It doesn't matter how many times you do it -- taking a ride on a helicopter is as about as close to good sex as it gets.
I'd taken along a book for the flight from Kabul, Afghanistan, to a U.S. military forward operating base close to the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan. I shouldn't have bothered, as this was yet another ride to remember.
We flew on a twin-rotored U.S. Army Chinook helicopter, a massive beast of a bird. I sat next to the open tailgate and watched smooth new buildings almost shine against the rough rock strewn terrain. I saw too the stark contrast of new black tarmac road cutting a sinewy trail over a mountain pass. I smiled. The last time I drove that road, roughly two years ago, there were more potholes than hardtop.
The beauty of the country, as we skimmed mud roof tops, wove down mountain valleys 10,000 feet up, was staggering. From up here, Afghanistan looked fresh. The darkness that drenched the country under Taliban rule before 9/11 appeared to be washed away.
After touching down at the forward operating base, I watched my colleague Anderson Cooper begin a live broadcast with troops from the third brigade of the 10th Mountain Division, who were gathering for a minute of silence for the dead of the 9/11 attacks. Suddenly, a rocket whistled in, landing a half mile or so from the base. (Watch Anderson Cooper dodge rocket attack -- 2:24
It got my adrenalin pumping. What I felt was pure momentary fear, then the realization I'd better get on with my work and get reporting.
The reality I'm finding here is that while some parts of Afghanistan may be all shiny and new, Taliban fighters are hitting back with a vengeance not seen since 9/11. They may not be strong enough to overthrow the country, but they are still a force to be reckoned with.