Modelo vs. Bud Light and the Reno Air Races

Modelo is America’s #1 selling beer (NBC). Meanwhile, at the other end of the rainbow, “Bud Light sales still down 30% six months after Dylan Mulvaney disaster, drinkers ‘lost forever’: expert” (NY Post).

What is Modelo sponsoring? Check these photos from Oshkosh 2023 of the Lockheed T-33 that they sponsor in airshows:

Note that this can be considered a “trans sponsorship” because the aircraft was assigned “fighter” at birth in 1944, but switched to identifying as “trainer” in 1948. In other words, a trans sponsorship need not hurt a beer brand so long as aerobatics and Jet A are involved.

Tranheuser-Busch was a significant sponsor of airshow performers decades ago. They famously had a BD-5J, just like James Bond (before James Bond spent most of his time in gay bars). Back issues of aviation magazines also show more conventional piston aerobatic planes whose sole sponsor was Bud Light.

Could Bud Light be revived with sponsorship? Let’s consider the example of Saudi Arabia, whose laws and values are not necessarily shared by everyone worldwide. Nonetheless, everyone cheers the soccer and golf teams and events that they sponsor.

If Bud Light wants to reclaim market share, should Tranheuser-Busch bring its checkbook to airshows? Due to residential encroachment driven by population growth (one of the many benefits of expanding our population to 450+ million via low-skill immigration?), the Reno Air Races (which start today) need a new home, which was challenging to find. Consider a typical American who welcomed lockdowns, school closures, forced masking of 2-year-olds, and coerced vaccination. He/she/ze/they meekly cowered in place for a year or two and now you expect him/her/zir/them to accept the risk of a 75-year-old P-51 flying nearby at 550 mph? Air racing requires infrastructure in the middle of nowhere and, in direct contradiction, proximity to a major population center with commercial airline service.

For 2024 at least, the plan is to race just outside of Las Vegas in Pahrump. This will cost a lot of money to set up and Tranheuser-Busch could supply it in exchange for the races being renamed the “Bud Light Not Trans At All Air Races”. Since the CEO won’t abandon his/her/zir/their passion for promoting Rainbow Flagism, one stipulation could be that all competitors be painted in the following scheme:

Rainbow yet not Rainbow?

Speaking of the T-33, here are a couple of photos from the EAA Museum commemorating a nun-piloted flight from Wisconsin to New Jersey:


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Jimmy Buffett: Airman

A multiengine seaplane pilot has gone west. Let’s have a look at James William Buffett’s pilot certificate, from the FAA Airmen Registry:

Jimmy Buffett was a resident of Palm Beach County, as far as the FAA was concerned. He was typed in the Grumman Albatross (C/G-111), three Dassault Falcon bizjets, and the original Cessna Citation bizjet (bird strikes from the rear). The “date of issue” being in 2019 could have been due to a change of address, a change of gender ID, or an added rating.

Buffett wanted to see a Democrat-run Florida and Democrat-run United States. In “Jimmy Buffett takes musical shots at Trump during concert” (2018), for example, Buffett was supporting Andrew Gillum in the governor’s race against Ron DeSantis. He got his wish in 2020 for the country, at least.

Buffett became a billionaire via real estate development, mostly in Florida, and most recently with 55+ communities, e.g., in Daytona (see this New Yorker story). At the time of his death, he was working on a $400 million project just to our southeast in Riviera Beach. I hope that the project is completed. Even if I’m more of a classical and jazz listener, I’m sure that it will be an improvement over everything else that has been going on in Riviera Beach.

Maybe we need to honor Buffett’s memory by getting multiengine seaplane ratings in a Grumman Widgeon in Alabama. Who wants to go this fall, as soon as the weather cools off a little?

Or we could go to Key West, Florida. Although Buffett seems to have spent more time in Palm Beach, he is associated with Key West and built a hotel there. The good news is that is ready to help with the challenge of finding a gay-friendly place to stay in Key West. Note the “LGBTQ welcoming” checkbox at upper left in this listing of places available for Nov 3-5:

Very loosely related… the pilot who managed a successful off-airport landing in a Boeing 737 retired a few days ago.

