Saturday, September 15, 2012


Race 7, Strega was very impressive Friday afternoon. Again she is the class of the Unlimited field. Race 77, Rare Bear stayed close for two laps before backing off to save something for Saturday and Sunday.

All these years and I still don’t know why they say Race –Number- instead of Racer – Number-…

I watched the Unlimited Heat Gold 2A from The Fenceline after spending all morning inside the show. I wanna say it’s been twenty years since I’ve been inside…I even plunked down for a pit pass. I watched the Unlimited Heat, Medallion 1C, from the flightline edge of the pits.

I walked around the pits for three or so hours…lots of eye candy for airplane buffs. I shot 128 photos and four videos before settling into the grandstands at show center to video the Unlimited Bronze Heat 1B. I ran out of camera battery on lap five…oh, well, but it lasted long enough to see the Spitfire fly-by.

Precious Metal's Griffon business end
I left the show after the big birds ran and headed into Reno to do some errands. As I was hoofing it up Stead Blvd to the Boy Scout parking lot, the US NAVY F18 Super Hornet began it’s demo flight…good thing too…I didn’t have my stash of ear plugs with me!

My first stop was the Home Depot. I had an idea for my camera viewed hood project. I browsed the plastic pipe aisle in the plumbing department…no joy. I asked an employee: “Gutters?” He sent to the right place and a downspout fitting fit the bill perfectly. Off I went.

Every year around air race time, department stores put their athletic shorts on sale, and every year I stock up, so off the last K-Mart standing I went. I grabbed a six pack of my socks and three pairs of shorts…next stop Fabric Store. I asked some ladies in K-Mart’s parking lot if there was still a Hancock Fabrics Store in Sparks, and they reminded me that they’d moved into Reno proper. I knew where it was, and they said the Wal*Mart near there also had a fabric department.

Off I went…right into Construction Zone Gridlock. A couple of U-turns, Plan B…and Plan C, and a 10 minute trip weighed in at 45 minutes…scratch grocery shopping…

I strode into the Wal*Mart, asked the greeter where the fabric dept was, and found some black fabric, Velcro and a pack of needles. I headed south to find an onramp to HWY 395 North, narrowly missing afternoon rush hour.

Cresting the hill that’s the gateway to Reno’s “North Valleys”, I tuned in the Air race Feed on 97.7FM Yikes! The Jet heat had just finished. Just the F-22 Demo before the Unlimited Heat, and the F-22 couldn’t fly Wednesday or Thursday! Damn road construction!

Blasting off 395N at Red Rock Road, I heard the brute sound of Mil-Spec jet engines, the F-22 was launching! I’m gonna make it! Ten minutes later I pulled into my parking spot at the Fenceline, and with the dawdling pace of pilot introductions, it was another 15 minutes until the Unlimiteds ran.

Once again I learned something new about making movies on the old camera, and when I got back to the DaveCave I found a flaw in the new camera…more about this next time…

Friday, September 14, 2012

Good Times, Bad Times

As excited as I’ve been anticipating getting out to Stead Field for the 49th Reno National Championship Air Races all week, I’ve also had a little pit of fear camped in my gut, that when I crested the hill on Red Rock Road (where you turn onto Lemmon Drive to get to “The Fenceline”) that I’d be greeted by the Washoe County Sheriffs manning a roadblock and turning all us cheapskate race fans away. Not an unfounded fear given last year’s tragedy and the general state of our litigious society these days…

Well, as luck would have it the coast was clear…Fenceliners would not be denied our week of fun! Granted The Fenceline experience is a far cry from what it was before 9/11, when only some three strand barbed wire fencing kept those too lazy to step over it, off the field of battle.

The 2001 Air Races were cancelled in the wake of 9/11 and the General Aviation grounding while the FAA and the Federal Government sussed out the new lay of the land.

When racing returned in 2002, the dilapidated three strand was replaced by a stout, chainlink fence with three strands of tight, serious barbed wire on top to keep interlopers out.

