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Final/Wrap-up Blog: Tuesday 10/12/10

WOW! What a special surprise it was for BE and me to arrive back at our Gettysburg Airport departure point at 3:35 last Saturday afternoon, after flying 4.4 hrs from Bluffton, IN, and find the group of local friends and family awaiting us and to see my five-year–old grandson, Zach, eagerly leading everyone to the plane once BE’s propeller came to a final stop.  It was the culmination of an unbelievably fantastic trip and experience for me and the further manifestation of the outpouring of support, encouragement, best wishes, etc. that so many of you have continually extended to us.  Please know that I sincerely appreciated each and every wish, thought, prayer, etc. that you passed my way via this website, email, phone, letter, etc.  It’s difficult to describe how good it feels to have had such an unexpected outpouring of support from old friends, as well as all the new ones I’ve met over the past three plus weeks.  While it would be untenable to cite everyone, there are two individuals and an organization whose contributions were key to the success of my trip.  First and foremost, Tem (who is either my 41-yr-old wife, or my wife of 41 yrs – it’s sometimes hard to remember) has unselfishly supported and encouraged me to follow my heart and do this ever since I first mentioned the possibility of it.  She was often the behind-the-scenes factor that enabled it and she made it possible by “keeping the home fires burning” while I was away.  Whether there’s a quid pro quo on the horizon doesn’t really matter because she is certainly deserving:)  As an engineer, I’m a firm believer in the double-entendre adage that “safety is no accident” and that philosophy extends to system reliability as well.  Russ Ruppert, the FAA licensed A&P/IA at Bermudian Valley Airpark who has meticulously maintained BE for almost six years now, gets full credit for the unprecedented lack of any significant maintenance issues during the almost 80 flight hours of this trip.  Russ is a true maintenance professional who I am privileged to have support my plane.  Finally, the Gettysburg Barnstormers (EAA Chapter 1041), under the leadership of Henry Hartman and Jim Sheen, have been the core support group of fellow aviators and aviation enthusiasts who are always “ready, willing and able” to collectively support the initiatives of their members.  They embody the true spirit of general aviation.

My only regrets are that in undertaking a trip of this nature in a small plane, it is decidedly a solo effort and because of realistic time constraints, the opportunities to spend extended time at any one destination or visit people along the way are limited.  As to the future, I hope to be able to continue roaming the skies with Bald Eagle for many years, but as I wind down in life, have already provisioned to fly him and others in my Ready Room flight simulator when the time inevitably comes to make that change.  In the not too distant months, I plan to make a short trip to New England and “bag” the six remaining states there in order to complete the lower 48.  I already have a surrogate Aeronca lined up to fly the next time I’m in Hawaii and am confident of being able to arrange a similar opportunity in Alaska.  Additionally, a trip through Canada and up the Alaskan Highway with BE is not out of the realm of possibility, dependent right now only on the speed of the Canadian bureaucracy in recognizing Americans who are flying under the provisions of the relatively new Sport Pilot privileges.  Additionally, after almost 50 years of involvement in many different aspects of general, commercial and military aviation, there is probably a book or two in the back recesses of my mind.  Bringing them out in the open and sharing them is something I’ve started thinking more about during some of the long flight legs on this adventure, encouraged by the comments and suggestions of several of you who have vicariously followed along.  So, who knows?  The future is always heavily dependent on whatever you make it be.      

During the course of this trip I exchanged several emails with Nancy K, one of Tem’s best friends since childhood and also a former classmate and friend of mine as well.  Since it’s usually Tem who keeps in touch with her, I wasn’t aware that she always included a specific quote at the end of each of her emails.  However, I became fascinated with it and asked her about its origin.  She responded that it was from her favorite poem, The Summer Day, written by Mary Oliver.  With Nancy’s indulgence I leave it for you to ponder here as the closing line to this great adventure of my own life.

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

Over and out,

Charlie & Bald Eagle

P.S.  Sixty-four-year-old Nancy is the daughter of former longtime Gettysburg Borough Manager, Charlie Kuhn.  She is a very rare six-year survivor of multiple myeloma, an incurable blood cancer that took her own mother at an age younger than she has currently achieved.  If you are in any way touched or inspired by Nancy’s outlook on life and would like to help support the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation (MMRF), I invite you to visit her “Team Remarkable Me's” website at for additional information and then click on the  "Support Team Remarkable Me's" link that is immediately under her picture.

P.P.S. Please note that numerous additional pictures and video clips have been added to the Photos and Videos links on the site.  Unfortunately, they are not all in chronological order, but the photos do have captions with dates that are visible when you scroll over them with a mouse and there are several different clips on most of the video links.

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Charlie Tipton