Camping at a fly-in is an experience of all of the senses, the pastel sunrise you see when you unzip the door of your tent, the cool breeze you feel late at night in your cot and, of course, the frank smell of newly serviced portable toilets. What you may remember most, however, are the things you hear at night. Last night, after a full day of Sun ‘n Fun exploration and dinner at (yet another) buffet with twelve fellow old pilot campers, it was all I could do to shower and hit the cot. The night air show had just started, but I was spent. It took me about three seconds to fall asleep.
About an hour or so later I awoke from a fever dream, replete with snarling props, fireworks explosions, Brazilian salsa music and the baritone voice of Bill Bell relating a flying story around the camp chair circle. There was no going back to sleep. I pulled on a pair of shorts and a t-shirt and joined the circle. The air show having been completed, we tried to keep our voices down to avoid waking fellow campers. The nylon walls of tents have absolutely no sound insulation value. A lesson learned years ago when I was aircraft camping at SNF next to a young and frisky couple in their RV-7A. I simply could not make eye contact with either of them the next morning.
Finally, after midnight, the camp chair circle broke up and I retired back to my tent. This time it took me a full minute and a half to conk out. As everyone who has ever camped out at either SNF or AirVenture knows, there is always some kind soul who makes sure that no one ever oversleeps and misses important morning events at the fly-in. At OSH, a roaring T-6, with the prop full forward, would snarl over the campgrounds at 7:00 a.m. It was rumored that Paul Poberezny himself was the PIC of the wake up T-6.
For the last two years at SNF, the wake up calls have been provided by Amazon, who launches their 757s from runway 27 at precisely 7:00 a.m. I know those things don’t have afterburners, but it sure sounds like they do. Believe it or not, I was able to actually drift off back to sleep after Amazon’s free delivery. However, someone must have pushed the snooze button. Precisely at 7:15, a huge truck with big forks on the front proceeded to empty the two dumpsters located yards from my tent. I had no idea that emptying a dumpster required the use of explosives. It sounded like an RPG detonated. It was especially effective when the driver bounced the dumpster over the cab of the truck several times to make sure that the last paper napkin would be dislodged into his cargo hold. They say that jet noise is the sound of freedom. I guess the sound of dumpster wake up calls must be the sound of fly-in camping freedom.