February 19, 2020

A Road Trip Without Roads

Our family does many things differently from other families.

This weekend, my husband (who used the money he earned as a Torah reader in his teens to pay for flying lessons), flew the four of us to the Gilroy Garlic Festival and then to Sacramento in a rented 4-seater Cessna182 RG for a weekend of fun in the sun (not to mention all that garlic). Even after 22 years of flying with my husband, I still find myself reciting the Shema under my breath while sitting in what is basically a Mini Cooper with wings, but not Danny. He now loves flying in a “small plane” and craning his neck to see, as he calls it the “view LA” especially at night, when the carpet of lights twinkle from the mountains to the sea.

As I’ve mentioned in other posts, when Danny was younger, he was very challenged with sensory integration disorder The slightest noise—a can opener, an espresso machine, even hearing a shofar blow, would send him into a crying jag. In his first few trips in the small plane, he fussed and yelled and refused to wear the headphones which help to cancel out the very loud engine noise. We weren’t sure he was ever doing to be able to adjust to the sensory issues inherently present in small plane flying. But, then as he worked with an occupational therapist, and we did a “brushing” program with a non-scratching surgical brush and also deep joint compressions, he gradually become more tolerant of all types of sounds. In fact, Danny now seeks out the speakers at a concert, getting in as close as possible.

In preparation for a three-week western states “road trip” in 2005, my husband decided to take Danny a few short trips, just the two of them, so Danny could gradually acclimate to the whole routine, including the pre-flight “run up” in which the engine is tested and is incredibly noisy.

We ended up logging slightly over 21 hours of actual airtime, flying 3,000 miles in total. Our route took us from Southern California to the Grand Canyon in Arizona; Bryce Canyon in Utah; Santa Fe; New Mexico; and then north to Salt Lake City; up to Boise, Idaho; west to Gold Beach on the rugged Oregon coastline and finally to Sacramento for an old-fashioned July 4th complete with fireworks with my sister and her family before coming home to Los Angeles. We had varied experiences at different airports along the way—we landed our plane at small strips in the middle of the Arizona desert with sagebrush tumbling over the runway and at fancy private jet operators where the Cessna was like a broken down 1990 Honda being parked next to a BMW at the Beverly Hilton Hotel.

After that vacation, Danny truly earned his “wings” —in fact we now use the reward of a future trip in small plane to encourage positive behavior. Like I said, we just do things differently.

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