Working and Playing in Slovenia: Airplanes, Horses, and Gourmet Dining

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AIRPLANES

Slovenia:  Land of Surprises!  This was primarily a work day, but it was full of serendipity. My husband, our two friends, and I discovered the future of aviation at Pipistrel, a light aircraft manufacturer and one of the world’s leaders in aviation. Its paradigm-breaking aircraft include electric models and the first hydrogen fuel-cell airplane. Before the day was over, we also made three more discoveries: the iconic Lipizzan horses, the illusive bottle of gin. (See Really Life? You’ve Now Taken Me to Slovenia?), and another gourmet dinner at our guest house.

After meeting Ivo Boscorol, the company’s general manager and founder, we took a factory tour led by his genial daughter and public relations manager, Taja. Her enthusiasm was not hype. We saw the ground-breaking airplanes and the technology that produced them:  3-D printers; a water-jet cutting machine and an 8-axis robot-mill to fabricate parts; a quality control system designed and used by Toyota; and the building itself, a “green building,” which is energy-efficient and self-sufficient. Seeing the creativity of the process from conception to execution, plus observing the human team making all this possible, made us appreciate Taja’s animation even more.

Pipistrel is the winner of many aviation awards, but the one that is garnering the most attention lately is the NASA Green Flight Challenge Award, which has a prize of $1.35 million, the largest prize in aviation history. According to NASA, the award was “created to inspire the development of more fuel-efficient aircraft and spark the start of a new electric airplane industry.” The goal was a lofty one:  to design an airplane that could fly 200 miles in less than two hours while using less than one gallon of fuel per occupant, or the equivalent in electricity. Pipistrel’s electric-powered Virus not only reached the goal, it exceeded it.  It flew using just over a half-gallon of fuel per passenger, thus achieving twice the fuel efficiency required. Pipistrel not only won this award once, it won it three consecutive years.

My husband understands firsthand what technological leaps Pipistrel took to win this award. He worked at NASA Langley in Hampton, Virginia, for 33 years.  During that time, he was a member of the government-industry partnerships that developed technologies that now inhabit virtually every airplane around the globe, including the Virus:  glass cockpits, composite airframes, crash-worthy airframes, and laminar flow aerodynamics.Today, his consulting business has taken him to work in the field of hydrogen fuel-cell electric propulsion. How  satisfying it is for him to see his work reach such a successful conclusion!

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Our only disappointment of the day was that we were not able to fly in one of these awesome aircraft.  Pipistrel’s headquarters sets in a valley in Ajdovščina which falls victim to some very forceful predatory winds.This day, the Bora wind phenomenon was clocked well below the 125 mph that can occur, but high winds still held us hostage, so we were grounded.

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LIPPIZAN HORSES

After my husband finished his business with Pipistrel, we were able to hurry over to Lipica, the home of the oldest European stud farm to be continuously breeding the famous Lipizzan horses. We arrived too late for a tour, but early enough before sundown to see these beautiful horses grazing in the field. A return trip is warranted!

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GOURMET DINING 

We made one more stop in Lipica at a Lidl grocery store where we finally found a bottle of gin after a two-day search. There was one choice only, Castelgy London Dry Gin.  If we had wanted schnapps, our shopping cart could not have held the selection. I discovered that we found a very special brand of gin, Lidl’s own. The Guardian reported that in a taste test of both inexpensive supermarket brands of gin and more-expensive brand-name gins, Castelgy, the cheapest at 9.99 euro a bottle, did very well, earning second place.  (Beefeaters came in fifth.) We also un-expectantly found a bottle of bitters, so visions of Old Fashions started to dance in our heads.  Along with the gin and the bitters, we bought an orange, a lemon, and sugar cubes, so Happy Hour was just a car ride away.

