Into The Wild Blue Yonder: A Late Bloomer’s Tale

Into The Wild Blue Yonder: A Late Bloomer’s Tale

I find it delightful when a person’s surname points toward their true passion. There’s Sharon Penman, bestselling writer of historical fiction. And Jeremy Wade, Animal Planet’s extreme freshwater angler.

This guest post is by Bob Cloud, who finally realized his dream of flying.

There is a wilderness area about an hour from home where my wife and I would take our kids to get away from all things urban and tune into nature.

We drove by the same rural airport on each adventure. Year after year, I watched the many small craft that called those runways home and would feel a resurgent desire to get in the air.

I became interested in flying when I was 12, after my mother passed. It came with a sudden and surprising detachment from the fear, confusion, and pain of loss. As strange as it sounds, I had the feeling that some part of me was just along for the ride, taking notes for future review and that I was the official observer of me.

After reading a book about bush pilots in the Yukon, I decided I would go fly in Alaska. My dad shot the idea down, of course, so I finished high school and started college. Big mistake, I hated it, and dropped out to join the Navy.

I learned aircraft electrical systems and was assigned to an anti-submarine warfare (ASW) squadron. I flew some years as a crewman on the Lockheed P2V-7 patrol bomber. The Cold War was at its height and ASW was one of America’s primary weapons against the threat of nuclear attack from the Soviet Union.

I was heavily involved in intelligence gathering activities that had national and international implications. It was dangerous work. Some aircraft and crews were lost, especially during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

But when you’re twenty years old, you think you’re bulletproof.

Into The Wild Blue Yonder at LaterBloomer.comPatrol flights were long, frequent, and covered hundreds of miles. You flew eight to ten hours a day with very few days off. I developed an affinity for the aircraft and the laws of physics that created sustained flight.

I also felt a sense of comfort when in a remote environment. And believe me, the middle of the Atlantic Ocean is about as remote a wilderness as you can find.

Those years with the Navy intensified my interest in flying. That passion stayed with me for life.

After leaving service, I worked for a few years in surveying and then in aircraft manufacturing. Later I sold real estate and insurance. I wanted to do something else but had no idea what that “something else” was. I had a family so I couldn’t jump and run.

The years flew, but I didn’t.

I spent the last three decades of my professional life in the corporate signage industry. But in the few years before retirement, I revisited my (now) ancient fantasy of flying.

One day I was driving through that wilderness area where my wife and I took our kids for so many years. I passed the rural airport, its small planes taking off and landing. I stopped dead in the middle of that country road and wondered what flight lessons would cost.

A couple weeks later, I found myself on the same road, watching the same air activity. This time I drove into the airport and talked to one of the flight instructors. He was a retired airline captain who maintained his addiction to things airborne by teaching others to fly.

On my first training flight this super-professional retired pilot set us up in a Cessna 172. We taxied out to the end of the runway. He pointed out this and that.

Into The Wild Blue Yonder at LaterBloomer.comWe turned and looked straight down the white centerline of the runway. He said, “I’ll get us up. You put your hands on the yoke and your feet on the rudder pedals so you can feel what I’m doing.”

Okay, I thought, that makes sense, I guess.

He pushed the throttle handle to full power and we rolled down the runway. I tried to feel what he was doing and how the aircraft reacted. We lifted off and climbed above 30 feet.

“You have the airplane,” he said and took his hands from the yoke. My heart leaped into my throat as I wrestled to keep the nose up. We continued to climb and finally gained altitude despite my greenhorn ineptness and the plane bobbing up and down like a porpoise in the Gulf Stream.

It wasn’t pretty.

But he got the result he wanted and I was hooked. I spent the next couple of years in flight training for my private pilot license.

A few years later my wife and I were vacationing in Alaska. On a tour around town I discovered, you guessed it, a very nice municipal airport. I booked a flight with the owner.

The next day, as we roared down the runway, I realized that my life had come full circle.

During my teen years, I wanted to go fly in Alaska to escape the pain. Now I was in Alaska, about to lift off. As we reached rotation speed I eased back the yoke and felt the nose wheel come off the ground.

A second later we were airborne and I laughed out loud.

Once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return. ~Leonardo da Vinci

Into the Wild Blue Yonder with Bob CloudAbout Bob Cloud

In truth I’m a sometimes thing. I like quiet times with big band music but I also like things chaotic.

