Setting out at 4 a.m. isn't the best start to a road trip, I guess. The first hour was difficult, seeing as I hadn't gone to bed until midnight, but as soon as the sun started to break on the horizon I began to freshen up a little. After three hours of driving, encouraged by a Mc Donald's coffee, I deviated to my first stop, this was a fleeting visit to the Toot guys up in Dallas. Tommy was a great host for the hour I saw him. He even presented me with a signed set of Toot plans! Cheers chap! I noticed Tommy had a wind tetrahedron in his yard, I told him I only knew what it was called because I once crashed into one while Skydiving :0\ (brake line snapped on me during the flare). After seeing the impressive work of the 2 seater Toot (Twoot?) development, and some nice looking glass work that he sells for planes, Bob Borger (the Toot guy who posts images avidly on the biplane forum gallery. Good stuff) took me over to North West Regional to see some of the other Toot work. I got to see Toot #1, and you wouldn't believe that thing was built way back in the fifties, it looks awesome.
All in all, I took three hours out of my road trip for the Toot deviation, it was a nice break since I am not used to driving 'long' distances...in the UK, seven hours will put you in the sea!
I then headed North for Oklahoma City. It was a good job I was using my iPhone/google maps, because the intersections were very confusing (to me, at least). The iPhone saved the day however, and I managed not to take one bad turn the whole journey. After what felt like three years, I finally arrived in Bartlesville. Yay! I was booked in the La Quinta. La Quinta's are pretty much OK down here in central Texas, but this one felt more like 'one of those motels where you paid weekly'. My ceiling had rust stains all over it ('least I think that's what they were). However, the bed was VERY comfortable (who care's about the darn ceiling). I quickly dropped off my stuff, then headed out to the airfield. I was meeting up with Daryl who is a poster on the forum. Daryl had flown in his Skybolt from Wyoming. It is always great to meet in person guys you only know from the virtual web environment. It's always fun to recognise that your own perception of them is totally incorrect :0). By the same token, I am not sure if he was expecting me to be speaking in a working class English accent and being the size of guy that isn't usually befitting to small cockpit biplanes....
We also met up with Bernie, another biplane forum contributor who had flown in, in his lovely Acrosport from Fort Worth. This has to be the nicest looking Acrosport I have ever seen. For all you guys building the D wing Skybolt, his canopy would be do-able, since the center bow has a big radius, unlike the S version, and the canopy mechanism is the pull-back-and-tilt akin to the 2 hole Pitts.
We had the Expo dinner that first night, and the guest speaker was Dick Rutan. Interesting and entertaining. They were also turning people away due to the massive turnout. Infact, Daryl had purchased the two of four tickets left way earlier in the afternoon. Interestingly, the subject of the Expo being the last one was only ever briefly skirted around, but never discussed during that night, or at other presentations.
Yup, this was the last Expo. I got talking to a local lady volunteer in her early forties (I think!), she said (as I suspected) it was due to all the organisors getting on in years. She and her husband were the only new blood in the past five years. Whether this was due to no new blood being interested, or that the organization had simply kept too tight a reign over the years, I don't know. What I do know is, the event was awesome. By Friday afternoon we had 97 biplanes on the field, plus what looked like around 30 non-bipes, who had to park quiet a way away from the two-wingers :0) The strangest thing I saw was an RV-10 - all on its own! Now, that's a sight you don't see often :0)
For me, the coolest plane there was a Fokker DVII. I didn't realize how big these things were full scale when say, compared to a British SE5A. Kind of like a P-47 next to a Spitfire...This Fokker was a replica, in the cockpit everything was in German, and even the guns looked real.
Daryl graciously offered to take me for a spin in his Skybolt. With the help of a dozen onlookers, a can of lithium grease and a shoe horn, I managed to slip into the front cockpit...I feel much better knowing I actually do fit fine in the rear of my own! :0) His Skybolt climbs really well, even with me slowing it down somewhat. At altitude he nudged me to take control, I wasn't sure how aggressive I was allowed to turn it since it wasn't my plane, so I gingerly messed around with a few relaxing turns. He then waggled the stick to indicate he has control, and he threw it around a little more than I did. He then started a steep climb, we were getting closer to stall, and I was convinced he was setting it up for some spins! Alas, they didn't materialize. As a bonus, we did a fly-by of the Expo at some nice speed that I forget, then brought it in for what seemed to be a fast landing. He was in a flying mood, I think, since when we got back he shouted 'who's next?!' so, Neil's (forum member, Neil) daughter jumped at the chance, and she made getting in the front cockpit look like sitting on a stool...
Thanks for the ride Daryl - a guy who posts facelessly on the forum with no fanfare, yet in reality, has 27,000 flying hours and has flown dozens of aircraft types. His flying experiences humbled me somewhat, but I 'almost' kept up with him when chatting about airplanes! Nice guy folks!
Neil had also brought with him his old stash of Acrosport newsletters. I will be scanning these and converting to PDF format for upload to the forum at some point in the near future. Thanks Neil.
Saturday morning brought some windy weather. Daryl left for Wyoming with a good tailwind. The last time I saw Bernie he was scouting the latest weather briefings so he could get back to Dallas. I headed for the B&B hardware stand in one of the hangars and $200 soon departed from my wallet. This was fine, since the same goodie bag would have been $300+ easily from most online vendors (where else can you get a 'large' bag of assorted adel clamps for $6?).
I decided to get ready to leave about 10.30 for the long drive home. On my way out, I stopped in to listen to a small presentation/talk at the Hatz guys's tent, when I briefly bumped into Bantam21 (biplane forum member). We had a quick chat, then it was time to hit the ashphalt for Texas...