Nine Years

taylor and nicole bullock anniversary

9 years
8 cars we’ve roadtripped in
7 days a week of “Taylorsmiles”
6 months from 1st date to marriage
5 years to finish college algebra and get your degree
4 states (Utah, California, Michigan, Georgia)
3 domiciles (DTW, ATL, MEM)
2 surgeries (and another one this week)
1 borrowed Toad the Wet Sprocket CD

From 2004 to 2013, I’ve spent 9 years at your side. Even when we’ve had to live and work across the country from each other, you never feel too far away. It hasn’t always been easy, but it’s always been worth it to have you as my best friend and husband. Happy anniversary, Taylor.

SLC and PDX – A Glimpse Of Two Airports

Salt Lake City Airport (SLC)

pictures from SLC airport

Portland International Airport (PDX)

Pictures from the Portland Airport PDX
Although I’ve lived in Salt Lake City for more years of my life, I still consider Portland home. For my birthday this year, my husband let me take a solo trip home.

in the SLC airportSome people consider airports a necessary evil, but I happen to like most airports. Especially SLC and PDX. SLC is in major need of a makeover (and will be completely redone over the next decade). PDX is clean, modern, and spacious…with lots of natural light. There’s free wifi and places to recycle. There’s lots of shopping and dining options. SLC isn’t far behind, but PDX comes in second in my personal airport rankings, after Detroit (DTW).

The main catalyst was because Muse, one of my favorite bands, was coming to Portland within a week of my birthday. Muse isn’t going to Salt Lake City on their current tour, so I have been looking into options for other cities for a few months. We had tried to arrange our London trip to coincide with Muse performing at the O2, but we missed it by 2 days. I’ve been wanting to see them perform live again since 2010. I adore their latest album “The 2nd Law,” so I’m so glad to be seeing them perform tonight.

And now, a song for my city: “My Portland” from Portlandia

“When I see the sunlight glint upon your bridges, it makes me think of all the times that you and I have been together. You are my darling, girl. My beauty! My Portland!”

How To Enjoy London On A Budget

traveling in LondonBack in November, my family took a vacation to England. In the past few years, we’ve struggled through a financial difficulties, and 2012 was the first time we were able to save money and begin paying off some debts. We decided about 6 months before we left that we wanted to go to London for Taylor’s week of vacation at the beginning of November. We started saving money for several months, and were excited that we had enough money to see attractions that we were too broke to enjoy on our 2009 trip to London.

The biggest difference in our 2012 trip, besides having enough money visit some paid attractions, was that we brought our 12-year old daughter Rosie with us. We also traveled with our friend Clint, who flies with my husband at the same airline. We were able to use our travel benefits to pay for the majority of our flights, but we still had a full 8 days of travel with a moderately limited budget.

London is one of the most expensive cities to travel to in the world, but with a few simple tricks, you can make your time in London quite affordable.

taylor nicole milennium bridgeKnow your lodging options: There are so many different places you can stay in London: hostels, hotels, bed and breakfasts, home/room rentals, and more. Whether you choose a swanky hotel or  premier hostel in London, you will be able to find lodging to fit within any budget. There are many websites that can help you score a great deal, but my personal preference is Priceline, which I’ve been using avidly since 1999. Not only can you browse hotels at the lowest listed rate, you can “Name Your Own Price” for an even better deal. That’s how we scored the Crowne Plaza for $105 USD per night (a steal during a busy travel week).

One thing to note: It’s very difficult to find hotel rooms for 3+ people. Most rooms are equipped for 2 adults (2 twins or 1 full/queen/king), which proved to be difficult for a party of 4 traveling together. If you want to stay in one room, look for hotels that have rollaway beds or pull-out sleeper beds (which are usually an additional fee). In some cases, it was less expensive to book two rooms than to find a hotel with a more expensive sleeper sofa room.

£3 Tesco meal DealDon’t eat at restaurants every meal: One of the most shocking price differences was how expensive restaurant meals are in London. When you see a price on a menu in the UK, it looks like it’s about the same as the US…before factoring in the currency exchange rate. At the time we visited, the rate was about $1.60 per pounds sterling, which made every meal 60% more than we were used to. Even a non-fancy pub meal ran us  £47 ($76) and we split our plates. We tried to pack food along with us during the day, and grab street food when it was available. We usually shopped at the Tesco Express markets, which offered a sandwich, crisps, and drink special for £3. Also, see if your hotel offers a free English breakfast…they are quite hearty.

