That question opens (and recurs in) a book called Atlas Shrugged, by novelist-philosopher Ayn Rand. Galt is described, indirectly, as the “…man who said that he would stop the motor of the world—and did.” In the story (does a 51 year old book, touted as the second-most influential of all time, need a “spoiler alert?”), Galt is initially presumed to be a myth, but turns out to be quite real. As the story unfolds, it’s revealed that Galt has created a haven, a gathering spot for the like-minded to meet and live and interact according to their own standards of value.
More on that in a second.
I first read Atlas Shrugged in 1987, when I was 19 years old. At that same time, I also dove into the flying stories of Richard Bach – Biplane, Nothing By Chance, A Gift of Wings, etc. Both authors became favorites of mine, joining Ian Fleming and Douglas Adams on the short list.
More on that, too, in a second.
Jumping ahead to 1989, my dad and I flew our 1944 Cessna T-50 to Oshkosh for my very first trip. I spent most of my time at the show gawking at Moths, and, on the way back, I got to taxi one in Bozeman, MT. I’d loved the airplanes all my life (so far), but this was first contact, and, even stuck to the ground as we were, I knew I was hooked. When I got home, I started really digging into Moth lore, and caught wind of some guys in Ontario, Canada called the Tiger Boys who were really into Moths, and even had a flyable Thruxton Jackaroo. I was fascinated by this and wrote them a letter, and got a very nice postcard with a picture of “TJ” from a man named Tom Dietrich, suggesting that, if I was ever in the area, I should stop in.
Naturally, I took him up on it, though it took 17 years to do so.
More on that … well, you know.
Backing up just a bit, in 1993, a fifth favorite author was added to my top four – Richard Bach’s son Jonathan. When I read his book, Above the Clouds, I had the thoroughly non-stalkerish feeling that we’d be friends if we’d ever met. Six years later, when we were both working at Microsoft (and his sister was setup on a blind date with my boss), we did, and we are.
In 2004, Jon introduced me, via email, to a family friend he hadn’t seen since he was about 4 years old, a man named Glenn Norman. Glenn pops up in A Gift of Wings a couple of times, and features prominently in the movie version (yes, there was one) of Nothing By Chance. Anyway, Glenn is also one of the Tiger Boys, and he and his partner Michelle Goodeve owned the aforementioned Jackaroo before Tom and his partner bought it to restore, beginning their collection.
Still with me? Sitting comfortably? Excellent.
When Jon made his email introductions to Glenn and me, we each rolled our eyes and said to ourselves “yeah, right” – this friend-of-a-friend business never works as well as the common denominator thinks it will.
We could have been precisely none more wrong – just like Jon, Glenn and I have been brothers ever since.
Knowing my love of the airplanes, Glenn immediately started inviting me to come visit and do some flying. So, in 2006, when a business trip took me to Oshawa, Ontario, I extended my stay and made my first pilgrimage to Guelph. It was there and then that, after a mere 38 years of wishing (and doing next to nothing about it, frankly) I flew a Tiger Moth for the very first time. (Not to mention the Jackaroo…)
More importantly, I got to know Glenn and Michelle, met Tom Dietrich and his fellow head Tiger Boy, Bob “Knock, Knock” Revell, and, just like that, my family-by-choice expanded yet again. I not only met the Tiger Boys on that first trip – I became one. I’ve described the group as being somewhat like the Mafia (the Mothia … ?) only nicer, with Tom as the godfather, and me, at the time, becoming the newest “made guy.”
Since that first trip, I’ve been back every chance I could. I’ve obtained a “Foreign Licence Validation Certificate” from Transport Canada, so now, when I go (after a flight or two to clear out the cobwebs) I can legally fly their Moths on my own as pilot-in-command. My last trip was just last week, right after Oshkosh, and, like all the rest, it was as much of a homecoming as it was a vacation. (I even tried to make myself useful by getting checked out on the Cyclo-Blast machine and prepping and cleaning doors for an Aeronca C-3 and a landing gear assembly for a Heath Parasol.)
In his way, then, Tom Dietrich is a real-life John Galt, and the world he’s built with his friends in Guelph is precisely the haven that Rand and Bach, each in their own way, sent me hunting for when I first read their books way back when.
What I didn’t learn until my third or fourth visit, however, was the name of the original founder of the town of Guelph: John Galt.
Things like that truly put the “Coincidental” in “Coincidental Floss.”
Now, instead of asking me what the "Floss" bit means, have a look at this low-res version of a video I assembled from pics and raw footage courtesy of Glenn and Michelle.