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"How was your race?"
"Curt ran well."
"Great, good going," the hotel security guard commented.
"Say, if I might ask, what's with people dressed up like pirates?"
"Oh, that's for the annual Reno pirate crawl."
"Yeah. People dress up like pirates, get a cup, and go to select
bars and get drinks at reduced prices."
"Really?" I replied doubtfully.
"See, Reno has to reinvent itself all the time, so this is one of the
"Of course, some people literally crawl home in the morning."
"We also have a St. Patrick's Day crawl and a Santa crawl. Hey,
with that beard you'd fit right in."
"I think not."
"Normally people are good, but I did have to call the cops once when an
elf punched out Santa."
No question, Reno's a different world.
It's been a great week of racing with no real drama except in the air.
Blue Thunder, a Sport class racer, qualified earlier this week at 397
mph. It looks like a mini-Mustang, sounds like a Mustang, and is
faster than some of the real Mustangs. I learned from one o crew
member that it's got more power in reserve. And nitrous oxide!
Yesterday's Jet class was won by a WW2 design, a two seat
de Havilland Vampire, that topped out at a shade over 500 mph. He
came from back in the pack to win. And yes, the crowd went wild.
As a side note, the Vampire has a wooden fuselage like its famous
grandfather, the Mosquito.
The Unlimited race was won by Hoot Gibson in Strega. The lead
seesawed until near the end. Curt and Sawbones finished 5th.
The crowd has increased - sales are excellent, some sizes,
colors, land styles are already gone. Bringing home empty bins is
good. Bringing home another trophy well be great!
We collected the Sentra at 0634 from the nose bleed section of the
parking ramp. Back out and enter a left spin, leveling out with a
right turn onto the street. A left turn on Virginia and we head
north past ancient deserted motels, some boarded up, and a 1950's
Goodyear dealer. Across the bridge we go, up the hill through the
sleeping college, past the sleeping dorms, watching out for joggers and
the white sheriff's car. After passing through the last, but one,
stop light, it's up into the scrub with the railroad track snaking
through the gulch. Up to speed, merge with the northbound I-395
traffic, headed for Stead.
At Lot 3 the orange vest with the straw hat waves us in, he knows
me by now, and we park by the dusty U-Haul truck. My Rockports
have turned gray with gavel dust. The security guard is a Sawbones
fan. He's wearing a Sawbones shirt. "Ya run good,
yesterday," he comments.
It's like setting up for a performance. A play - a
musical. You build the set, block the scenes, rehearse the music
and lines, get the costumes fitted, and begin the dress rehearsals.
The team as cast.
It's Saturday. The weekend means the real performances start.
All the actors are in place. We can adjust as we go, ad libbing
like jazz musicians. Another variation on a familiar riff.
The audience has gathered, including Section 3, the pylon judges, old
friends from Minnesota, and our sponsors.
The stage is set.
One of the coolest sights is the early morning take off of the Biplane
class. They claw their way into the air like a scene from an old
black and white movie - remember Dawn Patrol or Wings? You do
remember black and white movies, don't you? Or the Edsel or
The jets are flying now and Curt has finished conducting class with
students from the U.S. Air Force Academy. Curt is an Academy grad
and each year a delegation comes to the races and stops at Sawbones'
pit. And it wasn't just the cadets who stopped to listen - he drew
a crowd. He's a natural teacher.
If you missed yesterday, you missed the Fury Heat with four Hawker Sea
Furies, each with a different engine. (Tony is singing right now,
so it's hard to concentrate.) Dreadnaught runs a P&W R-4360,
Sawbones a Wright R-3350, 924 the original sleeve valve Bristol Centaurus, and
Argonaut a P&W R-2800. If you dig the music of round engines -
that was a treat. Sawbones finished second. Today Curt is
running in Gold with Rare Bear, Strega, Voodoo, and Dreadnaught.
