Sunday, March 6, 2011


“Oh, my gosh dad, that was so close!”  There I was looking out my window over the side of a cliff that just seemed to go on down forever with some wicked looking trees and rocks at the bottom.  “We really have to get these brakes fixed.”
We had just come around a curve going down Buckhorn Summit when we spotted a deer on the side of the road ahead. My dad hit the brakes gently to just slow up and give the deer time to pass. However, instead of slowing down and riding through the curve, the brakes made a horrible metal to metal grinding sound as they locked up sending the car sliding toward the cliff an inch from the edge.
“I think you’re right,” he said, carefully pulling back onto the road.  “We should go right now.”  I could see his hands shaking a little as he put them back on the wheel. We drove carefully back to Napa in town, bought the parts, and managed to get home with only a few close calls.
As soon as we got home, I ran into the house and grabbed the bucket of tools while dad got the jack out of the car.  Since this wasn’t my first time changing the brakes, I shoved bricks under the tires to keep the car from rolling and grabbed the tools I needed. I started to take the tire off when dad got into his usual lecture routine.
“Changing the brakes is like doing brain surgery,” he started.  I moaned silently waiting for him to be done.  “You have to be careful about what you touch and unscrew.  You also have to have all the right tools ready...” He went on for what seemed like hours, and I could feel the sun setting as he spoke.
“Dad!” I yelled, “we need to get started before we run out of daylight.”
“Alright!!” he said.
I loosened the bolts on the tires and then jacked up the car slowly turning the hand crank and lifting it inch by inch.  After I jacked up the car and finished taking the tires off, I loosened the bolt on the caliper and swung it back to take the brake pads out.  Once that was out of the way and done, I noticed that the cylinder on one side was noticeably smaller, but there was nothing we could do about that then.  We decided that we would have to replace the brakes sooner than usual and put the new set of pads on for now.  I closed it up and semi-tightened the bolts on the tires.  After I lowered the car, we took it for test drive. About two miles into the drive, the car started shaking.  Dad had a worried look on his face again.
“Why is the car shaking?” he asked as the answer suddenly dawned on me.
“I think I forgot to tighten the bolts on the tire after I lowered the car.”
“Yikes,” he said, pulling onto a dirt road thinking we would find a place to pull off.  Instead we learned that the road went on forever and there was no place to pull off except into a ditch.  Once we finally found a spot and pulled off the road, I got the tire iron out of the trunk, attached it to the bolt, put my foot on it, jumped, and immediately fell to the ground.  Riding around on the tire had loosened the bolts even more to the point that I could tighten them back up with my fingers.  I could tell by the look on my dad’s face that he had another lecture in mind but, thankfully, decided against it.
“Let’s go go to Starbucks,” he said instead.
We had a nice break relaxing with some whipped cream topped ice mochas and started home as the sun was setting.  Halfway there and deep in the woods, the lights began getting dimmer and dimmer and the car faltered and died.
“I think that the alternator just died on us.”
“I hate cars,” I said as dad pulled the cell phone out to call mom and get us rescued.

Saturday, March 5, 2011


We think nothing of hearing news reports today about women astronauts, and female pilots aren't even newsworthy. We take it for granted now that women are just as capable of doing these jobs as men and can be just as (if not more) successful at it. However, that wasn't always the case. In the time period that Amelia Earhart was born into, women had very defined and very restricted roles in society.


Amelia Mary Earhart was born to Amy and Edwin Earhart on July 24, 1897. Amelia spent most of her younger years living with her grandmother in an eleven-room house in Atchinson, Kansas.

Early in her life, it was clear that Amelia couldn't limit herself to traditional roles of the time. She played basketball in high school, excelled in math and science, and took pre-med classes at Columbia University. She was daring and loved adventures and excitement. She always had a determined spirit, and a natural curiosity that led her to adventure.

