Are you ready for a cocktail?

Jerry O’Dovero (disabled, quadriplegic )

Another fun winter ‘’store bought’’ trip I took was to Lake Tahoe. Store bought means I flew in an airplane and stayed in a hotel, or condo as we did in Lake Tahoe. That trip was also in February. I know Lake Tahoe doesn’t sound like a warm place in February, but surprisingly it isn’t too bad. It’s easily in the 40’s there during the day. 40’s is not too bad? When you’re used to living in a plus 10 degrees to a minus 10 degrees, 40 degrees is downright a nice day.

If I remember right, we flew out of Milwaukee WI. We, would be my best friend Mike and a best friend of his. Mike had moved to Wisconsin several years earlier, so when he and I would fly somewhere we’d fly out of Milwaukee. Mike’s buddy’s name was John. John has since passed. There is one thing I’ll never understand. Some of the nicest people in this world leave us way too soon while assholes seem to live forever. I had never met John before the trip. Like most of my life, the trip fell together in about two weeks. Hi. I feel like going somewhere. You too. Great. Where? Lake Tahoe sounds fun. I’ve never been there. When do you want to go? Two weeks? I’ll call Sherry (a good friend that’s a travel agent.) She can get us reservations for everything. OK I’ll book it. And that’s about how simple my life is. Oh, I had never met John before, but Mike said I’d like him, so that was enough for me.

I met John on the way to the airport. Like I said, a nice guy. The flight from Wisconsin out west was a few hours, so I did what I do best, I talked. I told John the skunk story. While he seemed to enjoy it, I never had a clue that others would as well. When you’re in a wheelchair and you fly, they like to load you on the plane first and take you off last. They have a special isle chair. Oh! I always ask them if they are putting my wheelchair directly in the plane’s cargo hull. It may sound stupid to be asking, but a stupid question is better than landing four hours later without a wheelchair. It actually happened to me once. I landed at the Denver airport once and was told my wheelchair was on a different flight. They told me I’d get it within four days. I tried over and over that my wheelchair was on the same plane as me, but they wouldn’t listen. They gave me an old airport clunker to use and acted like nothing was wrong. Since I knew my wheelchair was on the same plane as me, when they turned their backs, I sneaked behind the counter and found my wheelchair. While I was waiting for everyone to depart the plane on our Lake Tahoe trip several of the other passengers told me as they passed by that they really enjoyed my skunk story. That my story telling really made the trip goes by faster. I, like a few other brothers are blessed with a voice that carries.

If you like to ski, go to Lake Tahoe. If you like to gamble, go to Lake Tahoe. If you just want to get away, go to Lake Tahoe. Lake Tahoe is a beautiful place just to see nature. We had a blast. Two other friends, Jim who was living in Dallas flew in and Mark who was living in Las Vegas drove down. We actually flew in Sacramento and rented a car and drove to Lake Tahoe. While on the hour or so drive we look on the map and couldn’t find the city of Lake Tahoe. It was actually called ‘’State Line’’ on our map. Jim flew into Reno, so we drove up there and picked him up. So we had fun there as well.

This was a guy’s trip, so I won’t pretend we didn’t party. We did! It was out every night until 4am and up by 9am. Well, John was up every morning by 9am. I swear I can still hear John’s voice today calling from the condo’s living room. First I’d hear a can being popped open, then Jer, are you ready for a cocktail? John enjoyed a can of Miller beer. And he called his can of Miller a cocktail. Jer, are you ready for a cocktail. Every morning at 9am while in Lake Tahoe John would ask me if I was ready. In a minute John. I need to get out of bed first. Some people it takes a while to warm up too. John and I were friends from minute one.

It was the third or fourth day of hitting the casinos by night and the ski hills or something else by day. Well, I didn’t ski there, but I did take the gondola ride to the top and have lunch while others did. Ski people have great personalities. I had a blast chatting with the skiers while my friends skied. Then on the third or fourth day someone found a book in the condo with a list of local events. While we had stumbled across some of them already, the one that caught our attention was glider rides. There’s an airstrip 30 or so miles out into the desert. A ride out there and we’re going glider riding. If you’ve never done it, you need to. It is an amazing feeling. A biplane towed our small little sail plane with the long wing span back the 30 miles to Lake Tahoe. The glider pilot was a cool guy and a talker. I just sat in the front seat of the little white plane and listened. The pilot told of the long distance flights he had been on. If you don’t know how a glide plane works, first they don’t have an engine. A separate plane that does have an engine tows the glider from the airport miles, 10’s of miles or even further and it glides back to the airport and lands. The plane is made as light as possible and the wings are as long as possible. An airplane wing is flat on the bottom and half of an egg shaped bubble on the top. Because the air flowing on the bottom side has a shorter distance to travel, it flows past the wing on the bottom faster. The top with the raised bubble is longer so the air takes longer. Somehow, because the air travels faster on the bottom and slower over the top, it lifts the wing higher into the air. The longer the wing, the more lift it provides the plane. But there’s one law that never fails us. The law of gravity. Gravity always wins. Glider planes with their large wings and light weight can glide a long way. But there is another way gliders can stay in the air longer. It’s is from rising air currents. Warm air rises. That’s why hot air balloons rise in the air. In the mornings the sun heats the earth and the warm air rises, especially around mountains. They’re called updrafts. Ok that’s about as much as I’m going to pretend to know about how airplanes work. After about 30 minutes of the biplane towing our little glider back to Lake Tahoe the pilot of the glider pulls a lever. You’re riding in the front seat of the glider so you get an unobstructed view of the cable falling away from our engineless plane 30 miles from our landing sight. The pilot was cool. He explained all this and more as we were towed back to Lake Tahoe. He also told how he had records for long distance flying glider planes. If I remember right he told how he flew or should I say glided for 8 hours in a plane without an engine along mountains down into Mexico. I don’t recall how many miles it was but it seemed like it was a 1000 miles? All I know was it was worth every penny for the price of the ticket. Gliding is such a free feeling. You’re not burning gasoline or jet fuel. You’re doing what the birds have been doing since they made the change from dinosaurs into birds.

One day while I was at meteor crater in Arizona I and a German couple watched an eagle float or rise on a heat thermal from the bottom of the crater until it was nearly out of sight hundreds or even a thousand feet in the air without it ever flapping its wings once.

I wish I was a millionaire. I’d travel the world meeting people, seeing amazing things and trying new things. Maybe in my next life.

I never drink while home alone, but John I could go for a cocktail. I know you’re in heaven smiling down on us. I’m not alone if I have one with you? Let me grab one. John, are you ready  for a cocktail? Here’s to you good buddy. Cheers!