A Doug's Life: Dreaming of the View From Up in the Wild Blue Yonder

If you haven't realized by now that I'm fascinated with the rural atmosphere and outdoor life of the Menifee area, you haven't been paying attention.

It's ironic, really, because although I fancy myself an outdoorsman, I spend most of my time in a classroom or pounding away on a computer keyboard. I'm not much of a fisherman, I have yet to take those horse riding lessons, and my camping experience is limited. But my imagination is a rugged, grizzled veteran. It's working all the time.

So as I drive throughout the scenic Menifee Valley and take in the sights (what's with all the boulders?), I find myself constantly looking for ways to explore the landscape.

One vantage point that intrigues yet frightens me at the same time: Seeing it all from the air.

There are several ways one can do this, of course. The only one I'm really familiar with is the commercial jet. Having logged many thousands of miles as an airline passenger on road trips as a sports writer over the years, I have no problem forgetting about my fear of heights when I'm in a large, air-conditioned aircraft with people all around me and a good book to read.

Unfortunately, you don't see much of the ground scenery from 30,000 feet. Besides, I choose an aisle seat whenever possible. Much easier access to the little sports writers' room when the need arises.

Anyway, I figure Southwest Flight 3140 is not a viable option for a birds-eye view of these parts.

OK, so maybe a small aircraft that flies lower and can be piloted on a specific flight path over the area. I had fun checking out the 1928 model two-seat plane being built by local flight enthusiasts at the French Valley Airport. Obviously, there are somewhat larger and more enclosed private planes. Could I see myself in one?

Sure -- as long as it stays on the runway. I'm not getting up in one of those contraptions, even if the C-17s from March Air Reserve Base make room for me. If the engine goes, so do I. On to the next idea.

Driving down the 215, I occasionally see bodies floating to the ground under parachutes, often in large groups. I get it. Perris has one of the most popular "drop zones" around. Sometimes you see large groups of people skydiving together. Just a few months ago, Menifee 24/7 reported on a record skydive by 200 jumpers.

Sounds like fun, but I'll pass. If I tried that, I wouldn't see a bit of landscape on the way down, even after the chute opened. I'd be too busy saying the Lord's Prayer.

What's left? Well, there's always a hot air balloon. I might be able to handle that. I'd still be scared to death of falling over the side, but I think I could control myself enough to check out the sights. There would be that horrifying childhood memory of the Wizard of Oz floating off uncontrollably into the stratosphere, but hey, every adventure has some element of danger, right?

I figure I could see the location of all the local lakes, enjoy the view of all the open fields, and basically develop a greater appreciation for the open space we have around here. I could enjoy some of that beautiful clean air we have, up close and personal. The views of the local hills and the snow-capped mountains would be spectacular, I'm sure.

Yep, that's it. When I'm ready to take to the skies above Menifee Valley, I'm doing it in a hot air balloon.

But you'll notice I said "When I'm ready." That could be a while. Like the horse riding lessons and the fishing trip, it's still on the "to do" list. No use rushing things.

Meanwhile, I think I'll take a nice, long walk.


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