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A visit to BETA Technologies in Burlington, Vermont (eVTOL aircraft)

Earlier this month, I stopped into BETA Technologies, a $1 billion (financing) electric aircraft baby that has been growing in the unlikely crib of the Green Mountains. With offices and labs in Burlington (KBTV) and flight tests across the lake at Plattsburgh (KPBG), the company is pushing ahead on making all aspects of battery-electric aviation practical.

Much of the company’s effort seems to have gone into making better electric motors. Cooling is a challenge for a motor that puts out 200+ hp continuously and there have been multiple iterations of design. The 3D printers were all running when I visited while mechanical engineers labored at desktop PCs.

Does it fly? Yes! In fact, a test pilot told me about going more than 300 nm on one charge. The company is working on two aircraft at the same time:

The CTOL version on the left (“conventional takeoff and landing”) might be more interesting for the general aviation crowd. Why pay $1 million for a new piston-powered airplane that is trying to shake itself and you apart with vibration and deafen you and your passengers with noise when you can cruise in smooth quiet electric comfort? BETA is hoping for certification in 2025 (which means 2027?) and is also working on the ground support infrastructure to make these aircraft practical transportation solutions. Charging will supposedly take about one hour, which is inferior to refueling time, but my host posted out that electric aircraft don’t waste any time in startup/runup/shutdown. The company has a Pipistrel electric two-seater and he demonstrated that it is up and running within a few seconds after flipping four switches.

One area where BETA might have less certification challenges than competitors is that they’re not trying to create a fully autonomous aircraft. In the VTOL version, one of the four seats is for a pilot with a powered-lift type rating on his/her/zir/their certificate (maybe the CTOL version can be flown by a pilot with a single-engine land rating?). On the other hand, if a commercial operator orders 100 of these, the operating will have to fight United Airlines for 100 pilots.

Just outside their engineering hangar is an example of what the ground support station would look like. The left cube is a GPU that can be hooked up to run cabin heat or A/C. The center is for a massive charging cable to top up the 800V battery. The right cube is for cooling the battery (during charging).

The company has a “study hall” where local kids can come in to learn about how battery packs, inverters, and three-phase AC motors work.

There is also a non-motion sim right by the front door:

I came away impressed with the company’s spirit and cooperative energy.

What’s the competition? Boeing-owned Wisk had a booth and a demonstration flight at Oshkosh this year:

Considering that it has the same seating capacity as a Cessna 172, the Wisk machine is enormous. It the electric future is more efficient, why does the efficient vehicle take up four parking spaces? And dare anyone ask how much it will cost to put together this much carbon fiber and plastic?

The BETA eVTOL works like a DJI drone. The rotors are fixed, but may spin at different speeds. A pusher propeller at the rear can then push the machine to cruise at 120 knots or more. Wisk takes a leaf from the Boeing V-22 Osprey, which cost $30 billion in pre-Biden money to develop, and tilts the motors as necessary.

If Wisk can achieve its engineering, certification, and production goals, the customers won’t have to worry about hiring pilots: the tilt-rotor is fully autonomous.


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What we learned at Oshkosh (the talks)

The best talk that we attended at Oshkosh (EAA AirVenture) was by Mike Stevens, a Cirrus test pilot, on a verification flight for the parachute system in the Vision Jet. The FAA did not demand this test, but Cirrus decided to do it anyway. Landing under the parachute carries a risk of back injury and destroys the airframe, so the idea was to cut the deployed ‘chute away, as had been done on a Cirrus SR20 test flight two decades earlier, and then fly the airplane to a runway. Stevens showed us video of the SR20 flipping over after the cut-away and said “that’s a little sporty to do in a jet.” It was impressive to see what had to go into the planning of the operation, including, for example, nets to protect the engine inlet from sucking in fragments of the cords.

“Tumbleweed” gave us a good talk on the Burning Man Airport, including the prep, the surface maintenance, and the new-since-a-few-years-ago air traffic control facility (some of the same controllers who handle EAA AirVenture go out to deal with what in some ways is a bigger challenge). She has been the airport manager in various years so could speak to a variety of aspects of the operation. See also my article Burning Man for turboprop pilots.