Back at Apolonia Guest House in Sezana, the four of us raised a toast to a fun, productive day with three classic Old Fashions, plus a new concoction of gin, lemon, and a dash of bitters. The cocktails were elevated compared to ones we drank the evening before and a fitting introduction to another gourmet dinner prepared by our innkeepers, Marissa and Manuella.The first course was End of Summer Zucchini Soup, which was a work of delectable art in a bowl.  I don’t know what herbs and / or vegetables other than zucchini the gals put into the soup to make it so green.  The vibrant green was a beautiful canvas to highlight the dabs of pink shrimp, brown croutons, and the white dollop of cheese wrapped in a sliver of cucumber.  It was as delicious as it was beautiful.

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Tonight was “Fish Night,” and Salmon with Sage made an impressive main course.  It was moist and flaky, garnished with tomatoes and sage leaves.  Accompaniments included buttery potatoes and grilled zucchini slices.I have never had sage with salmon before, but the flavors marry very well. In fact, I found a similar recipe from NYT Cooking  that I want to try at home.

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A crisp Slovenian white wine, which I won’t be able to find in Virginia, complimented the dish. Instead, I believe I will pour a glass of Citizen Cider’s Unified Press; it’s off-dry, crisp, and excellent with all seafood.

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Manuella, with a bottle of excellent Slovenian white wine,  is an accomplished chef and gracious hostess at Apolonia.

Dessert wasn’t an afterthought.  Even though it was called “A Cream with Fruit Sauce,” its plebeian title didn’t distract from its royal taste.  In fact, it was so good, we didn’t even take time to ask what fruit concoction the rich, creamy pudding was swimming in.  The puff pastry cookie  and crumbles on top added the perfect “crunch.”   When we thought the meal couldn’t get any better, Manuella brought out house-made blueberry liqueur to end the evening sweetly.

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We still had one more meal to look forward to at Apolonia:  breakfast. Each day starts  with an omlette or sunny side up eggs, three kinds of meats, cheese, a basket of rustic bread, fresh croissants, and rugelach, plus juice and coffee.  As I write this, I have been in Europe for two weeks, and Apolonia has  had the best accommodations and the best dining of any of the B & Bs / guest houses we have stayed in.  Thank you, Marissa and Manuella!

Now, it was time to return to our rooms and snuggle into our large, comfortable beds.  Visions of not only sugar plums, but also airplanes, horses and gin would swirl in our heads, never a nightmare, just a perfect dream of all the varied surprises we found in Slovenia.

Slovenia: Navigating the Challenges to Experience the Beautiful Bounty

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NAVIGATING BUMPS AND CURVES TO FIND APOLONIA GUEST HOUSE

Looking for lovely verdant mountains, beautiful red flowers and fragrant purple lavender, rainbow sherbet sunsets, surprising wine finds, and friendly, helpful people? Go to Sežana, Slovenia, and experience  all of this and even more. We checked in to Apolonia Guest House to enjoy comfortable beds; large, spacious, well-appointed rooms; and  bountiful five-star meals.

But I am getting ahead of myself.

Finding Apolonia was our first quest.  As most people know, GPS is helpful, but while it gets you to the right neighborhood, it doesn’t always get you to the right address, especially when the houses are not numbered in sequential order. In this case, the GPS had us turn about one-fourth of a mile early, and we found our hefty Peugeot station wagon (the “gun boat”) navigating up a steep hill on a narrow lane, only to arrive at a dead-end. Then we had to turn around (full left rudder, full reverse thrust) without scraping someone’s front porch, car, or fence, proceed up another lane, only to find ourselves boxed into another dead end.   We repeated this process again . . . and again . . . and again.  We finally crept to a house without a number, thinking we had found our destination, so we stopped.

A spry, elderly woman came running our of her house, shaking her head with a grin, and saying,”Apolonia? Apolonia?”  With her gestures and simple English words sprinkled with Slovenian words, we ascertained we were in the wrong place, but we could drive on a grass lane on the side of her house that led to Apolonia’s back yard.  Unfortunately, the neighbor on the other side didn’t seem so happy about this solution.  She also was in her yard with her two German shepherds, who were furiously barking. She, not smiling, was loudly speaking Slovenian to the nice neighbor, about what we could only surmise:  she didn’t want us driving on the grass lane that also ran directly in front of her house. But why?  It had rained, so was she worried that we were going to get stuck in the mud?  Or was she concerned that we would leave ruts in her yard? Was everything okay, or had we started an international incident? Not understanding Slovenian, we didn’t have a clue.

