The leaves are beginning to change color, autumn is fast approaching. The trees catch fire with brilliant hues of red, orange, brown, yellow and the like. Pumpkin spice fills the air with fumes of fall. The breeze is brisk with a winter chill. A guttural moan starts afar, gradually becoming a thunderous roar of bone tingling, breathtaking music as four Cessna 195’s come roaring in, passing low, from the right. The autumn bell has rung.
For our, small, 195 family September is the month we long for all year long. A round engine and beautifully crafted aluminum bring us together from all over the globe to celebrate life, friendship, and this beautiful airplane. It is time, once again, for the International Cessna 195 Convention.
This year’s convention was held in Northern Michigan at Harbor Springs Airport. I flew commercial from Idaho on Wednesday night to Milwaukee. Thursday morning I explored Marquette University, where my mom went to college, while waiting on Ashley and Pat, who were arriving that morning from Texas. They picked me up in their Businessliner early Thursday morning at Timmerman Field, just outside Milwaukee. We flew with Chris Thompson and his 195, Bonnie, up to Shangri-la (WS25) airpark. After we landed, we were greeted by a mob of smiling, familiar faces critiquing our landing, as any group of pilots would do. After catching up on life, we loaded up Will’s Vietnam era diesel military transport truck and headed to the Four Seasons Island Resort on Miscauno Island in the Menominne River. It is often said, the only thing faster than a fighter pilot flying an airplane, is a fighter pilot driving a car. This holds true for most pilots I know. Will is no exception and the drive in the back of this loud monster of a truck was quite a thrill! Funnier yet was showing up at a Four Seasons golf resort in an ear numbing olive drab diesel truck with a bunch of 195 drivers stuffed in the back. It was quite a sight, I’m sure.
The Four Seasons Resort has quite a history.
The Four Seasons Island Resort first opened its elegant doors in 1905. Originally known as the Miscauno Inn, the Wisconsin-Michigan Railroad built this edifice as a scenic getaway for train riders from as far as Chicago. Deep into the North woodlands of Wisconsin, located 90 miles from Green Bay, WI and 28 miles from Iron Mountain, MI, The Four Seasons has become a local and national landmark. It has attracted many celebrities and distinguished guests in its 100 year history, even being the rumored retreat of Al Capone.
Good food and great company made for a memorable lunch. After an equally thrilling ride back to the airport, it was time to blast off and head east to Harbor Springs. Since a vintage, single-engine airplane and a large, cold body of water don’t mix well, we all went north around the Upper Peninsula on our way to Michigan. Four of us stopped in Schoolcraft for fuel. From Schoolcraft we flew as a flight of four around the south tip of the U.P. over the Mackinac Bridge and into Harbor Springs.
The rest of the evening was filled with great food prepared by our gracious hosts, Craig and Maggie, and even better company. Of course there was flying to be done, Kurtis and Wade put on a good show just before sundown. After sunset, the party flowed into night.
Friday morning we were greeted with cooler temperatures and gusty wind conditions. Autumn was in full swing in the Midwest. Friday was set aside to fly into and explore Mackinac Island. I’ll be the first to admit, I never had much of a desire to explore Michigan. Mackinac Island shoved my ignorance of Michigan’s beauty right back in my face. Mackinac is stunning in every way.
Mackinac Island sits in Lake Huron, just east of the straits of Mackinac. Mackinac Island is the truly “all natural” theme park of America. Motorized vehicles have been prohibited on the island since 1898. Travel on the island is either by foot, bicycle, or horse-drawn carriage. An 8-mile (13 km) road follows the island’s perimeter, and numerous roads, trails and paths cover the interior. The road encircling the island and closely hugging the shoreline is M-185, the United States’ only state highway without motorized vehicles. The island has escaped the vast changes of time. Exploring the historic, natural beauty of Mackinac Island State Park, honored by National Geographic as one of the ten finest in America, is well worth the trip.
The island is truly spectacular in every way. For me, it is one of those places that are unexplainable. This is a place that must be explored firsthand. It is the whole experience that makes this island so fantastic. It truly feels like 1880 Victorian America.
There are a plethora of activities to choose from on Mackinac Island. Ashley, I, Kurtis, Christina, Gene and his family all decided to rent bikes and circle the island. After our lovely bike ride, we stopped and had lunch at the Pink Pony Restaurant, overlooking the harbor. Nothing beats a great meal after a long bike ride. Decadent.
After lunch we moseyed up the hill to see the crown jewel of Mackinac Island; The Grand Hotel.
Constructed in the late 19th century, the Grand Hotel is known as holding the record for the world’s largest porch. The Grand Hotel is well known for a number of notable visitors. Five U.S. Presidents have visited: Harry Truman, John F. Kennedy, Gerald Ford, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton. The hotel also hosted the first public demonstration of Thomas Edison‘s phonograph on the porch and regular demonstrations of other new inventions were often conducted during Edison’s frequent stays. Mark Twain also made this a regular location on his speaking tours in the Midwest. Russian prime minister Vladimir Putin, and Russian president Dmitri Medvedev have also visited.
The Grand Hotel served as a backdrop and one of the settings for the 1980 film Somewhere in Time starring Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour. The hotel also served as the setting for the 1947 musical-comedy This Time for Keeps starring Jimmy Durante and Esther Williams.
Once again, The Grand Hotel proves hard to personify in words. It is a stunning piece of architecture. It’s sheer size and stature demand respect.
At this point the day was getting short and it was time to catch our horse and carriage taxi back to the airport. On the flight back into Harbor Springs the gusty winds we were greeted with that morning had picked up substantially. Harbor Springs sits in a cove and the south wind was creating tricky crosswind conditions to land a large taildragger. It was a nail biting afternoon watching people land, luckily everyone made smart decisions and no one was hurt in the process.
The strong winds on Friday were due to a low pressure system that brought in crummy weather for Saturday and Sunday. Saturday was marked with low ceilings and cold drizzle. That didn’t stop us from having a good time though. A few of us waited for the clouds to lift and flew over to St. Ignace for the maintenance forum. As usual, Bill and Jeff put on a highly educational seminar. With these old airplanes, the best way to learn is by experience. The 195 club does an excellent job capitalizing on the decades of experience among its ranks.
After an uneventful flight back to Harbor Springs we cleaned up and prepared for the evening banquet. Some of the most fun, memorable, and “colorful” moments at these conventions happen at the Saturday banquet. This year’s banquet was no disappointment and I’ll leave it at that.
Sunday greeted us with the worst weather yet. Low visibility, rain, and clouds met us at the airport in the morning. Generally that would be good news because it is more time with the family I only see once a year. This year, however, I had a commercial flight in Milwaukee I had to catch that afternoon. It is never fun “waiting” on weather; luckily the clouds cleared in time for Pat, Ashley, and me to takeoff and make it to KMKE in time for my flight.
The flight from Harbor Springs (KMGN) around the Upper Peninsula, and down the Lake Michigan Isles was the prettiest yet. The clouds forced us to stay low which allowed us to see all the beauty that Michigan has to offer. After landing in Milwaukee, we said our goodbyes and back to Idaho I went.
Another convention has come and gone, but it will not soon be forgotten. This year was full of adventure and lessons. We all learned, once again, that life is about the journey. We will be met with adversity and low ceilings at times, but at some point a hole in the clouds will appear and blue skies await. I was reminded that there is beauty everywhere, even in places that I might not expect. Most importantly, I was reminded that friends, family, and the times we share together are what is most important in life. Until next year…