Old Pilot’s Camper Journal #1 – Sun ‘n Fun 2023 Edition

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The perfect camp site under 100 year old oaks and near a shower house.

To my shame, I drove my truck to the 2023 Sun ‘n Fun fly-in. My RV-8A project is still unfinished in my garage, but I swear that it will fly soon (soon being a relative word). When it does, it will take me to future SNFs at 200 mph. I still have my trusty 1968 Cessna Skyhawk that has faithfully carried me to past air shows since 1995. However, the FAA is still cogitating on my Class III medical special issuance renewal application and I am not PIC legal. As a result, I made the 8 hour trek to Lakeland in my Honda Ridgeline, listening to EAA podcasts and contemplating the week ahead.

There is one advantage to cruising to the air show at 2 ft agl, however. My truck can carry quite the load. In past years, when I camped out under the Skyhawk’s wing with my kids, we could only carry minimal camping equipment. With the truck, the gross vehicle weight is the limit. So, instead of sleeping on the ground on a waffle mat, I can recline in comfort on a 40 pound cot and a blow-up mattress. I would trade it all, however, to circumnavigate Lake Parker and enter the pattern to land on the green dot, taxi into the grass and set up camp beside my beloved N8371L.

Sunrise over the Sun n’ Fun camp ground and control tower at KLAL. A view you can’t get if you stay at a motel in Tampa.

The fly-in begins on Tuesday, but I could not help myself, so I arrived at campground registration at noon on Saturday. All the better to score a good camp site. My efforts were rewarded when I found a wonderful site under some oak trees, fairly close to the shower house, but far enough away from the porta-potties. At first I worried that I would have nothing to do for three days until the show started, but the extra time has been a great chance to settle into campground life before the commencement of all that is SNF.

My camp site buddies have started to roll in. First came Bill Bell, a CAP Major, Grumman Tiger Driver, Silver Wings local president and all around wonderful guy. A tent camping professional, he brought a 10-man tent for himself and one other person. It has enough room to play basketball in it. Jerry Fischer is camping and volunteering for EAA. He has a 6-man tent, all for himself alone. I feel a need to keep up with the Jones and trade in my mere 4-man tent for something bigger. In true urban camper style, neither of us brought any provisions for cooking. We will rely on others to do that. Last night we drove into Lakeland and had the kind of seafood that landlocked urbanites like us yearn for 51 weeks out of the year.

There are some challenges to car camping in tents. No air conditioning and having to trudge to plastic potties in the middle of the night, to name a few. This morning I awoke to a beautiful Florida sunrise over the campground and the KLAL tower. All the negatives melted away. I literally can’t wait for the action to begin. Let fly.

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2 COMMENTS

  1. I’ve camped several times at SUN-N-FUN and have always had a great time. This time I saw they needed volunteers so I told them I would volunteer as long as they wanted for a camp spot. They said no way, so I said goodbye. Thought it would be a fair trade.

  2. Hi Steve! Jan Marker here. Thanks for sharing your experience camping at Sun ‘n Fun. Glad you got to go. See you at Oshkosh.

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