Friday, December 19, 2014


It's been such a long time since I've blogged that I thought I'd better do a little update. Brian and I have been thinking about putting our home in Fountain Hills on the market for the last few years. After much discussion and consultation with our favorite real estate agent we decided that we might as well go ahead and do it. Our hope is to have it ready to be listed after the holidays when snowbird season begins in earnest in Arizona. It's been a great snowbird place for us and we hope someone else will see the possibilities as we did.
We're really missing Mexico and all of our amigos there, but hopefully things will work out. Once the house is on the market, we hope to relax and have some adventures in this area. Lots to do, and I'll post again once we have something to share.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Miramar Air Show, San Diego Area

We waited in the San Diego area to go to the biggest military air show in the US at the Marine Corps Air Station Miramar It was a chance to see the Navy Blue Angels one more time. The air show is part of Fleet Week San Diego, which actually lasted from August 30 to November 21  The air show takes place over 3 days and an estimated 700,000 people attended. We went on Friday thinking it might not be as crowded since people might be at work. It was crowded anyway. We paid for preferred parking and seating in a shade tent which turned out to be a good plan as we were situated right in front of the announcer.
Throughout the day there were demonstrations and displays of all kinds of military equipment. Lots of different planes flying around, showing their stuff.

There are lots of links to websites below where you can go learn more about some of what we saw.

Brian took all the pictures using Sue’s new Nikon D5300 with a 300mm lens. The sport setting allows taking several pictures per second at very high speed – note the blades on helicopters and plane propellers are stopped by the speed of the camera. The camera count at the end of the day was 874. What’s not to love about digital? Most of the shots were bad but the idea is to shoot, shoot, shoot, and then edit for the good ones. First edit got the count down to 53.


Helicopters, a variety of them, started the show. Some of them can be identified at the Top Ten Military Helicopters website


The announcer said something about these Chinooks being retired after this show.

The Osprey is a prop plane that takes off vertically like a helicopter and then tilts the engines to fly like an airplane.

The Patriots Jet Team is a civilian team of Czech built jet trainers that do precision aerobatic flying demonstrations. We were in the San Francisco Bay area a few years ago and saw these planes and could not figure out who they were. They are based in the Delta between San Francisco and Stockton - Patriots Jet Team Center, 760 Osprey Ct,, Byron CA. Their website says the public can visit them at their hanger.  also
The plane they fly is the L-39 Albatross Jet aircraft. which can be bought by civilians for $200,000–$300,000

The Patriots Jet Team features talented pilots, some of whom were formerly part of the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds, U.S. Navy Blue Angels or Royal Canadian Air Force Snowbirds. They have logged over 105,000 hours of flight time and performed in more than, 1500 air shows.

F-35 Lightning II is the newest, most advanced, most expensive, and most controversial plane in the military world.This is a jet fighter that can take-off and land vertically. It's similar to the Harrier.
This was only the second public demonstration of this plane. It is still not ready to go into action. Many websites give different figures about this plane and how long it has been in development and how much the program costs – 20 years or more - $300 BILLION to a TRILLION $$$$. Other countries (Allies) are investing in this program and will be buying these planes.

The first picture below shows the F-35 in flight and then with (7?) “doors” open it can slow to where it can land vertically – no runway needed. More can be learned about the F-35 at these links.

Sean D Tucker is what we used to call a stunt pilot or barnstormer but he flies a much more advanced and custom built plane. It is the only one in the world that can do some of the stunts that he performs.

It was amazing to see this performance live and in person.

The United States Navy Blue Angels were the grand finale.

Fat Albert is the Blue Angels support C-130. It carries all the crews and equipment from show to show.

Fat Albert performed a few stunts of its own to begin the Blue Angels demonstration.

The Blue Angels fly six F-18 fighters. Their website is extensive and detailed and very interesting to visit. With a little searching you will find ways to see videos shot from inside the cockpit of one of the planes as they go through all the various formations. These videos are a great way to see how close these planes actually are to each other when they fly. Interesting note – as we listened to the announcer, we heard him say 'Longmont, Colorado'. We opened our program and found the Blue Angels Flight Surgeon is LCDR Mark DeBuse. He attended Skyline High School in Longmont while Sue was teaching there. Sue knew his mother who also taught there. Scroll through the officers to find Mark’s bio and then meet all the other Angel team members. I found it interesting that members of the enlisted ground crew came from many different countries. The Command Master Chief is from Sierra Leone and other crew members are originally from Mexico, Columbia, Guatemala and Jamaica although most come from the USA of course.

Our announcer 

The crew chief turns the plane over to the pilot

The flight crews – the best of the best – supporting the best of the best.

Number 4 Angel is a two seater and some lucky dog got to go for a ride along. I emailed the Angels and was told only very VIP VIPs get to ride in one of these planes, such as governors and senators and football quarterbacks. However, during the show only active duty military pilots get to take this ride.

Upside down.

A high speed pass – very difficult to catch with a camera – with each plane flying at between 300 – 400 mph. The “closing speed” is between 600 – 800 mph only a split second for the actual pass.

Wheels and tailhooks down for a slow speed fly-by

Two up and two down

Another pass
Four across

If you look very closely in the photo below you can see the back seat passenger in number 4 in the center of the picture. Note the other F-18s do not have two seats – see the larger canopy.

When Sue and I first met over 20 years ago we went to an air show for the grand opening of Denver International Airport. The airport did not actually open for almost another 2 years but the show was planned years in advance so the show must go on. That show was very special because they not only had the US Air Force Thunderbirds and the Canadian Snowbirds but a very rare appearance on this continent of the British Royal Air Force Red Arrows. More about all these demonstration teams are on their websites which are very detailed and informative.

The Thunderbirds fly six F-16 fighters

The Snowbirds fly nine Canadian-built CT-114 Tutor aircraft

The Red Arrows fly ten  BAE Systems Hawk T1 aircraft

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.