Most pilots say that there is nothing in the world like flying.
Former Island Lake resident and flight instructor Dana Holladay has a caveat -- there is nothing like flying in an open cockpit, like he gets to do on his 1938 Piper J-3 Cub.
"It's the only plane I've ever flown where people wave from the ground," Holladay said.
Holladay, 51, and his wife, Meredith Tcherniavsky, 40, also a flight instructor, are flying across the country on a mission to touch down on the 48 continental states by Labor Day. They left July 1 from their home in Rockville, Md., and spent the last week with friends in southern Wisconsin, with a couple of visits to the Lake in the Hills Airport where Holladay learned to fly.
"This has been like coming back to home base for me," Holladay said. The couple plans to join a mass gathering of Cub planes at the EAA AirVenture 2012 in Oshkosh, Wis., to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the model's design.
The plane's right side window and door can be opened in flight, which gives the experience a totally unique feeling, Holladay said.
This journey -- which they said they planned individually long before meeting -- has allowed them to see the world from a different perspective, the couple said.
"Flying like this is all about being self-sufficient; you can't pull over to a Sunoco (gas station) or call AAA," Tcherniavsky said.
They expect to travel approximately 8,000 miles and touch down in 43 states this summer in a sort of counterclockwise loop around the country. They already landed in five eastern states over New Year's weekend after buying the plane from a private owner in Florida and flying it to Maryland.
They cruise between 1,000 and 2,000 feet at speeds of 70 to 80 mph, averaging about two hours per day. While in flight, Tcherniavsky uses her iPhone apps to check the weather -- rain is OK, high wins and low clouds aren't -- and information about restricted airspace, fuel prices and lodging.
In an effort to save money, they mostly stays with friends along the way; sometimes they camp out under the plane's wings, and occasionally spend the night in a hotel. They estimate they'll spend about $7,500, mostly for fuel and meals.
As the journey progresses, word has been spreading and people have been contacting them via email, offering grass strips for landing, and even spare guest rooms for sleeping, Tcherniavsky said. For lunch last Sunday, they joined a flying club in Waukegan after an impromptu invitation to a pig roast.
Their mutual passion for flying was what brought them together, the couple said.
Holladay spotted a photo on an online dating website picturing Tcherniavsky in a small plane, and contacted her right away. They met in March 2010 and were married a few months later in October at an airport in Maryland. Their limo? An airplane, of course.
Over the years, both have volunteered with organizations that expose youth to aviation, and they hope to inspire others -- especially kids -- to take up flying with their summer adventure, Tcherniavsky said.
"The goal of this is to show people that no matter what your goal is in life, don't give up," she said.