Get a Travelcard or Oyster Card: While there are an abundance of transportation options in London, the most cost-effective options are the Travelcard and Oyster Card for Transport For London. They are good for use on the bus, Tube, DLR, tram, and most National Rail services. Oyster is an electronic smartcard ticket that you tap on the yellow reader at the Tube gates. Oyster is more cost effective for single journeys on public transit, while the Travelcard is more suited for days that you will use public transit multiple times in a day. If you’re travelling regularly, a Travelcard can be loaded onto your Oyster. Travelcards and Bus Passes can be purchased for 1 day (Travelcards only), 1 week, 1 month or 1 year’s travel.

london travelcardWe bought our Travelcards as a package deal with the LondonPass. Unfortunately, the passes were purchased in advance online, and we had to go into the city to pick them up from Leister Square. We had to pay for a single journey Tube pass and for our ride on the Heathrow Express (quite pricey, but worth it if you’re in a hurry to get into the city).

Invest in package deals: There are a lot of tourist attractions in London that participate in discount cards. The post popular multiple-attraction discount card is the LondonPass. You can choose a 1-day, 2-day,  3-day or 6-day pass. The LondonPass grants you access to 55 different attractions, some with front-of-the-line privileges, including the Tower of London, Shakespeare’s Globe Theater, Westminster Abbey, St. Paul’s Cathedral, the Tower Bridge Experience, and a Thames River Cruise.

As a side note, the LondonPass does not include the London Eye…but it’s totally worth the price.

wicked londonOne thing that we were pleased to find was that Broadway shows were more affordable in London than many touring through the US. Taylor and I had planed to see Wicked in Salt Lake City, but decided tickets were too expensive. We were able to buy 3 tickets for about $140 total, instead of $75-$150 each in the US.

All-in-all, our trip was just over $3000 (for flights, transportation, lodging, entertainment, food, souvenirs, etc), which is coincidentally about the same price as our wedding in 2004. I’d hate to think of how much our London vacation would have been if we hadn’t been so discount travel savvy.

When He Leaves

Sometimes it’s really hard to be married to a man who spends more time away from you than with you.

Every month around the 22nd, he gets his schedule for the next month. It’s usually a celebration of a good amount of time off, or cursing the work rules that make commuting a near impossibility.

When he’s on his way home, I get so excited. I track his flight progress online. I try to straighten up the house. I shave my legs. I attack him with a gigantic hug and kiss when he walks in the door.

But his time at home is never long enough, usually 2-3 days before he gets ready to leave again. He has his pre-trip routine. He showers, packs, and does the mental checklist: shoes, pants, pilot shirt, underwear, badge, passport, wallet, keys, iPhone charger, Zune, and snacks. He checks flight loads, and details of his upcoming work trip. He gives me a goodbye kiss that never seems long enough. The door closes, and our home feels like just a house again.

It’s usually not too long before I send him a text saying “Miss you already.” I walk into the bathroom, and the counter is missing his toiletry bag. I can still smell the faint scent of his deodorant that drives me wild. I go around the house and find all the cups that he drank out of. I fold the rest of the laundry from the load he threw in a few hours before leaving.  I mentally plan out the things I need to accomplish before he returns home next. I hug my daughter tightly, and we give each other the usual bittersweet crooked smile.  She says, “I miss daddy.” We talk about how long it will be until he comes home again. Sometimes we let each other fall apart a little bit. And then we put ourselves back together and get back to ‘normal life.’

Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to have a husband who worked regular business hours, and could plan on legal holidays off. The 4th of July was a special day while we were dating, and I’m feeling particularly melancholy about him being gone on a trip over the holiday weekend. But I take comfort in the fact that he has a nice stretch of days off next week, and we’re tentatively planning to do something fun alone together.

I love him so much. I miss him so much.

The Bachelor Finale: Jake and the Skank

“This is the life I’ve always wanted. This is the guy I’ve always wanted. This is the fairy tale I thought I’d never have.”

Vienna Girardi

So…Jake chose Vienna.

