Over the years, I have had some great times up at Beale, usually by invitation of our car club. One of our members was in years past a squadron commander of the then-mighty SR-71. Started out in WW2 flying P-38s.
Then we got an invitation to see the inside story – that which wasn’t classified – of their U2s. What a fascinating day that was.
And lately they are flying the UAV Global Hawk – we went up to see that. What a day that was.
Of all my Beale trips, I think one of the most memorable sights was back in the 80s or 90s – when they did an SR-71 fly by. I wrote about it here, along with posting a rarely heard story by (I assume) Brian Shul – on “how slow he flew an SR-71“. But to see that plane streak over the runway about 50′ AGL – light the afterburners – and see what looked like a smoke ring – but it was, I believe- a shock wave. It is a memory that has stayed with me.
So when I heard about a month ago they were going to have an air show – in I don’t know how many years interval – I told Siri to remind me.
A lot of things have changed at Beale since I saw that SR-71. All post 9/11, of course.
When my car club went up there twice they needed among other things our names to check us out a month beforehand.
So you can imagine what the base commander thought when trying to have security letting thousands of people in for an air show. I’m even wondering if having this show was his idea. I think if I were commander, charged with the safety of the base, I’d say “forget it”.
Anyway, after the fact that in going up Hwy 99, I forgot the Highway 70 turnoff for Marysville/Beale (getting to see downtown Yuba City and the Sutter Buttes (the world’s smallest mountain range!), I meandered my way back to Marysville and down 70 to Beale.
Despite the fact that we were directed to parking a few miles from the gate entrance, (by the only parking lot attendants I have ever seen armed with M16s! ), they were surprisingly efficient in moving the several hundred of us in front of me to buses on a constant cycle.
We get to the front gate, and I saw this out the rear window.
And in front of the bus the line continued another 200 yards or so.
There was no way I was going to get off that bus and wait in that line for who knows how many hours.
So I rode it back to the car.
The moral of the story? Don’t be late? Don’t miss the turnoff? I didn’t write this with the intent of impugning the Beale CO – security comes first.
I’ll just remember to get there when the gates open next time 😉