We had endured a long dry spell here in Arizona, and I'm not just talking about lack of rain. Following months of toil without a break, Jean and I were physically and emotionally drained. 'I must get out of here for some reason other than work,' she complained while packing for yet another business trip. 'When's the last time we went camping? Or walked a beach?'
“Hey, Dan, check out that ’39 Chevy. It’s just like the one I owned in high school – even the same color!” Dan drives a tricked out Camaro, so I doubt he appreciated the old car’s beauty as I did. Then again, my view was burnished by memories. As we crossed the road to see it, I remembered my dad encouraging me to buy the low-mileage antique he’d spotted on a street corner. Among life’s rich lessons was when girls at the Dog ‘n Suds drive-in bypassed the muscle cars to ride in my emerald Chevy. It only did 55mph, but like puppies and babies it exuded character so the girls loved it. Best of all, the narrow front seat ensured that such passengers rode deliciously nearby. After graduation I rebuilt the engine and journeyed in the old auto from Chicago through Canada to Maine and back.
'See where the river breaks over that wide rock?' said our guide, Donny. 'We need to be careful there because the water tumbles violently on the other side, like a horizontal tornado.'
Twin-engine airplanes weren't available for rent at my old home airport of Lafayette, Indiana, so when I decided to pursue multiengine training I went down the road to Herman Brown's flying service in Terre Haute. 'Brownie,' as he's known in the neighborhood, fit the mold of old time pilot examiners - hardboiled and independent, but warmhearted once you got to know him.
I thought I was doing fine flying loops and rolls, even a hammerhead, in the brand-new Pitts S2C with only 36 hours on the tachometer. A half-hour earlier, Sean D. Tucker (yes, world-famous airshow performer Sean D. Tucker) had said jokingly, “Now don’t lose your lunch in my new airplane, Laurel.” But, the flat spin did me in.
“I wonder if there’ll be time to land at the Patton Museum.” “I hope so,” said my wife, Jean. “You deserve it for flying me to Palm Springs. Besides, I’m getting sick of hearing about it.” I looked forward to delivering Jean to her annual tennis camp. Not only is Palm Springs an interesting aerial journey from Phoenix, but along the way lay an unfulfilled Flying Carpet adventure.
Don was at the island that Saturday, his bit of paradise on the Canadian side of Lake of the Woods, when the pain began. Fortunately my brother-in-law Dave was there with his wife, Barb. They rushed Don by boat and car to Kenora, Ontario, where he was airlifted to Winnipeg.
'Howdy Greg, My name is Baldy and I am a working 'wagon trash' cowboy in northern Arizona. Have a '41 T'craft I use on the ranches - I'm based at P23 [Seligman] and just built a Starduster Too. I enjoy reading your columns as it's always apparent how much you LOVE our passion, which is flying. Having said this I hope you'll visit my free web site www.pilotsharetheride.com as I am trying to help people share our love of flight and maybe expenses as well. If a $25 a day working cowboy can afford to fly, anyone can. Well sir I thank you for your time and look forward to your articles as it's great to see someone who totally tries to help the little guy get started. If you are ever around Seligman it would be a pleasure to meet you. I day-work only now on ranches and shoe 30 horses in PHX every 5-6 weeks. Well sir take care and fly safe, Adios for now from Baldy in No. Az.'
Flying across two-thirds of the U.S. in an old airplane can seem like crossing the Great Plains in a wagon train if the weather goes bad. It's forever from home. However, the country can just as easily shrink to the size of the local park after landing in a strange place and meeting someone who feels like a good friend.
Crowds. Craziness. Music. It’s enough to justify a road trip. I’m not talking Woodstock here, but AirVenture, that surprisingly similar event in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. AirVenture’s tunes come not from wailing guitars but from airplane engines — vying like Stratocasters for the crowd’s approval are roaring radials and screaming Merlins. Like Woodstock, there’s a crowd of individualists here, their tents pitched under wings as far as the eye can see. Most people keep their clothes on, but where else can you watch a rocket-powered biplane fly 4,000 feet straight up? No wonder we, the faithful, are drawn each year to this mammoth Oshkosh tent revival, worshipping side-by-side the flying machines that draw us skyward.