Vienna Marie Girardi

Born in Geneva, Florida May, 1986 (23-years old)
Currently resides in Sanford, Florida
Graduated from the University of Central Florida
Bachelor’s degree in Interpersonal Organizational Communication
Member of Kappa Delta
Unemployed


Back before this season of “The Bachelor” started, I was given spoilers for the season from my friends through Pilot Wives Club. I haven’t ever gone into a reality TV season with so much info, but it gave me a chance to watch this season of The Bachelor with a more critical eye. I knew Vienna would win, and I watched her words and actions with a fine-toothed comb.

Vienna Girardi rubbed me the wrong way from the season premiere. She does have a attractive body and spunky personality, but the best descriptive word that flashes in my mind is FAKE! How will she look without the hair extensions and push-up bra? How will he feel about her when she can’t fit into her little booty shorts? She quickly wrapped Jake around her French-manicured little finger. Jake “bonded” with her while bungee jumping, interpreting adrenaline for love. Jake dismissed the warnings about Vienna from the other girls in the house. And if Jake doesn’t end up happy, it’s his own darn fault.But who knows? Maybe Jake and Vienna WILL have their happily ever after. Being married to a regional pilot in Texas will be much different than the lavish dates and accommodations of St. Lucia. Vienna will love her 15 minutes of fame, but her story will change when Jake is gone over half the month. And that’s if he even goes back to flying “on the line.” She hasn’t yet experienced the disappointment that occurs when Jake gets delayed or extended on trips, when he gets scheduled major holidays and on her birthday.

My prediction? Jake and Vienna won’t last. They’ll enjoy the publicity for a while. They’ll get stalked by the paparazzi. They’ll plan their lavish wedding.  Jake will probably get that Southwest Airlines gig he’s been hoping for, but be stuck on reserve for years.  And while Jake is gone, Vienna will get bored and give up on him. Her Zoom-whitened smile will fade and she’ll get bored of being alone on his four-day trips. One or both of them will cheat. And in a few years, she’ll end up like this on a  future season of  “Reality TV Romances that Didn’t Work Out”.

The Bachelor: Jake’s an Okay Guy

The Bachlor, Jake Pavelka, Pilot Bachlor, On the Wings of Love
The Reality Show I Love to Hate

A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog post about Jake Pavelka, AKA “The Bachelor.” I’ve only watched a handful of seasons of The Bachelor, so I knew the basic premise, the cattiness of the girls who “really think they’ve fallen in love,” and the awkward situations that ensue when 25 hot ladies go after one man. With this background, I was really dreading the outcome of the season with Jake as “The Bachelor.”  Now that the season is drawing near a resolution (and yes, I do know who ultimately “wins” Jake’s heart), I thought I’ve give an update on my impressions of America’s favorite regional pilot.jake Pavelka, jacob lynn pavelka, The Bachelor

I actually think Jake is an okay guy! He is charming,  sensitive,  and I honestly believe he has integrity. I like that he doesn’t string along the girls he knows he doesn’t have a future with.  My gut instinct is that he is proud of his body, and he normally wouldn’t be parading it around like this:

But honestly….I don’t mind looking (and don’t tell my husband!) ABC knows how to get viewers hooked! Now when I hear “On the Wings of Love,” like I did at the grocery store on my birthday, my mind immediately wanders to the above image.

There’s a big of a disconnect between his career as a regional pilot and the glitzy “rich and successful” career that ABC makes him out to have. Actually, my sources at ASA (his regional airline) have told me he hasn’t been flying on the line for quite some time, and he’s awaiting an interview date with Southwest Airlines in March. He flies the CRJ-200 (same as my husband) but most of the shots on the series show the 737 that Jake hopes to fly soon.

My biggest beef of the show continues to be the lack of emphasis Jake’s future partner will experience with his career. He hasn’t said a word about the realities of his time away from home. A pilot’s partner will always have to share their man with Crew Scheduling. He will deal with delays, reserve, domicile changes, and possibly even furloughs. He may be comfortable with his current salary with ASA, but it’s always a paycut to go back to First Officer pay.

Jake Pavelka, The Bachelor, Jake Shirtless

But in the meantime, I’m just going to forget about all the IMPORTANT stuff, and focus on the reality TV drama!

