June 24-Aug 1 - Oshkosh WI
From Mackinaw City, we drove west along the northern edge of Lake Michigan, stopping overnight in a neat waterfront city campground in Gladstone MI (27) before arriving at Oshkosh WI (28) around mid-day on Sunday 6/25. We've been wanting to attend the annual Airventure of the Experimental Aircraft Association in Oshkosh for a long time. This year we made it. This is arguably the largest air show in the US, maybe in the world. It draws around 10,000 aircraft for the week and upwards of half a million visitors, about 30,000 of whom camp on the festival grounds.
If you're the kind of person who likes to park near an airport and watch the planes land and take off, this is your kind of place. It is (for this week, anyway) the busiest airport in the world. If you like to wander through all the old airplanes in an air museum, this is a living museum where you can get up close to thousands of old airplanes, most of which are still flying. If you like to go to an air show and watch all those aerobatic airplanes, this is a full week with an air show every day. If you like airplanes at all, this is the ultimate candy store.
This year the gathering celebrated the 75th anniversary of the venerable DC3 airliner, and there were about 3 dozen of them on display or flying around. One of the Goodyear blimps was there, as were several never-before-seen airplanes, including a rocket-powered helicopter. There was a guy who flew his own "cluster balloon", inspired by that guy who strapped a bunch of weather balloons to his lawn chair and flew over southern California. Only difference is this rig is fully certified by the FAA, and this guy is a qualified balloon pilot. He launched it here and flew it across Lake Michigan. At night.
There was a three hour air show every afternoon, with some of the best aerobatic flyers in the world. There was a salute to Veterans almost every day with lots and lots of WW2 vintage planes flying around in formations. One afternoon, several dozen privately owned jet fighters of every description (including several Russian MIGs) buzzed the field for about 90 minutes in a marvelously choreographed (and very loud) dance. There was a helicopter that flew upside down. There were marketplaces with things you couldn't afford no matter how much money you had. There were skydivers and wing walkers and aviation celebrities and at least one (non-fatal) plane crash. And every food stand sold bratwurst, apparently the Wisconsin state sausage.
In normal years, the Airventure is pretty much self contained on the grounds of Wittman Field. This year, unprecedented rains left a lot of the airport soggy. Hundreds of RVs, including ours, were shuffled to various parking lots around Oshkosh rather than let them disappear into the mire. Hundreds (some said thousands) of aircraft scheduled to fly in were diverted to other airports (mostly temporarily) because the ground was too wet to park them. Even so, the immensity of the undertaking was apparent.
We'd planned on living a week in Oshkosh without any utilities, so arrived with our water and propane tanks filled and our holding tanks empty. And just as we arrived on Sunday afternoon, our generator died (again). Fortunately, we parked next to Roger Munsterman from Huron OH, who had an extra outlet on his generator, so we strung a cord next door and had enough power to run one of our air conditioners and keep our batteries charged. First thing Monday morning, we drove two miles to an RV service facility that claimed factory training on our generator, and within 90 minutes, they'd found and replaced a defective voltage regulator, and we were back in business. Unfortunately, the dead regulator was just a symptom of the real problem - a ground wire intermittently shorting out in a wiring harness. That problem was diagnosed and fixed shortly after the generator died again on Wednesday morning. We can't say enough about the folks at Quent's RV Service in Oshkosh, who twice managed to squeeze us in with no appointment during what they say is their busiest week of the year.
Every day, we rode the shuttle bus to the festival grounds - it's just on the other side of the freeway, but about 5 miles by road. Every day, we wore ourselves out. One day we rented a couple of "mobility scooters" and managed to get to most of the more distant parts of the complex. And still we wore ourselves out.
Pictures tell it best. Check out our slideshow here for a bunch of pictures. But only if you really like airplanes.