Having just set up my tent I decided to have a quick look around.
Several Zenith models had already arrived and were tied down for the evening. The first one I see? Val and Craig Westedt's magnificent Corvair powered Zenith 650! I follow their adventures and they were back for another flying visit to the factory, where the kit was made. The plane captured a lot of attention, and Val was actually beginning to lose her voice by Saturday from speaking with so many Zenith builders.
As I am admiring the really nice paint scheme on their plane, William Wynne of FlyCorvair and Dan Wessman of Sport Performance Aviation arrived with their trailer. They attend the Zenith weekend every year and encourage builders like me to bring their core parts for evaluation and more importantly an entire two days to educate the finer points of the Corvair conversion.
With nothing better to do, they readily accepted my offer to help unload their trailer and set up the Corvair College tent. What a great opportunity to get to know one another!
Once we got them set up and the tent secured for the evening, I was invited to join everyone at the local Mexican restaurant for something to eat and drink. This is something I love about experimental aviation - the unwavering friendliness of fellow aviation enthusiasts!
Above, some of the people who displayed their products at the open house. I felt honored to have been invited to share their evening. Some of these people have been in this business for more than 20 years. Despite this, I felt welcome and included as a participant, not just a consumer! Photo credit: FlyCorvair.net
9 hours of driving was finally catching up to me, so after a real nice evening, I bid everyone good night and headed back to the airport and my tent for a good night's sleep. The next day promised to be busy!
Stay tuned for more in Part 3!
Amazing. Inspiring. Fun!
Although it was a very long drive, I couldn't have asked for a better way to spend a couple of days away.
I left late afternoon Wednesday after packing the car the night before. Corvair parts, tent and camping gear, and GPS all loaded. A quick gas stop and some road grub (separate purchase locations if you are wondering) and I was underway.
The week before, I took the time to have my local Canada Customs agent document all my Corvair parts (and our family DSLR camera). Free of charge, they issue a "green card" which identifies property you might take out of the country and bring home later. It's particularly important to prove ownership when these items come back into Canada when you return. The agent also suggested it would be a good thing to have to show US customs inbound.
Most of the Corvair core items would not likely be returning, instead the plan was to send them onwards to Florida with the Corvair experts for further work.
First leg was from home to my cousin Kevin's family home in Ann Arbor Michigan. In the past, we've had a better overall experience crossing from Sarnia into Port Huron, so this is the route I used.
I'm not usually nervous at the border, but for some reason this trip I was anxious. I'd never brought so much stuff across the border that wasn't just clothing. I didn't have anything to hide, but you never know how plans might be interpreted.
I was hoping for a steady stream of others crossing the border at the same time, perhaps in the belief that a busy crossing would lead to less interest in me. As I pulled up the ramp into the US customs plaza, there was only one vehicle crossing..... mine!
Standard run of questions... where you from, where you going, how long will you be in country, etc. I was advised by Canada Customs to declare the auto parts, which I did when asked. I handed over the green card and itemized list and based on the first reaction of the US border agent, I thought I'd be headed to secondary inspection. This was reinforced when the agent motioned for another agent to come over to our booth. After a bit of discussion and explanation, the conversation turned towards my aircraft plans and the conversion process. They both said what I was doing was really cool and interesting! And I was on my way after about ten minutes of gabbing about it.
The US interstate system of highways is great with generous speed limits. Generally 70 mPH which translates to approximately 112 kPH. What isn't great however is NO ONE follows the speed limit! I'll admit that I always drive a bit over the limit just like everyone else, but in each of the states I travelled, I was barely keeping up. In fact, people were blowing by me like I was standing still. I'm a very experienced driver and I don't often feel scared behind the wheel, but it's crazy, especially at night, through metro Detroit! Another reason to fly an airplane!
I arrived about midnight and after a short conversation with Kevin who was kind enough to stay up to greet me, we headed to bed. Being a normal weekday, we were up early. It was great to see the reaction on the kids faces who didn't know I was coming :)
I made a short stop at Target to see if I could make heads or tails of getting a prepaid SIM card for my phone, but decided it would be better (and free!) to take advantage of readily available WiFi at various locations on my route when I stopped to stretch.
Breakfast at McD's at Jackson Michigan was a typical example.
When my family travelled to Florida last year, we made a point of stopping as we entered each state for a photo in front of the "welcome to" sign. Unfortunately, it was dark when I entered Michigan, so I decided I'd grab that one on the way home.
Only in the state for a short bit as you leave Michigan and continue west towards Illinois. Maybe it was time of day, but at least the interstate was calmer.
Things get hairy again as you enter Illinois, mostly due to volume of traffic approaching Chicago. What was disappointing was the limited signage for an Illinois welcome centre. Oh well, maybe I'd get that photo on the way back too.
Westward I continued past greater Chicago on through Joliet, Illinois. Once past this suburb, I switched to the southbound interstate 55. It's amazing how flat mid and southwest Illinois is - like someone took a giant rolling pin and flattened everything.
After what seemed like an eternity of endless corn vistas going by, I made a stop in Springfield, Illinois to stock up on camp food at what is arguably (on the outside at least) the fanciest Walmart I've ever seen:
From Springfield, the interstate makes a distinct turn more towards the west. Next rest/stretch stop was in the little town of Pittsfield. A cute little midwestern town. My go to WiFi stop on the trip was always McDonald's. When I pulled up to this one, I thought WiFi may not be available.... what a retro time warp! Almost exactly the same as the one I worked in as a teenager back in the 80's!
Turned out the WiFi was just as good as anywhere else!
I continued westbound and about an hour later crossed over the Mississippi River and into the state of Missouri at the town of Louisiana.
A quaint little town nestled in the river valley, I remember thinking "wow, look at these hills!", but just outside town the land flatlined again and look, more corn.
As the afternoon passed by, I eventually started to see the end of route on the GPS.
Google's algorithm sometimes doesn't consider the easy way, just he shortest. After a small detour of the county road through Rush Hill (the sign actually says "Rush Hill City Limits - Population 112", I turned turned onto the county road leading to Mexico Missouri, home of Zenith Aircraft and the destination of my travels.
Pulling onto the airport property, I noticed several RVs already parking on site, a fairly distant walk to where the events were taking place. Wanting to see where I'd have to walk to, I drove closer and met Joyce, office manager of Zenith. When I asked if I was supposed to set up my tent down the road with the RV's, she graciously advised me to just set up on the grass beside the hanger! This was awesome, just 50 feet from everything!
I had arrived!
So much more to share. Stay tuned for part two!
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Husband, father and 911 dispatcher. Long time pilot with a licence that burns a hole in my pocket where my student loan money used to be. First time aircraft builder. Looking to fly my own airplane.