Well, here it is, sunrise over Oshkosh. 6:07 a.m., abeam the North 40 Campground, to be precise.
That, my friends, is reveille at AirVenture: Thousands of radial-engine horses stampeding deafeningly about 18 inches over our tents.
To those aviation enthusiasts being dragged so rudely from Morpheus’s sweet embrace, it may be a more welcome sound than any other alarm clock. In fact, here’s a fund-raising idea for the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA): Record that World War II thunder and sell the MP3 file for download to cell phones around the world.
The smell of bacon wafts tantalizingly our way. Is that coffee, perhaps? Must. Find. Coffee.
How fine, then, is it when I discover this nectar of the gods brewing not 10 feet from my tent? “I need coffee. You have coffee. Can we be friends?”
This new friendship actually arose a few days ago, our having joined a gang of pilots intending to fly their Mooneys to Oshkosh, tucked in way too close to each other. They’re ever so welcoming of strangers, so we follow them to the World’s Biggest Fly-In, and soon learn that their hospitality extends even to the much-needed caffeine fix.
The dawn ‘til dark fun seems to be standard among the formation arrival types. There’s always a gang hanging out at the Cessnas-to-Oshkosh tent, and at the B-2-Osh tent as well. It looks as if the Beechcrafters are eating exceedingly well every night. The Cessnas have their own popcorn machine, and the Mooney drivers seem to provide well for the thirsty camper. Every evening, there are people with fun stories, maybe invitations to wander over to the nearest restaurant with the gang.
That is one of the very fun things about participating in one of those mass arrivals. The newbie has already been introduced, as it were. It’s a tailor-made in-crowd. There’s a big circus tent with tables and chairs, tubs of ice and sodas, maybe a keg at some point, pizza and snacks to share, other fine things to eat and drink, and a long generator-driven power strip to recharge everybody’s portable electronic devices. The sponsoring organizations have arranged for several meals, and if everybody else was as lucky as we Mooniacs were, even an FAA Wings-credit seminar one evening.
There’s the chance to pick the brains of knowledgeable pilots of the same sort of bird you fly. If you fly a Mooney, there’s an uproariously funny ceremonial occasion, chances to admire even prettier, better-equipped airplanes than your own, and talk about great places to fly them.
There’s also the promise of all-year flying to be done. Even on Day 2, there’s already plotting afoot in the Mooney tent about future regional fly-ins and formation clinics.
School buses make the rounds of the North 40 every 15 minutes or so, picking up and delivering campers to the gate, and the equally frequent trams on the exhibit grounds, saving our stamina for use where it counts, seeing the sights inside the fence. We arrive at the entry gate early, while it’s still cool, and notice that there’s already a mile-long line of off-site motorists looking for parking within a half-day’s hike. I am sympathetic.
Admittedly, there are challenges to North 40 camping. Showers are an adventure, but refreshing after a dusty day. Each curtained cubical offers a water-saving sink-sprayer, with the hose much too short for effective use by the less-tall. Pro tip: The handicapped shower hose is long enough. It does take a little technique-adjusting to master one-handed hair-washing. Modesty? Left that at home. There’s a choice between getting the towel and clean clothes wet, or traipsing to the hooks over yonder in a dripping birthday suit. I realize that everybody else is in the same boat, and nobody’s noticing.
For senior campers, there’s the inevitable middle-of-the-night trek to the nearest portapotty. But insomnia, at least, isn’t a problem after a day of nonstop Oshkoshing. A camper’s bedtime comes early.
And so does the dawn. Before you know it, …roooOOAAAAArrrrrrr… it’s another good morning at Oshkosh. Up and at ’em. We got airplanes to admire!