The battle had already begun, it was too late to retreat, so with full speed ahead,  we turned the gun boat around (again) and started down the lane. We avoided the soggy areas, but the uneven terrain bumped us like white-capped waves. The dogs incessantly barked as we bobbed and bounced to our parking place at Apolonia’s back entrance.  Hearing the cacophony, our gracious hostess, Marissa, came outside and greeted us warmly in English and then spoke kindly to her two neighbors in Slovenian, soothing the one’s concerns. The battle, therefore, never escalated into full war.

With some embarrassment, we learned that if we had ignored the GPS and stayed on the main paved road for another couple of minutes, we would have seen Apolonia’s sign and parking lot.  We would have missed out on some great local color though.

If we had never found Apolonia, we would have also missed out of some of the best meals of our entire trip.  We arranged for talented Marissa and her equally talented daughter, Manuella, to cook for us the night of our arrival.  We started the evening with drinks on the patio to  watch the glorious sunset.

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WHERE ARE THE LIQUOR STORES IN SLOVENIA?

We supplied the spirits, but finding liquor and ice in Slovenia proved to be an education.  Grocery stores and gas stations sell liquor, but in limited qualities; they don’t sell bagged ice at all. Schnapps and other flavored liquors are easy to find, but gin is very difficult.  The smaller the market, the less the selection, and the selection is never very large.

In fact, we gave our GPS another chance, this time to find us a market, and we were taken to the little town of Dutovlje, population of 517, about 8 km. away.  In the centre of this charming village is the picturesque church of St. Jurij from the 15th century, which was a stronghold of the Knights Templar. Dutovlje also had a tiny market and a delicatessen selling gourmet cheeses and meats.

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In the market, the liquor selection was also tiny, but we did find Jim Beam Black Label, which made one of us happy.  We then left town and stopped at a gas station on the way back to Apolonia, but there still was no gin, so we bought vodka made in France: Jelzin. Supposedly, this vodka is named after Boris Jelzin (Yeltsin), the first president of the Russian Federation, a politician with a checkered reputation.  I can say the same thing about this vodka, which three of us drank garnished with lemon slices.  I love Absolut Citron, so how bad could this vodka creation be?  Pretty bad, actually, when you are hankering for Absolut Citron. Pretty bad, actually, when the only ice you have is what your innkeeper gives you from her limited supply: eight small cubes for four people.

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DISCOVERING DINING NIRVANA

So-so cocktails were followed by a most memorable dinner.  The first course was the best ravioli we ever had.  The homemade pasta was stuffed with mild goat cheese, covered with a silky rich sauce, and garnished with crispy prosciutto, and chives and basil from Apolonia’s garden.

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This course could have been a meal in itself, but the second course was a not-to-be-missed harbinger to autumn.  Wild local boar glazed with a wine sauce was complimented by crispy baby potatoes, home-grown roasted zucchini and carrots, and a drizzle of dense balsamic vinegar. A  perfect repast deserves a perfect drink to accompany it:  in this case a nice bottle of Slovenian red wine.   Ahhh!

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The dessert, a coffee mousse, floating in a decadent coffee-based sauce, was the last course, a perfect last course–one that transcended us into dining nirvana. Feeling happily enlightened, but not lightened, we said our good nights, retreated to our rooms, and dreamt of Sweet Slovenia.

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Feeling Lucky About Flying on Lake, Como

fullsizeoutput_1af9Ginger tablets . . . check. Acupuncture wrist bands . . . check. Pre-flight check list . . . check. Two experienced pilots in the cockpit, one my husband . . . check.  An excited, but nervous passenger in the backseat . . . check.  And off I go, queasy stomach under control and iPhone camera in hand, flying  on a Cessna 172 on straight floats to play the role of a paparazzo for a day. It’s time to get up close and personal with the lifestyle of the lucky of Lake Como.

