By Joan Larsen
The latest news: the fabled Goodyear blimps are retiring after being in the skies for the lifetime of everyone reading this. With its fleet so near the end of its life-cycle, Goodyear and Zeppelin have again worked together in the next evolution of airship design. I have been to Akron and – well, wait until you see it – as it is “a smash”. Be able to spout the new name: “a semi-rigid dirigible” with inside framing. And the word is out that while it is nearly the length of a football field, it will be so quiet that you may not hear it coming. So think: longer, sleeker, faster, and promising to show off its gorgeous body at all the big sporting events. I promise: you are not going to be able to resist looking up! Smashing!
Every story – every dream – for each of us has had its own beginnings. As young children, we might be found swinging as high as we could on swings, pointing our feet upward, intent on touching the heavens. Or, our mothers could find us lying in the thick green grass, deep in our own worlds, watching the clouds floating by.
The idyllic moments in childhood. The beginnings of dreams.
From that first moment when I saw the rare sight of an early blimp – large letters of GOODYEAR painted on its side — floating not that far above me on my hill – I was smitten. “Some day,” I promised myself, “I am going to be flying that blimp”.
And I did. And then, finding once was definitely not going to be enough, I found ways to go up again and again.
“IMPOSSIBLE,” you might say.
You would be wrong.
“TOO COSTLY”, I can almost hear you saying. But trips in the Goodyear blimp are absolutely free.
Actually, the rules for going up in the blimp were very stringent. Being a Goodyear dealer who has done well for their business certainly helped in getting the thrill of being the first to go up in the Goodyear blimp !
But the general public? Not a prayer.
A personal letter to the head of Goodyear blimp operations seemed the only way. Writing him a warm letter, I remember telling him that I had no desire to go the islands of the Caribbean for my 25th wedding anniversary. Instead, I asked him to make an exception to the “no public” rule, and allow the two of us to celebrate in the blimp, high above Los Angeles and the Pacific Ocean.
Perhaps the operations head was a romantic. I will never know. But his letter in return said that, of course, Goodyear would be happy to grant the two of us our dream. (And yes, I do have that letter still!)
And so it came to be. As the sun was setting over the Pacific on our anniversary, we could be seen, drifting toward the heavens, in the largest blimp in the world. At the moment, I did not believe that life got any better than that. I couldn’t stop smiling.
But it now looked as if I could perhaps take other flights with them when we were on the west coast of our country. OMG, my dreams escalated. Goodyear had 4 blimps at the time, each named after a sailing yacht that had won the America’s Cup. Perhaps, I could go on the America next time?!
And so it was to be. Over the years, I flew in all four blimps, each time feeling the same rush I had had the first time. Twice I sat in the co-pilot’s seat, getting instructions — up close-and-personal – on how they maneuvered the blimp in the air — well, until I began to think I was in the wrong profession. (A thought that has never left me – if I were to be honest.)
As I had grown up, that dream of flying the blimp had never left me. Not once. I now found that dreams can come true.
You never know where a dream will lead you. . . but I have learned that you never must even think that there IS no way. But I also know that very little in life “falls in your lap”. If you have the belief, the drive, you can make it happen. . and happen again. In my case, I made memories soaring in the blimp . . . but – in the process – I also made some of the greatest and lasting friends of pilots and crew — who have enhanced my own life immeasurably over the years. I call that part” gold”.
Writer Joan Larsen has spent a lifetime searching for the most remote places on Earth. But it is the polar regions of our world that she has been drawn back to again and again. She has done research in these lands of ice, and considers Antarctica to be her “other home.”