Flying Cheap …The Regional Lifestyle?

The CRJ-200 – My husband’s birdie

My pilot wife friend Melissa tipped me off on this upcoming Frontline special: Flying Cheap

Quoting the Frontline website:

From producer Rick Young —

The crash of Continental 3407 outside Buffalo last year, killing all on board, was big news, as any commercial crash is. But like many who were fortunate enough not to be touched personally by the tragedy, what most caught my attention was the news that followed. The co-pilot had been making less than $16,000.

While I knew the airline industry had been struggling through tough times since 9/11, I sure didn’t know that some of the folks that fly me around are working second jobs and overnighting on lounge room La-Z-Boys. And I didn’t know that regional airlines, once thought of as puddle-jumpers, had grown so fast that they now account for more than half the nation’s daily departures. We are on our way to becoming a regional airline nation.

If you missed this big industry shift, that’s understandable. Most flights today still carry the codes and colors of the major airlines. But over the past decade, fewer and fewer of the majors are actually flying those planes. That job is increasingly outsourced to small regional companies with names most of us hardly know. Continental 3407 wasn’t flown by Continental, but by a company called Colgan Air.

The rapid growth of airline outsourcing is part of a fiercely competitive industry that keeps airfares affordable for many. And that’s good for consumers. But the crash of 3407, and the year-long investigation that has followed, raised significant questions about the safety practices of regional operators like Colgan. So it seemed a good time for FRONTLINE to journey into the world of the regionals and see what the insiders had to say.

In this clip from the film, you’ll hear about the lives of regional pilots, crash pads and the pressures that outsourcing brings to bear — “pilot pushing” as its called in the industry. Two former Colgan pilots agreed to speak publicly for the first time, and so we flew to California and sat down for long, amazing interviews. While their stories were in many ways surprising, we knew they weren’t unique. We’ve spoken with many regional pilots, both former and current, and most all shared similar concerns about what’s happening in the airline industry.

The full expose will be showing on February 9th. But even from this 10 minute snippet, you’ll see and hear some pretty harrowing facts…poverty wages for newbie first officers, crazy crowded crashpad conditions, the realities of duty time vs paid flight time, company efficiency quotas, the reasons why so many people commute. I’m a little perturbed that the video infers that all regional pilots are low time and underexperienced…but that’s a pretty common media angle.

It will be interesting to see if the special mentions anything about pilot families, and how the commuting lifestyle affects family life. I don’t deal with the physical fatigue my husband experiences after his fourth 16-hour day in a row, but to say I’m immune from emotional fatigue would be false. I do know the existing duty FAA guidelines are currently under revision, and things can’t stay at the status quo much longer. And this includes bargain-basement airfare.

And now for some light entertainment…

Sneak Peek at How My Weekend Started

Sleeping at SLC gate C09
(Yep! I Even Brought my CPAP!)

The Bachelor: On The Wings of Love?

Jake Pavelka The BachelorThe Captain of Her Heart?

When I first heard that the new season of ABC’s The Bachelor was going to feature an airline pilot, I thought it was a joke. Knowing what I know as the wife of a pilot, I was baffled that any woman would willingly thrust herself into the pilot wifestyle. Then I realized that most of these women probably DON’T know the reality of being a pilot wife.

This is what I know so far about the Bachelor, Jake Pavelka:

31-year-old Jake Pavelka is out to prove to the world that nice guys don’t finish last. No, they finish in love. Fasten your seatbelts and leave your relationship baggage at the door as this handsome commercial pilot from Dallas prepares to take flight as The Bachelor.

“Jake knows himself well enough to know that he’s not made to live alone. He just needs to find the right woman — his best friend and soul mate – and that’s whom he’ll marry. Searching for a woman who is intelligent, confident, energetic and spontaneous, he admits that he can’t wait for fatherhood.