The worst talk, by far, was by a federal government working regarding a four-year struggle (or five?) to create a mobile-friendly version of We lasted about 30 minutes and hadn’t heard anything about what the site could do for pilots. The entire talk was about the struggles of insiders, e.g., moving hosting providers. (Pilots still don’t have any simple source for a cloud tops forecast, which was formerly part of the “area forecast” that was discontinued in favor of these unusable web sites. If you can climb over the tops of clouds you’ll be ice-free in the Northeast and bump-free in Florida, so it is important to know in advance. (Elites in pressurized aircraft don’t care because they can always keep climbing.))

Russell Klingaman, a lawyer, gave a talk about the Wright brothers and their patent litigation (“the aileron wars”). For Klingaman, the Wright brothers are villains who held back aviation in the U.S. by 10-20 years. They had wanted to produce as few airplanes as possible and make as much money as possible via patent litigation.

Timothy Ravich, an aviation attorney at a big firm in Chicago, gave an overview talk on eVTOL. It was light on the practical and legal barriers these folks are going to face in getting their products FAA certified and heavy on the social injustice suffered by Americans who identify as “women”. In the slide below, we learn that women spend twice as much time taking transportation as men, pay twice as much when they do need transportation, and are more likely to die in a car crash. As Bill Burr points out, a lot of women do the hardest job in the world of being a mother and therefore shouldn’t have to incur much risk or cost of transportation (since staying home in pajamas is always an option). Nobody in the audience challenged any of these statistics. (AAA says that men spend more time driving than women; IIHS says that men are more likely to be killed in car accidents.)

Seth Washburne opened up about trying to transition from a Cessna 172 into a DC-3 restoration project that went off the rails and cost $2 million in pre-Biden money.

We didn’t make it to even half of the talks that sounded interesting. I’m especially sorry that I didn’t get to meet Zara Rutherford, who flew around the world VFR recently. There was also a talk on rebuilding a Boeing B-17. That’s what next year is for!

Let’s also not forget after hours. A few images from the SOS Brothers Beer Tent, across from our Walmart tent:

I’m sure that a lot of learning happens at SOS University!

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Overheard at Oshkosh

Some choice conversations overheard at Oshkosh (EAA AirVenture), with gratuitous photos mixed in as separators.

F/A 18 pilot: I’ve met 120 of the 30 people who flew in the first Top Gun movie. Any reference to that movie was a finable offense, but sometimes it was worth the $10. I expected to hate the new movie, but it wasn’t that bad.

  • Mechanic/pilot: I’m proud that both of my kids never had transgender surgery and aren’t addicted to opiates.
  • Jet owner/pilot: how old are they?
  • Mechanic/pilot: my son is 21 and my daughter is 23
  • Jet owner/pilot: did you manage to keep her off the pole?

Mechanic: my mother could have sucked the self-esteem out of a diamond.

Below: “We’re going on vacation in my private Boeing airplane.”

  • Pilot A: “Do you have kids?”
  • 36-year-old Pilot B: “no”
  • Pilot A: “you’ve gotta bank some sperm because ChatGPT programmed by the LGBTQ is going to tell the Boston Dynamics robot dog to bite your balls off.”

Below: the diabetes folks sell Pepsi and Mountain Dew:

  • “Do they have women’s chess?”
  • “Yes”
  • “doesn’t that prove right the guys who say women aren’t good at science?”

“Who came up with the idea of putting high-speed internet everywhere? Now nobody has to drive into these sh*thole cities where nobody gets arrested.”

62-year-old to 35-year-old: “don’t get married. Domestic partnership. Keep them on their toes.”

Below, the NGPA had booths in both a regular show hangar and in a special “WomenVenture” hangar (the latter equipped with blessed air conditioning):

(I texted the above to my pilot friends who happen to be gay; note the rare use of the rainbow flag by people who are authentically gay!)

On the subject of heterosexual interactions, one pilot suggested creating fake contraceptive patches that family court profiteers could wear and collecting 2 percent of the child support revenue. Another pilot responded by noting that a vasectomy would be a defense against this scheme. The first pilot pointed out that vasectomy carried an increased risk of prostate cancer.

Below: a Beechcraft Denali, not to be confused with the Pilatus PC-12 across from which it was parked, that had flown in. It will be at least 7 million Bidies when it finally limps out of the certification process in 2024 or 2025 (the planned cost back in 2016 was $4 million).

