Friday, September 26, 2014

San Diego Fleet Week Car Show and Races

Once again we managed to stumble on an interesting event that we didn't know about in advance. We arrived in the San Diego area just in time for Fleet Week. The event doesn't actually take just a week but lasts for a month or so.

First up was the Coronado Speed Festival, also called the Race at the Base. This is the only car race to take place on an active military base. One runway is closed but the other runway is still active with planes taking off and landing from time to time during the races. There are many displays of Navy planes and equipment and the public can visit several ships including an aircraft carrier. For any who haven't heard the story, in 2002 while we were living in Vieques we were chosen to be VIP guests of the aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt (long story) while it was on maneuvers 300 miles off the coast of Puerto Rico. We were flown out on a COD (cargo) plane, caught the three wire and landed on the deck of the carrier, spent the day touring the ship and hanging out with the admirals, and then were catapulted off the deck. Incredible experience - needless to say we didn't think the local tour could live up to that so we spent our time at the races.
The car races are actually “Vintage” cars. These are cars going back to the '50s that at one time actually raced in the races of their era. A few days before the races there was a parade of some of the cars through Coronado. The cars were then parked so fans could see them close up and talk to some of the owners/racers.

We thought that since these were vintage cars – meaning collector quality – that the races would not be serious battles to win due to concerns about damage to the cars. Wrong. These drivers went all out to win their race and battle for position with other racers throughout all the races.

There were many classes of racers starting with the smaller engines and working up to the big block/big bore racers of the Trans Am series from the late '60s and early '70s. These would be Mustangs, Camaros, Corvettes, Javelins, and so on with the 400+ cubic inch engines of the day. There were also NASCAR racers that were once raced by various drivers and teams and then retired from NASCAR and purchased by private owners who race them at events such as the Coronado Speed Festival. These cars are all very fast – they are not just doing a demonstration – they go as fast as they can.

There were a couple races by the Robby Gordon Stadium Super Trucks, which are pickup trucks built to race off-road in places like the Baja. Several ramps are set up so the trucks have to jump through the air as they race. These guys get very serious about winning and after the race we saw that several of the trucks had experienced a lot of damage. The drivers were very skilled. One of them actually drove his truck all the way around the 1 1/4 mile track on two wheels. Crazy.

In addition to the races there was a car show with some pretty interesting cars.

Next week we will be going to the Miramar Air Show which is another event for Fleet Week. It's the largest military air show in the U.S.

Some links

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

More Central Coast

We continue our slow journey south along the California coast. From Atascadero to our next stop in San Luis Obispo (SLO) was only 21 miles. SLO is home to Cal-Tech and like many college towns has a lot of energy. While wandering around town one day we found ourselves at the Brews and Brats Festival. Lots of people and music. One of our favorites were the Bucket Busters. The kids perform throughout the Central Coast, collecting donations that go towards scholarhips for children who otherwise wouldn't have the money to take music lessons. They're really quite good and it was amazing to see how young some of them are. More info and some video of their performances can be found at  It's worth checking out.

As with most of the towns where we stopped it was a short drive to the coast. We spent a day in Avila Beach, which is a nice resort town on a beautiful sheltered bay.

The bay is home to a variety of birds and mammals. I don't know if these pelicans remind me of the three wise men or just three wise guys.

Same with these three sea lions.

As we saw in San Francisco and have seen many places along the coast, sea lions have a tendency to take over an area. Once established, they can't be moved.

We thought this sea gull was pretty funny, looking like it was trying to decipher the smoking policy.

The coastal towns of Pismo Beach and Morro Bay are also a short drive from SLO. The Morro Bay rock can be seen for miles and is quite distinctive.

SLO is close to the Edna Valley, another well-known wine region. 

Of course we had to do a bit of wine tasting. At Wolff Vineyards, which produces some well-regarded wines, Tilly joined us in the tasting room. As usual she seemed to be a bit bored with the whole thing.

From SLO we drove to Lompoc, about 60 miles south. I didn't take pictures there, getting lazy I guess. Several years ago we saw the shuttle as it flew by Vandenberg Air Force Base near Lompoc on the way to its permanent home in LA. 

From Lompoc we went to Lake Cachuma, another short drive of 32 miles.

The effects of the severe drought can be seen at Lake Cachuma as well as so many other places in California. In the picture above, all of the green/brown area in the foreground was part of the lake. If you look closely, you can see the square white blocks in the grass that were anchors for boat buoys. 

Lake Cachuma in 2012

Pretty much the same area, 2014. The water would be above the white rock formation on the right.

Our next stop was Santa Barbara, about 20 miles from Lake Cachuma. Great town. The main drag is State Street.

One of our favorite dog beaches is in Santa Barbara. It's called Hendry's Beach or Arroyo Burro. 

Tilly had a great time running around, meeting the other dogs and trying to keep up with them. We love seeing her so happy. A great thing about Hendry's is the dog wash in the parking lot. There's a secure tub, warm water from a gentle nozzle, shampoo, conditioner and a blow dryer. Not cheap but worth it to put a nice clean dog in the car.

From Santa Barbara, on to San Diego.