I’ve just completed what will probably be my last pilgrimage to Oshkosh, also known as Aviation Mecca. I visited over 20 airports, flew about 3900 nautical miles (that’s about 4500 statute miles.) There were some definite points and low points of this trip.
On day 1 I took off out of Oakdale at about 7am. That’s a little later than I had hoped but I stopped for breakfast on the way to the airport and then had to gas up the airplane. I had just completed my 40 hour phase 1 flying the day before and neglected to fill the tanks. The first day’s flying took me over Lake Tahoe
and then up to Lovelock, NV for my first fuel stop.
I then continued on to Elko, NV for my second fuel stop. By this time of day it was starting to get pretty bumpy, I was beginning to doubt that I would make it to my first overnight stop at Fort Bridger, WY. The air finally calmed down a little when I got over the Salt Lake.
I headed for Brigham City intending to camp there for the night. I had my sleeping bag set up in the pilot’s lounge when a woman stopped by and demanded to know what I was doing. I figured she was the local airport police so I tried to be nice. I told her that I was tired and that I didn’t think anyone would mind if I slept in the pilot’s lounge. She informed me that this was unacceptable and then grabbed me by the arm and led me out and over to her husband. She told him, “he thinks he’s going to sleep in the pilot’s lounge.” Her husband was far more jovial. He informed me that I was not going to sleep in the pilot’s lounge, and further, he would show me where I would be sleeping. They led me into a huge hangar, at the back was a set of stairs, up the stairs and behind the door, was a set of living quarters that looked like a model home. “This”, he said proudly, “is where you will be sleeping tonight.”
There was bedroom, a full bath with jetted tub and walk-in shower, a kitchen with food and drinks in the refrigerator, and best of all it was air-conditioned. He told me to help myself to anything I liked but just leave it as neat as I found it. I then understood the woman’s outrage, she was not about to have me sleep on a couch when she could offer me so much better. I thanked them profusely and then they left. Thank you again Pearce and Dorothy!
The next morning I departed Brigham City clean, fed, and well-rested. I picked my way way through the higher peaks until I was clear of the Rockies. I stopped in Rock Springs and then Douglas WY for fuel.
When I arrived at Valentine NE for my next fuel stop, the wind was out of the south at 20 gusting to 30. I made one of my more interesting landings and then decided that I would call it quits. I asked if there was a courtesy car I could borrow, there was none. The hotels would not pick up either. I asked if I could sleep on the couch in the pilot’s lounge, I was told no. Welcome to Nebraska. I asked if I could pitch my tent in the grass, that was grudgingly acceded to. They did give me the code to the door to the pilot’s lounge so I could use the bathroom and get a drink. By about 5:30 the airport was deserted and the temperature had climbed to 103 degrees.
I decided to stay in the pilot’s lounge until the temperature dropped. By sunset (about 9:30pm in those parts) the temperature had dropped to 97 degrees and the wind was still howling. This was one of the lower points of the trip. I decided to go against the wishes of my kind hosts and sleep in the air-conditioned pilot’s lounge. I got about two hours sleep but at sunrise the wind had finally stopped blowing so I got out of there as soon as I could see to taxi.
I stopped two more times for fuel, once in Rock Rapids IA, my intended camping destination, and then Rushford MN. Then finally after three days’ journey I finally landed in Oshkosh WI!
Part 2 coming in a few days…