I don’t think Columbia, Kentucky is on the top of many bucket lists. Situated between east and central time zones, the area is known for its tobacco crops and I swear the churches outnumber the homes. So what does someone do in a dry county in the middle of Kentucky? Play bingo, eat at delicious southern buffets, and take a pontoon boat out for a spin.
Nearly every year, Mike takes a trip to Columbia to visit his friend, Doug, who invited us to join his family out on Green River Lake, a man-made lake that is home to a number of houseboats and a fair share of fishing tournaments. There was a storm passing dangerously close to the lake, but we waited it out and we’re also able to catch a spectacular sunset. While in Kentucky, we also flew over to Rough River, a nearby park that makes for a picturesque lunch spot, with a restaurant located in the lodge overlooking the river. The place was buzzing with bikers sporting Harley Davidson jackets and a handful of other pilots and their families who had flown in.
My next stop was Parkersburg, West Virginia, a town located along the banks of the Ohio River (just across from Marietta) where I found myself sleeping at the airport for a few days.
“Are you living here?” a couple of airline pilots joked, noticing my belongings all over the upstairs pilot’s lounge.
“For the time being,” I answered. There was virtually no general aviation traffic for most of the week and the airport was perched on a hill away from the business center. I was able to use the crew car (another Buick with at least one window that didn’t work) into town a few times – until they realized the inspection had expired four months earlier.
I stopped by the tourism office and they tipped me off to some bluegrass in the park and the arrival of the American Queen paddlewheeler. I couldn’t believe my timing; the Queen was the largest river steamboat ever made, and stepping inside was like being transported in time. Victorian bird cages, stained glass Tiffany lamps, rocking chairs on the “front porch,” and thousands of antiques and paintings recreated an era when the arrival of a steamboat was the talk of the town. It still was in Marietta and Parkersburg and many of the residents came downtown to see the elegant ship.
I posted my “Oshkosh or Bust” sign in the window at the airport, but only one other plane stopped in that was heading to the massive air show – and they were full already. AirVenture had already started, so when Chris called me to say they definitely had room for one more person in their plane, I was relieved that I wouldn’t be sitting in an airport missing all the action.
“You’re not superstitious, are you?” Tom asked as we all grabbed lunch in Marietta, Ohio before embarking on the journey to AirVenture in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.
“I’m not sure. Why?”
“Do you know whose plane we are flying in to Oshkosh?” he asked and added a dramatic pause. “It’ was JFK Junior’s plane.” There was another pause, as if he could see my mind drifting to the crash near Martha’s Vineyard before he added “his first plane.”