Monday, August 22, 2011

Guest Post: How I Spent my Summer Vacation, by Alice

It's time for another Guest Post!  This one comes from Alice over at A Whimsical Wonderland.  There, you can find her writing about a veritably panoply of interests, including scrapbooking, homeschooling, developing her personal style, the newest book she's reading, and anything else that may catch her eye.  Read on for Alice's fun tale about her summer vacation!

Hello!  My name is Alice, and today I am excited to share my Adventure to AirVenture in Oshkosh.

Here’s the background. My husband Jonas LOVES to fly and he has a two-seat airplane called a Pipistrel Virus. He recently became the Canadian Distributor for Pipistrel and was invited to attend and display his plane at the Oshkosh air show, EAA AirVenture, by the American Pipistrel Distributor.

The adventure begins like this.
Jonas: “Do you want to come to Oshkosh with me next week?”
Me: “What’s Oshkosh? Ooh! Is it related to Oshkosh B’Gosh clothing?”
Jonas: “Oshkosh is the home of the largest air show in the world. It is a week long with an air show everyday.”
Me: “Oh. I’ve never heard of that. Do they make the clothes there?”
Jonas: “ Probably. Do you want to go?”
Me: “Shopping! Yeah I’ll come!”
Jonas: “There is not enough room in the plane for shopping.”
Me: “I can’t shop?”
Jonas: “No. Do you want to come?”
Me: “Okay, it sounds interesting. Where are we staying?”
Jonas: “Don’t worry there are some houses to stay in.”

I'd love to report that we started our adventure with blue skies, but I’m here to share a TRUE story. The skies were grey and overcast, and in some areas there was rain. This was not the way to start a great adventure! We had to divert from our “planned” first stop. Then we had to wait around for a few hours for the weather to clear. In flying there is an expression, “If you have time, fly!” I’m beginning to understand exactly what that means! Eventually we made it to Lethbridge, Alberta, and the following day we attended Alberta’s International Air Show. What a fantastic event!

On Sunday, July 24, 2011, we left Lethbridge at 8 am. After stopping in Williston, North Dakota for border crossing and a Texas BBQ lunch, our next stop was Eau Claire, Wisconsin for fuel before heading into Oshkosh. The “rules of going to Oshkosh” very clearly state to make sure you have plenty of fuel before arriving! You might have to hold in a pattern for awhile before you have a chance to land. We landed at the Oshkosh airport at 7:20 p.m. We had a total flight time of 7 hours and 45 minutes from Lethbridge. Here’s the best part! We used 46 gallons of fuel with a total cost of only $230!

I’d never seen so many airplanes in my life! The sign on the control tower said, “The World’s Busiest Control Tower”. Up to 10,000 aircraft fly in, many people camp under the wing of their airplane. We drove by the RV camping area. Field, after field, after field, of RV’s and tents. They went on for miles! AirVenture has over half a million visitors.

I was relieved to find out that there really was a house for us to stay in. Most members from the Pipistrel team stayed in three houses on the same street in a lovely residential neighbourhood. Our family moved into their basement and we had the main living space. At first I thought it was strange to be living in their master bedroom, while they slept in the basement, but they were so gracious and friendly it soon felt like home. The two girls loved hearing aboot Canadian things, eh?

On the first day I mostly stayed near the Pipistrel display booth and talked to visitors that were interested in the aircraft. The planes and gliders are sleek and fuel efficient. People are very interested when they see them and I fielded a LOT of questions. I know many of the basic answers to the questions people ask about the planes. What kind of engine is in it? How fast is it? How far can you go on a tank of fuel? What is the wingspan? How much can you carry? I answered the same questions over and over. Anything technical I sent over to my husband. I was amused at how people thought they wouldn’t be able to fit in the airplane, and once they tried it, they were surprised at how spacious it was.

I also helped Jonas by chatting with the wife-whose-eyes-glaze-over-after-5-minutes-of-airplane-talk. That way Jonas was free to chat with the airplane-obsessed husband. I see this as a win-win situation. I get to talk about something other than airplanes, while creating more time for the guys to do their thing! Occasionally the women were as into flying as their husbands. Oh no! Does this happen over time? Or were they always interesting in flying?! I did make one important discovery on the first day, I found the flushing toilets. No port-a-potty’s for this girl!

Day 2
On the second day I proclaimed that it was, “My day off!” I decided that I could not hang out at the booth, answering airplane questions for another day. I went to the museum. I listened to a speaker talk about the Concorde jets. I was surprised that it was so interesting! After exploring the museum I had lunch with a woman who is also married to an airplane enthusiast. I finally found someone I could ask what EAA stood for without feeling like a fool. Experimental Aircraft Association. Oh. That makes sense!