A jet owner who owns multiple properties in desirable off-the-beaten-track locations: “Starlink revolutionized vacation home rentals. I don’t even bother trying to find local Internet because it never works as well. There is no way to AirBnB a property if it doesn’t have Internet and Starlink opens up a lot of locations that weren’t previously viable.”

Below, a twin-engine seaplane made from a kit (Seawind). The second engine can be deployed into the water after landing to facilitate docking.

  • Pilot 1, to the bag check lady at an entrance gate: “What are you looking for?”
  • Bag check lady: “drugs, weapons.”
  • Pilot 2: “I smoked up all of my crack last night with Hunter Biden.”

Below: a privately owned MiG-29:

HondaJet pilot regarding the rudders: “there is a delay of two seconds after weight on wheels. Then the aircraft suddenly develops a turning tendency if pedals aren’t centered. The steering is as sensitive as a clitoris, but you don’t usually operate a clitoris with your feet.” There is a mode where the nose wheel can be set to free castor. Shouldn’t it be in that mode automatically after landing and until you’re down to some speed where the rudder is no longer effective? “I have a long list of ideas that would make the plane better”

Below: C-47 (DC-3), which cost $110,000 in 1943 and flew to support the Normandy invasion on D-Day:

If Magpie, an electric airplane company in which most of the trip is powered via aerial robot tugs, isn’t crazy enough for you… Aerial refueling for bizjets. “The Garmin software would line everything up and then all of these 1,000-mile light jets could go coast to coast.”

Below: one of the KidVenture stations where kids can learn a variety of practical skills.

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How much does aviation add to real estate values in vacation destinations?

Happy National Aviation Day!

I’m celebrating on Mount Desert Island, home to Acadia National Park, having arrived here via ghetto-class Cirrus SR20. I’m staying in a neighborhood of oceanfront houses that were worth $2-4 million pre-coronapanic. This evening, about 30 folks gathered for dinner two houses over. Everyone who wasn’t a full-timer had arrived by air, either private or scheduled, to the BHB airport. The lockdowns and Internet (lucky to get 80 Mbits down and 10 Mbits up here) added a lot of value to these houses, but I think that aviation is responsible for much of the value.

I can’t find any economic analysis of how much out-of-the-way vacation spots have increased in value now that they’re accessible by air. These places were worthless before the railroads. Bar Harbor became conveniently accessible via rail, it seems, in 1902 (Wikipedia). The place took a hit from the invention of modern air conditioning by pioneering female engineer Wilma Carrier ( A/C made staying in New York City or Washington, D.C. more tolerable) and then got a boost from improvements in aviation. The overnight sleeper trains from NYC might have been as comfortable as today’s Cape Air flights, but coming to Bar Harbor from Alabama (we met some folks at a restaurant who vacation in Acadia every year) was impractical.

[If we’re climate change alarmists, which I hope that we all are, we can also look at the benefits to Bar Harbor, Maine from CO2 emitted by aviation. Maine isn’t a pleasant place to swim yet, but if Greta Thunberg is correct this could be the next Miami Beach.]

Some over-sharpened iPhone pictures from a carriage road in Acadia:

View from my friend’s back yard:

Cars and Coffee at the Seal Cove Auto Museum:

The big hotel in downtown Bar Harbor:

The only rainbow flag that I could find downtown (note the lack of trans-enhancement):

What it has looked like most of this summer:

Climate change has brought a wet/cold summer to Vermont, Maine, and Quebec.

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Harvey Milk Terminal 1 at SFO: the country’s best airport terminal for gay people…

… and also the best airport terminal for straight people. The Harvey Milk Terminal began to open in 2019, but construction was paused for coronapanic and the $2.4 billion building is scheduled for completion in “late 2024”.

I visited at 10 pm on a Wednesday evening and the terminal benefitted by being only about 20 percent full. Due to the high ceilings, the claustrophobic Fall of Saigon feeling should be avoided even at 100 percent. The architects and planners put some effort into making the airport quiet and seem to have succeeded in the carpeted gate areas.

What if you’re stuck for a while and need WiFi and a desk? The free WiFi is available without an annoying advertisement or an acceptance of terms process:

How about the work surface?

