Day 99-100 • June 8-9, 2012 • Manhattan to Topeka, KS • 60 miles
We got an uncharacteristically early start today so that we could spend some time with my high school friend and first hang gliding partner, Jeff. Glidewell. I knew back in high school that being associated with that name was an omen good for a long flying career and I was right, logging about 25 years before calling it quits. Jeff is still flying, one of the most intuitive pilots I’ve ever known. What’s in a name?
Probably a bigger factor in our successful flying careers than the perfect last name was very supportive families, like Jeff’s mom Pat and dad John. Some of my fondest childhood memories are flying trips in John’s baby blue Lincoln Continental with Jeff and his family, gliders strapped on top. I can’t imagine many parents would sacrifice their beloved luxury car to a brutal sport like hang gliding but John embraced it. Another key parental figure was my mom and dad. After nearly destroying our original Pliable Moose glider (made in Kansas!) in an ill-advised high wind keel launch, my mom drove us to Kansas City (we couldn’t drive yet) to find parts to fix it. There we learned we were a couple years behind in technology and technique—an eternity in a rapidly evolving sport—and got hooked up with the right people and equipment to get our flying careers on track. I don’t know how much our respective parents fretted over our flying or if they consulted each other about it but if they were concerned, they never let on.
We met Jeff in Rossville where he now lives, greeted by a sign he put up along the highway welcoming us (thanks Jeff!). Pat and John drove out from Topeka and met us for lunch. After lunch Jeff and I caught up a bit before Zoe and I had to take off so that we could reach Topeka before dark. About the same time of day on this date forty-six years ago, an F5 tornado destroyed our neighborhood near downtown Topeka while we were in the basement. It was the last time we would live in that house, our new house in Highland Park was already under construction, but it was the only house left (mostly) standing on the block. It was rebuilt and stands today but we didn’t get a chance to visit it. No severe weather threatened us today.
In Topeka we stayed with Kent, an even earlier childhood friend, and his wife Kim. They live a block from the house where I grew up after the tornado so we were able to stay in the old neighborhood of Highland Park. It was nice to see the house in good shape and the neighborhood looked much like I remembered it. However it seemed like most new development was happening on the west side of town which might not bode well for the east side.
It was fun catching up with Kent. As a technician for Coke, he even confirmed something I long suspected back when I was drinking more pop than any human should consume: McDonald’s Coke is consistently better than your average fountain Coke. This is because they regularly maintain their equipment and ensure the lines are kept cold. There were other more technical reasons that I’ve forgotten. Years of poisoning my body with Coke so that I can share this tidbit of wisdom with you. You’re welcome.
We stayed an extra day in Topeka so that we could catch up with some more friends. We had a good visit with Day and Virginia with whom we spent many a family vacation and we chatted some more with John and Pat at their home in Highland Park. Back to the topic of poisoning, we visited a Topeka icon, Taco Tico. No, it’s not just like Taco Bell but it definitely wasn’t what I remembered. I can now scratch that off the list for future visits.