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View of Como town taking off in a seaplane from Aero Club Como

THE CHARM OF COMO TOWN

Taking off from the seaplane base in Como town, we leave the hustle and bustle of the city, a city many travel sites tell visitors to bypass and head instead to the idyllic villages.  Como is not without its redeeming qualities, however; it is worth a look-see. For me, the don’t-miss-attraction is a walk on the promenade around the lake, winding past waterfront shopping and restaurants, a charming church and park, the iconic Aero Club Como founded in 1913, and centuries’ old villas.  You can see the ferries docking, the seaplanes soaring, women in four-inch stilettos strolling, lovers’ eyes locking, gelato melting onto sticky little hands, all a celebration of life in lakeside Italy.

LAKE COMO: THE WALKING MAN

I know that Lake Como is shaped like a walking man,  Looking at him, we will leave Como, flying from his foot on our left and up his leg to Bellagio at his pelvis. At this point we will keep flying a little ways up to his navel, turn around to see the backside of Bellagio on his other leg, and then return to his original leg and fly south back to Como.

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Villa Troubetzkoy in Blevio

PRINCES AND PAUPERS IN EXILE

My first I-have-to-have-it-photo was of Villa Troubetzkoy in Blevio, which is a few kilometers from Como. It was built around 1850 by the immigrant Russian prince of the same name, who served six years of forced labor in Siberia for the attempted overthrow of Nicholas I. The villa is currently under restoration to fulfill the needs of its current owner, Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple and a prince of business in the U.S.A. Our two friends, my husband, and I were fortunate enough to book an Air BnB rental directly above Villa Troubetzkoy.  (See the property that overlooks the top of the cylindrical elevator that is above and to the left of Villa Troubetzkoy at the center edge of the lake.) We had the advantages of the royal villa — the exclusive neighborhood, the panoramic views up and down the lake, the sparkle of sunlight by day, and the shimmer of moon glow by night — all for 200 euros a day for our two-bedroom villa. Royal living at a peasant price.

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George Clooney’s home, Villa Oleandra in Laglio

SEEKING GEORGE CLOONEY

Continuing to fly north, a peasant can snap a photo of George Clooney’s home, Villa Oleandra in Laglio, but she can’t afford the $19 million dollar price tag this for-sale property demands. I will not be lounging out front, sipping a Bellini, nibbling on smoked lake trout spread on crostini,  and watching the speed boat zipping in front of the villa.  Pretending to be a member of the paparazzi corps is all I can do. I have second thoughts about being a paparazzo wannabe since Laglio’s City Council approved a regulation to protect Clooney’s privacy from the likes of me. On second thought, the regulation does not apply to the air. Paparazzi and love-sick fans are forbidden to snoop in the immediate vicinity of the villa by land and by lake. I am polite, however, so I only snap a quick photo, and we fly on by.

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Villa del Balbianello in Lenno

CLONES AND CASINOS (IN FILMS)

We are not the only creatures who have flown in this area.  North of Villa Oleandra at Lenno is the stunning Villa del Balbianello where clones and droids took to the skies when lake scenes for Star Wars, Episode II Attack of the Clones (2002) were filmed here. Bond, James Bond, also flew high at the book office  when Casino Royale (2006) was shot here. Today, for 17 euros you can tour this romantic 12th century villa and its gardens to learn about the Italian Intelligentsia who called it home before it became popular as a movie set. For a couple of magical hours, it can become your home, too.