I’m drawn to mountains but I like the oceans beaches when storms roll in from around the world.

I like good whisky, spicy food and classic rock with amps cranked to eleven.

I enjoy the study of physics as it pertains to the flying of small airplanes that smell inside like an old Buick.

I’m a reader, a writer and a seeker of truth and beauty. I blog about life and flying at Paywindow 7.

15 Responses

  1. Lynn Kelley
    | Reply

    I think it’s pretty cool, too, that Bob’s surname has pointed to his true passion all his life. Bob Cloud, what a cool name. Wonderful story how he finally realized his dream!

    • Bob Cloud

      Thanks Lynn, I appreciate your comment. The name has some history but to be honest I gave serious thought to changing it a couple of times over the years. Whenever I would introduce myself I would get a quizzical look as if the person I was meeting thought they had misunderstood my name so I would quickly spell
      it out C L O U D. I could have saved a lot of time by going with Smith or Jones.

  2. Daniela
    | Reply

    “A second later we were airborne and I laughed out loud.” Yes! Been there (in another context of course), laughed that laugh, nothing like it, says it all. Beautiful. Thank you!

    • Bob Cloud

      I’m glad you’ve had occasion to laugh “The Laugh”, Daniela. I’ve had that experience many times flying and , like yourself, in other events or context, and found it interesting that it is not a reaction to humor, but as a pure expression of joy. Primal maybe?
      Thanks for taking the time to read and comment.

  3. Brian D. Meeks
    | Reply

    I’ve been flying with my uncle a few times and it really is fun. I think I’ll add pilots license to my life to do list. Great post.

    • Bob Cloud

      Thank you Brian, I would recommend giving it a shot. There is a program sponsored by the general aviation industry called “The Discovery Flight”. It was started to assist in raising the awareness of the public about general aviation and to interest more students in becoming pilots. You can call almost any airport(I recommend one out away from a large international or regional hub because of the hectic air traffic procedures that are usually on going there) and be directed to a local flight school or a CFI(Certified Flight Instructor). They will take you up and let you handle the controls to get a feel for it, at about half the cost.
      Good Luck.

  4. Lee J Tyler
    | Reply

    Thank you, Bob, for taking me flying with you. Only a great writer could do that. What a ride!

    • Bob Cloud

      Glad to have you aboard, Lee, I hope you enjoyed it. I have other posts on my blog that give more incite as to what you feel when airborne in a small aircraft or at least what I felt driving solo. One is called “Flying-an Unnatural Act” and another that I named “Gravity”. I hope you enjoy them as well.
      Thank you very much for your comments.

  5. K.B. Owen
    | Reply

    What a terrific story, Bob! So glad you revisited your dream!

    • Bob Cloud

      Thank you, K.B. I’m very glad you liked the story and also thanks for taking the time to read and comment. One thing I’ve learned over the years is that there is always hope.

  6. florence fois
    | Reply

    Thanks for sharing your dream with us, Bob. Dreams can be illusive, impossible to hold like smoke. But you were able to capture your dream, to hold it and make it real … how perfect is that?

    • Debra Eve

      I’m so excited to be able to share stories like Bob’s on Later Bloomer. BTW, Florence, when are you going to send me yours? 🙂

    • Bob Cloud

      Thanks Florence, your comments are always appreciated. As we were climbing aboard the aircraft, that day in Palmer, it occurred to me that all throughout my life I had never stopped thinking about flying up there but had always considered it just a fantasy that would probably never come be. While going through the pre-flight, the run up and other check lists and calling for take off clearance it was trumpeting in my head what I was doing. Then when we lifted off the circle closed and I had to laugh. Yep, perfect.

  7. Karen McFarland
    | Reply

    My goodness Bob, you have lived a very full life! And to think that you were able to accomplish your dream of flying after all. After reading your post, I felt such happiness, because I think you did a wonderful job conveying that emotion to all of us. My husband loves flying. I remember when he soloed. I was eight months pregnant with our second son while the first one was jumping around on the sofa in the airport office. And his instructor walk through the door and I said, “Where’s Bill?” And he said while pointing,” He’s right there taking off.” I almost went into labor. lol. Ah yes, those were the days. 🙂

    • Bob Cloud

      Thanks Karen, for reading and commenting. That first solo flight is something that they tell you you’ll never forget and they’re right. I’ve thought about writing a post about mine but I’ve just never taken the time to do it. My best to you and your pilot husband and your family.

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