The addiction to flight can’t be quenched

Kristan Gray flies over the waters of the Florida Keys in 2013.

Flying — or the sense of it — is something I’ve always embraced.

Fervor for the air began with my 4-year-old days spent resting in Grandmama’s lush grass, tracking airplane trails in the sky.

Or perhaps it started at that same age when my young father created a life-sized kite with 6-foot pieces of wood and heavy canvas.

We’d spent all weekend in the garage together, sawing, gluing, tying, painting and dreaming of how spectacular such a kite would be to take to the skies.

“It will reach those airplane trails and its long tail will make trails of its own,” Dad teased.

Finally, on Sunday afternoon, he secured our craft with heavy-weight sea-fishing string, loaded it into the back of his Ford Bronco and we lit off to a nearby field.

He heaved our over-sized toy into the air and we both held on as we watched it dance on the blue and white stage before us.

Not long after Dad handed me full control, a desert whirlwind loaded the sail and whisked me into the air like Tinkerbell, leaving my legs flopping behind me.

Adrenaline surged, tears streamed, I screamed — and so did Dad.

I was flying.

As a former college athlete, Dad thought he was pretty fast, but it took him a good while to catch up and pull me out of the dust devil.

Pitted from sand and shaking with excitement, I was scared out of my wits — but thoroughly hooked on flight.

I later had some thrilling run-away horse rides, and trips to the local carnival were adventurous, but Teacup rides were not enough.

Thousands of air miles have been logged since my first childhood “flight,” but jaunts across a few oceans have only whetted my appetite.

Sure there’ve been a few white-knuckled flights up and down the Rocky Mountains in a 12-seat puddle-jumper and I’ve soared above the Atlantic with a water jet-pack strapped to my back, but they only promoted the buzz.

After my first year of college, I pondered a pilot school application for months, yet navigated a different course for my life.

However — when my foot laid into the gas pedal of an electric-motorized Tesla in Denver, that familiar passion experienced old-fashioned combustion. That Rocky Mountain High lasted for days.

It happened like this: On Tuesday, May 24, I went with my car-shopping mother for a test drive. (She is considering next year’s far cheaper version of the $132,000 Model S that we drove.)

I knew going in that the electrically-charged vehicle is built for speed as well as clean efficiency, but I had no idea I’d have to peel the seat back’s upholstery off my face after the car automatically parked for me at the end of our ride.

Hitting 60 miles per hour in 3.7 seconds was as close to achieving my astronaut career dream as I’ll ever come.

Or is it? Will vacations to space be attainable in my lifetime? If engineers like Dad, Tesla’s Elon Musk and adventurers like Richard Branson have their way, my two sons will indeed fulfill their dreams of flying among the stars, making trails of their own.

One more thing … maybe it was that initial near-traumatic bonding experience with Dad that gave me such a passion for adventure, or maybe, just maybe, we were created to be “goers” and reach for the stars in everything we set our hands to do.


Kristan Gray is a staff writer for The Valley News.

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