We'll get to Jim Campbell and Patricia Trusty's 30,000-mile trip around the world on motorized hang gliders, over mountains and deserts and through lightning and tornados, in a moment. First, a word about romance.
"I had just set the world altitude record for ultralight aircraft," said Campbell, a 25-year-old flight instructor and East Coast air show daredevil who set the record last year by flying 21,210 feet above an airfield in New Jersey. When he landed, still covered in ice from the minus-50-degree cold, "I looked up and there she was, grinning down at me. Her smile filled my entire universe . . . on that day I thawed from the inside out."
This is the stuff that television melodramas are made of. It has adventure, danger and love so sweet it makes your teeth hurt. The trip began in May when Campbell and Trusty left Watsonville, Calif. Now, after 2,800 miles, the fliers are near Pittsburgh. If the wind doesn't blow them to Mexico, they should be landing on a polo field in downtown Washington sometime next week.
Campbell and Trusty will try to reach Canada before the winter sets in. Then, next spring, they plan to skirt Greenland and Iceland and cross the Atlantic by way of the Faroe Islands, then hop across Europe, the Middle East, India, China, the Soviet Union and Alaska.
"You get a pretty intimate view of the country traveling like this," said Campbell, who got the idea for the trip while talking to his grandfather three years ago. "There is no way to get in closer touch with the world."
Campbell and Trusty had a lot of company in the adventure field this summer. Every week, it seemed someone was starting or finishing an extraordinary trip by land, sea or air. Our local adventurers more than kept pace.
This summer, Diddo Ruth Clark, a Washington attorney, swam a 27-mile course around Manhattan Island. Julie Ridge, a 26-year-old actress from Arlington, swam the English Channel. Brian Earley of Annapolis swam across the Chesapeake Bay. Mark Callahan, who graduated from the University of Virginia last May, had one of the more memorable oddyseys, a 4,030-mile bicycle trip across the country.
Campbell and Trusty have already spent $57,000 of their own and other people's money on their trip, which they have dubbed the Kindred Spirit. They say they are looking for more than publicity.
"This barnstorming adventure is . . . about living life to its fullest," said Trusty, a 24-year-old licensed pilot who once held down four jobs at a time to finance a college degree in flight technology.
Campbell has piloted both standard aircraft as well as gliders, balloons, helicopters and jets. While Trusty was growing up near a small airport in Massachusetts, Campbell was making a pest of himself at a New Jersey airport where Edward Gorski, one of Amelia Erhardt's mechanics, worked.
The trip has not been all high flying. On their first day, Campbell discovered his carburetor was burning fuel too fast. A few days later, the two were grounded by Federal Aviation Administration officials who said the crafts needed safety certifications unless they were modified. One month and $10,000 later, the Kindred Spirit was airborne again.
"It's been both exhilarating and frustrating," said Alice Petree, who has been coordinating public relations for the trip with Dan Gilbert from his home in Arlington, Va. The two self-described "financial consultants" are longtime friends of Campbell. They have a Kindred Spirt Hotline that gives recorded messages on the progress of the two hang gliders.
The trip has been made primarily in 50- to 100-mile hops. The crafts have landed in farm fields, parking lots and at rural airfields. Campbell and Trusty usually set up camp under the wings of their flying machines. And more often than not, their arrival attracts a crowd, curious to see these modern barnstormers.
"People have been fantastic to us," said Campbell. "You hear all this stuff about the country going downhill. You couldn't prove it by us."
The hard part of the trip begins next spring. At one point, Campbell and Trusty will have 400 miles of Atlantic Ocean to cross without a place to put down. But their crafts are equipped with pontoons for water landings, sophisticated tracking devices and enough fuel to stay aloft for 800 miles.
"We've got a lot of fail-safe devices built in," said Campbell, who adds the most reliable may be his own habit of seeking adventure in a cautious way.
"The most important maneuver a pilot can learn," said Campbell, "is how to make a 180-degree turn."