I couldn’t sleep.
I woke up before 5 am this morning anxious... because I was too hot ...because all the stress has long since caught up with me ...because it’s my first day of vacation, both actual and virtual, ten days off for some real and pretend travel. We were supposed to have been in Florida for a Disneyworld vacation right now, I’d literally be in line for Space Mountain (or something) as I instead write this. We’ve settled for some local day trips, a brain break from work, and (for me) a kick off to a round-the-world trip.... or at least a make-believe one inside of a flight simulator, in real time.
If you haven’t been following along, my Pilot Project is a gamer-nerd distraction from the reality of (a) being stuck at home due to a global pandemic and (b) scratching a very real travel itch with a piece of amazing new technology that simulates the entire planet Earth in mind-blowing detail and let’s anyone with a reasonably modern computer fly around it in a pretend airplane.
I’ve chosen the Cessna 172 Skyhawk, one of the simple propeller planes that ships standard with the software, and on Tuesday morning (after the game release and download) I climbed aboard my little plane in my home city airport (CYEG) and flew off on a mutli-day, nine-leg tour of my own province... to see familiar sights... to practice flying... to familiarize myself with the controls. Over some lunch-breaks and a couple late evenings (and one early morning today) I’ve logged about twelve hours cruising the prairies, skimming the rockies, buzzing lakes, diving through the badlands, and exploring the vastness of the province: always point A to B to C and so on.
This morning I took off from the Fort McMurray Airport in the pre-dawn dark and flew by instrumentation alone for about half an hour before the sun peaked up behind me in a spectacular colour show of the sunrise.
As the sky lightened, the endless forest below was lit, and I continued my cruise towards a breakfast layover in the small Northern Alberta town of Slave Lake, on the banks of the lake that has the same name.
Some oatmeal and a hot cup of coffee later (in real life) I returned to the skies and climbed up into the majestic clouds and headed towards home, towards the end of my practice trip.
Last night I met some friends for a run. As we were plodding along the asphalt I found myself talking flight simulators with one of those friends — a guy who would be indulging in the new simulator as well save for the fact he is long overdue for a hardware upgrade and some hard disk space — and when I told him about my recent flight up to Fort Mac he commented “oh, but you’re not playing in real time tho, right?”
I grinned and looked over at him. “I am.” I said.
“Real time. Two and a half hours to fly up there.” I replied ...because I can ...because it’s just silly enough to be something worth doing ...because it makes me happy and why the hell not explore a fake, simulated world when the real one seems so out of reach right now?
My next post will be after the first leg of a very long trip, a trip that (realistically) could take years to complete, flying a few times per week, long or short jumps depending on how far I have time to travel virtually between trying to live a very real life. Maybe by the end I’ll have met real people who are interested in the effort... or maybe it’ll just be me flying, writing, posting, repeating all alone here in my basement. Who can say. Adventures, real or pretend are like that: you never know where you’ll end up when you step out the front door, and I’m about to take that step.