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West side of Bellagio

BELLGAGIO’S ELEGANT WEST SIDE

Now on to Bellagio, the Pearl of the Lake.  Looking at the west side of the village from the air, I think Pearl looks like a lazy lady lounging along the shore. She is not lazy, however, as Bellagio is a major tourist draw.  People flock to her beautiful location at the point of land that splits the lake into two branches. (The less gentile say Bellagio is located at the walking man’s crotch.) Architectural gems from the 15th century on, lush gardens,  gourmet restaurants, and specialized shopping are the Sirens that sing in this part of Italy. It’s a good thing our seaplane doesn’t have a parachute, so I won’t be tempted to answer the Shopping Siren’s call. There are terrific deals on local silk products, perfumes, and leather goods in select Bellagio boutiques. Shopping, however, is not my mission for this day.

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East side of Bellagio

BELLAGIO’S TRANQUIL EAST SIDE

“Ooo-ing” and “Ahh-ing” over views like this to photograph is my mission.  After flying north past Bellagio and practicing a few thrilling rough water landings and takeoffs, my husband piloted the plane to the east side of Bellagio.  Here is Pearl’s quieter side.  Villas dot the hills and terraced gardens step up from the sea. We give a sigh of contentment and do a 180 around the point and head back  south to Como.

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Cernobbio, one of the many villages climbing the mountains beside Lake Como

A FAILED PAPARAZZO

Lake Como is indeed one handsome walking man. His famous clientele seeking rest and recreation in his magnificent mountains are the paparazzi’s meal ticket.  Looking back on my photographs, I realize I will never hunger to be a  paparazzo. I am too nice, proven by the fact that I didn’t shoot George Clooney’s villa with a long-range lens.  Also, my iPhone 6 takes a greater number of lousy photographs than great ones, especially through dirty airplane windows. I am happy anyway.

THANKS FROM THIS LUCKY LADY ON LAKE COMO

A special “thanks” goes to the United States-based Seaplane Pilots’ Association (SPA) for organizing the  Lake Como Trip that brought us here to take this flight. I now count myself among Lake Como’s lucky.  I just spent one hour in a seaplane with the man I love, flying over some of the most beautiful and historical sites in the world.  How can a day be luckier than this one?

 

 

 

 

Lake Como: Soaring Seaplanes Since 1913

Aero Club Como, 1913

The Wright Brothers flew the first powered controlled flight in 1903 in Kitty Hawk, North, Carolina.  A scant 10 years later, the first seaplane base in the world was founded at Lake, Como. Aero Club Como is still flying high, training pilots in its seaplane school, which is the largest in Europe and the oldest in the world. In addition, Aero Club Como is operating the only seaplane base in Italy.  In fact, the only other seaplane bases in all of Europe are in Scandinavia.

Seaplanes: Lords of Lake Como:

Lake Como is a Y-shaped lake encompassing about 56 square miles and plunging to a depth of about 1500 feet. Sailing vessels from the sublime to the ordinary skim across the lake’s surface: yachts, ferries, sailboats, windsurfers, kitesurfers, and paddleboats. Villas and palaces hang precariously off the sides of the mountains, which welcome both bold- blue and whispy-smoky skies. Overhead, seaplanes lord over all, surveying their kingdom, knowing all is good on Lake Como.

Day #6: Last Call for Fun at AirVenture 2016

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SITES AT THE SEAPLANE BASE

Come see what I saw on our last day at AirVenture 2016.  We checked out of our delightful B & B and headed a few miles down the road to the Seaplane Base.  People from all over the world visited the site and marked their hometowns on the map below.

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We found the Seaplane Base to be an idyllic location, one that you could fly to and then camp at if you wanted. Many people took that option, but what was the big draw this year?  What attracted so many, from so far away?

THE MARTIN MARS

Answer:  The Monster of All Flying Boats–The Mighty Martin Mars!  This behemoth, owned by the Coulson Group, is the world’s largest flying boat to be flown operationally. This aircraft, one of five built at the end of the World War II, first served as a troop transport by the U.S. Navy for several years. One of the aircraft was destroyed in a fire, and the other four were then sold in 1959 to a British Columbia forest consortium and converted to fire tankers. Two out of the original four planes had long stints fighting forest fires. The other two had accidents that permanently grounded them.

