal who fortunately had lived in The Windy City for several years.

It was the day after Thanksgiving 2017 and my husband Scott, his brother Keith and I drove down here from Minneapolis. The two brothers hung around Saturday to help me get settled, but come Sunday morning… they headed back north. We said our goodbyes and I went for a long walk alone along Lake Michigan—I didn’t know what else to do with myself. I was equally excited and scared, knowing my new gig with Boeing would be an incredible experience, but being apart from Scott would be difficult to say the least.

It was my love of aviation that got me here—I’ve always loved traveling and the connectedness that comes with doing so, but more recently I’ve become fascinated with the physics of flight and all the magic that comes with defying gravity. When the opportunity presented itself, I couldn’t turn down the chance to work for the greatest aerospace company on the planet, but at the time, I had no idea that saying “yes” to a job, meant sacrificing so much.

Long story short, I wouldn’t change a thing…. I firmly believe that everything happens for a reason. I knew going into this that Scott and I would only be apart for 18 months… and we’re already two-thirds of the way through it! If the next six months go by even half as quickly as the last year did, it’ll be a breeze. Scott and I are two tough cookies, but together, we’re like… a tough Oreo… double stuffed with… toughness.

Anyways…

Yesterday around lunchtime, after spending the long holiday weekend together, Scott and I hit the road… he dropped me off at O’Hare before continuing on toward Minnesota. The airport is on his way home, so we get a bit more time together on the 20-minute drive, and I’m left feeling a lot less sad and a lot less lonely out there with my flying friends. What can I say? The airport is my happy place.

After spending a few hours photographing the heavies landing on 28C, I headed back to the train station to catch the blue line home. The sky was gray and the streets were empty… I cried a few tears, and then started humming “Thinking of You.” Today, I was inspired to tap back into my musical side, so I recorded my own version of the two-decades-old pop hit. So, without further ado, I give you my best impersonation of three prepubescent boys, rocking out in harmony.

On this day…

The only Boeing Dash-80 ever built flies over the Olympic Peninsula

Fifty-three years ago today, the famed Rockwell Polar flight came to an end. I’m particularly fond of this historical milestone because it took place in none other than the Boeing 707—one of my all-time favorite birds.

The roughly 60-hour flight was piloted by two retired TWA captains: Fred Lester Austin, Jr., and Harrison Finch. Willard Rockwell—founder of the Rockwell Corporation—paid most of the costs associated with the record-breaking flight. Rockwell himself was on board, along with 12 other observers, nine scientists, five news people, two communicators, three navigators, three flight engineers and five pilots. Together, these 40 were the first people to fly around the world over both poles, and they did so in a brand spanking new 707 they called the Pole Cat.

I can’t quite pinpoint why I love the 707 as much as I do… I think it’s mainly because of its roots—it was derived from the one-of-a-kind Dash 80, a famous yellow and brown four-engine prototype with *dashing* retro flare. I’ve not yet seen that sole Dash 80, which today lives at the Udvar-Hazy Center at Washington Dulles Airport. However, it WILL be the next model I purchase at The Boeing Store, which reminds me… only 44 days left to use my once-a-year 30 percent discount! Eeek!

That, my friends, is all I have for today. Keep calm and fly on!

Why?

SURPRISE: I live and breathe aviation.

There is just something about those big metal birds and all they’re capable of that has me falling more in love with them every day.

It’s not just about how majestic they look or how loud their engines roar…  and it’s certainly not just about who made them… or who bought them and how that customer chose to paint them—though I DO love a special livery!

It’s about more than aesthetics and superficialities—in fact, what I love most about airplanes directly correlates with what I love most about stories: the “why” behind them.

Every time I interview for a job, I make a point to tell the hiring manager how incredibly important it is to me to know that my work has purpose. Before I dive into anything, and I mean anything, I ask myself “Why?” It’s just part of how I am and how I think we all are as humans—when your heart’s not in it, it shows.

So, a huge part of why I love airplanes as much as I do is because of their “Why?” As much as I’d like to believe all the 747s, A340s and DC-10s are flying purely for my visual pleasure, that’s just not the case. They’re uniting families, they’re bringing people of all ages to places they’ve never been, they’re carrying your mail… your packages, and they’re delivering supplies to people and countries in need.

Aviation is about so much more than bringing families to Disney World or getting you and me across the ocean. It’s altogether about so much more than transporting people… take the air cargo market, for example. It’s growing really, really fast, and I think that’s something a lot of non-AV geeks don’t really realize. Even if you’ve never flown, your life is so dependent on the aviation industry… just watch “Living in the Age of Airplanes” and you’ll get it.

At any given moment, there are nearly 10,000 planes in the sky carrying more than a million people and a heck of a lot of cargo—cars, animals, food, you name it. That’s remarkable, don’t you think?

So, that my friends, is why I love aviation. Aren’t you glad you asked?