(Nit: It’s been only a few years, but the power outlets (“loose like wizard sleeve”) and USB-A jacks (loose and/or broken) haven’t aged well.)

What if you want to lounge instead?

What if you want to play?

There are a lot of restaurants, but maybe not enough to deal with a capacity crowd:

What if you want to teach the kids about Harvey Milk? Certainly, the airport is more forthcoming than ChatGPT. If you ask, based on the Wikipedia article, “Was there anything wrong about Harvey Milk having a relationship with a 17-year-old boy?” ChatGPT says “This content may violate our content policy”:

The airport features larger-than-life images on the walls from which teenage boys are absent:

(Regarding Scott Smith, Wikipedia notes “18 years his junior” while the caption at the airport is silent on the age difference between Messrs. Milk and Smith.)

If you’d like to sip coffee while studying the exhibits…

Need a gender-neutral restroom after the coffee?

Thirsty again after learning about the importance of Harvey Milk? There are water-refill islands:

One proposal was to rename the entire airport “Harvey Milk International” (USA Today), but that was rejected. For now, therefore, it is only the magnificently designed Terminal 1 that bears the hero-to-almost-all-Californians’ name:

(Why not a hero to all Californians, full stop? See “Temecula school board president calls Harvey Milk a pedophile, sparks outcry” (June 5, 2023; even Governor French Laundry cannot eliminate hate in California).)

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Bring-the-dog airline: JSX

This is a review of the semi-private startup airline, JSX, based on experiencing a flight from Burbank to Oakland. The company, founded by JetBlue alumni, flies the 50-seat Embraer 145 regional jet in a 30-seat configuration on the following network:

Passengers are asked to show up 20 minutes in advance of the flight. Anything bigger than a briefcase must be checked (is it luxury to hoist your own luggage over your head and then have the bag encroach on your headroom and sightlines?). Security consists of a quick walk through a metal detector. Loading and unloading takes only a few minutes because the plane isn’t jammed to its capacity (see Two-thirds full airline idea). The “terminal” on either end either is an FBO or is like an FBO. If you’re averse to crowds and lines, this is the way to travel!

The flight attendant on my BUR-OAK trip was warm and enthusiastic about her job. The fare was about 50 percent higher than what Southwest wanted for the same route. Everything ran on time. Bringing a full-size dog entails buying a second ticket. In-flight Internet is via Starlink (#thanksElon) and requires no gymnastics to connect to. A wide variety of drinks and snacks are included, including wine and beer (nobody asked for Bud Light):

The only area where JSX suffers compared to an oligopoly airline is that the Embraer E145 isn’t as quiet inside as, for example, an Airbus A320. Bring the noise-canceling headphones.

A few photos from Burbank:

At Oakland:

This is a great addition to the American commercial airline system. I wish they flew PBI/BED, PBI/HPN, and PBI/IAD (West Palm Beach to Boston/NY/DC). And, as they grow, I hope that they eventually transition to the whisper-quiet geared turbofan-powered Airbus A220 (an evolved Bombardier CRJ). Quiet = luxurious!

For the Uber ride at the end, “they” is the pronoun that Uber chooses for a driver named “Mohamed”:

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Prediction: The -G7 Cirrus comes out in 2024

At Oshkosh, Garmin showed off their retrofit panel for the ancient Cirrus SR2x aircraft (-G1 and -G2, made from 1999 through 2008).

The G500TXi PFD and MFD screens are smallish (10 inches) and low resolution (1280×768; makes it tough to read an approach plate without pinching and zooming, not ideal workload additions when you’re trying to fly an airplane). The Garmin 750/650 nav/coms in the pedestal are getting long in the tooth at this point (introduced in 2011).

What’s interesting about the panel, then? The GFC 500 autopilot includes Electronic Stability and Protection that fights against unusual attitudes even when the autopilot is nominally off. The -G6 G1000-equipped SR2x airplanes include a GFC 700 autopilot that also has this important safety feature, so ESP is not a big advantage for the retrofit. The retrofit panel is all-touch all-the-time, which is great in a ground demonstration and not to great in turbulence. By combining the three backup steam gauges into a single Garmin GI 275, the autopilot control head can move to where those steam gauges used to be. With remote transponder and audio panels, the pedestal can be devoted to the 750/650 instead of two hard-to-read 650s.

