That’s the battery life of my Mac as I embark on this blog post, and I’m so compelled to write it that I am not inclined to move one inch to plug in. I’ll see what I can accomplish with 42%.
So….I received this top photo today. In these faces you see happiness, camaraderie, excitement, accomplishment, history, and so much more.
Looking at this photo fills my heart with love, appreciation, memories, smiles, grief, and (again) so much more.
The notion that Carl and Barbara have no airplane parked in their hangar at the Grosse Ile airport physically hurts. Carl and Barb have been such fixtures, such placeholders, in the world of Parkwest Air Tours. They were some of our earliest customers (or victims, depending how you look at it!). On that first tour, Carl nudged me out of the driver’s seat of a 4x4 vehicle in the crazy-soft sands at Lake Powell. Thank God he did, as the tour group might have otherwise been camping on the shores rather than back in their comfy beds at Wahweap.
Flash forward a few years, and these intrepid travelers and life-long sweethearts agreed to join us in our crazy Arctic adventure, where we delivered Collin’s brother and bride to Inuvik, NWT for their 2-year bicycle trip to South America. It was on this trip that we all realized that Carl’s aircraft (both current and future) seemed to come equipped with this strange throttle mechanism that allowed for only two speeds: Full Throttle and Idle Stop.
It was also on this trip that the Riggs informed us we could get a hearty breakfast in Dawson City, Yukon at the “Chinese place.” On a later Alaska tour, (they would ultimately fly there three times with us) we learned that both Barb and Carl look fabulous in each others’ hats.
It humbles me to think I had these two sleeping in a Conestoga wagon, a primitive cabin at Lassen Volcanic National Park, and a handful of other rustic options spanning from Alaska to Mexico. They never complained ONCE about ANYTHING, no matter what happened on a Parkwest tour. They willingly pounded stakes into unforgiveable ground in so many harsh airport environments and then, when finished, helped others do the same.
I’ve shared the joy of numerous unforgettable flights, life-changing landscapes, wildlife encounters, nice meals, great conversation, and so much more with these two. Indeed, it was Carl and Barb who gave me a glimpse into the sweet, life-long love that lasts for generations.
Last summer I traveled back to Michigan for a high school reunion. Michigan is such an ambivalent place for me; there I leave much baggage. At the end of that visit, I had the honor to be ordered, Parkwest-style, to the Grosse Ile airport by Carl and Barbara. At the FBO I found two of my favorite people, clad in Parkwest shirts, ready to load me up in 537CR for a gorgeous flight and enjoyable visit to Mackinac Island.
They treated me not only to a fun-filled, food-filled, history-filled day, they treated me to much more: a renewed love and appreciation for the state I grew up in. Carl and Barb truly represent the identity of hard-working, family-loving, nose-to-the-grindstone, tough-as-nails Michiganders.
As we traveled from the airstrip to the town center at Mackinac, Carl regaled our fellow horse-and-buggy riders with Parkwest tales, giving “that gal over there” (yours truly) far more credit than she deserved. Because so often in life, you get what you give. The Riggs gave Parkwest and their fellow travelers so damn much, not the other way around.
Thank you, thank you, for the many years of friendship and memories.
PS: Take good care of that bird, Jack, and mind that bizarre, two-speed throttle!
Cat Herder (aka Marisa) has been guiding pilot tours in the American West for over a sixteen years. Keep tabs on your Parkwest pilot friends, National Park news and other tidbits here!