In Amelia's childhood, boys were permitted to ride sleds down the hills of Atchison while lying down, but girls were expected to sit up in a more ladylike posture. Amelia, not surprisingly, defied convention and lay down on her sled. At one point, she wrote, this posture saved her life.

"I was zipping down one of the really steep hills in town when a junk man's cart, pulled by a horse with enormous blinders came out from a side road. The hill was so icy that I couldn't turn and the junk man didn't hear the squeals of warning. In a second my sled had skipped between the front and back legs of the horse and got clear, before either he or I knew what had happened. Had I been sitting up, either my head or the horse's ribs would have suffered in contact -- probably the horse's ribs." (Source: Amelia Earhart Birthplace Museum)


When Amelia was asked why she wanted to fly, she replied "I want to be free." Later she said, “I want to fly around the world.” When told “it can't be done,” she said, "lets change that."

Amelia lived her life the way she wanted to live it, on her own terms--in her career and in following her dreams. She was instantly famous, some because of how dangerous flying was and how unsafe planes were, but mostly because she was a woman that went above and beyond what people expected of her. It was because of that that people made her their hero.  She was ambitious and was always looking for thrills. She knew that it could be done and that she might never come back, but she felt that if she didn't come back, she had at least lived a full life. Amelia once said, "if I die, I want to die in a plane."

She started flying before parachutes were invented. Amelia first flew when she was in her early twenties, not married, her parents were struggling financially and in there relationship. Amelia said, "Once I got in the cockpit and the plane took off, we started heading toward the skies, and that's when I knew that that's what I want to do for the rest of my life.”

In 1938 she was the first person to fly across the Atlantic twice and the first woman to fly across the Atlantic at all. She was listed as the captain of the flight, but was really only a passenger. She said that she didn't feel like a heroin sitting in a passengers seat. So, six months later on May 20, 1932, she became the first woman to cross the Atlantic Ocean solo.  In doing this, she became an American and world celebrity.

She was the first woman to fly an Avian. In October of 1922, she broke the women's altitude record by rising to 1400 feet. In August 1928, she became the first woman to fly solo across the North American continent and back. She was elected president of the Ninety Nines, a new women's aviation club which she helped to form. She was the first person to fly from Honolulu to California. She was also the first person to attempt flying along the equator around the world which is when she disappeared.


Amelia married George P. Putnam on February 7, 1931. She considered her marriage to be a "partnership" with "dual control." In a letter written to Putnam and hand-delivered to him on the day of the wedding, she wrote, "I want you to understand I shall not hold you to any midaevil [sic] code of faithfulness to me nor shall I consider myself bound to you similarly." These ideas of sexual freedom and equality of both partners were considered quite radical. The two of them had no children together, but he had two from his previous marriage to Dorothy Binney.


Amelia Earhart was last heard from on July 2 1937. She radioed a coast guard ship in the Pacific where she was scheduled to refuel. The island she was heading for was only a mile and a half long, so she had to be on track in order to land.

She said, "We must be on you but cannot see you and gas is running low." The ship that was supposed to be tracking her could hear her, but she couldn't hear the ship. Then, at , her last words radioed were, "We're running north and south!"  After that...silence. Thirty-nine year old Amelia Earhart had vanished. She wasn't declared legally dead until two years after the disappearance.

Some historians now believe they have found evidence that Amelia and her copilot Fred Noonan landed and eventually died as castaways on Nikumaroro, an uninhabited tropical island in the Southwestern Pacific, republic of Kiribati.


Amelia Earhart proved that women could achieve great things just as well as men. She was a woman that demanded to have the adventures men were having. This led to the recognition, worldwide, that anyone—even a woman—could achieve anything they set their mind to. Every woman astronaut, every woman pilot, every woman in any position of authority anywhere owes at least a nod of thanks to this woman who very publicly shattered all the stereotypes that said that women couldn't do any of these things.

