The last full day at the Sun ‘n Fun fly-in is always a little melancholic. Although I have been yearning to get back home to regale my sweet wife with tales of adventure in central Florida, part of me just wants to stay. It is ridiculous, of course, because everyone else is just going to pack up and head home, leaving me in an empty campground. Last night, around 2:00 a.m., I heard a rustling in the leaves near my tent. Since this is not Tennessee, I didn’t think it was a bear, but I grabbed my flashlight and zipped open the tent just to make sure. It was an armadillo, about the size of a regulation NFL football. He was calmly rooting around looking for a midnight snack, oblivious to the hundreds of tents littering his stomping grounds. It occurred to me that, when all of us campers are gone, it will be business as usual for him.
I could have not asked for a better last evening at SNF. I had a ticket to the legendary Steak and Salmon cookout held at Homebuilt Camping the last Friday of the show. I forgot to ask when the festivities would commence, so I arrived at 5:00 to be safe. Heidi Mogg, the Queen of Homebuilt Camping, was busy with the arrangements. She told me that they were scheduled to serve at 6:00, but that it usually was about 7:00 when the plates actually hit the table. That gave me time to take a last tour of the beautiful ships that populated Homebuilt Parking and Homebuilt Camping. God help me, I never get tired of admiring homebuilt airplanes. Each and every one has a story of effort, determination and artistic expression. If you are luck enough, the builder will be close by and willing to talk about his or her experiences with their beloved ship. It is a privilege to hear their stories.
As the Steak and Salmon cookout ramped up, scores of well tanned campers gathered in the HBC big white tent, their living room. Although I knew few people in the crowd, I quickly met fellow homebuilders and we swapped hangar stories. Heidi shouted above the fray that dinner was ready and we all lined up for the tasty buffet. I wisely chose half steak and half salmon. It was even better than advertised. If there is anything more excellent than dining on freshly grilled steak and salmon (with a heavenly sauce) on a picnic table next to Runway 9-27 at Sun ‘n Fun with fellow pilots, I could not begin to articulate what it would be. As a side note, they ran out of plastic forks and we had to negotiate with plastic knives and spoons. No one complained.
As I drive home tomorrow, dodging the spring breakers, it will be these memories that will make me smile.