It may have taken until retirement, but Pleasanton's T.J. McGrath finally knocked one longstanding item off his bucket list last month.
The Foothill Knolls resident, joined by his college dorm-mate Wayne Myers, himself a former Pleasanton man, attended the famed EAA AirVenture Oshkosh -- fulfilling a promise they made to each other some 50 years earlier.
And what a trip it was.
"When was the last time you had an expectation and the event exceeded them?" McGrath told the Weekly on Aug. 4. "We all go through life looking forward to doing things and hoping those events meet our expectations. Well, Oshkosh last week exceeded mine."
The duo, aviation aficionados who meet up annually for the Reno Air Races, spent four days exploring the expansive AirVenture grounds at Wittman Regional Airport in Wisconsin -- 12 hours and 15,000 to 18,000 steps per day, and still not enough to see everything there, McGrath recalled.
Highlights from their experience at the event, organized by the Experimental Aircraft Association, included exploring a range of aircraft from across generations, the NASA area and even the kids' zone in outdoor hangers, watching air shows, learning inside the EAA museum and at historical talks and connecting with American military heroes include 100-year-old pilot and World War II triple ace Col. Bud Anderson.
That's just a snapshot of their AirVenture.
"To attend Oshkosh, you must be patriotic since the military top pilots perform, you must have good comfortable shoes since you are going to walk your tail off, you must be willing to dedicate a whole week to see everything, you must attend with someone who shares your passion and you must be ready for the sound and smell of aircraft," McGrath recalled.
Their friendship has deep roots in each man's love for aviation, McGrath a skydiver and Myers a pilot -- even back to their days meeting as dorm neighbors at California State University, Chico, back in 1971. One year later, they vowed to travel someday together to the Oshkosh air exposition.
"As luck would have it, Wayne and I settled in Pleasanton 37 years ago and raised our families here," McGrath said, noting that Myers recently moved out to Carson City, Nevada. "Now that we are both retired and the kids are gone, it was time to execute on the promise."
To mark the once-in-a-lifetime experience in Wisconsin, McGrath said he took hundreds of photographs. Among the collection were several "Take Us Along" pictures of the pair with the Pleasanton Weekly.
But it wasn't just any archive edition McGrath brought to Oshkosh: He and Myers posed with the June 2, 2006, paper that featured McGrath on the cover.
The article "Jumping for joy: Neighbors kiss at 14,000 feet" recounted McGrath, then a working sales executive, accompanying his close friend Cis Puricelli for her first skydiving jump in honor of her 65th birthday. They shared a friendly peck midair over Byron, which appeared on the Weekly's front page.