Here’s where the retrofit truly shines:

The $1.2 million -G6 Cirrus doesn’t have this button. If the engine quits , it is the panicked pilot’s job to pitch for best glide airspeed, figure out which airports are within glide range, edit that airport list based on terrain and weather, pick the best airport, pick the best runway at that airport, fly down to the airport, get lined up on a reasonable final approach (vertically and laterally) for a runway, and then land. If the pilot makes a mistake at any point, it is time to pull the parachute, which will seriously injure the aircraft and may seriously injure the occupants (it’s designed to save your life, not your back).

Since 2022, however, the pilot of a boned-out $200,000 Cirrus that has been injected with $100,000 of Garmin (that was the pre-Biden price; maybe it is 130,000 Bidies now?) can have the calm, cool, and collected Garmin software do all of the above for him/her/zir/them except for the final two miles of gliding and the heroic flare. (See the video below; it is unclear what happens if there is a massive amount of extra altitude available. The pilot might have to do some descending 360-degree turns. On the other hand, maybe SmartGlide will turn into SmarterGlide in a later software release.)

Because this situation can’t last forever, my prediction is that the 2024 Cirrus SR22 and SR20 will be -G7 models and will offer at least Smart Glide and touch screen.

Related… an advertising video from Garmin.

Also related… what about Brand A? Avidyne brought their announced-in-2021 Vantage retrofit to EAA AirVenture. It still isn’t certified. The Avidyne autopilot lacks ESP. The Avidyne system lacks anything like SmartGlide.

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Climate resilience and Oshkosh (EAA AirVenture)

Attendance at “Oshkosh” (technically, EAA AirVenture) seemed lighter than in 2021 and 2022, possibly due to the weather being about 10 degrees F hotter and the first couple of days being marred by poor air quality courtesy of our Canadian neighbors. (EAA says that attendance was actually a record, contradicting our lived experience.) The EAA Lifetime Member “Oasis” was nothing of the sort, due to A/C that couldn’t cool the place down below 80 degrees. The typical GA plane, warbird, or vintage/antique lacks A/C and, therefore, people had trouble getting motivated to do intra-event flying.

Given that people have less tolerance for discomfort every year (central and mini-split A/C having grown in popularity) and that we’re assured by the New York Times and CNN that Planet Earth is going Full Venus, I wonder if it wouldn’t make sense to move the fly-in to early June. The public schools in Oshkosh get out on May 31, 2024, thus freeing up the no-A/C school buses that are essential to the EAA event. Why not fire up EAA AirVenture on June 10, 2024? Here are the weather averages by month:

June is 5 degrees cooler than July (though records for June 10 include some 90-degree days in various years; record temp for June 10 is 94). Given the higher heat in July, one might imagine that it is also the peak time for thunderstorms, hail, and tornadoes. Here’s a warning that we got:

OSHALERT 7/27: NWS issued Severe Thunderstorm WATCH for KOSH until 11pm. Could bring 1-2″ hail, 70mph winds, heavy rain, isolated tornado.

When basic new airplanes cost about the same as Corvettes and thousands were produced annually, perhaps a mass casualty hail event at KOSH wouldn’t have been so bad. But now that new piston four-seaters can be over $1 million and parts can take months to obtain, the risk of losing 10,000 planes has to be given more weight. From my web searches, it looks like June is actually a higher risk month for tornadoes and severe thunderstorms than July.

If the event can’t be moved, perhaps it can be made more comfortable. EAA has over $44 million/year in revenue (see Form 990; note that this was down to just $18 million in 2020, AirVenture having been canceled due to lockdowns). How about spending some of that $44 million on A/C for the four vendor hangars and also on some air-conditioned lunch venues scattered around the grounds? While EAA is at it, build some additional permanent running-water bathrooms around the show grounds and bathhouses (not Florida-style, necessarily) in campgrounds. Porta-potties and trailers don’t make for a luxurious experience. EAA is constantly harping on how they want to get more people who identify as “women” to show up. How many women want to use an outhouse for 7 days? And women with kids? Imagine the mom below trying to manage and clean up her 3 young kids in porta-potties:

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