You gotta check out our new pitot tube cover. It stops people in
their tracks. Sometimes it seems like more people stop to take
photos of the mini-tug and the pitot cover than the plane. You'll
have to check out Brent's photos to see what it is, but let's say this -
it fits with Sawbones' logo.
Sales went very well yesterday. Some of our new designs are going
fast. And once again, some people are buying the orange can covers
for cellphone protectors! We have regular customers who stop every
year, some for replacement clothes they've worn out, some for our new
designs, and others for kids' stuff that has gotten too small!
More of our special guests and sponsors have arrived. Check out
the list of sponsors on this site. Thanks to all of them for
helping make our trip to Reno possible.
Ah, the sun's out and there's no windchill. Significant others,
sponsors, and Fox Hollow denizens, including Chuck Cook, have been
The Unlimited races have started with a Mustang heat with a
Yak-11 tagging along for good measure. A look at the Yak's
registration showed it to be N25YK, a bird once operated by Bob Pond's
Planes of Fame-East at FCM. I helped put it back together years
ago after an engine swap with a DC-3.
I changed gears for part of the day and reverted to
journalist/photographer for the Minnesota Flyer. I've written for
the Flyer for 14 years. I had a good hike to the far end where the
military display sits - a huge C-17A from Hawaii, a weathered
F-15 from Oregon, and Reaper with rockets under the wings. Don't
call it a drone, it's a remotely piloted system. Drones are meant
to be shot down.
I also connected with Jim Dale, once of FCM, who got me started with
aircraft restoration and annual inspections 25 years ago. He's
flying a B-25 Mitchell in the show this week. At another stop, I talked
to WWII figher ace Bud Anderson who flew a P-51 called "Old Crow."
I'd previously met him at Oshkosh. A big part of Reno is the
amazing number of aviation heroes you meet.
The Rolls Royce Heritage display featured a Steaman
Commercial that flew in the 2003 National Air Tour that was the
brainchild of Greg Herrick and utilized the organizational talents of
Craig Schiller, a Sawbones' crew member. I refrained from drooling
over two Stinson Gullwings and a pair of WACO biplanes, one of which was
restored in Faribault, MN. Another classic was a Mustang called
"Berlin Express", complete with
D-Day invasion strips and white walled tires. (Yes, white wall
tires are correct for that aircraft.)
One of the more unusual contestants in the Jet Class is a
de Havilland Vampire trainer. The Vampire first flew during WWII,
but didn't enter service until after the war. It's most unusual
characteristic is the wooden fuselage pod, inherited from the famous
Gotta go, time for the Sea Fury (and one Mustang) race!
Let the races begin!
Yesterday was mega windy - dust devils everywhere - on the course, in
the hills, even making surprise appearances in the pits. And it
was cold, at least for the air races. A nice comfortable 50 to
start today. Makes a Minnesotan feel right at home - if it was
November. Supposed to back to 90 for Sunday's races.
One of our Sawbones visitors yesterday was Reno airshow announcer Roy
Hafeli. Roy is a former member of the RCMP and worked in
radio. Sue and I met him at Cafe Central earlier in the week.
Roy and I swapped airshow announcing stories for an hour. He also
bought a Sawbones tee shirt and a small shirt for his grandchild.
It was nice to add a face to a voice.
Curt qualified yesterday at a bit over 417 mph. He described the
course as very turbulent. This morning he gave us a weather lesson
pointing out the lenticular clouds that forecast potentially nasty winds
Talked earlier today with a retired USAF pilot who had flown the
Lockheed U-2. I've seen the Dragon Lady fly at airshows at Offutt
AFB, at Oshkosh, and at Reno, but never had the opportunity to hear
about the legendary recon plane from a pilot who flew them. That's
another of the joys of the air races. It, like Oshkosh, draws from
a wide variety of aviation experience. A great classroom -
history, tradition, and technology - hangar flying at its very best.
