August 4, 2013

Day 4: Oshkosh, Wis. (EAA AirVenture)

I find it kind of interesting that while celebrating my 12th blogoversary today I realized that my first blog entry ever was about flying with my Dad in his then brand new Acro-Sport II, the first plane he had ever built in its entirety. The reason I find it interesting is because we traveled to Oshkosh, Wis. to attend the dedication service of the newest members to be added to the EAA (Experimental Aircraft Association) Memorial Wall on the museum grounds here in Oshkosh. Today was also the last day of AirVenture 2013.

I attended what was then called the EAA Convention and Fly-In back in 1984 with my grandfather and Dad. The three of us made the drive out here to spend a few days chatting with other pilots and plane builders, seeing the sites and watching airshows. My dad was energized during that trip because he loved flying and airplanes so very much. The trip is most memorable for me because it was the first time that as a teen I felt really close to my dad and that I really "got" his passion for aviation. We'd flown together many, many times and it was always apparent that he loved piloting a plane, but I really saw his passion during that trip. It was impressive and I learned a lot about him those few days.

Since my Dad passed on doing what he loved the most, my sister and I felt that it was only fitting to have him remembered by being included on the EAA Memorial Wall. The ceremony was very nice and respectful. The playing of Taps, followed by the missing man formation overhead, was very touching. I felt really close to my Dad again, though he's been gone since the end of 2011. I knew that he was smiling.

My sister and Mom and nephew and cousin needed to head back home right after the ceremony, so we said our good-byes and then Earl and I headed back to the Jeep, changed into shorts and headed over to the AirVenture grounds. Earl had never been to a "Fly-In" before, and AirVenture is the grand-daddy of all Fly-Ins. It was as I remembered it but much bigger than it was in '84. Earl and I spent the afternoon looking at the displays, watching the planes take off and land and Earl listened to stories of the times I spent at the airport as a kid and all the times I had gone flying with my dad and friends. He's heard the stories before, but he still feigns interest.

The airshow was quite a sight. It amazes me what a talented pilot can do with his airplane or helicopter: planes flipping over tail over nose, pilots maneuvering in seemingly impossibly tight formation, helicopters flying backwards, men skydiving at unbelievable speeds and one man strapped to a four jet engines and a wing to become "JetMan". Awesome stuff, indeed. I think I might have mentioned to Earl at least a dozen times that I really need to get my pilot's license. I try to shrug off this desire to fly, since I think it's just a lingering wish from my teenage years, but I can't shrug it off. The idea of flying us somewhere in something like a Cessna 182 is amazing to me. I get very excited just thinking about it; it brings a grin to my face that my Dad would find to be quite recognizable.

AirVenture is fun for anyone with even a passing interest in aviation and if you're inclined or in the area, I highly recommend the experience.

You'll see lots of people grinning from ear to ear. You'll know they have aviation fuel in their blood.



So last night my husband and I went to the movies whilst on vacation here in Appleton, Wisconsin. It really isn't odd for us to go to the movies while on vacation; we like to see how movie theatres might differ from what we are used to at home and I like to compare picture and sound quality and the like.  We watched "The Way Way Back". Good movie.

Prior to the previews and the actual picture was a bunch of advertisements. Sprinkled amongst these ads was a spot from the Wisconsin Department of Transportation. The ad focused on roundabouts.  If you're not familiar with a roundabout, it's basically the replacement of a traffic signal. The roundabout encourages slow traffic movements and is easier on the environment (less emissions for needless stopping for a traffic signal during low traffic conditions) and is more aesthetically pleasing for the neighborhood. While very popular in Europe, I believe roundabouts have only started appearing in the U.S. in full force over the past decade or so, and even then the implementation has been hit or miss.

The roundabouts in our native Upstate New York are fairly rare but are now being introduced at a hurried pace. Since we do have a few Traffic Circles from the 60s, people in our area tend to treat roundabouts the same way: punch the gas, close your eyes and go. It's much like the behavior I have experienced on Massachusetts Rotaries.  Roundabouts are not designed for this. The rules are simple:

1.  Stick to the speed limit, usually 15-25 MPH.
2.  Yield to traffic coming from your left.
3.  Pay attention to lane markings and signs so you know what lane you're suppose to be in when you enter the roundabout.

