Sunday, March 21, 2010

How far would you go?

For some things, I wouldn't walk to the end of my driveway. For other things, though, I'll go to great lengths. As odd as it sounds, a breakfast at Denny's is something I will go a pretty decent distance for. That is, of course, all down to its relative scarcity in my town. If we had one just up the street, the novelty would have long since worn off to the degree that I wouldn't walk to the end of my driveway for a free Grand Slam breakfast or a Moons Over My Hammy sandwich.

But we inhabit the world in which we live and in my world one has to seek out a Denny's if one wants to take half a year off of one's life in one fell swoop breakfast. I don't do it often, but now and then I like to jump in the plane and fly over to Zanesville where I have only a one mile walk remaining between me and a Denny's Classic Diner. And the one mile walk from the airport to the restaurant is bookended with a healthy one mile walk back to the airport which, in theory, returns five of the six lost months to my tenure here on the planet.

The weather was cooperative on Saturday morning, with the day dawning bright and clear with very light winds. The light winds were a bonus; I'd be flying with Co-pilot Rick for the first time in more than three months and my runway operations have yet to return to their late Fall glory. Calm air would be a boon after struggling to regain my footing on the crosswind plagued flights I've had of late. As expected, the flat, dead air allowed me to track arrow straight down the runway and give the impression that I actually knew what I was doing. You can't buy good press like that. Smooth air ensued for the rest of the ride which also bode well for a comfortable return trip, should it hold. Denny's has a way of tempting me to eat more than I can comfortably carry when the flying gets rough; calm air equals a calm tummy in the algebraic equation of breakfast flights.

It wasn't that there was no movement to the air, mind you. The eleven knot disparity between our indicated airspeed and our speed across the ground as measured by the trusty GPS gave lie to the idea that the winds were completely absent. We actually had a pretty decent tailwind behind us. That meant that there might even be some wind on the ground at Zanesville, which put me in a bit of a quandary given that there are four options for choosing which direction to land at Zanesville.

A little cloud of smoke that I saw rising from a burning brush or trash fire in one of the back yards we flew over indicated that the winds were light from the southwest, leading me to believe that runway 22 would be the best choice, but it was hard to be sure. As we crossed to the south of the airport, I could see that the tetrahedron (A device to indicate wind direction, and, in turn, landing direction. It is tetrahedronshaped—four triangular sides. This device is generally located at uncontrolled airports. The small end of a tetrahedron points in the direction of landing.) was end-on to our position, meaning that it was either pointed straight at me or straight away from me. The difference in the event would be pretty critical, but with the previous hint from the smoke, it looked like runway 22 was the winner.

As it turns out, the fact that my view of the tetrahedron was all orange was exactly the indication that I needed to confirm my choice of runway; as we taxied by, I noticed for the first time that the opposite side is painted white and black. You learn something every day!

Actually, I learned a couple of things; I've never really trusted the tetrahedron to swing in changing winds because it seems so large and misbalanced. It seems like there simply has to be far too much weight on its pivot point, and unbalanced weight at that, for it to swing freely. With that in mind, I took a closer look. While it might still be the fact that it is too heavy to swing easily, it is not an unbalanced weight. There are counter weights hanging off of the bar protruding from its nose. Fancy that!

The FBO at Zanesville was deserted, putting paid to the idea that we might be able to scare up a ride down to Denny's. Still, Zanesville has to have one of the most attractive FBO buildings that I go too. It's very tastefully decorated, yet it seems vastly underused. It might be busier during the week, though.

It was a nice walk to the restaurant and it sure worked up a big appetite; a big enough appetite to convince me to order the Meat Lovers Trio, a dish that falls just shy of the breakfast offering I have lived my life in eager anticipation of. That being, as you could have guessed, the Meat Lovers Septet. No one ever seems to get past the 'trio' level, though. I'll probably have to add The Meat Lovers Septet to my list of Very Obvious Things That Restaurants Don't Do. Also on that list is one item that simply boggles the mind with its simplicity and vast utility to a large portion of society: a senior's menu printed in a larger font. I can't fathom why they don't do that.

The Meat Lovers Trio had an issue, as it turns out, and it is one of those things that I typically shrug at and describe as the The Story of My Life: they were out of one of the meats. I order fish at Red Lobster, they're out. I ordered a sub at Subway once: they were out of buns. It happens so often that it's funny.

Well, Denny's was out of Chicken Fried Steak. And at Denny's, if you're a Meat Lover, you're there for the Chicken Fried Steak. CFS (as the waiter called it) is an odd preparation consisting of a dark brown mystery meat (laughingly referred to as "steak" - I think it's an intentional irony or something) breaded in fried chicken batter, deep fried, and covered in some kind of flavorless lard-based gravy. The waiter, utterly mortified at being out of CFS, made amends by offering me a chicken fritter. A chicken fritter is the same thing as Chicken Fried Steak, except that it uses white mystery meat instead of brown. They have to give it a nonsensical name like "fritter" because it would sound too stupid (even at Denny's) to call it Chicken Fried Chicken. And, of course, that would be too easily confused with regular old Fried Chicken, something no one eats for breakfast, for crying out loud. Not even at Denny's. It simply isn't done.

The smooth skies of the trip to Zanesville had held long enough for the trip back to Bolton. They were so smooth that I almost forgot to have Co-pilot Rick fly his leg, my wont being to save the bumpy return flight for his enjoyment. I'm generous that way. Known for it far and wide, in fact. With Rick at the helm, I was free to stare into the bottomless depth of the two gaping holes in my panel where the vacuum instruments used to be:

I need to get busy either plugging one of them with a Dynon D-6 or getting covers for them. They just look so sad all open and gaping like that.

I also was able to get a picture of a very unique bridge in downtown Zanesville:

Have you ever seen a 'Y' shaped bridge like that? Very odd.

The rest of the weekend was fleshed out with finishing my EAA workbenches (more details on that in a later article) and teaching Co-pilot Egg how to drive a stick shift. She thinks she's doing horribly at it, but she's actually learning it pretty quickly. She hasn't stalled the car once yet. It takes awhile to get the rough edges ironed out, but I know she'll be able to do it.

It's a dying art, driving a stick shift, but I think everyone should know how to do it just in case they inherit a Ferrari. You never know, right?


  1. "case they inherit a Ferrari. You never know, right?"
    you just never know. you are doing God's work there. i tried to teach my brother to drive after his first year of college. for some reason he never had an urge to drive as a teenager and after a few lessons i lost the urge to teach. he never did drive till about 7 years out of high school.

    always fun to catch up with what dave is doing. what happened to the funny/wish is were there buttons

  2. So when do you begin teaching EGG to heel-and-toe?

  3. Jeff -

    I've never been able to do heel/toe myself. Just not coordinated enough.

    Leon -

    I'm not sure what happened to those little buttons. They got lost when I was working on the template. They caused problems with certain versions of Internet Explorer anyway.

  4. Dave,

    I have a comment that I wanted to post on the Chronicle blog but couldn't figure out how to do it.

    "Chicken Fried Steak, an odd preparation consisting of a dark brown mystery meat (laughingly referred to as 'steak'...breaded in fried chicken batter, deep fried, and covered in some kind of flavorless lard-based gravy.."

    A marvelous description of Denny's typical fare and describes precisely the reason why I wouldn't walk to the end of the driveway to go to Denny's.

    Re: The accompanying photo of something CF'd. One wonders if it is a picture of the brown mystery meat, the white mystery meat, or the last of the trinity of mystery meats that comprise the Meat Lovers Trio.

    An enjoyable essay. I liked it.