From July 22 to July 28, aviation enthusiasts from around the universe will, once again, make the pilgrimage to Oshkosh. If you’re simply heading there for one day to ogle the airplanes and watch an airshow (perfectly acceptable reasons) some of the following tips may still apply. If you’ve been making the trip for years, you already know most of this stuff, so use this column as something like a pre-flight checklist. If you’re a newbee and you intend to camp either on the grounds or at a nearby campground, I strongly suggest that you consider the following, um…suggestions:
1. Plan your visit. Go to https://www.eaa.org/airventure/ eaa-airventure-schedule-of-events or better yet, download the free EAA AirVenture app, at Google Play or at the Apple Store, to your cell phone so you can read through and mark anything that remotely interests you. If you’re like me, you’ll find a least 3 forums and presentations going on simultaneously every hour of the day. Face it. You can’t do them all. But add them to the app’s calendar anyway. Then, when one forum ends and you discover that your next choice of event is at the other end of the world that, for one week, consists of OSH, you might find that another interest on your schedule is right next door. Decision making made simple! Note: if you miss a forum, there’s a good chance that it’s being repeated, so look for it on more than one day.
2. Yes…free Wi-Fi is available if you can’t live without it, as are charging stations. Just don’t plan on being able to access it when you need it.
3. If you are driving, arrive as early in the day as possible unless you enjoy waiting in lines. Think crack of dawn.
4. Staying at Camp Scholler provides the ultimate immersive AirVenture experience. It’s the best way to take advantage of everything the EAA has to offer. Camping has a three-day minimum. Not to worry, you’ll easily find three days worth of stuff to keep you busy.
5. Trams. My advice: forget about ‘em. They can’t get you where you have to be in the next 10 minutes and If you see one coming, it will be full. Don’t bother to wait for the next one. They’re all full, trust me. I have come to believe that people get on them in the morning and get off only to use the flush toilets (see #8 below). My rule is to bring at least two pairs of walking shoes that are well broken-in and to never wear the same pair two days in a row. One year, just for the heck of it, I wore a pedometer at AirVenture. At the end of the day, it indicated that I had walked just under nine miles.
6. A bicycle is a great way to get around Camp Scholler – as long as you’re agile enough to out maneuver the plethora of motorized scooters, golf carts and 4-wheel ATVs. Bicycles do make getting to the shower buildings and entrance gate much easier and more exciting. There are specified bike parking areas where you can lock ‘em up, so bring a decent cable and lock. However, don’t expect to pedal your Schwinn out to the flight line. Bikes are permitted only in the campground.
7. Hygiene. If you’re camping, plan on using the campground shower rooms early in the morning (before 8AM) or later in the afternoon. There can be a line during the morning rush. The showers are basic but work well and never seem to run out of warm water. Note: the shower heads are actually kitchen sprayers at the end of a hose. They shut off when you let them go, so you have to squeeze them to soak yourself down or to rinse off. Forgot to bring your soap and shampoo? Wait. In almost any shower stall, on day two you’ll find supplies that some schnook – probably me – forgot in his haste to run and see what aircraft is making that sound. In the event that the next stall didn’t have your favorite brand, just check the next (vacant) one. Personally, I draw the line at tooth brushes. FYI: Irish Spring is the manly choice in the guy’s showers.
8. Bathrooms. Port-a-potties are everywhere and they’re constantly being serviced, which is a good thing in July. Hand sanitizers are attached to each one. If your particular physiology only functions when it’s paired with a flush toilet, then AirVenture is your happy place. Check the app. Seriously. It has a map that shows 15 locations around the AirVenture grounds that flush. Amazing what you find under Guest Services!
9. Hydration. Hey, it’s late July! Expect to be hot. Between sweating and drooling over stuff I can’t afford, I need extra liquid. But, I don’t carry bottled water. My preference is to start out by carrying as little as possible, ‘cause I know I’m going to be loaded down by the end of the day. An empty, reusable sport bottle is way better and there are drinking fountains around the grounds where you can fill ‘em. Then again, there’s also no shortage of food vendors who will be happy to sell you a cold drink for just a bit less than you might have to pay at, say, Wrigley Field.
11. Along that same line, think about wearing a broadbrimmed hat and long sleeves. Baseball caps don’t protect your ears or neck from the sun. My inner cowboy prefers a straw cowboy hat. It’s light weight, well ventilated and my ears are always shady. (It does tend to cause me to address everyone as “Pilgrim.”
12. Pack a rain poncho and listen to the announcements when the weather turns iffy. Expect at least one strong downpour during the week. Important: sign up to receive severe weather alerts by texting OSHALERT to 64600. A Severe Weather Watch is normally issued well in advance of the actual occurrence. Be extra cautious if a gale starts blowing. Lots of stuff can get tossed around by gusting winds. Think about where to shelter if things turn nasty. Theater in the Woods is my go-to choice.
13. You can see and hear the airshows from just about everywhere, but if you need to be close to the action, bring a low chair or blanket. Please be considerate of those behind you.
14. Unlike an outdoor rock concert (it can be loud but, hey… it’s airplane noise, so it’s ok.) the grounds aren’t trashed. At the end of the day, the place is as clean as it was at the start. People pick up after themselves and even grab the rare napkin that blows by and drop it in the nearest refuse can. It’s catchy!
15. At AirVenture, all is never lost. If you do misplace something, check with the nearest volunteer or go to the lost-and-found building. Over the years, I have lost a set of keys and a cell phone. The keys were picked up by someone and given to a nearby volunteer who spotted me combing through the grass and returned them. When I discovered that my phone had bailed from my pocket somewhere in the campground, I asked a friend to call my number. A volunteer at the lost-and-found building answered my burbling cell phone and said it had been turned in. I was able to pick it up out of a box full of truant phones. Try that at an outdoor concert.
See you there, Pilgrim!