With the announcement that this September will mark the end of the nearly 60 years of the Reno Air Races, I thought I would mention my experiences there over the years.
I’ve written about some of those experiences here, here, and here.
I started going there in the late 70s, a 2.5 hour jaunt up I-80 from Sacramento. Then (if you were lucky) no wait heading north from Reno a few miles along US 395 to Stead Field. For many years I used to make it an annual pilgrimage. I’m a bit embarrassed to say in later years I got a bit jaded wondering if “this year” I would see something new and exciting. Of course, then I realized that what I was seeing, after the great air race venues of the 30s, was probably the last of its kind.
It was all the more remarkable by the huge increase in the value of these old warplanes. I believe that the top prize for the Gold Division – the Unlimiteds – was something like $100,000? Which was huge in 1964, its first year, when one could buy a Mustang for $10,000 and go racin’. Now with fewer than 100 airworthy Mustangs, with the value of the remainder worth in the millions, even winning wouldn’t cover the expenses I would think.
Those who did race did it because of the love of the race and they were very wealthy.
Today I was doing my usual walk in the neighborhood, and I turned down my adjacent street, as usual. Some years ago, when I had dogs, I would usually stop at the house nearest the river and talk with Margaret, an elderly widow. We’d sit outside and the subjects ranged far and wide.
She’d talk about occasionally seeing the ghost of her husband in the house. Was he checking up on her?
Another thing I learned from her was the surprising number of people who have lived on this street since the homes were new.
Normally with our California suburbs growing like weeds, that wouldn’t be a surprise, but these homes were built in the mid-50s. And another surprising thing – many people up and down this street – about 1/4 mile long, know each other.
In many suburbs, many neighbors know very little of each other. Nor do they want to.
So this morning, I turn the corner and I see this woman, obviously advanced in years, on all 4s pulling weeds in the lawn.
From time to time, I’ve liked to post some memories of those whom I’ve come across during life. I had a neighbor who was a character – I seem to gravitate towards characters – people who like to carve their own path through life instead of blindly following the paths of others. And I thought that most of the time, these “snapshots” – memories held and cherished to be occasionally revisited by the owners, leave us when the owner leaves us, never to be known by others.
Several of these friends, in telling me their stories, had me at the time believing silently that it was “hyperbole”. My neighbor was telling me that he enlisted in the Marines when he was 16 during WW2 (there were a few who did that). He was at Tarawa and Saipan. Then after WW2, recalled to Korea where he was one of the “Frozen Chosin”. I thought this was hyperbole, until he invited me to a Chosin Reunion. There were a couple of Army guys there too. He liked to remind me that it took a Marine General who took the place of the Army General to finally get them out and not be slaughtered by the vastly bigger invading Chinese force.
He would tell me things that one who lived by lies about service would not say. They are always about their “heroism” and made up units.
I’ve never needed much of an excuse for a Road Trip. Some years ago, when my niece decided to get married in Minneapolis, my family was making plane reservations while I was planning a road trip.
My late mother, who was never reticent in expressing her opinion, told me on more than one occasion, “Bill! I’m not going say anything more, but I think you are a damned fool for taking that old car to Minnesota! “
Stubbornness has always run in my family, for better or worse.
That old car, a (then) 20 year old Mercedes-Benz 300E, turned 300,000 miles on I-80 near Rawlins WY and later ferried my plane-bound family all over Minneapolis to various functions. Not that I would take any 20 year old car with 300,000 miles across the country. But for the (then) 10 years of my ownership, I knew what was replaced and knew the status of all critical systems, and in the vernacular of 60s NASA astronauts, it was “A-OK”.
My car club has had a First Sunday Drive for a number of years. The name is as it implies – a drive somewhere at the first Sunday of each month. And it has always been popular – because people don’t have to make reservations – they just show up at the appointed time and place for a drive of approximately 2 hours. Followed by a no-host lunch somewhere.
The lunch part is always the fun part. At least from a planning perspective. I’ve always told the manager that I don’t know how many will attend. But it will probably be somewhere between 5 and 30. Among my records for both the low and high end have been 3 and 60. I always let them know the count 2 hours prior, when we leave at 10AM.
Dubbed Coronavirus Challenge I and II (CV I and CV II)
While I have never in these past 2 years made light of this pandemic, I have refused to change my whole life or be afraid paranoid of catching it. Last May, I took a 6,500 mile road trip through the Southwest and this month I completed a 5,200 mile trip through the northern west.
Ever since I could drive, I have liked to roam. When I went to school in Virginia, I would pick a new route each time when going across the country. Although with that kind of driving, having to “be there” in a week or so, one doesn’t have a lot of time for sightseeing. Although even 50 years later, I remember one route: US 50 through Utah, then old US 40 through Steamboat Springs and 11,000’ high Berthold Pass. Which if I remember correctly, is the highest year-round road in the country.
“Travel changes you. As you move through this life and this world, you change things slightly, you leave marks behind, however small. And in return, life — and travel — leaves marks on you.” — Anthony Bourdain
I have always loved to roam. Might be in my genes, as I had a grandmother who, in her 60s, took it upon herself to roam the world on her own.
The last “Loop Around America” I did was 15 years ago. Then, I could on the spur of the moment, decide that I wanted to see New Orleans post-Katrina and drive 800 miles from Oak Ridge, TN. I covered 7,500 miles in 14 days, and that included stopping in MN to see my niece get married, and visiting my cousin in Virginia.
As thousands watched in horror, a World War II-era fighter plane competing in a Nevada event described as a car race in the sky suddenly pitched upward, rolled and did a nose-dive toward the crowded grandstand.
The plane, flown by a 74-year-old veteran Hollywood stunt pilot, then slammed into the tarmac in front of VIP box seats and blew to pieces in front the pilot’s family and a tight-knit group of friends who attend the annual event in Reno.
“It absolutely disintegrated,” said Tim O’Brien of Grass Valley, Calif., who attends the races every year. “I’ve never seen anything like that before.”
The pilot and two spectators were killed and more than 50 were injured amid a horrific scene strewn with smoking debris
Part of me hopes that I’m able to fly warbirds at Reno when I’m 74.
SecState Hillary Clinton has gone on the record to state that, despite being a tyrannical state sponsor of terrorism whose government is ruthlessly gunning down unarmed protesters in the street, Bashar al Asad’s Syria will be free from the kind of coalition attacks that have marked our foreign policy in Libya:
“No,” Clinton said when asked on the CBS program “Face the Nation” if the U.S. would intervene in Syria’s unrest. Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad’s security forces clashed with protesters in several cities over the weekend after his promises of freedoms and pay increases failed to prevent dissent from spreading across the country.
Clinton said the elements that led to intervention in Libya — international condemnation, an Arab League call for action, a United Nations Security Council resolution — are “not going to happen” with Syria, in part because members of the U.S. Congress from both parties say they believe Assad is “a reformer.”