“Jake Pavelka grew up in Denton, Texas and attended University of North Texas and Embry Engineering University for Aerospace Science. He discovered his passion for flying at a young age, as he started taking lessons at age 12. As an accomplished pilot, he was fortunate to discover his passion at a young age, Jake started taking flying lessons at age 12. An accomplished pilot, he became an airline captain flight instructor at 23. On his days off, he has fun flying acrobatic planes, taking dance lessons and woodworking at the home he owns near Dallas.” (ABC.com)“In person, he’s feeling nothing but love from fans, many of whom are passengers who greet him as they deplane. (Pavelka is a captain and airline flight instructor for Atlantic Southeast Airlines, a Delta Connection carrier.) “Everything’s been so flattering,” he says. “I’ll go to different airports in different parts of the country, and there are really great people going, ‘Hey, so glad you came back.’ That’s really humbling.”(Dallas News)

The Bachelor Jake Pavelka

This first thing that hit me was the fact that he attended Embry-Riddle Engineering University for Aerospace Science. Within the first few minutes of episode one, Jake mentions that he was fortunate to have a “storybook childhood” and that he was the only one in his family to not pursue medicine. For anyone who knows anything about flight training and education, Embry Riddle is typically where you go when your family is rolling in the big bucks. According to the Embry-Riddle website:

Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University is the world’s oldest, largest, and most prestigious university specializing in aviation and aerospace. It is the only accredited, aviation-oriented university in the world.

Undergraduate Cost of Attendance

Tuition and Fees $28,600
Room and Board $8,500
Books (estimated) $1,200
Total, non-flight students $38,300
Estimated annual flight costs* $15,000
Total with Flight $53,300

* Flight Instruction: Embry-Riddle’s flight program is designed to allow students to earn their ratings in just three years (unlike many other schools). Flight students can estimate average annual costs for the first and second year at approximately $15,000 per year. The average cost for the third year of instruction is $10,000.

From what you see, Embry-Riddle’s program appears to cost a little over $53k. But when you read the fine print, it says that flight instruction is $15k for years one and two, and $10k for year three. Add that together….you’re looking at $78,300 to attend the “Ivy League” flight program. To achieve comparable training at a state university (such as UND or UVU), your undergrad studies would be slashed by 2/3rds (plus flight costs).

The next frustration was the wording of the bio on the ABC.com website: “An airline captain flight instructor at 23.” To quote Jake in the introduction of episode one, “I’ve been in the pilot seat for most of my life…I’ve been a commercial pilot for 10 years. My office is at 37,000 feet. There’s really no word to describe my passion for aviation.” He goes on to talk about his obsession with aerobatic airplanes (another luxury of the wealthy pilot)

Now what exactly is an airline captain flight instructor? Oh yeah….there’s no such thing. To paraphrase Wikipedia for a moment; One cannot become a commercial pilot (CPL) until age 18, nor an Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) until age 23. Although one technically could become a Certified Flight Instructor (CFI) once completing one’s CPL, it is highly unlikely that said instructor would be airline captain flight instructor at age 31. A more appropriate description would be “a regional airline captain who flight instructs on the side.”

Jake Pavelka ShirtlessOne thing ABC did get spot on, is the typical pilot obsession for fitness and staying in shape. Pilots must be evaluated by a medical examiner frequently, and many common ailments can disqualify you from flight. My pilot is very concerned with his health and appearance, which can be difficult to keep up with rigorous schedules and limited availability to fitness centers during trips.

So what about the lucky ladies? What advice do I have for them? If you want to be a successful pilot wife, these qualities are a MUST:

Flexibility
: Despite a pilot’s seniority. there will ALWAYS be hiccups in his schedule. Flight mixups, freak weather, maintenance delays, etc. Or he just may have a crappy schedule in the first place. Be prepared for birthdays, anniversaries, and holidays without him, year after year (and always celebrate the ones you DO have together) Don’t expect to live in the same domicile (or country!) for the rest of his career. He could be furloughed, displaced, or downgraded with no notice. His payscale may stagnate, or cut in half (if downgraded from captain to first officer)

Trust: No matter what career your man is in, there WILL be temptation. The persona of an airline pilot is suave, debonair, and powerful, which will attract both flight crews, passengers, and airport employees. Cheating happens in aviation, just as it does in medicine, finance, education, etc; but it is enabled by the provided access to hotel rooms in random cities. This isn’t to say that your pilot will cheat, but you need to keep your relationship strong, and the communication often and honest. If my husband and I don’t talk at least 3 times a day, we really start missing each other. When he’s home, smother him with affection to help him remember why he’s working so hard to support you.