Still, The Fenceline was our little secret…all 5000 of us Fenceliners! That show is closed now too, but that’s a story for another time. Today was a happy day at the races.

The weatherman didn’t lie, it was just under 90F, and for the mast part the winds were light to moderate.

As I pulled into “my spot” I recognized the neighbors from 2010. New pickup, same old contractor’s trailer, same old wise guys…

I’d timed my trip perfectly, I had just enough time to rig the new camera, deploy my camp chair and chat up the neighbors before Unlimited Heat Medallion 1C came down the Chute.

How nice to hear the old warbirds flying low again! Music to my ears. These are the slowest of the Big Unlimiteds, around 150 MPH slower than the Gold Race Contenders.

I captured it all with the new camera, and eagerly rushed to the car to download and view the HD video…not exactly the wow-factor images I was hoping for. All out of focus except the occasional telephone pole and power lines…

I launched the .pdf of the camera’s  operator’s manual and verified my settings.

Here’s the issue. The sun really. Cameras don’t have the eyepiece that you look through anymore, they’ve been replaced by beautiful LCD screens. Alas in the bright high desert sun, all you see is reflections of the sky, your face, or that blazing yellow fishing shirt you wore for sun protection.

I’ve thought about this since last time I was out in the Valley Of Speed (2010), and every time SturgeUrge and I go fishing. What I need is like one of those antique 3D stereo photo viewers the Grandma used to have…like you see on Antiques Road Show on PBS.

It’s either that or what I call the Ansel Adams Wedding Veil, the black cloth hood that old time photographers with their big sheet film (or glass plate) View Camera.

For now, I’ll cobble something together out of Manila folder stock, some cardboard, duct tape and flat black spray paint. I’ve got the pistol grip with the tripod mount.

I found that if I find a place where the shot misses the fence and powerlines, the auto-focus doesn’t get confused…pity, my favorite four foot ladder is languishing a the Ancestral Digs…

Oh yeah, one last thing…it turns out I’m eligible for the Senior Discount…I’ll be buying a ticket for Friday’s Races…to see the lay of the land, post tragedy, and to get a closeup look at some aviation history.

A discount is a discount, but I’m not sure what I’m feeling about this situation…

Thursday, September 13, 2012

While I'm Waiting

...for the mailman to deliver my new camera, I thought of some more links to keep abreast of events at the 49th Reno National Championship Air Races.

The Social Media sites Facebook and Twitter can serve as headline delivery services if you follow, or in the case of Facebook, 'Like' the relevant pages.

On Facebook you'll find many of the Unlimited Class Racers have Fan Pages, others have Open Group Pages

Precious Metal and September Fury have Fan Pages, while Rare Bear Group and Strega Group are open groups where you join up for notifications.

Twitter excels at instant information dissemination, so use it to stay up to the minute.

@RenoAirRaces is RARA's official Twitter account

@LoadedTV is the LIVE stream site

@LiveAirShowTV has video too.

If you like my little Reno Air Races Infotainment Guide, why not show your appreciation and like CorduroyPlanet's Facebook Page? I'd appreciate it very much. Thank you all!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Sound of Freedom

I'm headed up the hill today...just as soon as my new camera arrives!

Tomorrow I'll be in The Valley of Speed for the 49th Reno Championship Air Races!

The camera is another Samsung pocket-sized point and shoot camera. There's nothing wrong with my "old" Samsung TL225, but the new WB750 shooter is two generations newer, has much more sophisticated systems and a much longer zoom lens...oh, and it's shoots HD Movies in Full 1080 at 30fps. TL225 5X zoom, WB750 18X zoom, 24-432mm in 35mm-speak.

As I scratch this out, I've got Reno's ABC-TV affiliate, KOLO8 open in another tab.

The weather is gonna be great all week out at Stead Field, with light winds and highs in the low 90s Thursday and Friday, and just a little cooler- high 80s Saturday and Sunday.

The speed trials began Monday, and I was following along on my favorite Air Racing Board. RARA has the info on the Official Site too.

Today reminded me of the Good Old Days at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The first tally of speeds came across the transom around noon.

