Over 20 years ago I was in Air Explorers, one of the programs that followed Boy Scouts. (Sadly, it doesn't seem to be an active program any longer.) It was geared towards youth who might be interested in aviation as a profession, either commercially or via the military. Participants attended weekly classes and were given the opportunity to become private pilots.
I remember riding my moped all the way across town in the early mornings to get to the small general aviation airfield where we met on the weekends. I sat in a dilapidated hanger that had been turned into a classroom, listening to the instructor explain Bernoulli, stalls, center of gravity, and similar topics. On occasion I got to ride in a Cessna 172 as the instructor demonstrated some aspect of flight that we had discussed.
While the experience was fun and gave me something to do for a few hours on the weekend, I didn't really take to it. I wasn't really motivated to get my private pilot's license and actively pursue aviation. The idea of getting my private pilot's license before getting my unrestricted driver's license was a novel one, but not something I really desired. I let the experience happen to me, nothing more.
I must have made it through the entire class curriculum as I eventually took the FAA's knowledge test, which is the first hurdle to getting a private pilot's license. Fortunately for the aviation world, I didn't pass. I quickly lost interest after that and spent my time swimming and playing tennis in high school. The idea of being a pilot soon faded from all thought.
Since then I've done a lot of flying for work, especially in the past couple of years. All that airtime started rekindling my interest in aviation. In addition, my passion for skiing has me headed out to Tahoe a couple times a month (best case) to get in a weekend's worth of skiing. Fighting the traffic out of the Bay Area is getting to be a drag, as it takes nearly six hours to cover the 250 miles between here and there. Wouldn't it be nice to soar above all that congestion, arriving at the hotel at a reasonable time, getting a good night's sleep and being fresh for the slopes the next day?
Even more fundamentally, my dream is to have a home in the Tahoe area (preferably on the Nevada side to avoid California's obnoxious taxes). All idealism about telecommuting aside, I realize that I need to be frequently present in the Bay Area for business. How do I get from Tahoe to the Bay Area quickly and conveniently?
So, I've purchased a new copy of Jeppeson's "Private Pilot Handbook" for study. I expect that it'll take me most of the year to fully learn the contents and ace (not just pass) the knowledge exam. By that time I should have enough money saved up to pay for the flight instruction that follows. Given the terrain I want to fly over I expect to need to thoroughly master not only the basic private pilot skills one learns while earning the basic pilot's license, but also earn the high performance aircraft endorsement and instrument flight rule (IFR) certification as well.
That's a lot to learn, but I'm approaching flying like I approached motorcycling: A full recognition of the risks involved, and an iron-clad commitment to the best safety gear and training available. So far that attitude has served me well in motorcycling, and I expect that it'll work similarly for flying.
Wish me luck!