For what it's worth, my trip to Oshkosh this year was my 44th. No, let me amend that: It was my 41st to Oshkosh, plus three to Rockford, the last home of the EAA's yearly orgy of all things aerial and wondrous.
Also for what it's worth, it once again managed to push adrenal glands into high gear and make me sad to see it end. However, as I sit here typing, my butt turning to sand and refusing to move while my brain is still mush-like in its inability to think in straight lines, I have to admit something I've never admitted before: A week of Oshkosh is too much of everything, which, of course, makes it just about the right amount of everything. It's one of those "everything to excess, nothing to moderation" things that leaves you smiling but absolutely dead from adrenaline letdown afterward. How can we possibly be expected to function in the real world after a week in that "other" world—the one that's all about flying machines, flying folks and, in this case, flying porta-potties.
Okay, so they weren't actually flying. More like preparing for slow taxi by aligning themselves better with the ground. As in laying down on the job. This courtesy of a short, but incredibly exciting, 10 minutes of wind and rain that had everyone involved saying, "Oh, no, not another Sun 'n Fun!" We couldn't have two tornados at two major fly-ins. That would mean the gods had it in for us.
Turns out the gods were just tweaking our noses, and the 50-plus-mile-per-hour wind with rain so heavy you couldn't see two car lengths, was just Ma Nature's way of reminding us who was REALLY in control at Oshkosh. In a narrow band across the grounds, that had yours truly right in the middle of it, winds were so high they tumbled dumpsters across the ground and exceeded the posted crosswind component of Port-A-Lets by a sizeable margin.
One of the unnoticed aspects of the brief event was that the rain hadn't really let up before people standing around the dumpster blast zones started cleaning up. As if there was some sort of person-to-person telepathic connection, individuals started chasing down the blowing trash, like a bunch of ants protecting their burrows, righting the dumpsters and cleaning up the area.
The above scene was so typical of the EAA mentality and would have made a great YouTube moment: Where else would you have thousands of rain-soaked people scurrying around in the aftermath of a near-tragedy cleaning up trash? Where else, 10 minutes after 50 mph winds roared across a monstrous outdoor event, would you be hard-pressed to find a single piece of wind-blown trash anywhere on the grounds? For me, that may have been one of the more inspirational observations of the week. It made you proud to be part of such a group.
By the way, miraculously, only two aircraft were blown over, one of which damaged another. That's truly amazing and speaks volumes as to how well the majority tied their aircraft down.
Another amazing aspect of this year's av-extravaganza was the yellow tint given the proceedings by the presence of over 150 Piper Cubs. Think of that: 150-plus slow-moving puffballs of fabric and tube slowly migrating to a single point to be part of the celebration of their 75th birthday. As far as that goes, just think of the concept of having so many airplanes in one place that were well over a half century old with many pushing three-quarters of a century. And I'm not just talking about the Cubs.
A couple of sobering thoughts: I don't know how many aircraft built before 1930 made the trip to the Wisconsin clambake, but there were lots. That makes those flying machines 82 years old. That's pretty amazing! However, when we talk about something being a half century old, 50 years, we all think of it as being, if not ancient, at least old. The shocker is when you put 50-year-old airplanes in context: That's 1962! The Piper Cherokee was two years old at that point; the Cessna Skyhawk, six years old. Walking around Oshkosh with the age of the Cherokee/Skyhawk in mind, it was easy to see that the vast majority of the thousands of flying machines on the grounds were at least that old.
Incidentally, we gray dogs don't recognize the title "AirVenture." That's a marketing department construct, and we're not comfortable with it. It's simply Oshkosh to us. And as far as that goes, "Oshkosh" no longer means a town, but a happening, a state of mind, an island of logic in an increasingly illogical world.
As with anything as huge as Oshkosh (the fly-in), there are faults to be found. And it's easy to focus too closely on the faults and miss what it is that makes this particular gathering of birds of a feather so special. And what it is that makes it so easy to overlook its shortcomings.
For one thing, when set against the background of the world in general, even though the fly-in/convention appears to be an island, its really not. It's actually an archipelago, a group of islands, bound together by a location and common interest—flight. However, "flight" as seen at Oshkosh has so many different distinct flavors that each exists on the grounds as its own little atoll, and it's entirely possible to spend the entire time there lounging around a given island and never venturing into another.
If you're a Bonanza freak, for instance, you could easily have spent your time in the Bonanza tie-down area in the North Forty and come away perfectly satisfied with your week.
If enamored of those aircraft that make lots of noise and used to carry guns, there was no real reason to leave Warbird Island and venture south into Homebuilt Land. Or Vintage Island. Or The Island of the Aged (antiques). Each community/island was a destination unto itself, and it was totally understood if someone never ventured outside of the boundaries each interest dictated.
And for those who complain the event has become too commercial with too many vendors and such, I covered the entire event, end to end, multiple times and never even noticed all of the exhibits and marketing sideshows. They were there, but they were just neon between all the airplanes. It's easy to ignore what you're not interested in. However, if your interest leans in that direction, it's there for the taking.
I really enjoyed the acres of Cubs, the warbirds parked out of sight, the never-ending array of vintage flivvers. But mostly, I enjoyed the people. I met a lot of folks for the first time, who I know will be friends for a lifetime. I spent time with even more who are close, meet-them-once-a-year friends, and have been for many decades. We've grown right along with the growth of the event. But, we, just like AirVenture, as they insist on calling it, have never grown old. And that may be the secret of Oshkosh: It makes us all feel like kids at Christmas, right to the end.