July 30, 1998
You know, Nikki and I talk about overpopulated places, logging timber and losing land to asphalt, as we cross this vast country. Well, not here. Trees, as far as you can see. Little towns of maybe 100 people every few hours. Night flying in Tennessee has a lot of the power company’s night watchers in the country. I bet flying out here at night is intimidating. Black as tar.
We left Omsk late this morning. We have to get our fuel out of old military trucks at the aerodromes. Mikey tests the fuel before they pump it. Checks out good every time. Seems they ran out on the 2nd AN-2 and had to go “analyze” some more. We were a couple of hours late, but no problem. As we fly, we have offers of fuel, food, and “many kisses” from aerodromes that we pass. Everyone has been fantastic. This is a big event in Russia. (The 60th anniversary)
4 hours and 10 minutes of flying, gets us to Tomsk. We are met again with flowers and media. Fantastic! They put us on a bus to go into town to the hotel. This time we had a police escort. (Get this), Blue lights flashing, siren blowing, driving in the middle of the road. People pulling over and if they didn’t, he would get on his loud speaker and holler in Russian, “Stop, Over, The American Pilots.” Right up to the hotel. I wanted to be on the back of the bus with my cap pulled down. I’m more of a “Bubba Truck” type.
15 minutes of cleaning up and a police escort to the restaurant. When we got there, the police car turned crossways in the road and blocked traffic. We pulled up to the door and got out with everyone staring. After a dinner of fish, fish, fish, and tongue, then caviar, we were tired and started to leave. Now, you remember what people say about their 15 minutes of fame? We walked out of the restaurant to an empty street. No cop, no bus.
After a little while, we saw the bus way down the street. So, we walked down the sidewalk with Nikki and I cracking up. When we got on the bus, it stopped at every red light instead of being escorted through them. A little old woman standing on the corner tried to hail us like a city bus. Now, I was comfortable! I wish my laptop was working because I have some great pictures for the journal.