Day 3 A rainy day at Oshkosh.
It was rainy today. Very rainy. Near flooding rainy. Not a great day for camping in a tent! Thank goodness for the lovely home we were staying in! Today I was invited to go and listen to Chuck Yeager speak. My response was, “Who’s Chuck Yeager?” The woman that invited me to come with her looked at me like I had just sprouted antennae! Chuck Yeager was the first pilot to fly supersonic. Cool! Yes, I’d like to go hear him speak. Thankfully the afternoon dried up because today our “house families” had organized a BBQ for us. How sweet was that?!!

Day 4
Today was my warbird tour day. Several times I was informed that I should be sure to check out the warbirds. (war-era aircraft) I finally hopped on the tram that took me down to the warbirds. It turns out that to a not-obsessed-with-airplanes person like me a warbird looks just like another airplane! So the warbirds tour really didn’t take very long! I did find a great place to get a really delicious hamburger, priorities!

Day 5
I decided to check out the Honda Jet and the new Boeing Dreamliner 787. I was not willing to stand in the MASSIVE line up to go inside of it. Later I heard it was a disappointing tour. They didn’t have it all prettied-up inside yet. So there really wasn't much to look at. The heat and humidity was really getting to me! I mostly stayed near the booth and I even had a nap. By the end of the day I couldn’t wait to leave and go back to our lovely air-conditioned house.

Nearly every day that we have been here we have had breakfast at iHOP and dinner at the Golden Corral buffet. If you have ever had an iHOP omelet (I heard they use 12 eggs!) or experienced the gluttonous insanity of the Golden Corral, well, it is definitely an experience! I ordered my omelet with egg whites only and I didn’t even eat half of it, and never mind the pancakes that come with it! At the Golden Corral I filled half of my plate with salad, found a few other delicious choices and did NOT go back for seconds! I did have some dessert, but even with the profusion of choices I managed to keep things in control! We found that with our varied group of people; Canadians, Australians, Slovenians and Americans, we all found something that we could enjoy.

Day 6
It was ridiculously hot! I was melting like the Wicked Witch of the West. We missed out on breakfast at iHop today. That was very disappointing. Jonas actually took time to have lunch with me today at the advertisers pavilion. He has been a die-hard at the booth, talking airplanes from morning until night, not even stopping for food! I had another nap. This heat is horrible! How do people live here? We could see a storm coming, but we didn't expect the severity of the wind. The wind wreaked havoc on the nearby garbage and littered our site with trash. We hurried to take down the flags and tents. We even took the tails off of the planes so they would stay on the ground better. Fortunately all people and aircraft in our area survived without incident.

Day 7
The last day of Oshkosh was swelteringly hot. I was so uncomfortable all day. It was a huge relief when the day neared to an end and we could pack up for our departure the next day. I treated myself and bought an Oshkosh AirVenture T-shirt. It was half price as it is dated 2011. That brought my total shopping purchases to: 3 T-shirts, (I bought one for Joe and Ryan earlier) an airplane-shaped cookie cutter, and a pound of Osh-blend coffee. There was a bus available to take me to the Outlet mall, but I knew that was a temptation that would be IMPOSSIBLE to resist!

Day 8 Return from Oshkosh.
We left the house at 6 am and went directly to the airport. We loaded up our bags... I didn't exactly travel lightly, although I tried to. Once we were loaded we pushed the plane to the taxiway. Soon we were in the air headed for home. We stopped in Bemidji, Minnesota for fuel and food. After Bemidji we were heading to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan for Customs and border crossing. We had a horrible headwind that made us go very slowly, while still burning up all of our fuel, so we diverted to Regina.

As we were landing in Regina there was a MAJOR problem. We had a flat tire! The plane skidded on the wheel pant tearing a big hole in it. Then we were stuck out on the runway at the Regina International Airport. Some big passenger jets were waiting for us to get out of the way but we required assistance. While we were getting things sorted out we let the tower know that the runway needed to be checked for the broken piece of our plane. It was found and we were dragged to a side taxi-way for repairs. Luckily Jonas had a spare tire tube and a mini air compressor so he fixed us right up. Then he taxied over to the Customs area and I rode with the airport assistance. After sorting out Customs, and getting more fuel we were cleared to leave.

Our next stop was Edmonton, Alberta. We just didn't have enough fuel to get home. (So close, but so far!) This headwind was so frustrating! Upon landing in Edmonton we discovered that our tire was flat AGAIN! We didn’t have another tube. So we had to stay in Edmonton for the night.

Day 9 HOME!
Hooray! We were able to find a tire tube and after a quick repair we made the final leg of our journey home! Oshkosh AirVenture really was an amazing adventure! Everything was extreme; from the temperatures, to the massive size of AirVenture, to the kindness of the people. It was so good get home, but I can’t wait to go again next year! Maybe next year I'll manage to pack light and I'll extend my adventure to the Outlet Mall!

Have a whimsically wonderful day!

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