Tuesday, July 24, 2007

The faces of Oshkosh

As a general rule -- in my day job -- I'm not a particularly well-liked individual. Let's just say that it's not in my DNA.

But for one week a year, I've got a ton of friends. Coming here each year, and having a natural vehicle like the BBQ, setting up a large get-together area for RV builders in Camp Scholler, the RV Builder's Hotline, or the Yahoogroup I created some years ago, or just occasional posting on Rivetbangers or VAF or any of a dozen other places talking airplanes, offers endless opportunities to meet interesting people, who have a habit of becoming friends.

For me, this is the face of Oshkosh:

This is Frank Zwart of Kalamazoo, Michigan, who whizzed by on his scooter Monday evening as Warren Starkebaum and I sat around ye olde campsite. I've never been happier to see someone not named my wife, children, or family. When my youngest son
and I were here in 2005, Frank happened to pull up in his bigger-than-the-Goodyear-blimp RV (the kind on wheels). "Are there RVers here?" he yelled out the window?
Oddly enough, there were.

Frank, as it turned out, is an RVer, and built an RV-6 many years ago, back when you didn't just match up holes and assemble a homebuilt plane. He was here with his brothers and they were very kind and generous to Patrick and I.

Then last year, as thunderstorm swept through our BBQ site minutes before it was to start, threatening to leave us with a several-thousand-dollars disaster, Frank showed up in his RV, pulled it around to our campsite, and unrolled the awning to
allow us to stay dry until it passed, basically saving the evening. Oh, also inside the RV was his new wife, Joyce.

I sent Frank an e-mail last week to see if he was coming this year, but it bounced back. And me being a Collins and all, I feared the worst. But, as it turned out, he just changed e-mail addresses.

There are dozens and dozens of people here like Frank Zwart, whom I've met and grown fond of. As great as all the planes and whizbang displays are here, it's better just to see old faces. At least for a week, not long enough for anyone to get to know
me enough to.... know me enough.

In other news...

On Monday I met Patti and John Spicer, who run Rivetbangers. Patti arranged for volunteer T-shirts to be printed, which I'm now giving out.

I tried to give one to John Porter of the Pacific Northwest (by way of Georgia). But apparently he already has one...

We sat around and had many laughs at the campsite last evening. Chris Stone of Oregon joined John. Bob Kelley of Indiana, who had his first flight in his RV-9A (I think it was a 9A) in February, stopped by to give me a DVD of a video he made of the entire construction process.

Howard Kaney, another one of my many Oshkosh favorites, also checked in. Howard does the brat cooking, and also co-chairs the AeroMart here, where people bring their old airplane parts and sell them on consignment.

and Dava Overall of Kentucky made the 9 hour drive and has camped right behind us.

Hopefully we've got enough RVers that when our BBQ spills over into a much larger area (and it will), nobody will be too offended.

As the sun set, a gentleman came by from San Jose and introduced himself. "Hi, I'm Bob Collins," he said.

It was, weatherwise, conversation-wise, and friend-wise, a perfect evening... and then the Goodyear blimp came by...

It's funny -- if not in a ha ha way -- how things are so relative. Here we are in this patch of field in the middle of Eastern Wisconsin enjoying everything about life, and at home, my wife is suffering as her best friend's mother, who's she has known since she was a little girl, passed away, the same day, she found, that our next-door-neighbor also passed away after a short battle with brain cancer.

I needed to be home more than I needed to be here.

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