PRIVATE COLLECTOR KERMIN WEEKS

Kermit Weeks, the owner of Fantasy of Flight Museum in Florida and the largest private collector of aircraft in the world, was part of the crew flying the Martin Mars from Vancouver Island to Oshkosh’s Lake Winnebago.  Weeks felt that the aircraft is so special that he told the local news station that he “. . . believe(d) I’m being part of history” especially since he had his “doubts on whether the airplane will continue flying.” Weeks put his money where his heart is because the local news also reported that he bought his seat on the flight deck by paying the $40,000 fuel bill for the eight-hour flight. Like Weeks, Martin Mars fans came great distances to view this massive machine.

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PROBLEM ON THE LAKE

Some flew close to the aircraft to get an up close and personal view, while others on the shore were artistically inspired. We all looked forward to the promised tours of this historical flying boat.  One problem: Where were the boats taking fans out to the Martin Mars?

Oops! The flight crew had an engine issue when taking off on the lake. They made a cautionary landing in shallow water, which poked a hole in the hull.  No tours today!

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HANDSOME IS IN THE EYE OF THE BEHOLDER

We then found other things to do.  My favorite was the meet and greet session with the  pilots from the Canadian Geese Flying Team. These handsome guys were straight out of central casting:  drop-your-jaw gorgeous.  (Or maybe I was just tired of looking at airplanes all week!)  My husband obviously didn’t share my sentiments about needing a change of scenery because here he is admiring a Searey.

HUMOR AT THE BASE

We noticed we had other options for entertainment too as we strolled by “Naka Beach.” Everyone else strolled on by too, so nothing scandalous to report here.

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I will report that seaplane pilots obviously have a sense of humor.

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WHICH WAY TO GO?

Our time is finished at AirVenture 2016, and in case we hadn’t gotten our aviation fix, the sign post below points to other aviation sites to explore.  We are sated, so we don’t take a detour.  Instead, we are off to Milwaukee to catch our flight home.  We had a fun time playing with airplanes, but that fact didn’t hold true for the trip home. We got stuck in Atlanta overnight, but I am not going to share those details. Why end a happy story with a horrific conclusion?

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Day 4: Sea Planes and See Planes at AirVenture 2016

 

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I married for love and knew I married a man who loved airplanes in addition to me. Thursday night found us at the Seaplane Pilots Association’s annual Corn Roast and BBQ.This is gourmet dining the no-frills Wisconsin way:   grilled brats, corn cooked in a vertical roaster, baked beans, cake, and beer, all served on unadorned folding tables.

Gotta have the beer with the brats in the state that brought Schlitz Beer to the world.  The company was founded in 1849 and once was the largest producer of beer in the U.S.  I know this because my Dad worked for Schlitz.  Other kids had milk in their baby bottles; I had Schlitz, so to speak.  Dad moved on from Schlitz to work for Budweiser and Anheuser Busch.  I moved on  from Schlitz, to drinking Budweiser, then Michelob, and now AmberBock (below) and local craft beers, like Zero Gravity,  when I am not drinking my favorite, Citizen Cider’s Unified Press.  I guess I am a personified timeline of our country’s evolution in drinking habits. How goes Connie, thus goes the rest of the country.

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Beyond brats and beer, the gathering featured a band ‘o pirates relatin’ their adventures, fightin’ games, givin’ talks, ‘n auctionin’ off a ruckas booty. Arrr! We, however, added another adventure.

Gear is up and we are out of here! Off to see the airplanes that were flown in and parked on the flight line.

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Boys and their toys–grown up style!

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Parking for Cessna 195s on “Interstate 195” and parking for the Ercoupes at “Ercoupe Alley.”

“Fat Tire” doesn’t just refer to a bike or to a beer as the tire on “Raisin’ H’Eleanor shows.

The Mooney Mite is the smallest aircraft flown to the show, a single place from California.

All the creature comforts a camper could want:  a charging station, potties, showers, and water.  “Comfort” is obviously relative.

