If we were meant to fly, yes indeed we would have had wings. As a species we went in a different direction, and c. 12 to 14 billion years after the ‘big bang’ start of the universe, here we are earthbound and ambulatory. And as mammals go, we are slouches. The fastest amongst us - Usain Bolt and the like at maybe 25 miles per hour – would be hard pressed to outrun an angry hippopotamus. Have you seen a hippopotamus out of the water? No elegant racer that one.
We compensated by inventing and perfecting flying machines. Maybe I should take back the 'perfecting' part. Somewhere between the demise of the Concord and the present day, the 'perfecting' stopped and flying became just another boring and mostly annoying mode of transportation. Nothing glamorous like the golden days of flight when a trip on a Pan Am Clipper Flight 001 from San Francisco around the world was like taking a luxury train journey somewhere. You were pampered – in coach! - all the way to Honolulu, Tokyo, Beirut (does anybody still fly there?), and beyond. Back in its heyday Pan Am was not called the ‘Ritz Carlton’ of airlines for nothing.
So why this flying talk? Our two boys just arrived in Dubai, en route to Nairobi, this morning. 16 hours, 20 minutes non-stop from Houston to Dubai on Emirates. 8,164 miles total, apparently the world’s 6th longest commercial flight. #1? Singapore to Newark at 9,539 miles, taking a whopping 19 hours and 10 minutes, in a Airbus 340-500, cruising speed about 540 mph. Is 500 mph the best we can do, 106 years after the Wright brothers first took to the air on December 17, 1903? Do we really have to return to the moon or spend billions of taxpayer money to explore Mars? How about putting some of that money into finding a cure for slow commercial flying? Not counting the late lamented Concord, transatlantic flights have been stuck at about 500 mph for about 20 years now. Want to travel the thousand miles between Johannesburg and Cape Town? It’s going to take two hours. New York to San Francisco? 2,500 miles = 5 hours in the air. If you’re lucky. There are trains that have a top speed of almost 250 mph! It’s not as if flight is impossible at higher speeds either. As long ago as 1976 a Lockheed SR71 Blackbird was clocked at 2,194 m.p.h. New York to San Francisco in about an hour and a half? Now you’re talking! Atlanta to Jo’burg in just over 4 hours. At that speed heck yes I will be there in March for our high school reunion. At 500 mph? Maybe not.
This might turn out to be a good year for both of us. Kath and I are both running practically every day, 5 or 6 miles or so. Despite the weather. Houston has suddenly turned into Seattle. Since early December 2009 the only way to tell them apart is not having Mt. Rainier in the distance, and there’s not quite as many coffee joints and only about half as many people dressed in black, here in Houston. I might have to find a special place to dispose of 2 pairs of running shoes which are this close to being toxic, what with the incessant water, mud, moisture and resulting moldy conditions. Beyond the lousy conditions, it’s been fun. Kathleen took 2nd place in her age group at the Texas Med 5k last Saturday, under bitterly cold conditions. And I managed an okay time of less than 23 minutes. Well off the PR but will have to be happy with that for now. Better times ahead!