The Golden Isles

We are on the East Coast!

We said we wanted to fly across America some day, and we did it!

We’d intended to do two legs on Saturday, meaning to take off from Hammond, Louisian, and end up in Tallahassee, Florida, with a brief hop on Sunday to our revised destination of St. Simon’s Island. We planned to stop for lunch in Andalusia, Alabama.

The flight from Hammond to Andalusia was notable because we made a little detour so that we could overfly Gulfport, Mississippi, the hometown of John C. Robinson, one of the heroes of American Wings (which Sherri L. Smith and I co-authored and which was published earlier this year). Johnny was inspired to take to the air when he saw his first plane in about 1910, winging its way over the Mississippi Sound just as we were. It seemed so appropriate to do a flyover thinking of the man who performed the first flyover honoring Bessie Coleman!

In Andalusia we borrowed the airport’s courtesy car for a couple of hours to go have lunch. We’d been recommended a place in town, but on the highway I spotted a sign advertising “David’s Catfish House, All You Can Eat Catfish and Shrimp,” and I was like, TAKE ME THERE. It totally lived up to expectations, a barn-like shed decorated with memorabilia, and we had gumbo and fried green tomatoes and fried pickles and a catfish po’boy, and a very local type of beignet which is heavy on cinnamon, and this is probably the point at which we realized and accepted that this trip is as much about the food as it is about the flying!

The manager, Bill Spurlin, was interested in our story and our trip. He came over to our table twice to chat with us, taking a look at the FlightAware tracker on Tim’s tablet, and eventually mentioned that he ran an AirBnB which was currently available. We politely declined, still thinking of moving on; then, as we finished our lunch, we thought, why not?

So we stayed in Alabama that night, in the loveliest new-built old-style bungalow – “Quaint on Third” – with our own porch and garden. After a great chat with Bill’s wife Charlotte, who turned out to be a librarian at the local high school (!), we walked into town and listened to more live music – this time a local woman singing country songs and accompanying herself with gorgeous guitar playing.

Andalusia’s claim to fame is that Hank and Audrey Williams got married there on Dec. 15, 1944.

The next morning – Sunday – we flew a single long leg to St. Simon’s Island in Georgia’s Golden Isles. The air was like silk, utterly smooth – at one point I flew hands off for five minutes, laughing, perfectly in trim, perfectly holding our course with my feet on the rudder pedals. This is flying!

And here we are on the Atlantic.

We rented bicycles and rode them on the beach and swam and ate flounder and soft shelled crab at the Crab Trap, and drank champagne on the balcony of our very local hotel room.

Now we have to fly back to California to return the plane  – but we are stuck here for two days because it is raining! It is a lovely place to be stuck – like being on holiday.

Which we are.

People keep asking us “Where have you come from and how long are you staying?” And the nature of our story means that we struggle to give sensible answers. Increasingly I feel that we just drop out of the sky – like the crew of the Starship Enterprise or the occupants of the Tardis, or perhaps time travellers, we just teleport into a new place every day and look around blinking. Who are these people, where can we stay, how will they welcome us? They always welcome us wonderfully, but the feeling of being random strangers from another world is very strong.