Sunset and airplanes, a tranquil end to an exciting day.

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Day 3: The Cape Cod of the Midwest and Pyrotechnics

We played hooky today.  A week at AirVenture, no matter how enjoyable, is draining. Door County beckoned in all of her beauty, and we answered the Siren’s call since this area is the “Cape Cod of the Midwest.”  There are three hundred miles of shoreline to explore, plus gift shops, art galleries, boutiques, wineries, distilleries, farm markets, and restaurants–you get the idea.  There’s temptation around every turn. Unfortunately, we had only a few hours to spare, so we had to do the “speed dating” version of the trip.

EPHRAIM:  WILSON’S FOR THE BEST ICE CREAM

Our first stop was Ephraim for lunch.  After hearing over and over, “You have to go to Wilson’s for ice cream, then you HAVE to go to Wilson’s for ice cream. They also serve homemade root beer and All-American burgers, sandwiches, fries, etc. Again, you get it. A diner that has been feeding the hungry since 1906 must be doing something right.

We luckily nabbed a parking spot on the road in front of the restaurant, noting the people mingling outside and lounging on the steps.  Warily, I entered the front door and saw fifteen people fidgeting in front of me.  I did an about-face, exited, and then re-entered the restaurant through the side door onto the porch.  A lonely table for two was looking for new friends. The waitress said that front door customers get put on the wait list for inside seating. Side door customers, however, could seat themselves on the porch on a first-come, first-served basis. Some days, some things go just right.

The good luck continued.  The waitress was friendly and the food arrived lickety-split.  Bruce and I ordered the Door County whitefish sandwich with fries and coleslaw to split. Great choice-very tasty.  Maybe it’s because I haven’t had a fried fish sandwich since Kennedy was in office.  Moreover, a french fry hasn’t passed my lips since Reagan was…okay, never mind.  That’s a lie. I had french fries in June.

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I wish I could lie and say we didn’t have the ice cream, but passing up that treat, would have negated the purpose of the trip.  We ordered two scoops in one dish to share:  Double Chocolate Almond and Chocolate Peanut Butter Explosion.  The words double and explosion sum up the dish.  Double what we needed, and an explosion of silky ice cream, smooth peanut butter, chunky chocolate pieces, and crunchy almonds worth every single calorie. Looking around, I noticed that most people had their own two scoops, or a huge milkshake, or a mammoth ice cream sundae bedazzled with whipped cream, chocolate sauce, and cherries. (Not as large as the one below, but decadent never-the-less.) In comparison, our shared serving look downright righteous. Bruce and I seldom eat dessert–no lie–but we survived the sugar attack and happily left the diner unscathed.

Yes, you can!  No, we didn’t!

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EMPHRAIM: WALKING OFF THE CARBS

Wilson’s overlooks beautiful Green Bay, so a quick walk along the shoreline to wake up our metabolism was in order. The sun periodically poked out of clouds mixed with splotches of gray and white, reflecting on the blue water below. Raindrops rudely spit on us for a few minutes but had second thoughts and politely disappeared. We ducked into the Visitors’ Center to discover how we could do a scenic drive of Peninsula State Park, which was a convenient few miles south down the road. After getting both verbal directions and a map in hand, we walked back to the car and took off.

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EPHRAIM: SCENIC PENINSULA STATE PARK

We learned that if we didn’t stop and park, there is no entrance fee. We didn’t have time to stop anyway, and we are thrifty (cheap), so we did miss a couple major attractions:  Eagle Tower and Eagle Bluff Lighthouse.  Instead, we drove Skyline Drive, expecting gorgeous views. The drive had its highlights, but overall we were disappointed.  The right drive, but the wrong season.  Summer hid the view with heavy woods.  In the couple of places that we could peek through the trees, Green Bay was glorious in its washes of blues.

FISH CREEK:  THE HOME OF ARTISTS AND ARTISANS

Exiting the park, we drove to the next village, Fish Creek, known for its shopping and art. First, we ambled down to the shore to check out the boats and view.  To see a lot of Door County in two hours or less, we should have booked one of the scenic boat tours that leaves from Fish Creek Marina. We will be smarter travelers on the next trip.