Strega did a lap at 493.299 MPH Tuesday, the fastest so far this week. Rare Bear turned a 493 also but was disqualified (DQd) for flying too high around Pylon 8. The Bear recouped it's losses at the end of the day with a good lap at 490.002.

My sentimental favorite, Precious Metal upped her game to 463.301, adding 12 MPH over Monday's lap.

No serious drama yet...Heck, it's only Wednesday morning at midnight! They don't start turning those big beautiful Hamilton Standard props in anger until Thursday.

These engines are older than yours truly, yet the race tuners are getting twice the design horsepower out of 'em than when they were new! With the exception of multi-time Reno Unlimited Gold winners, Rare Bear and Strega, I'd expect the speeds to rise carefully until Saturday's final Gold Heat 3A that sets the field for Sunday's Breitling Gold race.

If you burn a piston you just don't go down to the local NAPA Store, some of these parts are rarer than hen's teeth already.

If you can't make it to Reno/Stead Field this year, or you can't get here until the weekend, here's where you can catch the action streamed LIVE over the internet:

Loaded TV is where the LIVE stream will be.

Live AirShow TV has plenty of video too.

KOLO8 Reno streams their 11 o'clock news AM and PM

More Reno Air Races links:

The Official Reno Air Racing Association RARA website has searchable qualifying and race results, as well as everything you need to know about attending the Air Races.

Air Racin' Forums at Wayne Sager's All Aviation Flightline Online

Reno Gazette Journal. Be careful with RGJ, they recently moved to a pay to play regime. You only get a few looks before you have to subscribe, so make sure you have the time to make the most of each visit. Once a day will let you see everything without running afoul of the new sheriff's rules.  Excellent Photo Galleries.

KKOH Radio AM 780 should have live updates at :05 after the top of each hour

And of course you can follow me on Twitter where I'll tweet anything interesting from Stead and beyond about this week's Air Races at @CorduroyPlanet provided I find a decent WiFi cloud somewhere near Stead...

Unlimited Class racing begins Thursday, qualifying continues Wednesday

Sunday, September 9, 2012


One long, long day today...I woke up at 4AM, and couldn't get back to sleep. The alarm was set for 5AM, and I was in the guest bedroom at the SturgeUrge Compound.

We were getting up at 0-Dark 30 because we scrubbed Thursday's trip at the last minute due to forecast winds and possible thunder and lightning. Early bird catches the worm and all aside, we wanted to hit "The Golden Hour" to troll California City for migrating King Salmon.

Why not fish the afternoon tide you ask? Because the winds really start cranking on San Francisco Bay in the afternoon. The windiest stretch of water is the last half mile, in the Richmond Harbor Channel, where we are making way abeam of the winds. It's wide open, and protected by a seawall, but it's shallow, so the groundswell is awful. Most afternoons we see a passel of  windsurfers and kite boarders in there. If we're gonna get wet on the Bay, it's usually just before we sight the launch ramp in Richmond's marina!

So we went early, and got off the water just as the Giants lost to the Dodgers...3:30ish... The forecast wasn't spot on. The wind speed was in the ballpark, but the direction was 180° off!

On the water, with baits in the water two hours before we usually start, was an excellent start! We couldn't believe how "civil" conditions were. We trolled up and down the Tiburon coastline until noon...without so much as a nibble. By the time we trolled down Raccoon Straights and around Stuart Point to drift Angel Island for halibut, Cal City has amassed a small armada of like-minded sportsmen. A couple of dozen boats at the peak...and that doesn't count the sailboat regatta that we navigated through on or way back to Cal City!

We're starting to take this personal, this was our third Cal City Salmon try, and Plan B, drifting for halibut has been humbling this year as well. There is a bright side however...we actually saw a net fly! The Six-Pack Boat, Sundancer caught a salmon around 12:30 while we were having lunch while mooching for salmon back at Cal, we know it can be done!

We learned one thing...early on the Bay...more places to play!

Good night, Formula One's Italian Grand Prix at Monza starts at 0430 Forza!