Michael McCafferty - European Biplane Tour


Waiting. (for the plane to arrive in France)

These are perfect days in the desert. The air temperature is quite warm, about 95 to 100 in the afternoons, but completely lacking in humidity. The wind is calm, and there is a quiet which is like no other quiet in the world. No sounds except those of the birds and the bees during the day, and at night there are no sounds at all.

The best time of day is toward evening, when the glare of the sun is fading over the mountains to the west, creating a rose coloring to the mountain ranges surrounding the valley. The birds and the bees are quiet now, and the wind goes calm. This is the time when I push the button to roll back the cover off the pool, and slip into water which is virtually un-noticeably warm. There seems to be no difference between the air temperature and the water temperature. It couldn't be better if it were in Tahiti. This is the time of day for my relaxation, meditation, and exercise, all at once.

Sometimes, in the pool, I'll do loops and rolls, and other aerobatic maneuvers, just for fun, while underwater. Sometimes I'll hover in one place, swimming forward with my legs and backward with my arms, going nowhere but exercising mightily. Sometimes I'll simply float on my back and watch for the first stars to appear in the darkening sky. After the sky goes black, it's easy to see the reflected light of satellites streaking by.

There is a roof deck which I have added to the Fun House in the great remodeling fiasco of `94-'97. In its previous incarnation, the Fun House had no access to the roof except by a very inconvenient, and somewhat dangerous, ladder built into the wall of a skylight of the downstairs bathroom. It was there only for emergency use, to reach the roof drains in case of clogging, I suppose. During the initial inspection of the place, I made my way to the roof and was immediately struck with the incredible view of the valley, surrounded on three sides with mountain ranges. It seems to be the highest inhabited point in the valley. From that moment on, it became of paramount importance to create a space on the roof which could be used in the course of everyday living, as well as a place for sleeping outdoors, and to have it easily accessible from inside by extending the inside stairway all the way up to the roof.

Now, at night I go to the roof deck and lay back in the hammock and become one with the universe of stars all around me. There is virtually no light pollution here in the desert, and the stars are startling in their clarity and sheer number, and they are visible all the way down to the horizon. The air temperature at night is very comfortable, hovering in the mid-70s. It's a great place to sleep. It has all the advantages of camping out in the desert, but with none of the challenges of living in the wild (ants, spiders, scorpions, rattlesnakes, etc.). It's a very civilized way to commune with nature, with all the comforts of home.

During the day I have plenty of time to take care of the garden and the trees. They are growing quickly here in the desert sun. Although there is an adequate irrigation system for all the gardens, I like to take extra time to squirt the hose on the uppermost branches of the 7 twenty foot tall trees. I imagine that the trees really like that, and the water dripping off the leaves onto the plants and flowers below must, to them, seem like a refreshing summer shower, which were it not for my attention, would never come.

The days at the Fun House are calm and comfortable, and quite without stress. I take time for creative writing, and for correspondence, and planning, and browsing the Internet, and sometimes a nap, or a drive into town, about 10 miles away for a meal with meat (mostly vegetarian, I keep no meat or eggs, or sweets at home). There's also plenty of things to do to occupy my time. Of course there are the many `toys', including the pool table, and bikes, and audio/video, and books, and cars, and so much more, and sometimes I even try to see if I can actually play with all the toys in one day. Each time I have gotten this idea, I have failed. Usually I fail when I come across one of the hammocks and give it a try. From that point, I lose all ambition, and usually fall into a deep contented sleep.

How different these days are from the days of being a hard-charging entrepreneur, chasing the carrot while keeping only a half-step ahead of the stick. Days filled with fear and stress, yet sometimes enormously rewarding when I would get a kind letter or call from a customer who used the software which I wrote. It was their gratitude which would buoy me, and keep me going, in spite of the pain in my side which grew worse each year until the day came when I sold the company and the new owners took the pain in my side and replaced it with freedom. Therefore, these days of comfort and joy at the Fun House are the result of 30-plus years of very exhausting work, with long days and weeks, and many years of no vacations, and sometimes temporary setbacks which many people would call failure, but which in the end only taught me the lessons which I used to build future success. Each day I now live contains some element of reward for those 30-plus years of persistence, and pain, and sweat. And yet.

I know deep in my gut that I have been very lucky to get to this point. I know that it could have turned out much differently. I could have died at any time along the way, with no earthly reward whatsoever for my efforts. I am very much aware that any number of events could have occurred which would have kept me working until I was too old to work any longer. Competition could have overwhelmed my fledgling company. Or simple mistakes on the part of management (me!), or timing, or luck, or public preference or whim. Even when the deal was agreed to, to sell the company, any number of events could have occurred which would queer the deal at the last moment. I am aware of all too many deals which fell apart at the last minute, and mine was not immune to this, but somehow it all turned out OK.

I was lucky. And maybe for this reason I feel a need to share my luck with others. I've picked up quite a bit of business experience in the last 30-plus years, much of it related to starting and managing and selling a profitable business, and setting and achieving personal and business goals. I want to share what I have learned so that others can avoid the pitfalls, the pain and stress, the financial disasters, and enjoy the same benefits that I have been fortunate enough to finally enjoy. A lot of people helped me on my way, and it seems natural to follow their leadership, and to give back. My days are filled with phone calls, faxes and e-mails from people all over the world who have questions concerning their business challenges. I work one-on-one with some local business people and sometimes people drive several hours from San Diego or LA to meet with me here at the Fun House. Most of it is done for free, so I get to choose who I'll work with, and I only work with people who are committed to success, and are in a business which I consider to be worthwhile.

Soon, the temperatures in the desert will soar above 120. Time to get out of town. My days of comfort at the Fun House will come to an end. In less than a month, I'll be on my way to France to meet up with my beautiful biplane, and to start off on the adventure of a lifetime. There will be no more comforts of home, no perfect bed with sheeting only I slept in, no pool warmed to my perfect temperature, no food prepared the way I like it, no quiet, no solitude. Instead I will be dealing with the forces of nature, the winds and weather, and mountains, and seas. I will be challenged by these forces while I fly the countryside and coastline of Europe, in a single engine, open-cockpit biplane designed over 60 years ago, with wings of wood and fabric. I will take off and land in places I have never heard of, and meet all sorts of strange and wonderful people, whose languages I do not understand, and try to eat things which appear familiar, but certainly I will be sleeping in a great array of places, from the very worst to the best. I will be at the whim of the winds and the weather, and the fortunes of Lady Luck. Seldom will I know when I wake up where I will sleep that night. Sometimes plans will change in an instant in the air, as some cloud bank looms ahead, blocking my path and forcing a different place to land. It may happen that I'll get stuck for days on the ground, held down by bad weather. No matter what happens, each day will have many adventures. It will be a summer of living by my wits, of play and of hard work, of discovery, and of sharing with you, dear reader, some of the insights which occur to me in the process.

Please come along with me. You will be able to send me email, and participate in the discussion forum on the website with people from all over the world. Your suggestions for places to go, people to meet, and things to do will be most appreciated. Also on the website, you can view photographs I've taken of the people and places and events that occurred each day. Share this experience with your friends, as many as you want. It's free, and fun, and educational.

Thanks for coming along!

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