At 7am Chris my current host disappeared to fly Delta Air jets to Europe leaving me to sit on his veranda to wireless into my server for e-mails prior to the days flying.
Later Airborne and heading south, the deflated life raft is now tied to Liberty Girl's roof obscuring the view a little, but the new windscreen gives me excellent warning of the hundreds of aerials and various radio masts that dominate Florida"s landscape. I was punching a 15 knot head wind south to Miami so I was low enough not to take those masts too seriously.
At 11am I divert into Winterhaven for fuel, I say Hi to the lads at the aero club who helped me out last year. I had come over to the "Sun n Fun" airshow to give talks and had gone for a swim in the lake before sleeping in a rental car. Well, it didn"t quite work out that way. As I waded waste deep into the mud and shingle, a huge dark shape moved in front of me. Two nostrils and an eye was enough for me to move like the proverbial *** off a shovel! I was only in my shorts as I ran up the beach and was definitely not stopping to see if he was following. I reached my car, quite out of breath, now limping badly from an old ankle injury sustained from hang-gliding 30 years earlier. Damn! I"m locked out. My car keys and all my clothes are on the passenger seat. Nothing for it but to walk to the flying club and T hangars with the hope someone is still about at 9 at night. A long walk on that ankle diagonally across an airfield gets me there. I was in luck. The Club rang the "rental" who rang "their local man" who in 40 minutes is there and with conventional and not so conventional methods forces an entry.
Fond memories indeed but I digress. I am now turning on to "base leg" for "finals" for the southerly runway of Winterhaven before I spot another airplane in the circuit. "Lookout, look out", an essential phrase when flying anywhere in the world. Always assume the unlikely and be ready for it. Always check things yourself in aviation and never rely on others except on the rare occasion when circumstances dictate otherwise. A quick "Hi and Bye" in Winterhaven since there are no landing fees in the US. Refuelled and Liberty Girl and I were off again for Miami.
Now 3pm. The last 100 miles to the coast was over the Everglades, a flat marshy environment often with no undergrowth at all. Raccoons and deer I definitely saw but there is one short legged fury brown animal I am yet to have identified to me. It was with regret that I heard, too late, from the President of the Florida Aero club, Tony, retired from the motor trade and crash repairs, tells me that there is an unwritten law here not to go below 1000 feet for nature conservancy reasons, it being an area of special importance especially where birds are concerned. Knuckles are wrapped, it will not happen again.
At 4pm Tony met me at Hollywood Aviation just where he has homed his V tail Bonanza for 30 years. Made in 1964, I guessed right, not realising he has under the bonnet an I.O. 550 Continental of 310 HP giving a cruise possibility of just three times the speed of Liberty Girl! At 4.30pm it was onto Survival Products Inc's factory next to the sprawling suburbs of Hollywood to have my life raft serviced and where I buy another for immediate "use", I doubt I'll need it, but you never know.
Early evening Tony is desperately trying to find me a hotel with "good, dutiful" wife, back at the house. No good, all full or ridiculously expensive and too far away for a later scheduled meeting and film show. Tony remembers an empty house he has nearby, so that's my pad for the night. My sleeping bag is needed but there's one problem - no furniture, so all work on computer and telephone is done while seated on the loo!
Now the "eating" in Hollywood was an experience, even for Maurice! At 7pm we all met at a large "Corral" full of local residents of all ethnic possibilities, their average weight being well in excess of the national average. Food displayed was ranged down a sixty foot counter where the queues were waiting for thick juicy steaks, roast, barbequed or fried chicken and many, many other meats under preparation as we watched. Puddings (deserts) stretched all the way down to an ice cream machine that pumped out gallons of any flavour you needed! The kids seemed to be going back to their tables with plates stacked so high to be almost the size of their heads! Oh, yes and when we finished almost everyone went back for second or third helpings as if the world was due to come to an end. I reached for my camera more than once to record the spectacle of the totally inadequate seats they were all slumped on. I thought better of it, returning instead to the counter to get my third helping of scrumptious apricot pie and huge dollops of cream. To cross the Timor Sea, from Indonesia for Darwin in Australia seven years earlier, I had gone on a "no food at all" diet for 15 days before the air race, in order to carry extra fuel load.
I am not so sure if the West Indies will be treated with such meticulous pre flight planning?