Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Identified Flying Objects

Have you ever found yourself driving down the highway next to an unfathomable object? Something so surreal that you risk your life digging in your purse for your camera so you can document and research the item when you get home?

I have, about two months ago. It was on I-65 in northern Indiana, about 90 miles outside Indianapolis. There I encountered several slow-moving semi trucks, each carrying one smooth, white, gently sculpted, extraordinarily graceful, shockingly large thing. I had no idea what the things could be. Propeller parts for the world's largest helicopter? The hulls of super-swift submarines? Rockets being developed for use by the general public? BOMBS? Good Lord, I was mystified.

The answer came last week, when I was again driving the same route and came upon this glorious sight (see right). These towering beasts (please note size of trees for sense of scale), as I later learned via extensive Googling, are GE 1.5MW Wind Turbines at the Benton County Wind Farm, providing carbon-free energy to hundreds of thousands. Perhaps you have seen something similar on your own journeys, but I had not, and was moved to exit the expressway for closer inspection.

A few days after the windmill encounter, my sister Claire and I flew to Florida to visit our brother Lee on the occasion of his 24th birthday. Our visit was a mix of incidents both successful and mildly disastrous, our favorite combination. On our first afternoon in residence at the Vero Beach Hotel and Spa, we began with an hour of poolside lounging, followed by a stroll on the beach. A group decision to fully immerse ourselves in the Atlantic Ocean led to the following mini-emergency: 

Claire: Should we get in?
Lee: Yeah, the water’s warm!
Me: I hope our sunglasses stay on.
Claire: We’ll just leave our drinks right here in the sand.

Soon, the conversation turned to body-surfing:

Lee: Here, wait for the next big wave, and I’ll tell you when to start swimming.
Me: This one?
Lee: Nope. Not good enough. Hold on.
Claire: This one?
Lee: Yeah, get ready. OK, paddle! Go!
Claire (shrieking as two-ton crush of saltwater sweeps us helplessly to shore): My sunglasses! They’re gone!
Me: Stop! Everyone! Find them!
Claire (flailing in wave suds, panicked by accessory loss to churning sea): It’s over. Done! We'll never see them again.
Lee: Yeah, I'm pretty sure those suckers are gone.
Me: Weren’t they, like, $600?
Claire: Yeah. Retail. But not wholesale.
Me: Well I’m just sick over it. We’re not leaving until we find them. I’ll drown looking for them.
Lee: Forget it, Emma. Those sunglasses are on the bottom.
Claire: A mermaid’s wearing them.
Me: She must be one cool mermaid.

The emergency trend continued later that night when Lee slipped on some wet marble stairs in the hotel and required three stitches, some x-rays and a tetnus shot, an activity that kept us entertained at the urgent care center for the better part of our brother's actual birthday. It was fun, but not as fun as this nighttime landing in a single-engine Piper (Lee's been living in Vero Beach for flight school, and he flies like a pro). The video cracks me up every time, see, because the screaming stall horn followed by the sudden camera drop makes it seem like we really crashed. Luckily for you, we didn't:

This video of a daytime landing features better lighting, but beware, Claire's deeply ingrained fear of flying occasionally prompts her to cuss:

P.S. Today, I saw a bee buzzing along the sidewalk and thought: I wonder if I'll ever get stung by a bee again for the rest of my life? I wonder.

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