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This day, we walked the main drag enjoying the charming architecture,

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the artistic gardens,

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and the funky shopping.

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THE DAY’S GRAND FINALE: FIREY FLAMES

 Before we knew it, our speed date reached its end time, and we drove the two hours back to Oshkosh to watch the AirVenture fireworks from the backyard of our B&B. GE generously sponsored a twenty-minute show of fiery flames that illuminated the black sky with bursts of  boom and color.

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First, however, there were almost 90 minutes of an evening airshow featuring courageous pilots who added pyrotechnics to their already dangerous maneuvers.  Flips, free falls, and fireworks flying off the planes was the opening act, but in truth, the opening act stole the show.

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In the end, AirVenture is all about the pilots, both men and women, and their amazing skills in their amazing flying machines.  I, however, cannot do what they do; I have the proverbial yellow stripe down my back.  Watching them, I become one with them, streaking across the sky, blazing free and fearless into the dark infinity.

Day #2 at EAA AirVenture 2016: Visiting the Airplanes and Other Awesome Sights

Round and round all over Wittman Regional Airport,  you can run and run and still not visit all the airplanes at EAA AirVenture 2016 in one day. I tried to do so and failed miserably.

Maybe it was the 92 degree heat that slowed me down. As the locals tell me, “We’re having your state’s kind of weather ” I can forgive Virginia’s fry-an-egg-on-the-sidewalk weather; Virginia is in the South, so I know what to expect. I had hoped for more (or should I say less?) from Wisconsin and its Northern environs:  less heat, less humidity, less sidewalk cuisine. Not to be!

I am not really whining because despite the hot heat, I saw some really cool spectacles, some with wings and some with not. Sweat running into my eyes did not dim my enthusiasm.

You can see the awesomeness that I saw and be totally comfortable. Pour yourself a cool one, sit back, relax, and take a “scroll” around the sights.  Here we go:

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The iconic propeller welcomes EAA AirVenture visitors at the gate.

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Pilots love their women, and the pilots of this B-29 are especially visual about expressing that love.

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This “bombshell” is not Fifi, but certainly she is the spirit of Fifi.

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C5 Galaxy military transport jet:  This plane can transport a lot of C-rations, 270,000 pounds worth according to the U.S. Air Force.

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The EAA honors the DA42 Twin Star, which was the first diesel-powered fixed-wing aircraft to make a non-stop crossing of the North Atlantic, doing so in 12.5 hours.

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The Pilatus PC-12 NG is getting rave reviews and is one of the most popular turbine-powered business aircraft on the market today.

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We have come a long way since the Xerox machine. Textron will have a 3D printed propeller engine on the new Cessna Denali turboprop.

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The ultimate toy box. Transport your light sport aircraft (LSA) and your Corvette in one trailer. A gal can dream, can’t she?

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Pipistrel’s Virus, a high-tech, carbon fiber aircraft produced in Slovenia, is a leader in the next generation of low-cost aircraft. It won the NASA PAV Centennial Challenge.

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I took several pictures of LSA, but why show the second best? Here is the best of the bunch: the ICON A5 on its trailer with the wings folded. We plan on playing on land and sea in this two-person. incredibly engineered amphibian. ETA? Hopefully, 2017.

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The daily air show offers thrills and chills on a hot, sunny day.

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Isn’t he cute? Tall, dark, handsome–and sweet!

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Need some adult refreshment to cool down? As you exit the displays, the Happy Face balloon points the way to the Beer Tent.

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Off of Wittman Regional Airport, the beer continues to flow late into the night. Wendt’s on the Lake is also famous for its fried perch. AirVenture attendees are still dining at 10 p.m.

Long days, short nights, and serendipity yet to come.  That sums up what to expect each day. I think, however, it’s time to take a road trip. More on that on Day 3….