The mournful bluesy crooning of Ray Charles emanates from my computer’s speakers.
Georgia… Ooh Georgia… no peace I find…
No truer could it be. My mind is far from peaceful about Georgia, the site of the first SARL (Sport Air Racing League) race of the season. Far, far, far away—at one thousand two hundred and fifty-four miles as the Ercoupe flies—it’s shaping up to be a real humdinger of a race. There are four FAC6 planes in so far. A pair of Ercoupes, a Cessna 150, and a 7ECA Citabria. That means that, if I were there as well, there’d be a hundred and forty Championship Points on the table for me to take.
Well, assuming, that is, that I beat them all. A tall order, of course, but I always assume I’m going win.
But beyond points (and don’t get me wrong, starting the season with that kind of boost would be great) that’s the largest collection of planes in my class that I can ever recall seeing at one race. I’m getting an adrenaline surge just thinking about how exciting it would be to fly in that kind of a close competition showdown.
It’s making me re-think, and agonize, over my original battle plan.
Because my original battle plan for the season had been to sit this race out. First off, it’s a long flight for a plane that’s been laid up with all manner of troubles one after the other for the last two years. Second, those aforementioned troubles have left the bank account dry. Financially, I’m already on the proverbial thirty-minute reserve.
Still, over the last two weeks as more and more FAC6 racers throw their hats into the ring, I’m drooling more and more over this race. So much so, that I went ahead and planned the cross-country flight to the race: The fuel stops, the overnight, hangar space, fuel availability. Then I calculated the entry and exit points of each pylon on the course in Google Earth Pro, and entered the coordinates in my flight pad. Now I’m sitting at my computer studying the weather, which—for a change—is perfect.
But there’s a problem, and it’s nothing to sneeze about. Well, actually… it is.
I reach for another Kleenex and blow my runny nose. Again. I wad up the used tissue, and throw it like a basketball toward the overflowing trash can in the corner. Yes. I’ve caught a cold, damnit. And, like the upcoming race, it’s a real humdinger.
The race four days out. I have no doubt, as another coughing fit ravages the inside of my lungs with razor-sharp claws, that I’ll be fit as a fiddle by race day. The problem is… oh hell, the Kleenex box is empty… the problem is that there’s a two-day all-day commute to get from here to there. And that’s not the end of my problems. Tess needs her prop dynamically balanced to smooth out some potentially damaging vibrations; it’s the airplane equivalent of having a car’s tires balanced. That was supposed to happen today, but I called to cancel it yesterday knowing I’d be in no shape to fly today.
But that’s not the end of my problems, either.
Tess also needs an oil change before a trip of that length. Maybe I could do both of those things tomorrow, leaving for Georgia the next day. But it would be tight. And it would require divine intervention from St. Theresa, patron of pilots, to have me well that soon.
Don’t think I’m not lighting candles.
But I know in my heart that I’m too sick, too close, to make this work. If the race had just been a few days later…
Still… Four other planes in my class… I might be well enough to fly to the prop shop and over for the oil change tomorrow… And better still the next day to fly from New Mexico to Arkansas? And better yet the day after that to fly from Arkansas to Georgia?
Yeah, I’ve got Georgia on my mind. In a big way.
Just this old, sweet song (of roaring aircraft engines) keeps Georgia on my mind…