Among the 5 most fun things David and I have done together is riding in the Goodyear Blimp. Oh boy! Most people will lives their entire lives without ever getting to ride in a blimp or a zeppelin, but David and I have had the privilege of riding not once, but twice, in the Goodyear Blimp! I am a self confessed Goodyear Blimp groupie. One of the 3 Goodyear Blimp bases is located in Pompano Beach, Florida, in walking distance from David’s and my office and not far from where we lived for 21 years. We see the blimp pass over our office, on its way to take passengers for a view of the Atlantic Ocean, on a frequent basis. The hum of its engine is an unmistakable sound and I often stop my work to run outside when it passes overhead. Did I mention I am a blimp groupie? A long time ago, there was a waiting list for people to sign up for a ride on the blimp. It could take years, but eventually, one’s name would be called. That system was discontinued by Goodyear and replaced with “VIP” rides given to corporations that do business with Goodyear, winners of charity raffles, etc. My hopes of riding the blimp were dashed when Goodyear announced it would no longer offer rides to the general public. However, much to my delight, David’s dad (“My Herman”) called me one day many years ago to ask if David and I would like to join him and David’s mom on a blimp ride the very next day! I said “YES, YES, YES!” and immediately cancelled all of my work plans for the next day. David’s dad was the Safety Director for Landstar, a large trucking company that, you guessed it, buys a lot of Goodyear tires, thereby making him a VIP in Goodyear’s eyes and, thereby, qualifying for a blimp ride. What an amazing experience!!! Riding in the blimp, over the Atlantic Ocean and familiar parts of Pompano Beach, was a truly unforgettable experience! Soon after, due to another fortuitous event, David and I had the honor of riding in the blimp again, this time, with our friends Roger and Janine. As I write this, an inflatable blimp is flying over my desk, an ever present reminder of these fantastic voyages on an airship! It doesn’t get much better than this.
The humming engines of the blimp are unmistakable to those who have heard them with some frequency. There is a difference in the blimp we rode and the current “new” blimp or, more accurately, zeppelin. Watching them fly from the ground is thrilling – seeing how something so big is controlled is pretty amazing. Before we flew on the blimp we had a couple of opportunities to visit it in the large hanger that is due west of our office. Goodyear has occasional open houses, which are usually charitable fundraisers. That, by itself, is amazingly fun. Just being near the blimp and seeing it up close is cool. Learning about it is fascinating – the prior blimp was not technologically advanced and required some physical exertion by the pilots to control it. We haven’t seen the interior of the new one up close, but we know of several upgrades, including the addition of a tail engine that allows greater ground control and helped increase the top speed of the new airship to over 70 m.p.h., compared to about 50 m.p.h. on the prior generation. Boarding the blimp is the first part of the adventure as only the nose of it is anchored to the ground. As the breeze blows the blimp, the whole thing moves, so one must grab the rail and climb the stairs quickly. The old blimp seated about 6 or 7 people while the new one is slightly larger. Our pilot flew us east from the airport to the ocean and gave us a view of some sharks below – by dipping the nose of the blimp downward! The noise level is not too high in the blimp, but its steady hum is noticeable. However, as a friend of mine discovered, blimps can be stealthy. Our pilot flew us over a condo where Jack, a former airline pilot/friend lived at the time and then turned off the engine. I called Jack from my cell phone and told him to look for us – he twisted around in every direction, or so he thought, but couldn’t spot it, or hear it, until our pilot fired the engines back up and gave our location away. We are thrilled enough just to see the blimp – but being on it was a dream come true. And, I have the photos to prove what a wonderful experience it was!