How I’m pleasantly surprised by the visit of a good friend.
It was about 5:30 PM and I was just getting ready to step out of the shower when I heard the helicopter fly over the house. I immediately assumed it was LifeNet, the local medical evacuation company, which is based in Wickenburg. They often fly over our house on their way from Phoenix to the airport for fuel. But this helicopter was a lot lower than LifeNet usually flies. And, as I reached for my towel, I realized it was coming back for another pass.
It must be Jim, then, I thought to myself. Jim, who lives in Wickenburg, flies a Hughes 500c. Sometimes, when he’s out flying around, he’ll fly past my house. But Jim normally flies in the morning, not in the evening. I wrapped my towel around me and went out on the upstairs patio to take a look.
It wasn’t Jim. It was a Bell 206L LongRanger. With a rainbow colored paint job. And that meant it could only be one person: Rod Carr.
He came by for another pass as I waved wildly with my free hand. The other hand was holding my towel on. He must have seen me, because he veered away suddenly, climbing out toward the airport.
I ran downstairs and grabbed my aviation radio. I turned it on and tuned into Wickenburg just as he was making his call.
“Hey, Rod. You’re landing at the airport?” I asked.
“Going to be here for a while?”
“Just a bit.”
“Let me get some clothes on and I’ll be right over.”
I got dressed in a hurry, loaded Jack the dog into the Jeep (since Rod likes Jack), and raced to the airport. Raced is actually the right word here. I caught myself going faster than I should have several times and slowed down each time. It was getting late and the sun had already set. I figured Rod’s visit would have to be short since he probably wouldn’t want to fly wherever he had to go in the dark. It gets very dark out in the desert around Wickenburg.
But when I got to the airport, Rod was tying down the blades. That isn’t the kind of thing you’d do if you were only going to be around for a short while.
Turns out, Rod was working out in Salome, which is about 60 miles west of Wickenburg. He was on a Game and Fish contract that had something to do with counting bighorn sheep up in the mountains. He’d flown into Salome a while before and shut down for the night. But when he met up with his fuel truck driver, he learned that there were no more motel rooms in town. (Frankly, I didn’t even know Salome had a motel.) So he decided to fire his helicopter back up and fly to Wickenburg, where there were lots of motels.
Of course, I wouldn’t let him stay in a motel. I helped him close down the ship for the night, then loaded his gear into the back of the Jeep. Then he, Jack, and I went home.
We had a nice evening, with dinner at House Berlin (the local German restaurant; highly recommended) and then several hours of chatting out on the back patio. I heard all kinds of helicopter pilot stories — Rod is full of them. Then we all turned in for the night.
This morning, Rod reported that he slept like a log. He said he got his helicopter log book up to date, then laid back on the bed and — pow! He was dead asleep. He didn’t get up until almost 7 AM.
I took him back to the airport and helped him with his preflight. (After all, not long ago I was preflighting helicopters just like it.) Then, after listening to him thank me about a dozen times, I watched him climb into the cockpit. I retreated with Jack in the Jeep to give him some space. He started up and took off to the west.
And I’m looking forward to the next time he buzzes my house.