Saturday, September 14, 2013

Win Some, Lose Some

Yin and Yang…whatever…

So I shorted my Reno Air Races week so I could take in at least one America’s Cup Final race…The way things are going for TeamOracleUSA against TeamEmiratesNewZealand, there might not be any more races to see after this weekend.

The Kiwi’s boat is slightly faster until the winds are knocking at the upper safety limit of 23 knots, and it really outshines the American boat on maneuverability. Even the untrained eye can see that the Kiwi’s zoom through their turns while the American’s boat visibly lumbers around the corners…

SturgeUrge and I took in the race Thursday, though as it turned out, through reduced circumstances…back in early August, we took in the first race of the Louis Vuitton Cup Semi-Finals. I blogged about the difficulty I had finding parking info via the site. We got lucky and stumbled onto the best free seats in the house!

We headed across the new bridge and back to our Valhalla only to find the Park Services have closed our spot because it was too good…which is to say, neither the National Park Service, or San Francisco Parks & Rec. could be bothered to police the wharf, so closed it was…

Thursday’s race was contested in lightish winds…which favor the Kiwi’s. Our alternative viewing perch was OK, but crowded…some young woman dropped her iPhone5 on my shoulder and into my camping chair (luckily for her, no case on her expensive phone) while her friend kept bumping into SturgeUrge’s hat from behind…

We didn’t hang around for the second race of the day opting instead to beat the afternoon rush across the new bridge.

I’m thinking: “Great, I’ll have time to get packed before the Giants/Dodgers game, and head up the hill after the game, thereby missing Sacramento’s afternoon rush too”…

Ooops…I thought the game started at 6:05PM…1st pitch actually 7:15PM…who’da thunk it? Yep…extra innings…sigh I finally hit the road at 11PM…Giants lost…Winning pitcher? exGiant’s Closer Brian “The Beard” Wilson…oh the humanity…

Into bed at 0230, alarm rattles me awake at 0800…still not done sleeping…

After doing the post office/post office box shuffle, I wasn’t going to make the Air Races in time to catch the Silver Heat at 1:10PM, so I opted to go later and catch the Gold Heat.

I got out to the fenceline about 45 minutes before the scheduled time…I caught up with the regulars who’ve been out there every year since the lion’s share of the fenceline was closed.

I was anxious to hear how the Silver Heat went at 1:10PM.

Three-time defending  Breitling Gold Reno Champion, Race 7, Strega had some drama in qualifying Tuesday. Just after takeoff, his canopy ‘exploded’. Not the windscreen, but the ‘bubble’, that portion of the canopy above the pilot’s helmet, came apart…Strega may-day-ed and landed safely.

Repairs were made, but not in time to get into another qualifying run, so Strega will have to race into the Gold, by winning the Silver on Sunday, forfeiting the win for entry into the Gold field, and he’ll start last in the Breitling Gold Race Sunday. Drama anyone?

So, there was a Jet Heat, and The Patriots Jet Demo Team before the Gold Heat was scheduled…then some thunderheads began to intrude on Stead Field, a few large raindrops fell, and before too long, all the pylon watchers, got into their trucks and drove towards the pits. There would be no Gold Heat today…

My fellow fenceliners said: “Strega was faster than all the Silver racers…like twice as fast”…

So there’s four genuine contenders for Gold on Sunday…oh, boy!

Sometimes you win, sometimes you have drama…

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Déjà Vu

I was out the door early today. My plan went this way: COSTCO Gas, COSTCO, Saw Shop, Chick-Fil-A for lunch, Drug Store, Safeway...all so I could get home to the Ancestral Digs and do a little baking before things heated up too much.

Too late... it was hot when I left...but when I returned it was 93°F.

As I was getting ready to leave, I strode down the driveway to get a clear view of the sky and I was struck instantly with a sense of the ol' déjà vu. I could feel the sun's heat on my skin, it's heat reflecting up from the driveway, and I smelled wood encoded memories took me south of the border...all the way to Los Cabos, at the southern tip of Baja.

That's how it felt...Tropical, though the relative humidity was only 22%, and not a breath of wind.

That smell of smoke is coming from the newest wildfire to settle into my consciousness, the Morgan Fire, on the southeast flanks of Mount Diablo.

As the crow flies, the Morgan Fire is the same distance east from the Ancestral Digs, as San Francisco is flying west from the Digs. It takes 30 minutes from the Digs to go through the tunnel, across the bridge, and into The City. It's funny, Mt Diablo seems so much closer...I guess it's a human thing...almost everytime I go anywhere out of town, there's Mt Diablo towering over everything. It takes almost an hour, given the tiny neighborhood roads to get to the South Entrance to Mt Diablo State Park from the Ancestral Diggs.

KirkVallus and I made the trek up the Devil Mountain in 2012 to see a stage of the Amgen Tour of California Pro Bicycle Race.

The last time Mt Diablo burned was in 1977. At that time I lived in Walnut Creek with a buddy. We could see the peak from our kitchen window. Back in '77, I was at the kitchen sink when I saw lightning strike Mt Diablo's southwestern flank. It burned for three days.

I did Chick-Fil-A for lunch because their parking lot has a panoramic view of the mountain...there were no spaces that faced Mt Diablo, so I headed south and pulled into one of the many alleyways between small businesses, found a shady east-facing spot, and had lunch.

The mountain looked fully least the backside did from my vantage point. Even the North Peak had a pall of smoke rising up from behind it. As I took in the scene, a commercial-sized aircraft came into view as if it came from the Livermore Airport.

It flew high above the fire, and just past the summit, it turned 180° and dove towards the southern ridgeline. It was a huge jet air tanker, and it laid a line of pink fire retardant just west of the ridgeline. That swath was nearly a half mile long!

I recorded a video of the whole thing...sadly my vantage point was through a bunch of powerlines and the camera's auto focus had trouble coping. However, I found a photo from the backside of the mountain capturing the same drop! Thanks Twitter!

By the time the 5 O'clock news came on, the almost 800 firefighters on the line and the air attack had really tamed things up on the mountain. The near lack of wind helped a bunch too!

Once I got cooled off in the pool, I settled in for some Giants Baseball pre-game radio blather, and I went online...fired up twitter and searched #MorganFire.

Through the magic of twitter, i was treated to an almost continuous stream of tweets loaded with photos, news and views. Much less dramatic that Sunday night, when photos from AT&T Park showed the towering plume of smoke over the East Bay Hills!

I found out the big jet air tanker is called a VLAT DC-10 that is, it's a DC-10 widebody, converted into a Very Large Air Tanker. You gotta love government-speak...

Last I heard it was 'some kid doin' illegal target practice in his yard' that sparked the thing off. At 8PM Monday night, CalFire is reporting the Morgan Fire stands at 3,718 acres and 20% containment.

Reports from Reno/Stead Airport, home of the Reno Air Races say the unlimiteds have arrived, speed trials are underway...and oh yeah, the smoke from the Rim Fire has dissipated!

My next shot at an America's Cup race (and my first trip across the new eastern span of the Bay Bridge is Thursday, so I won't be in the Valley Of Speed until Friday morning.

This Sunday afternoon photo covers all the to speak...

The whole story: America's Cup recer, new Bay Bridge, Morgan Fire pyre.
More later...