The aeroplane is still sitting abandoned ( only by me) in Chino awaiting it's return ride from Chino. Early indications are not good for a smooth recovery but that will play out in weeks to come. For now I find myself reflecting on the trip with all it's triumphs and whether there were any parts that perhaps didn't quite hit expectation.
The trip we made to OSH the first time had always felt like a missed opportunity. I really had no idea what to expect so I mismanaged my time. I really met nobody. Even the Falco folk that were there remained largely a mystery. I really wanted to change things this time. I wanted to make the Oshkosh experience more socially focussed and about people.
I think people that know me well would say that I'm not really a hugely social person. They would probably be right. I don't enjoy small talk, I can't see the point and I don't do it well. I don't have a wide selection of friends. I prefer a couple of good friends rather than a lot of fake ones but with all that said, it doesn't mean I don't enjoy meeting people, particularly if they have similar interests.
This trip for me was to meet people interested in aeroplanes as well as getting more of a feel for the American people along the way. It was going to be an aviation overindulgence and experiment in immersion of a similar but different culture.
Being a flying trip it was of course going to provide experiences that are rare for a New Zealand aviation enthusiast. I wasn't solely about people. Aviation was certainly a large part of the focus too as well as all the things that go with it. Anyone who flys light planes will tell you that you will see things flying small planes that you will never see any other way. It's the nature of the beast and it's part of why we love doing what we do so much. Only an aviator can understand this part of it.
So how did it stack up?
I wasn't let down on the people front. Along the way we were delighted by the American people. Right from when the container arrived at Chino we had people more than willing to help. In fact they wouldn't take no for an answer. Certainly without the help of Vince, Thom, Roland and the rest of Chapter 92 I couldn't have started this whole adventure. But that's aviation too to a degree.
As for more mainstream America I now firmly believe that the US people are the friendliest on the planet. They are more than willing to help and everything is done with a smile. I even noted it with driving. Here in NZ, people seem to switch into an 'angry mode' when they jump behind the wheel and road rage seems the norm. The US drivers are a lot more relaxed and as a result they are considerably better drivers. I think it's all part of their outlook.
Certainly economic pressures could play a big part in adjusting people's attitude to a more depressed and stressed state but I certainly didn't see evidence of this with the exception of the people in Pierre SD. Something there had them on a low but everyone else we met were very upbeat.
The attitude I noticed and liked a lot was that people go about doing what they do. They are happy for you to join in. If you don't like what they do, tough! I like that attitude. For instance when we left Ceday City UT our taxi driver turns up unshaven, a straw cowboy hat on playing Steppenwolfe on the radio. “There a little bit of Rock and Roll for ya” all with a cheery smile. I got the impression that if we sang with it he'd be all for it. If we asked to turn it off I'm sure we'd have been told to jam it. I love that.
The folk at the show at OSH were great. Pretty much what I expected since they are aviation enthusiasts. What was new for me was my new found (and short lived) celebrity status. I'm not big on this anyway but what I liked about it were the people I got to meet. It's always interesting meeting people whose articles you read etc and seeing what they are really like. I particularly enjoyed Bob the homebuilder and his radio show. It was fun and he is a really great guy.
So the people along the way and at OSH itself certainly made the trip all that I hoped it would be but the real icing on the cake for me was meeting Duane and Mary. I had emailed Duane many times before, himself being another Falco builder and flyer, we share to bond of a similar life track in all things Falco.
When I was in Chino I spoke with Duane on the phone for the first time in my life. He offered Darryn and I accommodation at his house. That for me is a mixed blessing. It's usually well out of my comfort zone and I don't like to outstay my welcome if things start derailing.
From the moment we taxied in at Longmont and saw Duane on his Peugeot moped we knew this guy was different. For the next few days we enjoyed Duane and Mary's hospitality and thoroughly enjoyed their company.
For the remainder of the trip there were very few passing hours when one of their names didn't pop up in conversation usually with a laugh.
Thanks Duane and Mary. You guys really made the trip for us. I hope we get to repay the favour down our way some time.