I can count on one hand the times I’ve flown in a small 2- or 4-seater plane and I don’t even need my thumb to complete the tally. Last night’s flight, in a Beechcraft Bonanza, made four. On a spectrum of summer evenings, this one was a definite top 10 with good company, cloudless skies and a rare spontaneous experience. Our flight path took us northeast from Rochester to Red Wing, south over the Mississippi River nearly to Winona before heading back west.
Over the years, with countless trips from Hokah to Lonsdale, Vasa to Alden and all the libraries and bookmobile stops in between, I know the blue line highways curve through the rolling hills of our Driftless area. But there is a missing link between knowing there are hills and only seeing our corner of Minnesota as a distant 2-dimensional view from the lightly scratched window of a Delta commercial flight. From 3,000 feet the geological undulations are beyond beautiful.
The evening sky had that early August haze and, while the groves of trees still held their verdant green color, the fields were twinged with late summer yellow, ripe for harvest. It was evident that within weeks the landscape would shift from green to amber to rich fall browns.
I always think of the Zumbro as more of a small stream than a real river but flying over the watershed showed an extensive network of creeks and a main channel that eventually winds its way east. And then, almost to Red Wing, but not quite to Wisconsin, we banked right and so we could follow the mighty Mississippi past Wabasha, over Lake City (the home of waterskiing) and to Alma. The bluffs on each side climb out of the river valley. There was a small smattering of boat traffic, including one barge. With the sun setting over my right shoulder, we made another sweeping right turn before engaging the instrument approach and landing. After parking on the tarmac, we helped spray and wipe the leading edge of the wings and tail to remove the summer bug splats.
Our last single engine flight was in September 1991 when a Swiss cousin took Richard, Dad and me up for a view of the Alps around Luzerne. While the landscape may have been more dramatic that day, this most recent flight was maybe even more memorable as it gave us a different view of our chosen home.