Well, my old trusty Boing 737-900 successfully transported me and a cabin full of paying pax from Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson airport to Milwaukee. Even though I was sitting in row 31, the fact that I am a fully licensed private pilot and willing to take the controls if both the Captain and the FO should pass out leads me to consider myself a part of the crew. Just before our descent into MKE we hit some moderate turbulence, but I feel that we, as a crew, handled it well.
The rental car ride from Mitchell Field north to Oshkosh never gets old. The bustling mini metropolis of Milwaukee soon melts into the corn fields, wind farms and buffalo pastures of rural Wisconsin. Soon enough, I pass Fond du Lac and a few short moments later the EAA Museum appears off the port bow, the final sign that I have arrived at the big show.
Although I was hungry for a bite of lunch during the car trip, I resisted the drive-throughs along the way. My reward was the Sacred Heart tent and grill, located just yards from the main entrance, where the kind parishioners served me an honest to God Wisconsin brat. It tasted like something your grandpa would grill up. Sweet, meaty and juicy. With that, my week at OSH began.
I walked into the AirVenture grounds, where exhibitors were madly preparing for opening day on Monday. Even two days before the starting gun, there is a gracious plenty to see and do. I made my way through the bustle straight to the Vans Aircraft tent, where they will debut the game changing RV-15 this week. Although photos and videos of the “Engineering Prototype” have been leaked, few have seen it in person. There was a vacant block of grass in the southeast corner of the Vans plot but the RV-15 was nowhere to be seen. I am guessing that it will lead the parade during the RV mass arrival on Monday.
During the hottest part of the day, I realized I was still in my airline traveling clothes; long sleeve shirt, long pants and a blazer jacket. It was time to set up camp and change. This year I am not pitching a tent. Instead, I pitched a credit card to an impossibly cheerful co-ed at the Gruenhagen Conference Center at the University of Wisconsin, Oshkosh and she gave me a key to a dorm room. It was stark, but squeaky clean. And then there is that other thing; no air conditioning. I quickly surmised that a cheap and locally sourced box fan would help. A trip to the nearest Walmart was in order. Cruising in through the front door of the Walmart Super Center, I realized that several hundred of my fellow campers were also there, provisioning for the week ahead. In my head, I used my David Attenborough voice to whisper, “these are the ancestral hunting grounds for aviatorus camperus, a breed which congregates each year during the last week in July to reinvigorate the species.”
As the sun set on central Wisconsin, a convective super cell dumped several inches of rain on Oshkosh. Returning to my stark dorm room, I fully appreciated that it was dry and safer than a tent in a thunder storm. As night falls, I am very tired (being an old man and everything), but it will be hard to sleep when so much magic lies in the week ahead.