In part 1, I’d managed to make it to Pinckneyville without being shot down.
This was a genuine concern, you see. I had a little trepidation about this flight, because I was heading into a nest of vipers, or at least right wingers. I’ve crossed swords with a lot of these guys before on Usenet, because my views on subjects like the proper role of government in people’s lives and the responsibilities of the United States on the world stage are diametrically opposed to most of them. I’m a fan of John Kenneth Gailbraith, Pierre Elliot Trudeau’s Just Society, and FDR’s New Deal, while some of these people actually like George W. Bush! But I’d given up trying to talk sense into these people, and stayed the hell away from political discussions on rec.aviation in recent months.
I had hoped that our mutual interests in flying, barbecue and beer would be the glue to keep things friendly, but by the same token I had sort of hoped to be semi-anonymous. When they gave us name tags to wear, I just wrote “Paul” on mine hoping that nobody unfriendly would know it was me.
When we got there, I was starving hungry because there hadn’t been any food simulators (vending machines) at AOH, and I had tried to eat a hard boiled egg in the plane but had instead dropped it on the floor and then thrown it out the window. I begged some left-over Italian Sausage from the hosts, which helped a lot. I soon figured out who a bunch of the people there were. Tina Marie was the person who had told me that I had to come, but the only picture I’d seen of her was her on her back under an airplane, so I wasn’t sure if the person I saw there was her until she walked over to the only twin on the field – I knew she was coming in Michael’s twin so I went over and introduced myself.
Part of the problem I have with meeting people I’ve known on-line is that a lot of people use different “handles” instead of their real names in different forums. For instance, I didn’t know until after the event when he put up his pictures and mentioned them that the Dylan whose posts I’d read in the rec.aviation newsgroups was the Alioth whose Slashdot journal I read.
I won’t describe in intricate detail everything that went on. There were a few people there I thought were being stand-offish towards me, and I don’t know if that’s because they knew me from on-line or because I wasn’t a regular or a local. But I thought I got along with everybody pretty well. I got into one semi-political discussion with one guy that stayed pretty friendly and civil, except that he kept making these un-backed-up assertions and anything I tried to counter them with was instantly dismissed as “all you’ve got is a few isolated empirical cases”. But it was thought provoking none-the-less.
There were some great planes there – a couple of local beautiful Aerocoupes, a very fast Quicky that did a couple of photo passes down the runway (I still haven’t figured out how to get the camera to focus fast enough for that), a Citabria (was it? Or was it a Decathlon?) taking people up for aerobatics, a Swift, a beautiful Cessna 140. Too many to remember. It was too bad that Big Red, John Johnson’s Stinson Reliant, wasn’t ready to fly – they did test the engine, but I understand it didn’t pass the test.
The highlight of the weekend for me was when John Ousterhout told me that if I’m not careful he’s going to reveal my big secret on the newsgroup – that I’m not a jerk in person. The second highlight was John Johnson’s amazing hangar flying stories. I’m told that some of them are even true.
The lowlight was when Mark decided to show me how to ride a minibike that had gears. I’ve ridden scooters before, and I had a ball with his little folding scooter until the handlebar broke. But evidently I don’t have the coordination to work the clutch and throttle with my hands – I got into first eventually, went off and tried to shift to second and popped the clutch. The bike went this way, I went the other, and I discovered afterwards that I’d forgotten to take my Treo off my belt and the screen was smashed. (Yesterday I found that while the insurance I’d been paying Cingular for will replace it, they’re cancelling my policy for having the gall to actually make a claim against it.)
Compared to the structure and frenetic pace of an Oshkosh or Sun-n-Fun, this was a totally different experience. Just a chance to hang around with friends, make new friends, and drink beer and talk about flying. It was great, and I hope they’ll have me back again.