A few months ago, a deal popped up on Groupon for Mother’s Day specials. Most were the typical hokey crap that advertising metrics spew out for the “stereotypical” parents (moms get jewlery and spa ads, dads get ridiculously stereotypical levels with power tools, car tweaking deals, or golf – I can almost hear the email grunting to me in a Tim Taylor voice), but one caught my eye. A biplane ride for 2 – advertised as a “mother and child” ride in the nearby town of Middleton, with a local company named Biplane Rides of America. The name seemed familiar, but more importantly, it looked interesting and exciting enough to get for my awesome mom.

You can't help but smile when your face being stretched out by wind currents!

It wasn’t until after I’d already bought the half-price, $80 ticket-for-two that I looked at the website above more closely. Turns out the owner and pilot is my parents’ neighbor, Ted Davis. If my mom couldn’t make it up to Middleton, I joked with her that she should just be able to go up and knock on Ted’s door and ask for the ride there instead! However, Madison/Middleton, with our beautiful twin lakes and capitol on the isthmus, makes for a prettier flight than the pretty-but-bland Brodhead crop fields and pastures.

Ted enthusiastically greeted us when we showed up at the Middleton airfield, and we inspected his gleaming green-and-gold aircraft. “Bought it when it was a rusted out heap, and rebuilt almost every single part in it,” he said proudly, strapping his helmet on and grandly assisting us with stepping over the plane’s fabric sidewall into the narrow-yet-spacious open cabin. It was hard to believe, but these little biplanes can fit five people in them, including the pilot who sits up in what I’d always thought of as the “rear gunnery position” if you’ve seen the old-timey planes in adventure movies. There was a small metal plaque which said “please, no dancing” and as the plane whisked across the dead-grass fields (Madison’s summer drought this year has been legendary) with a loud roar, the pressure pushing us back into our padded seats, I knew that wasn’t going to be an issue with either of us!

Although the ride was only 15 minutes long (any longer and even with my construction-grade hearing protection I would have been getting a headache) it was a smooth, comfortable, and beautiful ride. “It all still looks so green from up here,” my mom commented, shouting over the even-louder roar of the huge engine directly in front of us. I wonder how much irrigation water those fields around Middleton have required over the past couple weeks?

Have a look; maybe your mansion is there!

We also got acquainted with the roofs of Middleton’s financial elite, with massive swimming pools in their backyards and mansions to go with them. My dad chuckled at this when we told him about it later – “Why would anyone want to build such a grand house in the suburbs of Middleton?” and I agreed with him; the houses were quite pretty, but they looked silly when juxtaposed with their environment. We even briefly swung out over the west side of Lake Mendota, and I pointed out my biking routes to my mother. I’ve just recently been out around Lake Mendota again on my bike for the first time in four years (according to my old Excel spreadsheets that I tracked time and mileage); not much has changed except my old water-refill station, a gas station on the north side of the lake, has been closed down so thoroughly that it looks like a vandalized warehouse.

We didn’t get much closer to Madison than that; I imagine because of air traffic restrictions or Ted’s licensing that may require him to stick to Middleton’s airspace, but I got a few good camera shots. My mom and I both loved the flight, and hope that Ted picks up a lot of business with his new flyer.

Happy belated Mother's Day, mom!