I'm driving 70 MPH on the freeway as I type this. My laptop is plugged in to the ashtray, and I'm steering with my knee. Don't worry; I'm watching the road, not the keyboard. I know these keys as well as I do my fingers.
Allow me to set the scene. Dad is freaked out and proceeds to tell me the "horror" stories he's heard about these "heli-tours"; the pilot cuts right, then cuts left, the passengers get sick, everybody is throwing up all over the place, and they vow to him that they'll never take another trip like that again, not as long as they are alive. It would be up to me to convince him that everything would be OK.
"This tour takes you from Montgomery Airport out to the coast of La Jolla Shores, then north to the World Class Torrey Pines Golf Course, makes a 180 degrees turn to the coast of La Jolla Shores and continues southbound over the Coronado Bridge. Then we go on to the beautiful downtown San Diego skyline!”
Fast forward to the airport. Jodi, (my sister) and I are laughing as my anxiety forces Dad to make yet another pit stop at the bathroom. It's getting closer, and the rest of us can't wait to get in the air. As we approach, the small colored dot at the other end of the runway expands to the size of a pilot. He greets us while leaning against his ultra-modern, yet environmentally efficient golf cart. We squeeze into the thing and .enough of this, let's get to the helicopter adventure.
There was so little in the way of g-force, that I in fact questioned whether or not I was on a helicopter ride, or indeed in one of those simulators complete with fans and movie screens. The change in temperature and wind pressure assured me that I was actually in the air, flying with the birds, sitting shot gun to my overanxious parents.
They did finally calm down though, once they realized that it was too late to go back. We were up there now, completely at the mercy of a pilot dressed in beachwear, following the veins of the Earth to the sea. We took a shortcut over everything (the quickest way from point A to point B is a straight line).
The tour starts over La Jolla beautiful, rich, La Jolla!
Onward to Pacific Beach, where sprinkles of color littered the shores. We laughed together at all the losers grid-locked in traffic as we flew over it all. We flew past the famous Mission Beach Coaster, where people once rode for almost a week straight to try and win a car.
Photos left, top to bottom: La Jolla Shores; Coronado Bay Bridge; Del Coronado Hotel and Resort from the air; The roller coaster at Mission Beach; birds eye views of San Diego hotels; what southern California is infamous for - gridlock!
Beyond that, we meandered down the coastline, around the Cabrillo National Monument on the Point Loma peninsula. Downtown, we skimmed the tops of skyscrapers, revealing all those mysterious H's that famous executives use to make their grand entrances and exits.
"Pilot to control tower, request permission to fly bravo one-niner," and on over that dreaded Lindbergh Field, San Diegos International Airport. I say dreaded because I once had a job there working for United Airlines and the only memory I retained was the rank odor coming off my hands while emptying the lavatories.
With a slight push to the right, Ruben carefully guides us homeward bound to the Montgomery Airport. We all watched calmly as the houses grew in size while we approached the runway. Moments later, the blades slow to a droning hum and we touched down, thus ending our tour with So.Cal. Helicopters. Ruben very politely shakes our hands, thanks us for taking the trip, and we walk to our cars smiling as we think about Dad's "horror" stories.
With six different sky-tours, SoCal Helicopters is a one of a kind company with a very personal feel. You can have your choice of the Coast and Skyline Frenzy tour as I did, The Coastal Route, or even just Torrey Pines and La Jolla Shores. Each tour gives generous views of why exactly San Diego is considered one of the most beautiful cities in the country. For those interested in custom tours, SoCal Helicopters also entertains ideas for personalized sky-tours, which could be ideal for photographers, Surveyors, or sightseers with something different in mind. Just think of it as an air taxi, only the driver is safe. Happy flying!
Feature and photos by Josh Edelson, Long Beach, California Correspondent.