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Oshkosh, Mackinac Island

Flying the Edge of America

Saturday, July 26, 2008: Oshkosh, Wisconsin

Julia making a yummy camp meal.

We left Hancock-Houghton in Michigan for Oshkosh, Wisconsin and the world famous Oshkosh air show. It was a clear day, although a bit windy, when we left Hancock. In two uneventful hours we were ready to enter Oshkosh airspace. I had read the Notices to Airmen (NOTAM) for the event and I must say it was much easier to execute the approach and landing than to read the NOTAM. The last time I flew into an air show was in Australia about 20 years ago. I flew to the Mangalore Air Show not too long after first becoming a pilot. Oshkosh was a thousand times easer to land at than I remember of my experience at Mangalore.

Sunset over Oshkosh.

We were soon on the ground at Oshkosh where many grounds people, with taxi paddles, directed us with a minimum of fuss to our camping site on the grass by the side of the runway. In a little while our tent was up and our camp fully functional. We were soon sitting back drinking hot tea and watching the other aircraft stream into the airport.

After relaxing a bit we checked in with registration, wandered around the show grounds (which were still under construction), and found our way off the field to a Pick and Pay grocery store where we bought our dinner for that evening. We drank some very nice wine, ate our steaks, connected to the Internet via the wireless connection in our campsite, and then retired for our first night under the stars at Oshkosh.

Oshkosh Video

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Sunrise over Oshkosh.

Sleeping in a tent means you are woken by the sunrise every morning. This was true for us on our first morning under canvas, nylon really, at Oshkosh. Since we went to sleep when the sun went down at 9:00 pm the night before, lack of sleep wasn"t an issue.

Acres and acres of airplanes.

It sure was a sight to see the sunrise over so many airplanes and tents. After an excellent breakfast we walked back to the show grounds now a little more assembled than yesterday. It was good to be able to stroll around all of the displays and airplanes without massive crowds and at our own pace. It was just as hot today as yesterday so this was the second day of baking in the Wisconsin sun.

But we walked completely around the entire vast Oshkosh site and still managed to walk to the Pick and Pay to buy our dinner once more; amazing. We ate another great camp meal, drank some more great wine, and slept all night like hibernating bears.

Monday, July 28, 2008

The opening Sky Diving Team.

Today was the official opening of the air show. I have seen a few aerobatic displays in my time but I have never seen anything like the flying feats we saw this day.

Amazing aerobatics.

We also saw amazing aircraft, everything from oversized jumbo jets (which we believe are the way of the future for all American commercial aircraft given the increasing girth of the average American), to the most amazing homemade airplanes. Julia and I staked out a shady spot next to the main display field and guarded it all day only to have some very fat and obnoxious "monster truck" people block our perfect and long guarded view just as the show started.

After the air show, the rock band Foreigner played to a very sun burnt and dehydrated crowd. I would have to say that Foreigner had the worst sound system I have ever heard at an open air concert. I used to be a fan of this band but I could not bear to hear them under such unflattering circumstances.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008: Mackinac Island, Michigan

Mackinac Island with a Golden Gate lookalike bridge in the foreground.

We bid Oshkosh a fond farewell today and flew to Mackinac Island in Michigan. I called flight service for a weather forecast and they assured me the weather would be clear for this flight, but after leaving Oshkosh we soon found ourselves in instrument weather as we zipped over the Great Lakes. When we got to within 40 miles of Mackinac Island the weather cleared and we could finally see all of the islands and lakes.

Mackinac Island has no automobiles and hasn"t had any since the 1890's. It is a beautiful place, much more so than I had imagined. Covered with lush green vegetation and trees it seems to be a very popular tourist spot. Once we landed Julia called a taxi to take us to our hotel on the main street. It took an hour for the horse drawn buggy to arrive and clip clop us down the narrow tree lined paths from the airport to Main Street. You do not want to be in a rush when on the island.

Main Street.

We checked into the hotel and after washing the camping grime from our sun drenched bodies we went for a walk down Main Street.

We were struck by how wonderfully quite a place is when there are no cars. All you hear is the whirring of bicycle chains, the clip clopping of horses, and the genial chatter of tourists. As you walk the streets you are given impressions of Sausalito in California, Martha's Vineyard in Massachusetts, Coney Island, and some strange Disneyland mockup; only Mackinac Island is not fake it is quite real.

We ate a magnificent dinner, at what was recommend to us as the best restaurant in town, drank lots of lovely wine, and strolled back to the hotel for our first night under a roof in a few days.

Oshkosh and flying to Mackinac Island

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Thunderstorms are never far away.

It was a late start for us today as we slept in this morning until 9:00 am; I guess we had to catch up on all the lost sleep we missed camping. Anyway, we rented a tandem bicycle and made the 8 mile ride around the island.

It was a very pleasant day, the sun was shining, there was some blue sky, and the air was cool. The tandem bike was a bunch of fun, but as Julia was on the back I am not sure if she was always doing all of the pedaling she should have. We took note of several hiking trails as we made our way around the island so the plan is to go hiking in the hinterland tomorrow.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

"When used by equine, the trails are un-divine, as they are so often covered with slime".

Today we hiked 7 or 8 miles in the hinterland of the island. Most of the trails we took were horse trails. So we came up with a little poem to recognize their influence.

A tiny fungi.

What more can I say about that. But the scenery was very green and lush. We saw quite a few birds, a squirrel or two, wildflowers, unusual fungi, and a tiny frog. At one point we came across a place known as the Battle Field. It turns out the island had changed hands several times from the British to the Americans to the British and then back again.

In 1812 at the battle field the British fought off the last attempt by the Americans to regain control. Not long after this battle the island was handed back to the Americans without blood being shed. How mad wars seem in hindsight.

From Julia: Mackinac Island is a place full of day trippers and tourists, but it is so much more than a tourist trap. It is 80% state park so there are woods and trails, bike paths and historical sites. The main drag is filled with fudge shops and fudge eaters, bicycles and horse-drawn carts, t-shirt shops and souvenirs. The buildings are wooden Victorian style, and they are all surrounded with flower filled gardens and borders. Being here feels like walking around in a film set as there's no traffic noise and everything is perfect and placed just so. Outside of the main town the island continues in appearing faultless. The lakeside is gorgeous and the wooded inland area is very wild, only the occasional historical marker or millionaire's summer cottage shows up every now and then. The island is a safe haven, a playground, and a resting place all at the same time. After our visit, our batteries are re-charged and we are ready to continue our trek.

Island Hiking Video

Friday, August 01, 2008

A typical house on the island.

From Julia: Tomorrow morning we will be back in the plane. But today we enjoyed one more day of bliss on Mackinac. We got up without any alarm clock, drank good coffee, and took a leisurely walk via Starbucks to the bike rental place. We rented a tandem bike again and spent a couple of hours exploring the inner island.

Our last memory of Mackinac Island.

For some reason or other, once again, I ended up on the back seat of the bike. The good part of being there was letting go of the handle bars and sitting back while David steered, braked and pedaled. Actually, there was no bad side to being on the back, I got to navigate and watch the scenery whiz past. The rest of the day was spent in eating, drinking wine, watching ducks, spa treatments and packing up to leave.

We are looking forward to visiting with a fellow Commander owner, looking around the Rock and Roll Museum, and visiting with a friend in Canada.

My friend Quenby sent me this video link. If you think Julia and I are traveling a lot just take a look at this guy.

Trip stats


McCain: 2

Miles Hiked: 125

Miles Flown: 3,793

States Visited: 10

Towns Visited: 15


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