Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Story Continues

A Portion of ConocoPhillips Square
I must begin by apologizing for the gap in posting last week. I had great plans to post each night during the week I was at Oshkosh but like the best laid plans they went astray. One issue I faced was the great barrier to all good intentions - lack of time. The days would start around 6:00 in the morning as we woke from our slumbers to greet the new day. Coffee and breakfast were foremost on our mind and usually took more time than one would think as we had to drag everything out of the back of the truck since we had lost our canopy/shelter on the first night there. Once the stove was unpacked, lit and coffee making, we could start the cooking of bacon, eggs and toast. My friend Andy is a great cook by the way. Eating the food did not take long as we were usually famished from the activities and walking of the day before. Next we had to clean up and wash the dishes by heating water on the two burner stove and packing everything away when done. The showers were next and this took some time to walk to the bath house, wait in line for an empty stall, shave without a mirror, walk back to camp and dress for the day.

As an aside I need to tell you about the number of campers and people. The campground would be measured in square miles as the estimated attendance was between 200,000 and 300,000 people and 15,000 airplanes. This creates some difficulties in getting anywhere or doing anything. We were a considerable distance out in a very large field that was divided up into squares with room to drive between the areas. These were not really roads, just lanes in the grass and after the rains they became muddy quagmires. At the worst times it was almost impossible to get from one side to the other and to the showers. I don't mean this as a complaint as everyone was considerate and helpful and the staff did an amazing job of keeping everything under control and running smoothly. You just need to understand that everything took longer than I thought it would before I got there.

To continue the outline of our typical day, we would then walk to one of the main hard roads to catch a bus to the flight line for the day. They ran the school buses very well and a number of them running but sometimes the bus would be full and you would have to wait for the next one to come by. Once on the bus it was anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes to the flight line as the bus had to meander through the entire campsite while dodging bicycles, four wheelers, walkers and every other device known to man to carry people. We saw some amazing home made motorized transportation devices such as bicycles with small lawnmower engines mounted and pulling all sorts of devices behind them. The ingenuity of these folks is absolutely amazing and is a show in itself. It was usually around 9:00 when we got off the bus to begin our day at the flight line and display areas. When I say flight line and display area I am speaking of a VERY large chunk of land. It runs for miles in two directions along both runways and a huge hanger area, all centered around Conoco Square. The square is a concrete pad large enough to park the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, a B-29, sn Airforce tanker, several fighter aircraft from WWII, a Blackhawk helicopter and an F18 with space left for people to walk about and see the displays. This is surrounded by large tents and buildings with displays from vendors, food services and the like. Then to the far north end of the runway area is Warbird Alley where all the WWII aircraft are parked along with the acres of home built aircraft. To get to this end you have to catch a tram and ride as the walk is at least a mile. Going another mile to the south on a different tram is the vintage aircraft parking and the very end is the ultra lite area.  To the west of the square lie four huge hangers filled with vendors of all kinds surrounded by more tents and flea markets for tools and used aircraft parts.

Map of the area: http://www.airventure.org/images/av11_visitormap.jpg

We would spend the next 3-4 hours of the day gawking at all the planes and strolling through the displays before heading back to the tent site to smear on the suntan lotion, fill our water bottles, pick up our chairs and get back to the flight line in time for the airshow that began daily at around 3:00 running until 6:00. You wanted to get to the airshow early to get a good location as close to the runway as possible with good view in both directions. Then we would fight the crowds to catch the bus back to camp for cooking dinner before darkness fell. Normally we would finish cooking, eating and cleaning up around 8:30 or 9:00. By this time we are so tired we button up the tent and collapse into slumber for the night.

Wireless access points were a few blocks away but were always busy and I just did not have the energy to walk there and post to the blog. All this to explain a little of the situation and my decision to just take some notes during the day and wait until I returned home to write the posts.

Please understand the comments above are not complaints as the entire event was very well ran and the volunteer staff  were amazing and very patient and considerate of everyone. I just did not realize the scale of Airventure and am still amazed at how well it is conducted. It is just the size and magnitude of it all that made it difficult to post as I intended. I beg your understanding of my departure from the announced plan but do hope you will follow the rest as I post as time permits.

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