I was standing in line at Staples, an oh-so-modern instantiation of the capitalist concept of making money by helping people. They were helping me get my Christmas cards done by printing 8.5×11 color copies of the yearly photo collage I like to include with my cards. But first, as with all good things, I had to wait. In line.
There was an older gentleman (I should say EVEN older than me) in line ahead of me, and it appeared that he had a similar project in process. He was holding a copy of a holiday letter with some pictures included, waiting his turn to get copies made. So I got to chatting with him about what sort of activities were included in his letter. Oh, this and that, and taking a long, scenic drive to and from Idaho where he went to the funeral of one of his wartime buddies.
Oh my, just the kind if story I like to dig into, and he was happy to oblige. Allow me to point out that, since this is a biking blog, a bike does make an appearance at the end.
He, George Marrett, and his Idaho friend, had been Air Force Skyraider pilots flying missions over North Vietnam during that conflict. One fateful day his friend took a catastrophic hit and had to bail out. George stuck around to watch his friend float to the ground, then hightailed it back to base. His friend spent five years as a prisoner, enduring significant amounts of privation and punishment that left him with lifelong disabilities.
As George was telling me this tale, I glanced up at the cap he was wearing and noted that it was embroidered with the name “Howard Hughes Corporation.” Oh my, another topic of discussion, given that I started working at Hughes Aircraft Company back when it was still a private concern. Eventually I retired from the same derivative entity, now a part of the Raytheon Company.
George had worked for Hughes a few miles away, at the Culver City site. “Work” is a lame description of what he did for Hughes, since he was one of those Right Stuff guys, a test pilot for the company. He was also a test pilot at Edwards AFB before he flew in Vietnam, piloting some of the fastest jets in the world. Crikey, the guy has his own Wikipedia page. He also has written several books about military aviation, as well as a book about Howard Hughes, and was a consultant for the movie “The Aviator”, which was about Hughes. Check his book page at Amazon.
Despite all his participation and expertise in historic activities, despite his success as an author, the people he has met and his high-level life, he seemed pretty humble as I spoke with him. And like the best of accomplished, yet humble people, he also asked about me. So of course, we got to talking about bicycling.
Turns out, he is a cyclist too, riding with groups out of the K-Man shop in Atascadero. But he said he’s had enough of going fast, he’s riding a comfort bike nowadays.