Sunday, October 17, 2010


Compared to some, I lead an exciting, glamorous life filled with exciting travels around the country and around the world. But compared to others, I lead a dreary life confined by the drudgery of commercial air travel. On Friday, I got to hang out with those latter folks and get a taste of their life.

My father, brother, and I met Burt, Fritz, and Rock at the Atlantic Aviation FBO at Chicago Executive Airport (a.k.a. Palwaukee) around 8:00 in the morning. We boarded a Cessna Citation Sovereign 680 for the forty-eight minute flight to Blue Grass Airport in Lexington, KY for our day trip to Keeneland Race Course.

The jet was well appointed and very comfortable. The supple seats ruined me for commercial airlines. And on takeoff, the thrust and rapid takeoff was noticeably different. I suspect the takeoff on my next commercial flight – a week from today – is going to be frightening. A commercial jet’s takeoff is comparatively wimpy. It’s a wonder those behemoths get off the ground.

Keeneland is just across Hwy 60 from Blue Grass Airport, but we didn’t go directly to the track. Instead, we were driven to Lane’s End Farm where we were lead by Ben on an amazing tour.
It surely wasn’t my clout that made this tour possible – that honor belongs to Burt, Fritz, and Rock. They own several thoroughbreds and they were discussing adding some more to the mix. The people of Lane's End were pleased to introduce them to the horses.

The farm which was painted in beautiful autumnal colors as fall descended on the landscape. On the tour, we had the pleasure of meeting several amazing horses: Curlin, A.P. Indy, Rock Hard Ten, Lemon Drop Kid, and others. When they were paraded before us, they were magnificent in their strength and beauty.

After retiring from racing, horses such as Curlin and the others get to ‘enjoy’ their days in the company of many a mare. I’m not a horse guy, so check here to make sure I’ve got the terminology right. We toured the facilities where the stallions perform their services and learned quite a lot about the entire process.

After touring Lane’s End, we headed to Keeneland and watched the races. Everyone in our group is far more knowledgeable about handicapping than I am or will ever be, but even I joined in on the fun. I placed a single bet of my own – a show bet – and promptly lost that money. The other guys were placing much larger bets and having mixed success.

When the group agreed to pool ten bucks each into a parlayed show bet on each of the ten races, I decided that was a much better strategy for me. Call it my OPM strategy. It worked like this: We each chipped in the ten bucks initially, and one person would place a show bet on a single horse for one race. As long as the horse was in the top three, we won. If we won, we parlayed the original ten bucks and the winnings into the bet on the next race. If we lost, we each chipped in ten more bucks and the process started anew.


We went in reverse chronological order – oldest first. My father was first up. His bet won, so we were up from the original $70 to something around $200. Then Ben was up. We Busted. Chip in ten more. Then Rock was up. Bust. Chip in ten more bucks. Then I was up.

“How,” I wondered, “can I possibly be the third oldest in this bunch? Sigh…”

My brother, John
 The pressure was off me since we didn’t have any winnings on the line. I placed a very conservative bet, and it paid off. I don’t remember how much we were up at that point, but next up were Burt, James (who joined in later), and my brother John. Each bet won, so we were up to something over $600.

The problem – you undoubtedly have figured out – is that by parlaying all of the winnings into each subsequent bet meant that just a single loss would wipe us out. And that’s exactly what happened when Fritz stepped up. When his bet lost, the group – as you might expect – gave him no end of grief. But he made it up by treating for dinner later that evening at Dudley’s.

Last up was my Dad again. He had placed the most successful bet out of all of ours, so we were more than happy to have him place the final wager. We had each chipped in $50 by this point, so it would be nice to have a win on the last one. But since we had $50 on the line, he decided that rather than play it safe, he needed to place a more aggressive bet… something that would pay greater odds if it showed (or better).

Alas, it was not meant to be. I was out the $50, but $50 was far less than the cost of this day trip, so no complaints on my part.

Dinner ran over schedule. No big deal. Burt just called up the pilots and told them we were running a little late. Try that with a commercial flight!

It was a dark but very clear night on the flight back. We departed Kentucky, flew across Indiana, and headed northward across Lake Michigan. We had a beautiful view of downtown Chicago, and when we touched down Fritz’s Benz was waiting for him on the tarmac. Our car was in the parking lot, so we had to – egads – walk through the FBO into the parking lot to the car. It wasn’t as glamorous as having the car waiting for us there by the jet, but it helped ease me back into the world where I live. A world where your car isn’t waiting for you on the tarmac. A world where 'FBO' is just another unknown TLA. A world where a flight to somewhere exciting is always exciting, but never quite as exciting as flying there in a private jet.

Their life is not the life I lead, but the life I lead is pretty sweet nonetheless. :-)

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