I know what it’s like to fly

Randy Riley - Contributing columnist

Everyone I have ever met seems to harbor some desire for travel and adventure.

Once an adventure is achieved, people like to talk about it with friends and relive the experience. Some folks only have a few adventures in their lifetime; others, while they are experiencing one adventure, are planning their next.

Of course, the definition of adventure varies greatly. For some folks a trip to Indian Lake becomes the adventure of a lifetime. Others will dream of hiking the Appalachian Trail or climbing Mount Everest.

Most people who dream of climbing Everest might settle for rock climbing at Red River Gorge. However, some intrepid adventurers will work and save for years so they can travel to Nepal and scale mighty Everest.

As a young boy, I often dreamt of traveling around the world. Well, that dream hasn’t been completely fulfilled — at least not as much as I would have liked.

Over my lifetime, I have had the good fortune to travel to several countries. Some of the places I’ve visited have been quite exciting, but many of my boyhood dreams of adventures remain unfulfilled.

One of my frequent childhood dreams included flying; not in an airplane, but, physically lifting off the earth and flying. It wasn’t a feather-covered-wing-flapping dream of flight. It was more of a Superman kind of flight. I would lean forward, push off the ground and flight would occur.

One of the many websites about dream interpretation states that; “Dreams in which you fly without a device and just take off on your own… are the most delightful dreams to hear about and to have.” That is so true.

In my dream, flight was smooth. It was effortless. It was wonderful.

Then, one day it happened… well, sort of.

In the early 1980s, I had the opportunity to participate in a trip to Andros Island in the Bahamas. The trip was part of an educational experience under the guidance of International Field Studies.

IFS was affiliated with Ohio State University. The IFS mission as stated on their website is: “To provide opportunities for students to learn about their environment through direct field study experiences; to provide an intensive field study program with competent leadership; to cooperate with school systems so students may receive academic credit for field studies.”

At that time, a group of IFS students from OSU were planning a trip to Andros Island to experience scuba diving, to study and dive in deep blue holes, to dive along a vertical wall that drops over one-mile into the Tongue of the Ocean, one of the deepest places in the Atlantic.

They were planning to achieve these goals while living at the Forfar Field Station. The station sits directly on the beach of northeast Andros Island.

Gene Knight was directing the trip. He invited Ron Mahaffey and me to travel with them. He knew that Ron and I had diving experience. He also knew how much we enjoyed a good adventure.

Just getting to the Forfar Research Station was an adventure.

Andros Island is not known as a popular destination for tourists. To save money, we drove crowded vans to Florida. Our flight was a bit primitive. We lived in cabins that were constructed of island stone. The facility was hand-built by the founder of the facility, Archie Forfar.

Normal sport diving should be restricted to only slightly more than 100 feet. The wall at Andros drops into the depths of darkness. We dove along the wall to depths that slightly exceeded what might be considered safe limits.

But, our most amazing experience happened in a tidal river just north of the research station. As the tide rose, we rode a boat several miles up Stafford Creek into the interior of the island. There we waited until the tide started to roll out.

Stafford Creek is a clear, saltwater, tidal river. It reverses course daily as the tides change.

Ron and I entered the water. We settled onto the shell-covered bottom of the wide creek. Immediately, we felt the pull of the tide. We pushed off the bottom slightly, spread our arms and started to fly toward the ocean.

If you have ever held your hand outside of a car window, you know how slight movements of your fingers can move your entire arm. The same thing happened as we flew down Stafford Creek.

We could arch our backs and fly higher or bend forward slightly and start flying along the bottom of the creek. Movements of our hands and arms changed the flight of our entire body.

We were rapidly approaching a bridge. Ron flew to one side of an abutment. I flew to the other side. It was effortless. It was underwater flight.

At some point in our lives, each of us have opportunities to experience something different. I encourage everyone to stretch out. Grab those experiences.

Some might be a simple experience near home. Some might involve significant travel.

Regardless, reach out and grab those experiences.

Who knows. Someday you might be able to fulfill a childhood dream.

You might experience the thrill of flying like Superman.

Randy Riley is former Mayor of Wilmington and former Clinton County Commissioner.


Randy Riley

Contributing columnist