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Going to Mecca with a Prince

“There once was a Master come unto the earth.  Born in the holy land of Indiana…..”  

Thus begins the story of a reluctant Messiah, Donald Shimoda, the main character in Richard Bach’s book, Illusions.  Donald is a modern day barnstormer who flies his pristine Travel Air 4000 antique biplane around the mid west, dropping into hay fields and selling rides.   Another barnstormer joins Donald and the two begin hopping rides with their two airplanes.  It doesn’t take long for the newcomer to notice some strange phenomena associated with Donald.  His Travel Air uses nary a drop of fuel or oil, never has any grease or oil on it, (which is unheard of for an airplane with a radial engine),  it  never, ever smashes an insect with it’s wings or propeller, and passengers who fly with Donald are miraculously cured of  ailments.  Shimoda dispenses sage, Yoda like philosophy while making perfect three point landings in impossibly small fields, vaporizing clouds at will, and floating 3/4 inch wrenches.

Like a crow, focusing my attention on the shiniest objects in my range of vision I have concluded that historically, I have been quite short sighted.  With the impending trip, I am discovering ever more shiny objects further afield..  Namely, the fact that there are a ton of small airports east of the Missouri and one in particular is issuing an especially compelling siren song.   Lee Bottom Flying Field appears to be the ultimate biplane paradise.  Thousands of feet of meticulously trimmed emerald grass serve as the runway alongside a lovely curving river in a lovely pastoral setting.  The airport is no wannabe, it’s been hosting airplanes since the 1930’s and not just any airplanes, but lots and lots of biplanes and other vintage fliers.  Rare ones.  Airplanes many have never even heard of.  And they all  converge on this piece of beautiful topographical history in droves.   Sometimes in the hundreds,  row upon row of multicolored brilliance, these flying pieces of heritage flock to Lee Bottom in an aviation pilgrimage of sorts.  The airfield hosts what they call Sinful Sundays and the faithful touch down on its hallowed turf surface to partake in ice cream and antique aviation communion.  I have rapidly come to the conclusion that my trip would not be complete if myself and the Student Prince did not partake in the pilgrimage to Lee Bottom Flying Field.  It would be a first for both of us.  I wonder if they will daub some Marvel Mystery Oil between my eyes in an aviation blessing?  Well, I’ll settle for the ice cream at least.

Oh and where exactly is this mythical airfield which hosts the rare and beautiful winged ones?  In the holy land of Indiana.

10 responses »

  1. Broadhead, Wisconsin, might be the obscure vintage biplane capitol of the world. If you
    stop there you may never come back to us….LOL It is on the southern Wi border just
    N.E. of Chicago….There must be 25 OX powered biplanes there….everything there
    must be vintage….Oh yeah Grass runways……

  2. What a wonderful compliment. We sure hope you can make it. LLT followed by a little ice cream? Oh how I hope for you good weather.

    You are also sure to have fun at the LLT event. Everything Judy does ends up being fun.


  3. I’ve read every single one of Richard Bach’s books and the one quoted was one of my favorites.
    It gets to the essence of why we fly.
    I may be a few thousand hours behind Summer …but we share the same essence with Richard Bach who is a few thousand hours ahead of us both.
    The Essence is the same…..the love of “being up there…….one with the sky and the machine”.

  4. Perfectly said Jim. It’s an honor to share the sky with you. And Richard Bach!

  5. Oh Summer, please stop in at C77, Poplar Grove Airport in northern Illinois, if you’re routing allows! We have grass runways and many many fine antiques and biplanes as well as loads of fellow “skysisters”

    • Tina! Thanks for the invite. We may just have to do that. Do you know the Koerner’s from Kankakee? They also invited us to drop in. Love your Winkle Bird, it reminds me of the Prince.

  6. Are you sure you don’t need an official team photographer on this amazing journey??? The visuals you paint with words sound gorgeous!


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