Tomorrow, I leave for 8 days in Wisconsin. Not really my first choice for a vacation destination (sorry, Cheeseheads), I’m more of a tropical island kind of guy. But I’m not vacationing.
I’ll be working with the Aero-News.net crew at EAA’s AirVenture 2009 at Oshkosh. It’s the granddaddy of all airshows. More airplanes and more different airplanes than are assembled maybe anywhere else on earth. It’ll be 6 days of intensive reporting and two days of travel. But it’s not my first trip to Wittman Field.
It was the early ‘80’s. 1982 or ‘83, probably. I drove my Volkswagon microbus from Bedford to Oshkosh for the show. I’d built it out so I could sleep in it, and rolled out with minimal supplies and gear, alone. Kind of an ultimate road trip. I had no reservations for a place to stay, I just went. It’s kind of a fun way to travel.
Making my way around the Chicago Loop, the clutch cable on my bus started to go … a strand at a time. It seemed like every time I stepped on the clutch, another strand let go. The Loop is a toll road, and it was long before the days of an EZ Pass. I really have no idea how I managed to limp my way around Chicago, past Milwaukee, and on to Oshkosh.
The first campground I pulled into had a spot. I didn’t need electric or water, really. The bus was pretty bare bones. I don’t even remember having any cooking stuff or food, just a sleeping bag and some spare clothes.
At the campground, I met a man who had come to the show with his three sons, also in a Volkswagon van. For the life of me, I can’t remember his name, but he called one of his sons “Sasquach”, because he had such big feet. He told me he’d help me work on the van, and I recall lying on my back in the grass under the bus adjusting the wingnut that would take the slack out of the cable. I got back in the van, stepped on the clutch, and the cable broke completely.
My new-found friend offered to take me to Appleton to the nearest VW dealership was located to buy a new cable. He took a day from his vacation and away from the airshow to drive me to Appleton.
We got the cable and installed it. I don’t know if I ever thanked him properly for his kindness.
Oddly, I don’t remember anything about the actual airshow. Not a bloody thing. I do remember a massive traffic jam getting back to the campground, but that’s about it. It seems strange, that I went to airplane Mecca, and don’t remember seeing a single airplane. But the human part of the experience has stayed with me for nearly 30 years.
And that’s why we wander, and follow la Vie Dansante, the Dance of Life. This trip will be all about work and airplanes, though I’m sure there will be some fun mixed in as well. I’m looking forward to being steeped in airplanes again, and maybe get in one or two.
I’ll try to blog a bit in the process as well. But bear with me if things are a little light.