Scrapbook Days

(by Kevin Bertorelli)

During these wintery holidays, many memories are shared with our families and friends. Some of these include those scrap book flying days when God is on your side and the warm summer breezes blow ultralight style. I've been flying now for some 500 plus hours and have experienced a handful of these special days that I share with my fly buddies on such special occasions. Picture a beautiful July weekend starting off with a flight down to Starved Rock Island and a group we called the "Fearsome Foursome". We were a motley group of four rookie fliers on our first excursion to the unknown pleasures of island camping. We left early on Saturday morning to avoid the dreaded daytime thermals only to find the flying was perfect the entire weekend. Camping gear on board, this was going to be a "Boys night out" and then some. We landed on the Island at about 10:00 am and dropped off the gear with Bob, who was the resident bartender of the facility. By this time the park across the river from the island was teaming with spectators with envious eyes. After only 10 to 15 minutes on the ground, we were overwhelmed with the urge to get in our planes that were now parked invitingly in the sun, and rip into the air to continue our adventure. As the park crowd watched, we circled overhead viewing the awesome site and feeling "Like a virgin, for the very first time".

The day was long and fuel was a plenty with all the nearby marinas scattered up the down the river. We scoured the hills and valleys for excitement and came to perch on a flood plain that was smooth, dry, and made a perfect landing zone. By this time the July heat was maxed out and the nearby lake was just what we needed. After a short walk, it was skinny dipping fun - no time to be reserved at these temperatures. We found that the water was cool and refreshing, but the Blue Gill would bite anything that even looked like a worm. While we were swimming around, a guy and his son peddled up on their bicycles and were invited to jump in. The father warned us of the unfriendly plant life that was surrounding the shoreline and nearby trees. It seems that this location was the center of every kind of poisonous plant life known to man. No wonder nobody was swimming in this beautiful lake. After drying off, we walked back to our flying beasts, once again glad to return to the air where we belonged. More flying, more gas, more flying, more gas... what a day.

On our return to the island, we sat in the bar and had a campers dinner - hot dogs and potato chips. After the sun went down, we called the wives and some of us stayed and tipped a few beers while we reminisced the days' events before retiring to our tents. Talk about sleeping like a log, one of the guys woke up the next morning with jumbo spiders swinging over his head and massive mosquito bites - nothing could disturb his sweet dreams.

We packed up our gear, said our good-byes, and headed back to the warm calm air on Sunday morning. We still had one more day to explore our new found freedom. Over the park and down the river we flew, this time in search of fuel and an early lunch. We stopped later at Starved Rock Marina, ...kinda. We had to land in a nearby mud flat and find our way through some obstacles before reaching the entrance road. On the way, the guys egged me into jumping over a small creek which I didn't clear and my shoes got covered with some sort of disgusting slime. We ate lunch in this swanky restaurant, but got a lot of strange stares. Was it my shoes, or did they know we had no business being there?

That overwhelming feeling returned as we walked up to our planes where we left them parked earlier. After strapping on our auxiliary tanks and discussing our intentions, we launched our flying machines off the mud flats and headed for Ottawa - where we planned to head up the Fox river for our return flight VFR, Visual Flight by River. The river and winds were calm and there were hundreds of conoe'rs partying on the water. This made for a great meeting of the boaters and fliers that July afternoon. If we would have only had floats on our planes, we could have gone completely nuts -- but we did anyway.

As the evening approached and we were on our final leg, we shared a feeling that all pilots get. That's the feeling that you don't want to end your scrapbook adventure and land. You and your flying buddies have finally become one with your planes, and the thought of landing and hitting that kill switch brings a sadness that passes only with time. Believe me, you never forget days like these, they're part of you forever.

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