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The ride to end all rides

Chris Anthony
Chris Anthony on the U.S.S. Nimitz.
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The strangest thing happened to me one day. I was sitting at home working on the computer while “Top Gun” was playing in the background. Tom Cruise asked if he could buzz the tower and the air boss said, “The pattern is full, Ghost Rider.” Then my phone rang. On the other end was a female voice from a PR agency in Los Angeles. Apparently a sergeant commander in the Navy is a big Warren Miller fan. And for the first time in years, her deployment overlapped the fall tour season of last year’s Warren Miller film “Impact.” She was devastated and asked if Warren Miller could send her a copy of the movie to play for her crew.

The PR agency said they could do one better. “We will send you the movie and an athlete to present it. Where do you want them to go?”

The sergeant commander said, “Somewhere in the Pacific aboard the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Nimitz. Location and time of pick up will be disclosed to you at a later date. If you could just have the athlete (me) and the movie ready to go in San Diego by this date (top secret) we will transport them to the ship.”

Two weeks later I was in the dark hull of a transport plane with two layers of ear protection, strapped into a seat backwards (to protect me from snapping my neck during landing on the catch cable). I was flying somewhere over the Pacific. Several Navy aviators were around me dressed as aliens. Eventually one of them yelled, “Here we go!”

The plane hit the deck of the Nimitz going 130 mph and came to a dead stop in a matter of seconds. The back hatch opened, exposing me to a foreign world. Like magic, I was on the deck of an aircraft carrier. It was like I landed in the film, “Top Gun” with $65 million F-18s and Prowlers landing and taking off every 45 seconds just yards away from me. The jet blast from their engines scorched my skin and just about knocked me off my feet. The entire thing was surreal.

Amazing, here I was, a skier by trade, walking off a transport plane after tail hooking onto the deck of an aircraft carrier with a Warren Miller movie in my hand to show that night. It is strange where this film has taken me. Stranger yet that two weeks later I would be flying back out to the Nimitz to hitch a ride. And with me, two of Warren Miller’s premiere cameramen to film the trip.

As you will see in this year’s film, “Higher Ground,” my second trip to the Nimitz has become the opening of my Warren Miller segment this season. I hope you’ll head to the theater to enjoy it with me.


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