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First Day at the Races

The trip over Sonora Pass today was as usual for me a white-knuckle drive. I was a little nervous driving my old truck 170 miles to get to the Reno Air Races, but I had no choice. In spite of the sweat dripping off my brow as I navigated that devilish stretch of 108, I knew I had to get there. The thought of dozens of breakdown scenarios flashed through my mind but somehow (miraculously) I made it safely to 395. It was a beautiful trip with big ancient volcanoes and twisty turns. Had to stop about every thirty yards to collect my breath and take another picture. So needless to say what should have been a 3 and 1/2 hour trip turned into a 6 hour trip. I made it though…

Arriving at the races is always a mystery for me. In spite of how many times they email me or call me or facebook me I always (purposely?) forget whether or not I’m approved again to be Reno Air Race Press. So driving up to the gate is a bit of apprehension and an element of fear.

The man on the gate today (call him Jimmy, an ex-casino manager according to his story) waved me through to press parking without hassle. I locked up the truck, walked to the press shack to tell them my name and hope I am approved again for the year… And Viola! It seems they still

like my pictures and my writing. I am requested to fill out the usual paperwork; release of liability in case I get hit by a plane on the pylons and several other legalities… it isn’t a walk in the park to be air race press. It was sure a nice lady who helped me. She handed me my paperwork and wrist bands with a copy of this year’s program. I hurried back to my truck to take a look.

Now my dream has been for many years to have my pictures published in the program. There were two there this year! One was a little shot I had thought risqué to send, but they published it… the other was a picture of Al Goss. Al Goss was a very good friend and the pilot my favorite T6, Warlock #75… on st. patty’s day this year Warlock hit the ground taking Al and our crew cheif Steve Ballard away from us. Going to Reno this year meant going without my hero, going with a great sense of loss. But there in the program, on page 153 in the “Final Lap” section, was a picture I took of Al last year at the races. I was so honored to have that tribute be my picture. It brought me to tears in the parking lot.

I collected myself and headed on into the pits. There were a few planes in the sky testing out their engines. I saw Nemesis, a beautiful blue Formula One racing around. Just about as I thought, “wow he’s sure revving that!” the plane sputtered and then I heard a ZZZZIIIPPP!!! like I have never heard before. It was the sound of his propeller breaking apart at high RPM. He Maydayed and it was quite scary as he deadsticked it into a landing. I was watching the sky for flying prop fragments but luckily they rained down on the desert a ways away.

Always an adventure in Reno…