Old Pilot’s Camper Journal


Waking up at 4:30 a.m. is generally difficult. That is, unless it is the night before Sun ‘n Fun getaway day. I remember the night before leaving for my first show in 1984 like it was last week. I could not sleep then either. My traveling companions, both engineers, are Forrest, who claims to have built the second Rutan Defiant to break ground (Burt having built the first), and Peter, who is 90% finished with a Starduster and a RV-7 (building one plane at a time is just too boring). Jim, who built and then sold a Rans S-12, will join us later today. Although I will have orbited the sun 66 times next month, each of these gentlemen are older than me.

Peter stepping down from the helm of his aircraft carrier. It’s a different kind of “RV.”

I arrived to pick up Forrest at his house at 6:00 a.m. He already had his camping gear piled up at the end of the driveway. He couldn’t sleep either. We met Peter at the parking lot of the County DMV. While Forrest and I were waiting in the Honda Ridgeline, Peter cruised up in a motor home that was the size of a small aircraft carrier (CVN-83). We christened the left rear tire in the darkness of the parking lot and then proceeded to I-285 to make our way from Atlanta to Lakeland.

Breakfast occurred at a Waffle House in Macon, a COVID palace, but we didn’t mind because all three of us were fully vaccinated and marinated. At least it had all of the requisites of a suitable southern breakfast establishment; they served bacon, eggs, grits and had waitresses who called you honey or sweetie.


The rest of the rain soaked slog down I-75 was rough. We passed 5 wrecks, two of which involved overturned cars. Eventually, we shot the ILS 9 into County Line Road and taxied up to Camper Registration on Drane Field Road. The smiling faces of the registration volunteers signaled that we had truly landed at a friendly LZ. The good news was that Forrest and I scored a primo tent camping site, close to the showers and the Country Store. The bad news came in the form of continued rain, making tent set up a bit of a swim. Meanwhile, Peter’s setup of CVN-83 involved finding a spot among the cow patties in the repurposed pasture/24 hour generator campground, and setting the brakes. We met back in the great room. Forrest and I decided that we were spending the first night in Peter’s mansion. Although this 40-foot specimen of recreational pulchritude had a full bath, a big screen TV and motorized lounge chairs (no lie), it could only sleep one couple in the master suite and another on the couch. Since I wasn’t going to snuggle up with Peter in the back, I ended up pulling cushions off the banquette in the dining room and lining them up on the floor. A sleeping bag on top of the cushions proved to be the perfect setup. My eyelids closed shop before 9:00. I dreamed I was flying.


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