This assignment was different. Like a restless bird, the helicopter never stayed in one place more than two days. I drove to airports in New Mexico, Arizona, Wyoming, Colorado, and Montana. I drove almost 4000 miles; as soon as I arrived someplace, it would be time to leave for another. Entire days went by when I didn't see the pilots.
Early on I realized I needed a routine, even if I had to drive 500 miles that day. And as I crisscrossed the West, one developed, as weird as it sometimes was:
Wake up at 5 am and stuff my gear into the Ford Escape. There's a place for everything: my workout clothes, easily accessible snacks, even the big bag of trail mix T. left for me when he finished his stint with the helicopter (stuffed way in the back, so I wouldn't mindlessly eat it). Program the final destination into Gretchen the GPS. Blearily hit the road.
Stop only when the need for gas and a bathroom arise (hopefully, at the same time). Buy an energy drink, although they really don't work. Tell self, don't buy Cheeze-Its. Buy Cheeze-Its.
Break no stopping rule when a particularly beautiful lake appears. Look longingly at turnoffs for places like the Grand Canyon. Look at GPS. It still shows 7 hours to go. Pilot texts that he has arrived at the destination (it only took them 3 hours).
|Why wouldn't you stop here?|
Arrive at your destination, or, failing that, somewhere ten hours into the journey (all that you are supposed to drive in one day). Search for a Holiday Inn Express to get the points. Sometimes settle for something else (The "Retro Inn" comes to mind, although it really was ok). Although it's usually about 9 pm, go to the fitness room and exercise. Look at Cheeze-Its in disgust; eat a salad. Do paperwork till about 11.
Finally catch up with the pilots the next day; having had lots of rest, they look pretty chipper. After a couple of hours, get a call from Dispatch. You're headed somewhere else.
This is a strange job. Sometimes you sit around, sometimes you dig in the dirt. And sometimes you drive all day. It's never really the same. Maybe that's why we keep doing it.