Day 4: Friday, April 20, 2007
There was no noisy low-level sleep interruption activity this morning, so I slept in to the wickedly decadent time of 7:30. At that point there was no reason to stay in bed, because every other human being in the campground was up and getting ready for another day in the Florida sun.
Our new neighbors in the next campsite turned out to be two guys from the greater Quad Cities area. Due to time and other constraints, they came down on the airlines, which is about the least favorite way there is, in part because you’re so severely limited in what you can carry. As they themselves put it, their tent is smaller than the foam cooler they bought on the way from the rental car office.
Not everyone here is as dedicated to roughing it as us sleeping-bag-in-a-tent types are. There are also campers and trailers of every size and description, and RVs that start as glorified conversion vans and top out in custom-built truck-based conversions that look like a cross between an 18-wheeler and a Pullman car and cost somewhere north of half a million. Not far from our camp site a local RV dealer has a sales display set up with at least a dozen large, expensive, luxurious and inviting (remember, I’ve been sleeping on the ground all week!) RVs. I must admit to a bloom of pride in my country when I look out across the camping area, and see dozens and dozens of RVs. Nice ones. The economic power they represent — it must be above the billion-dollar mark, at least — is astonishing. And it’s all privately-held discretionary money. No one who owns a quarter-million-dollar RV bought it because they had to.
And I haven’t gotten to the dollar value of the aviation stuff here. Even the smallest ultralight that bears a passing resemblance to an airplane instead of a lawn chair is worth more than a few thousand dollars. And there are hundreds of them here. Add in the vintage planes, the rotorcraft, the seaplanes, the warbirds, and without even including the display area, we’re up to a dollar amount that’s so big they wouldn’t teach it to us in school because they didn’t want our heads to explode. We who live here are lucky, especially compared to most of the population of this Earth, and we ought to remember that when we get to moaning about our troubles.
The aerobatic Beech 18 was back last night, right at the end of the day’s show flying. I got a few pics. The pilot does stuff with that airplane that would get the rest us us arrested, but he does it so well.
There’s a very entertaining act (and at last something new on the air show circuit) involving a Stearman and a Schweizer 300 flying in various permutations of formation flight. At one point someone far braver than I transfers from one aircraft to the other as they zoom past air show center at 80 or so knots and 500 feet. Oh, and the helo flies backwards at one point as fast as the biplane does forward. I tried hard to get a pic of these bits, but unfortunately my camera wasn’t up to it. That’s why you haven’t seen more action shots this week. Blurry dots don’t tell you much.
In addition to the F-18s, there are a covey of T-45s and a trio of A-10s on the ramp. All will put on flying displays tomorrow, which unfortunately I will miss. A B-1B was scheduled to do a fly-by today, but if it did I missed it. And I was looking for it, too.
Most folks with the color-coded wrist bands that indicate a full-week attendee (and that’s by far the majority of people I see) have now achieved the nice even shade of a well-cooked lobster. They exude an air of satisfied exhaustion. It’s been a good week, a good show, and whatever they came here for, they found it, and they’re glad. Officially there are two more show days, and the biggest daily crowds, they tell me, are yet to come. If you’re an Aaron Tippin fan, he’s playing tomorrow night.
And for the rest of you: It’s been a pleasure. And I say that as someone who hates camping who’s just lived a week in a tent. If you’ve ever considered going to a big show like Sun ‘N Fun or Oshkosh, get off the pot, and go to the show. Spend a week or even just a day, but don’t miss one of the truly unique things you can do in this life. And remember: Saying you’ve been to one of these shows is a way for anyone, even non-pilots, to make any pilot you talk to jealous. And you can’t put a price on that.
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