Fear To Tread

         "I can't believe she’s making me do this," mumbled Ashley as she kicked the hundredth rock off the side of the road. "She could have just hopped in the car and drove down here.  I mean, it would've only taken her 30 seconds.  And, what about me?  It's gonna take me a half hour.  Just because she’s a mother doesn't give her special privileges.  She knows how to drive.  And it's just the mail, so what's the big deal?  It can't wait until tomorrow?  And there's that dog again, that dumb pit bull that’s always guarding the mailbox.  Mom knows I’m scared of dogs.
“It's like a punishment, but I didn't do anything, did I? Lets see, uh, I took out the garbage, did the dishes, swept the floors.  I did everything I was asked to do. Maybe she’s expecting something big...something awesome...something for..."  Ashley took a deep breath, smiled huge, and at last yelled, "...ME!"
She started running as fast as possible for the mailbox. Suddenly she saw a flash of something black and shiny out of the corner of her eye. She stopped dead in her tracks, sliding across the gravel and nearly tumbling into the ditch.
           “Nice dog,” she said, though not sounding very convincing.  The neighbor’s black pit bull was staring at her from across the ditch growling low.  Ashley backed away  as slowly as she could into the middle of the street.  The dog inched forward with every step.  She froze in place hoping it would go away, but as the dog slowly lowered its head as if it was about to spring, she ran for her life.
    Crossing the street, she ran across the nearest yard and in between two houses desperately hoping someone would see what was going on and come help her.  Not seeing anyone around, she screamed between gasps of air as she continued to run.  Spotting an opening in the back fence, she dove through it into the wooded area behind it.  Strangely, the dog stopped short on the other side and then backed away several steps as if there were something that was about to attack from the other side.
Ashley looked wildly around wondering what could have scared the dog as she rose quickly back to her feet.  Nothing moved.  There was no sound.  Nothing seemed to be there at all.  But the dog stayed back, clearly uneasy at something.  Not wanting to find out what it could be, she turned and headed back toward her own house trying to find some kind of trail through the trees.  Stepping over a broken limb laying in front of her, Ashley screamed as a large section of ground around her suddenly crumbled into a gaping hole and she fell into endless nothingness.

