Just over a year ago, I completed my Low & Slow Across America’s Infrastructure tour — 3.5 weeks of living in the back seat of a 1949 Hudson and rolling across the Interstate from the East Coast to the West Coast. Every day Dan McNichol and I stayed in a different motel in a different part of America (with the exception of 2 whole days in St. Louis over Memorial Day weekend). We visited half a dozen construction project sites and public works departments, and we depended on that car not to break down in an epic fashion so that we could get to the next destination.
This week I’m embarking on another “America’s infrastructure” tour. I’m still staying in a different lodging each night (every morning it’s like “Huh? Where am I?”) but I’m flying solo. And indeed, I’m flying — from airport to airport all through the week. Houston, Dallas, Kansas City and Chicago. It’s part one of “Project Runways: Across America’s Airport Infrastructure.”
Monday, July 11 was a great start. I talked to Jarrett Simmons, assistant director of aviation planning for the Houston Airport System, and to Arturo Machuca, the general manager of Ellington Field — the 10th licensed “spaceport” in the country. I saw the three WB57 high-altitude reconnaissance planes that can reach 60,000 ft in altitude and the future site of space tourism in the latter facility, plus I got a very quick tour of the terminal expansion of the former.
I’m breaking up this airport odyssey into three legs. This is the Middle America leg. Next month will be the West Coast leg, with Salt Lake City, Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles and maybe a couple others planned. In September comes the East Coast. Flying non-stop between airports for three whole weeks just felt too much, and unlike last year I now have two feline overlords to worry about at home.
In many ways I miss having a partner in this crazy adventure (especially one with a car that is the ultimate ice-breaker among strangers). But alas, I couldn’t find someone with an antique plane with whom to putter around (I’m not exactly weeping over this, I must admit). I look forward to “airing” the ambitions, challenges and innovations that American airport infrastructure stewards own, in the pages of ENR.