This is our second trip to Italy. We visited last year and couldn’t resist returning. This year we visited Florence and Siena before settling into our rental in Rome’s Trastevere. My sister Holly joined us, and it was nice to share the experience as a family.
Siena is a two-hour train ride from Florence. The countryside is inviting, and we see many small towns and their people. Siena is a nice change from Florence. We’re still among fellow tourists, but I feel less threats from pickpockets. A polizia strolls alongside us on the Piazza del Campo, and her smile is welcoming.
We eat lunch on the piazza, and buy stationary and a soup ladle made of olive wood from the Chianti region. We take the train back to Florence, and stop at a small grocery store to take indinner supplies: bread, prosciutto, anchovies, tomatoes, and bufala mozzarella.
The next morning, a high speed train takes us to Rome’s Termini.
One of my favorite things to do in Rome is walk along the banks of the Tiber River. There’s magnificent stillness and light along the river like I’ve never seen.
Alessio is our favorite restaurant in Rome. On multiple occasions we’ve eaten there on consecutive nights. We take in obvious sites: the Coloseum, the Pantheon, and we stop in a number of basilicas to light candles and rest our feet.
I’ve been flying more to build time and prepare for instrument training. This week we flew to Llano and met some guys who were waiting as a mechanic replaced a magneto on their Maule. We also met Larry Snyder of the Ercoupe Owners Club, who had flown in from Arkansas for lunch. After a stop in Fredericksburg, we headed back to Austin and encountered some moderate turbulence west of the city, resulting in a PIREP. Foreflight continues to be an amazing tool for managing flight plans and other details.
March provided a great opportunity for us to spend time at Chicago Cubs training camp in Arizona. This year we took in games at Surprise, Scottsdale, and of course, Mesa, which houses the Cubs’ new Sloan Park facility. While the Cubs had a rough spring, they’re favored for a World Series run this year.
Spring training is an interactive experience; fans have the opportunity to watch batting practice up close and visit with coaches, trainers and former players. A number of stars make appearances (we met Andre Dawson, Gaylord Perry, and Fergie Jenkins over several days — Check out the pictures below).
A few minutes after landing at Brenham Municipal Airport, I’m greeted by a cheerful waitress in a poodle skirt. She leads me to a booth at the airport’s 1950s themed diner, not minding that I’m distracted and weary from a gamey landing that included a gusting and wavering crosswind. Like all experiences that are both challenging and rewarding, the crosswind nudges me out of my comfort zone.
I order lunch as two men who appear to be in their 70s discuss aviation fuel prices from the booth next to me. The Brenham Airport Diner is one of two themed diners frequented by pilots and aviation enthusiasts in Central Texas. The other, Gillespie County Airport, is 130 miles west of here and features a theme that pays tribute to the Pacific Ocean theater of World War II.
As I take in my surroundings, I wonder if my generation will produce enough pilots to justify airport theme diners.
After lunch I preflight and fuel the airplane. The winds have calmed some, and the area weather stations report that clouds are continuing to rise into the autumn sky. The Cessna climbs rapidly in the cool air, cutting through the wind, toward home.