= = = = = = = =

    A stabbing pain in the side of her head, brought Ashley all too quickly back to consciousness.  That’s when the cold seamed to hit her, almost burning in its  intensity. She sat up trying to figure out what was going on and managed to dig her elbow into sharp gravel sending her sprawling painfully onto her back again.  The ground was hard, covered with rocks, gravel, and rough dirt.  And it was pitch black...wherever she was.
    “Help!” she cried out as she sat up more carefully this time.  The echo of her voice showed her far more than her eyes could see in the darkness.  She was in an enclosed area that apparently went on for some distance in front of and behind her.  She reached her hand out to touch the wall she now knew was close beside her.  It was solid, freezing cold, and apparently covered in slime.
“Yuck!” she yelled, yanking her hand back quickly and wiping it on her pant leg.   
“What’s going on?” she mumbled to herself, as the memory of her fall slowly came back to her.
“How long was I out?” she said, wondering if perhaps it could be night now and overcast.  Looking up, she expected to see the sky, but to her dismay there was only more blackness.
“Hello!” she yelled toward the sky, figuring that the hole must be right over her head.  She had just decided to stay where she was and call out until help came when something suddenly landed on her face from above...and moved.
She screamed, brushing at her face wildly as she scrambled backwards.  As she turned her head, something moved on her shoulder.  She immediately yanked it off, screaming out in pain as she realized it was her own hair.  Slowly calming down, Ashley began to notice that stuff was falling all around her.  Some of it sounded like dirt, but here and there, she heard larger objects like rocks hit the ground.  Wherever she was, it didn’t seem too stable.
As she listened more carefully, she heard a strange buzzing sound in the distance.  Checking her shirt pocket for her cell phone, she found that it was missing.  She began crawling toward the sound, hoping it was someone, preferably her mom wondering where in the world she could be.  Drawing closer to the sound, she noticed that something was wrong about it.  It wasn’t the sound of a cell phone on vibrate.  It was continuous...and moving...toward her.
“Bees!” she yelled, crawling backwards, but all too quickly reaching the slimy, disgusting wall she had encountered earlier.  Trying to claw her way up to stand and run, she fell onto a familiar box.
“My Hello Kitty phone case,” she said, recognizing the feel of it even in total darkness.  She pulled her phone out as fast as possible, hoping there was enough battery to use the light and get out of this wretched place.  After a long struggle with freezing, shaking fingers, Ashley finally opened the phone and saw that there was only a fourth of the battery left and no signal.  So, wanting to use it as a light source, she would have to act fast.
She pointed the phone outward and looked all around.  What she had begun to suspect was a cave, turned out to be a long crack in the ground about five feet deep and four feet wide in the middle where she had fallen.  It tapered off to a sort of point in the distance at either end looking like a lot of water had run through it at some point.  Looking up, she saw a tree laying over the hole she had fallen through.  On the ground was the bees nest that she had apparently taken down with her.  Apparently the bees were more interested in finding their way out of the hole through the tree then they were in coming after her.
Following their example, she began looking for a way up.  Grabbing a lower branch, she tried pulling on it only to see the whole tree shift suddenly.  She let go immediately, closing her eyes and cringing while she waited to see if the tree would fall in on her.  When it didn’t, she opened her her eyes again and examined the opening above more carefully.
Choosing one point that seemed farthest from the trunk and the most shallow, she propped the phone open on the other side facing toward her and began digging the loose dirt at the top of the wall with her hands as best she could.  She used loose rocks from the floor to knock harder materials loose, accidentally creating mini-avalanches of rock and dirt falling in her face and all over her.  She didn’t care.  She just wanted out of this slimy, bee infested, dark, creepy, four-by-four, miniature cell.  As the cell phone began giving its all too familiar, annoying, bleep warning of the battery dying, Ashley began digging more and more furiously.
“Don’t you dare!” she yelled at the phone as she shoved dirt and rock from the wall in every direction she could.  “I swear I’ll bury you here myself if you abandon me in this place.”  Deciding to ignore her threats, the phone mocked her with a happy little tone as it shut down anyway plunging her back into darkness.
"AAAAIIIIEEEEE!!!" she screamed out in frustration hitting the wall and realizing yet again how bad her head was hurting.  She was too angry to cry, though for a moment she really wanted to.  As she stood there trying to force herself to get back to digging, she was surprised to notice that her eyes were adjusting to the dark this time.  She could see the top of the wall where she had been digging.  Looking closer, she found that there was actually some light coming in there.  With renewed hope, she turned back to her digging.
Eventually she had enough of an opening and a kind of step dug into the wall to try climbing.  It took her several attempts to finally get a good foothold and push herself up into the tree branches above.  Trying to hug the ground and move between the branches without grabbing the tree again, she wriggled steadily forward until she was clear.  Rolling onto her back in exhaustion, shivering with cold, and covered in dirt and grime, she laughed out loud when she saw the night sky dotted with stars above.
A sudden bark ended her moment of happiness.  The crazy mutt from across the street was charging straight at her.  Ashley screamed, jumping up as fast as she could and trying to run.  The dog easily tackled her back to the ground.
“No!” she yelled out, curling into a ball and trying to protect her face.  The dog attacked.  It was the nastiest...smelliest...slimiest..tongue licking it had ever been her displeasure to experience.  “Stop,” she said, laughing again in relief.
“Over here,” someone yelled out.  “She’s over here.”  Suddenly there were                                                                                                                                     flashlights coming out of the darkness all around her.
“Look, old Buck found her,” someone else yelled.  “Good boy.”
“I’m never checking the mail ag
“Traitor,” she said, as she turned back and started walking away. ain,” Ashley said to no one at all.  She turned back to the hole for a moment trying to decide what she should do about her phone.