Those Thrilling Days of Yesteryear (Episode #23) “Bach’s Invitational Cross Country Adventure – Part Three”

“Attention Campers. There is a storm coming – A Storm coming. Everyone out of the lake immediately!”

The loud, urgent voice over the P.A. system was the first indication we had that we’d tied-down our “Invitational Cross-Country Adventure” aircraft next to a summer camp for kids. We could hear children wildly splashing their way out of the nearby lake as we hurriedly took the announcer’s advice, secured our aircraft, then set up our small pup tents.

By now, Joey G. had removed the broken brake cable from our Luscombe, Richard had examined it with a knowing nod, then retired to the interior of his Clip Cub, carrying a roll of safety wire and a pair of side cutters.

We had no idea what he was up to, but our immediate concern was seeking shelter from the impending storm. As it was nearing sunset anyway, Widge & I retired to our tent, slipped into our sleeping bags (as this was obviously a cold front), then “battened down the hatches” as the torrential downpour hit.

The intensity of the storm was amazing – and more than a little frightening. We quickly discovered that our “waterproof” tent wasn’t, and were soon building “towel dams” to direct the “river” flowing between our two sleeping bags.

But despite our best attempts, both of us were soon soaked to the skin.

For a while, we even sought refuge in the Luscombe, but our little bird seemed to have just as many leaks, and the seated position made sleep impossible.

So after exchanging a look of doomed acceptance, we returned to our soggy tent, slipped into our wet sleeping bags, and made an all-bit-futile attempt at achieving some sleep.

I remember clearly being awakened by a sudden, close crash of thunder. I peered outside and saw Bach in the back of his Cub – still wide awake – still working with the roll of safety wire.

Several more flashes illuminated his patient work, and as I closed the window flap and slipped back into my soggy sleeping bag I wondered what on earth Bach was up to.

I found out the following morning during a lull in the rain.

What Bach had done was to braid a new brake line out of aircraft safety wire!

When I held it up against the original, it was hard to tell the difference (though Bach’s was newer).

Less than an hour later Joey G. had the new cable installed and the Luscombe’s floor back in place.

We started the engine and I taxied around to try out the brakes.

The new cable worked better than the original!

We were back in business.

And I had a whole new appreciation of Bach … and that hippie, Joey G!

A few hours later, the rain stopped and the clouds lifted sufficiently to get us out of Newton Airport.

Our three aircraft took off, pulled into what-we-thought was a tight formation then flew for 15 whole minutes before being forced down again.

This time, we landed at Blairstown, and we couldn’t believe we were still in New Jersey! The state seemed to go on forever.

Another lull let us try to break out again. We tried several ways out of the Adirondacks, but ended up in the relative comfort of the airport at Stroudsburg, Pocono. (At least we’d made it into Pennsylvania.)

While we waited for the weather to lift, Bach started complaining that our formation still wasn’t tight enough. He told us we had to get in close. The farther out we were, the harder it was to stay in formation during turns. The pilot on the outside would be running at full throttle just trying to keep up, while the pilot on the inside of the turn would be “hanging on their prop.”

When it looked like a hole was forming, we took off, formed up, and tried to break out.

But half an hour later we were back in Stroudsburg.

Photograph by Joseph Giovenco.
Stroudsburg/Pocono Airport. Aug. 2, 1971.
From L to R: Me, Michelle, Richard, Lou Levner. Back of Chris Kask’s head in foreground.
Our Luscombe under Richard’s nose. Bach’s “candy-striped,” Clip-Wing, J-3 Cub to the left of the Lusc.

And this time Bach’s frustration was beginning to boil over.

To show us where he wanted our aircraft to be, Bach physically picked each up each one by the tail and moved them into the correct position.

“Like that,” he said. “Okay?”

Oh … My … God.

The two formatting aircraft’s wingtips were behind the lead plane’s wings – about halfway to the tail.

I can remember thinking, “You have got to be kidding.”

Lou Levner simply stood with his mouth hanging open.

I didn’t blame him in the least.

Fortunately, the skies picked that moment to start dumping rain again so after hurriedly securing the three little airplanes, we all dashed back inside the Flight Shack, which the F.B.O. had kindly left open for us.

So instead of flying … we began to talk. And what talk there was.

I’ve always looked back upon this moment as the first phase of our new lives. I know that’s how Michelle felt, and Richard must have felt it too, because I believe this was the day when he came up with “The Book.”

The Book was a large, empty “diary” which Richard put out on the FBO table.

The idea was that all of us were free to write whatever thoughts came to mind about “The Invitational Cross Country Adventure.”

I believe Chris Kask broke the ice by making the first entry – and at first, the thoughts written down were general observations on the flights we’d made … or the nice people we’d met. But it didn’t take long before the writing turned a lot more introspective, and before long all of us were revealing our innermost thoughts to these anonymous pages (and – of course – each other).

At first The Book was intimidating, but we soon found we couldn’t wait to read the latest entry. Sometimes two or three people would carry on an intense “conversation,” though nothing was said verbally – at least, not right away. But as the ICCA pressed on (or more accurately – dragged on), those of us who “got it” began to open up more with every passing day.

And the more we truly “saw” each other, the harder it became to write off Joey G. and Chris Kask as “just Hippies.” And I soon began to realize that a lot of their arguments made a lot more sense than my own.

That was an unnerving sensation. But in retrospect, I think that “the real me” began in that flight shack in Stroudsburg/Pocono … with the dark, roiling clouds pelting the windows with rain … while Richard stood carefully watching the sky … and the rest of us sat there, quietly … writing … and thinking.

I’ve never realized this before … but I think that was the day I decided to become a Writer.

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