The race crowd has been driblbing in slowly this week. Miki
Matsuda, a Japanese artist and photographer, made his annual appearance
at our pit, as did Bryan Greene and members of Section 3.
Minnesota might be the theater of seasons, but events like Reno and
Oshkosh are a theater of nations.
We did over $400 in sales yesterday, not bad for a non-racing day.
The new sweat shirts have been a hit. It did take until today for
Sue to get the sales permit - usually they're ready on Monday.
Today it's RACE ON for all but the Unlimited catagory. So far,
biplanes, sport class, T-6, and Formula 1 have run. There's no
mistaking the raspy sound of the T-6 class. And some of the sport
class - seriously fast. It has the largest number of entrants.
Tony hasn't had any new motorcycle adventures today. Of course, the day
is still young.
0920 Tuesday - Battle of Britain Day
We can see the mountains today. The wind scoured out the smoke, at
least for now. We can actually see across the race course to the
far pylons. Nice. Our Road Warrior, Tony, has returned.
According Eddie, it would make a good reality program! Curt plans
to qualify today. Wait for updates.
Today is Battle of Britain day in the UK. 75 years ago RAF Fighter
Command under the command of Hugh Dowding and WWI ace Keith Park, turned
back the Luftwaffe, and protected Britain from invasion. So,
what's this got to do with air racing? Now it's time for your
1. Everyone has heard of the Spitfire. This famous fighter
evolved from the design work of R.J. Mitchell who designed the two float
seaplane racer, the Supermarine S6B, that was the FIRST plane to exceed
400 mph. Yes, a seaplane. That aircraft was powered by a
Rolls Royce "R" V-12 racing engine that influenced the design of the
famous Merlin that powers most of the Mustang racers today. RACE
2. Between WWI and WWII, air mail, the early airlines, and air
racing advanced aviation in the USA. Improvements in aerodynamics,
engines, structure, and - drum roll - fuels and lubricants made aircraft
faster, safer, and more economical.
One of the most important innovations that affected air racing was the
increase in octane rating of fuels. A key to improved performance
was the development of 100 octane fuel. Now jump ahead to the
summer of 1940 and the Battle of Britain. RAF Fighter Command had
a secret weopon that came from the "neutral" USA. You guessed it.
100 octane fuel increased the top speed, service ceiling, and rate of
climb for the Hurricanes and Spitfires that took on the Junkers,
Dornier, and Heinkel bombers of the Luftwaffe. Here's a secret -
well, it was then - the Luftwaffe's Bf-109E's were fueled with 85/87
octane. Advantage RAF. And the innovation was from Air
Daylight in the Desert. Smoke from California wild fires hangs over the
city of Reno and Stead airport. Preparations are underway all over the
ramp, but where are the pink and blue port-potties in the pits near the
Sue and I got in late on Saturday via Salt Lake City. On arrival in
Reno, the flight attendant reminded passengers to be careful opening the
overhead bins, as "Shift happens."
Sunday when I got up, the view out the hotel window was filled with 34
brightly colored (or coloured for the English) hot air balloons
participating the the last day of the annual balloon festival. I watched
as they landed in parking lots, people's yards, city streets, and, maybe
it was an illusion, even the tops of buildings. Two yellow balloons were
shaped like gold fish. Pity the poor drunk who woke up and saw those
The new top is up. It breathes. I'll let you figure that one out. Tony
test drove the mini-tug and it needed the expert attention of an A&P.
Our early guests and the just plain curious have stopped to photograph
the little beast.
Our favorite ADI lady, Jan Fisher, has her nails done with racing
aircraft again, including Sawbones. She even has a thumb nail for
Section 3. Speaking of Section 3, Brian and Jack have already stopped,
incognito, to scope out the Sawbones action. Even though we're not set
up yet, people are eying the new mechandise Sue has in the plastic bins.
Some have already picked out what they want to buy.
Linda, a former FCM air traffic controller, and her husband stopped.
Just like home - or maybe, that's what it is for the week. Home. Only at