The timing for our return was ideal. Our first stop in the States would be Oshkosh, Wisconsin for the annual week-long EAA Airventure Fly-In, a gathering of aviation enthusiasts from all over the world. The Fly-In is a mecca of engineering ingenuity, good old-fashioned heart-warming patriotism, corn cobs dipped in vats of butter, and bratwurst the length of your forearm. There are over 1000 forums and dozens of how-to clinics. For one week a year the number of aircraft arrivals and departures during the Fly-In makes the Wittman Field FAA control tower the busiest in the world with 2000 take offs and landings in one day. Romantic looking Ford Tri Motors fly patterns all morning. The impressive Osprey military plane perform demonstration flights daily. Sleek looking seaplanes dock in a picturesque cove on Lake Winnebago ten miles away. There are daily air shows and nightly concerts. Over 10,000 aircraft – home-builts, Warbirds, by-planes, microlights, gliders, experimental aircraft (for which EAA was named), luxury jets, and helicopters line the fields in neat rows ready to be admired for all that is good in aviation. Pilots bring their planes to the Fly-In for affirmation, to see old friends, and to celebrate their love of flying, and of flying machines. Comments such as, “Beautiful” “Nice lines” “Looks slippery” (a good thing – it means the plane moves through the air nicely) will get a home build pilot talking for hours.
Scott attended forums all day while I walked the flight line murmuring praise to pilot and plane alike.
I was asked by almost every pilot I encountered, “What type plane did you fly here?”
“British Airways.” (Confused look from pilot) “From Africa.” (More confusion) then, “My husband is the pilot in the family. Light Sport. He doesn’t have his own plane yet.” When the pilot couldn’t bare it any longer I would finally asked the question he wanted to hear. “What do you fly?” and out would come the iPad with a planeload of photos and YouTube videos for me to coo over.
“Beautiful” “Nice lines” “Looks slippery” I said. “How long did it take you to build?” Eighteen years was a common answer. Since there are over 300,000 mostly male pilots in attendance at the Fly-In, I never lacked for company and I never had to wait in line to use the ladies room. The vibe was invigorating and inspiring, yet comfortable. Astronauts stood in the same line for Bratwurst as everyone else. Forty thousand people camped in green pastureland turned into tent and motorhome villages for a week. A large South African contingent camped and partied together near The Red Barn, a campground grocery store. We got blisters just walking to the ablution block not to mention the miles and miles we spent traversing the show grounds from forum to air show to concert to outdoor movie. But it was an incredibly positive week that reminded me of all that is good about America. It is the ideal place to land after more than a year spent abroad.
If you want to learn more about the EAA Airventure I can't say it better than EAA member Harrison Ford. There's a link to his video at the bottom of this post.
If Oshkosh provided a good dose for my Mal d’Afrique, my longing for Africa, the Santa Fe Trail was the cure.
|Camped on Scholler Field|
|Watching the action from the flight-line|
|Me with WASPS Women Air Force Service Pilots|
|Only in the Midwest can you get corn on the cob dipped in a vat of butter.|
|Bible Class still taught in German|
“Hi Richard! Hi Bill! Hi Ralph! Hi Michael!”
Every 5th day we had a blessed day off to not torture our butts and to do laundry. Some of the cyclists (I still didn’t consider myself one. I considered myself a determined woman riding her bicycle named Daisy through Middle America while consuming copious amounts of mostly artery clogging or jiggle-y jello-y food prepared by extremely kind Lutherans or cafeteria staff) began to converse with me. Mostly they asked, “Why did you decide to do this trip?” My answer, “We wanted to do something historically interesting while being active,” was met with a shake of the head. But by the middle of the second week I began getting encouragement and support from the cyclists. “Looking stronger Teresa!” “Energy!” “You’ve finally got a good cadence going!”
“Hi Don! Hi Doug! Hi Ken!”
|Otis Kansas Main Street|
|Main Street Otis in the old days|
|Mom's old farm|
|Only the barn remains|
|My compass, Martha O'Kane. With my nephew Colin O'Kane, 22 years ago.|
To learn more about the Santa Fe Bicycle Trek click HERE.