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July 24, 1998

No air conditioning.   By 9 AM your room is like a sauna.  Come on Siberia!  You get up, take a shower with cool water (No hot.  That's ok because of the heat). Then you move real slow so you don't work up a sweat.  We had a meeting at the Tushino airport this morning.   It was with the Russian Pilots, Aviatrissa, Flight Safety Foundation International and the Orenburg Airlines.  We knew we were getting good help from the Russians but I think this is where we really realized it.  They had their own press packets printed up for the "Bridge of Wings" flight.  They are great.  on the back, it lists the organizers of the flight, Aviatrissa, Government of Moscow, and the Flight Safety Foundation International.  Supported by: The Central Department of Operational Services "Aerotrans", Airborne Forces, Ministry of Defense of Russia, Chakolov's National Air Club, and so on.  We learned that there will be 2 AN-2's and the Maule.   They have everything worked out to the point of putting a mobile communication unit in the middle of the far east Siberian route.  I'm telling you, this thing is very intimidating at times to an old Arkansas girl.

After our meeting with the project organizers, we had a meeting in Moscow with former Women W.W.II Pilots (Night Witches).  We thought it was a little meeting of 4 or 5.  We walked into a room of around 50 women with medals all over their dresses.  (Of course, I had a 4 day old flight suit on and so did Nikki)  After these amazing women spoke, Nikki and I had to also.  Yeah right, they dropped bombs at night and we flew a single engine to Russia.  No comparison!  Terrie and May Adair (our documentary guys) got some great interviews.  From here we went back to the hotel.  Big day!  Natassia invited us up to her room to visit with an air traffic controller, 2 AN-2 pilots, and an engineer.  Now guys, I'm telling you, Nikki needs a little sailor suit because she leaves one in every port.  The engineer told her that when he saw her picture, he was inspired to write a poem.  Now, she's sitting over there thinking, "Please not in front of Rhonda and the journal".  Even though he spoke in Russian, I understood every word.  He impressed her with the wad of money in his pocket, he sang her a song, flashed the 4 gold front teeth and then the ultimate.... He did a duck call for her.  Nikki, Nikki, Nikki.  I drug her away reluctantly and we went to the outdoor cafe behind the hotel. Mikey, Jeremy, Doug and Terrie were sitting and talking.   We joined them and about midnight got a wild hair.  Let's go to Red Square.   Couldn't get a cab at the hotel so we walked a few blocks past the ladies of the night.  We stood on a street corner and waited. You need to watch Nikki negotiate a Russian cab ride then see 6 people crawl into a Fiat.  Jeremy is 6'4" (he has to fold up).  then as we ride piled 2 high, the driver and Nikki argue over how to say Red Square.  The 6 rednecks walked Red Square till 2 am.   It as fantastic... St. Basil Cathedral is probably the prettiest building that I have ever seen.

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