The skies were clear, the wind was calm and it was time to head out of Houston. And so I did. But in doing so had the most memorable pre-take off experience of my flying career. There was much jet activity that morning, and once I had gotten a clearance to taxi to the runway and pulled out onto the taxiway, i was told to give way to - and follow - the NASA T-38 that was also going to runway. i was quite excited, yes, and quickly turned the video camera on. we were a team, me and Freddy and that T-38. I was going where it was going, at least while we were on the ground. When we got to the end of the taxiway, it was time to do our engine run-up checks. So check the engine I did, with an F-16 Falcon to my right, and the T-38 just past the F-16. Yeah, it was no big deal, Freddy, the Cessna 172 hanging out with an F-16 and a T-38...everybody just checkin' the engines...just us pilots and our planes...no big deal...a 172, a 16 and a 38...a skyhawk, a falcon and a talon. The T-38 departed and I followed though quite a bit slower, and as I taxied to the runway, I got a wave from the F-16 pilot. Though it may not have been his, I think it was perhaps one of my most memorable wave receivences. Just a wave it was, but it was like a non-verbal salute between pilots about to take their ships into the sky, pilot to pilot, the ship not mattering at that point.
So off I went to the south east first. Flew to the coastline over Galveston to touch the Gulf of Mexico and thereby complete a cross section of the US: from Canadian border in Montana to the Gulf of Mexico in Texas. Turning north, I flew into Ruston, Louisiana where I refueled and then took off again and landed a few hours later in Cleveland, Mississippi. On the approach to landing, there were these little white things that would go flying by the plane. Didn't know what they were until I landed and saw all the cotton fields. Took a run in the twilight and soon had wisps of cotton streaming behind me 10 feet long. Cotton, cotton everywhere. In the fields, on the road, caught on the street signs, on the runners, and on the ground. Later biked into town on the tube i had just patched (also had to patch a hole on the way back from the NASA space center) and when I asked a guy about finding the town and a place to eat, he gave me the info and after chatting for a few more minutes, he said not to worry about asking other folks, as he said, "You in the hospitality state!" I did not find the Mexican spot he recommended and instead found another Chinese buffet, where I controlled myself a little better and ate with two brothers - one a high school sophomore football player and the other a lawyer. They said everything is agriculture around there. If you weren't doing something in agriculture you were doing something that relates to it.
I biked back to the airport and there found a security guard about to close the small terminal that was open. When I asked him about it, he said there was no problem with me sleeping inside on the couch. As he was going to be there all night as security, he would just leave the door open for me. We got to chatting and later on his sister even brought me a container of tasty vegetable-beef soup. The hospitality state, indeed. Got things ready for the morning, as I was trying for an early departure, and to the sack I went...