I was turning 50, and coincidentally enough, so were three close friends from high school. We considered scuba diving somewhere, but decided to spend a week on a work project in Tuba City, on the Navajo Nation near the Grand Canyon in Arizona. I requested an outdoor project and the four of us were given the task of building shade structure for a senior center. Many of the seniors have lived most of their lives working the land for a living (not easy to do on that land), and now were stuck inside. A shade structure would allow them to sit outside, even in the summer (well, maybe not in the middle of the day).
We were provided a pile of lumber from a torn down house to recycle, and we did the best we could. It was a little tough because when they tear down a house on the reservation, it means it is in really bad shape. We finished the project and made some friends at the same time.
I flew to Page AZ where Mark and Ken rented an SUV (really needed it for the project), while Graeme and I continued via airplane to the airport in Tuba City. A few days into the project I could see massive thunderstorms over the Grand Canyon and one of the locals told me that it didn’t rain much during the Arizona monsoon season, the reservation would just get dry sand storms with strong winds set off by the distant thunderstorms. What? Sand storms? I paniced. I ran down to the small hardware store and bought some masking tape and plastic, then headed for the airport, where my plane sat alone in the desert. I taped the door cracks and all entrances to the engine compartment, and got it done about an hour before the winds hit. I don’t think it would be wise to park a plane there permanently.
The entire work project was an incredible experience, and I’ll never forget the celebration lunch with the seniors. We also made some Navajo friends, and I invited a couple of them on a flight. We went out to the airport one early morning, I tore off the tape and plastic, we went up above “The Rez” for a flight. I completely enjoyed the experience of showing them a view of the reservation they hadn’t seen before.