There’s something among general aviation pilots known as The $100 Hamburger. Essentially, it’s an excuse to fly a short distance, get something to eat at a quaint runway-side cafe, and then fly home. Last Saturday promised to be a strikingly clear and beautiful morning, a rarity this time of year in the Pacific Northwest, so Mike’s flight club decided to head out to breakfast but in the end, only three of us showed up, me, Mike and his fellow pilot Greg. By 8:30 a.m. we were up flying over Puget Sound. It’s been awhile since we’ve been flying in a small plane and no matter how often I’ve experienced, I never cease to be amazed by the thrill of being aloft in a vehicle that’s half the weight of a compact car. But Saturday was particularly stunning, especially since we’ve spent so much time away from the Northwest in the past few months. Every mountain stood out crisply against the azure sky, the expanse of the Sound shimmered, its smooth surface cut by ferries, tugs or the occasional sailboat. After heading over to the Olympic National Forest past the mountain ranges, we took a tour down a canyon over the icy blue Lake Crescent, so blue and clear that we could almost see the bottom. (We failed to see any vampire activity, despite the proximity to Forks.) We cruised past white mountaintops, close enough to see bald patches on some of the foothills, the result of lumber work. Then, we headed back toward the north coast to our original destination, the Spruce Goose Cafe at Jefferson County Airport. The parking lot of the cafe was full of planes. As our waitress poured our coffee, she noted it was the first day they had opened the patio. “Anyone who isn’t out flying this morning is crazy, especially after all the rain we’ve had.”
Mike and Greg went for the pancakes with raspberry sauce and freshly whisked cream, while I threw out my diet in favor of a mess of eggs Benedict topped with a tangy hollandaise. We touched down at Paine Field, just next to the famed Boeing plant where they build 747s and the new Dreamliner 787 a few minutes after 11 a.m. We hummed over a couple dozen massive planes in their lot on our final approach to the runway. As they put the cover back on the four-seater Archer, we kept gushing about the beautiful flight and Greg remarked, “It’s a shame the others couldn’t make it.” The rest had to mind kids with sports practice or errands to run, the typical stuff of weekend mornings. Frankly, we could have easily rolled back over to sleep when the alarm sounded at 6:45 a.m. But it reminded me that sometimes, it’s truly worth the effort, to dance when you’re asked.