Independence: The pilots who hold fabulous lines will still be gone several weeks per month. If you have children, you’ll have to act as a single parent. At some point, you’ll have to go to parent teacher conferences, recitals, and sporting events alone. You will likely have increased daycare costs (if you work outside the home). Cultivate your talents and begin new hobbies to fill up the time that you’d otherwise sit around lonely. Realize that you may be sitting on the church pew, week after week, without your man at your side. Take advantage of your flight bennies and visit a friend out of town whenever you get a whiff of jealousy of all the fabulous locales he flies to (Evansville, South Bend, Dayton, Wausau…definitely worth getting jealous over!)

Debt Management: Few pilots are as fortunate as Jake to have a “storybook childhood,” with a family able to finance flight training. My husband is a 3rd year first officer at a regional airline, with his take-home pay BARELY able to touch his monthly student loan payments. Most of the pilots I know have well over $100,000 in debt to cover plane rentals, instruction, insurance, exams, and travel expenses. Gone are the idyllic days of extremely wealthy pilots, especially as they start our their careers (except the high-seniority captains, like Sully, who have taken significant paycuts as well). You will probably have to bring in supplemental income to cover the inevitable living expenses beyond his paycheck. Many pilots have to take on second jobs on their off days. Learn how to budget and live within your means.

A good support network
: There are many cities that you pilot may be based: MEM, JFK, DTW, LAX, CVG, MSP, DFW, ATL, etc. Sometimes you will have no control over where you’ll be assigned, and it can be VERY lonely to be in a new city with no friends and family (just look at my posts from Detroit and Atlanta….lonely times) Or your pilot may commute, as mine does, and that is even more time that you are without your significant other. Make it a priority to establish a great LOCAL network of friends, family, neighbors, and church members . Join some of the established websites such as Pilot Wives Club or Wives and Girlfriends of Pilots Facebook page.

Now that I’ve said my two bits, I’m going to sit back and enjoy the romantic reality drama!

Tender Tennessee Christmas?

Since Taylor has been with his airline, he’s had relatively good luck with having holidays off. Sometimes he’ll miss an “eve” but make it for the “day,” or part of the accompanying weekend. For Thanksgiving, he had three days off. He flew in to ONT Wednesday morning at 4 am, and flew out of LAX Friday morning at 4 am. It is difficult to spend so much time commuting, especially because it typically involves pickups/dropoffs at early and strange hours. Since he’s been in MEM, he’s had much better luck jumpseating on FedEx than on Delta….and those flights are usually during the inconvenient hours.

Last week he got his December schedule, which made us happy and sad. Happy because he has 16 days off (for the first time since he was domiciled at DTW). Sad because he is scheduled on 4-day trips over both Christmas and New Years. He’ll be overnighting in Nashville Christmas Eve, and Knoxville New Years Eve. It doesn’t make sense for Rosie and I to fly out to be with him….he’s flying multiple legs December 24, 25, 31 and January 1. My first (sarcastic) thought was “Another tender Tennessee Christmas,” a song I love off of Amy Grant’s Christmas album. Amy makes it sound so idyllic…for Taylor it will mean nights alone in a Hampton Inn or Fairfield Inn.

Come on weatherman,give us a forecast snowy white.
Can’t you hear the prayers of every childlike heart tonight?
Rockies are calling, Denver snow falling,
Somebody said it’s four feet deep.
But it doesn’t matter, give me the laughter;
I’m gonna choose to keep

Another tender Tennessee Christmas,
The only Christmas for me.
Where the love circles around us like the gift around our tree.
Well I know there’s more snow up in Colorado
Than my roof will ever see,
But a tender Tennessee Christmas is the only Christmas for me.

Every now and then, I got a wanderin’ urge to see
Maybe California, maybe tinsel town’s for me.
There’s a parade there, we’d have it made there;
Bring home a tan for New Year’s Eve.
Sure sounds exciting, awfully inviting,
Still I think I’m gonna keep

Another tender Tennessee Christmas,
The only Christmas for me.
Where the love circles around us like the gift around our tree.
Well they say in L.A.it’s a warm holiday;
It’s the only place to be.
But a tender Tennessee Christmas is the only Christmas for me.
(Ohh, you know I wanna be home.)