It's really a simple concept when you get the hang of it and the Wisconsin DOT does a fantastic job of explaining this in the ad that we saw last night and on their web site at

As I drove up US Route 41 from Oshkosh to Appleton, I noticed that the fairly new freeway included quite a few roundabouts at the interchanges. This is a brilliant approach: why put up a traffic signal when traffic counts might not warrant the expense but why risk stop signs for traffic that could be turning onto a higher speed rural road. The roundabout is a brilliant fix (and it helps with "traffic calming").

I'm happy to see that WisDOT is taking the initiative to implement roundabouts and that they're being proactive in their education of the public.  I hope other states follow their lead.



It's kind of fitting that I've kicked my interest up in blogging again through this "Blogs of August" that I'm doing on Google+, because 12 years ago today I wrote my first blog post, back when I was calling it an online journal.

I still remember writing that first post, using FrontPage '98 on Windows ME on an old computer I had pieced together while waiting for Mandrake Linux to install on the computer I had at the time. I had nothing that resembled blogging software. I didn't even use the term blog. The website lived on web hosting space that was included with our Earthlink dial-up account. The entry was written in pure HTML.

My life has gone through many changes in these 12 years, say nothing about the evolution of my blog and where it has gone. I have gone from "maintaining an online journal" to trying to share information, make people smile and providing a peek into the geekdom inside my head. There have been times that I've considered just giving it up but I never can. I always go back to this little experience that I've built to share my experiences.

Thank you for reading. I've made some nifty connections met some cool people in real life by way of this blog and I'm looking forward to continuing this theme.


Embedded Link

Well here I am trying to maintain an on-line journal. I hope to do this once or twice a week to let curious people know what the heck is going on with our life. Today Earl and I went along with my …

Day 3: St. Charles, Ill. – Milwaukee – Appleton, Wisconsin

So today we made our way up the Fox River Valley to the next stop of our vacation, and that is the EAA AirVenture going on in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. This is the second time that I have been to Oshkosh for this event; my first visit was in 1984, just after my 16th birthday, with Grandpa Country and my dad. I'll probably write more about that connection tomorrow.

Staying true to our plan, we tried to take the non-freeway route as much as possible while keeping the adventure to a reasonable timeframe. Our first stop was at Starbucks in Crystal Lake, Ill. for a little caffeine jolt in the way of the unsweetened, shaken iced green tea that we are fond of. From there, we crossed into America's Dairyland and found ourselves in Milwaukee.

I have to admit that I watched for the "Welcome Milwaukee Visitors" sign on the tower that one would see during the beginning credits of Laverne and Shirley, but we never found it. While I navigated city streets, Earl Yelped our way to Lulu's Cafe in the Bayview area of the city. The atmosphere was right up our alley with the high ceilings and the exposed brick walls in this repurposed building along a fairly busy street in the area. With Lulu's Cafe we added the "avoid chain restaurants" option to the vacation. Let's see how long that holds.

Though AirVenture is taking place in Oshkosh, we are staying in nearby Appleton, Wis. until Monday, and to get there, we decided to go around the opposite side of Lake Winnebago. It was a pretty drive that was reminiscent of the Finger Lakes in Upstate New York.

Once we were beyond the drama of our hotel reservation (see the blog entry entitled Travelocity — grrrrrr in a bad way), we drove down to Oshkosh to see where we had to be tomorrow morning and then to enjoy the downtown area which had a fairly artsy vibe going on. There was a lot of music in the area and quite a few people enjoying the various taverns and the like.

Reacquainted with Oshkosh, we headed back to Appleton, where we decided to try the local theatre chain and saw "The Way Way Back" (highly recommended).

Overall the trip has been a smashing success and we are just getting started. I am definitely feeling relaxed.


Blogs of August.

Photo courtesy of When Giants Meet.

So one of the tech journalists that I really enjoy and have a lot of respect for, Mike Elgan, has challenged some bloggers to use Google+ exclusively for the month of August. I have accepted this challenge and have actually found that it has made me blog more than usual so far this month.

There’s a few snags here and there, for example, I have to group multiple pictures together and hyperlinking is a little wonky, but for the most part, it is working quite well and I am experiencing more feedback there than I have through my actual blog in a long while.

Aside from this entry, I am pushing my blog entries from Google+ to my blog here. From here, it gets pushed to Twitter and Facebook like it always has.

In addition to my normal blog entries, you might find additional content on my Google+ profile which is here. I tend to REALLY geek out on Google+ so if you’re inclined to see what’s going on in my geekdom, feel free to take a peek.

This Google+ experience has made me sort of reevaluate how I use social networking, and my thoughts on that are going to be blogged about soon.

In the meanwhile, I shall be getting back to my vacation.