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Mary’s home to help her sister after hip replacement overran our Reno schedule. I got a big hug and told to go.
So my little Mazda and I left for the thousand-mile trek through the Cascade Mountains, all alone.
Considering my hours of planning for a 60 minute Bessy flight to Penticton, this was a doddle! I simply requested a personal BCAA ‘Trip Tik’ with marked up charts, calculations for fuel, time, motel and food. Would it be so easy from NavCan?
Of course, I didn’t actually follow the route precisely, but it provided fall-back comfort. Took 20 hours and 3 days. This makes Ray Roussey’s four hours and a bit via Navion look pretty good. But he’s a cool flying guy. Sigh!
AT THE RACES
My tickets and all were delivered at the Circus Circus Casino hotel, by the ever-cheerful Betty Sherman of the Cascade Warbirds, saving line-ups at the gate on my new gammy leg.
Limping to the Formula One’s, I found Adrian Cooper (Call me Coop) and the Miss t’Witchie crew frazzled over flat tires and a leaky gas tank. So I hopped off to find the McMann brothers, with Harvards, Red Knight and Gunslinger. It’s great to see friends from Vancouver racing at this fabulous event. I glowed with Canadian pride.
Last year, Midnight Miss won T-6 Gold with Bessy’s spare engine, so Dennis and Tami Buehn welcomed me with big hugs. "Where’s The Mary?" A constant cry all weekend. So I splained and splained. Sigh.
My bad leg got me into Buehn Shirt Sales, with a shady chair, overlooking the race. My Carney sales pitch, attracted a variety of foreign enthusiasts, Aussies and Brits - even a German T-6 owner, who knew my Lufthansa friend, Walter Eichorn.
The shirt gig made me easy to spot, and Navion Ray came by with friend Scott Hamilton, a first timer at Reno. Cascade past president Dave Desmon arrived with our very own Vancouver Warbird Artist Ginny Ivanicki, just thrilled to be among the action.
Old friend, Judy Webber, of Willis Lease, ‘Power to Spare’ said to drop by their VIP Box, so I poked around the Art Booths on the way as is my wont. And LO! At ‘Wings Fine Arts’ were Mike and Gai Johnson of Black Creek, near Comox B.C. Thing is, Mike’s Dad was ‘Johnnie’ Johnson, the RAF’s top scoring WW 2 Spitfire Ace!
THE BULL SHOOTER
The T-6 Racing Association HQ, had refreshments and nice tables for members, with lovely shade by the wall.
'Chatted with Bill Muszala, who, after our long saga to L.A. and Chino many years ago, replaced Bessy's brakes and tires at Aerosport Aviation.
Whilst bull shooting with some old bold pilots, it transpired that I had actually flown a T-6 faster than those racing at Reno. Admitted I cheated, but 375 mph is no joke, and I assure you, straight down from 10,000 feet, at climb power is very hairy indeed. Things come off the wings! So don’t try it at home!
In 1953, such things happened to teen-aged ‘Senior’ Cadets on NATO pilot training. Anyway, after retelling this at the T-6 Members Booth, I was urged to join the club! Their lounge is a welcome oasis from Reno’s sun baked hustle and bustle. See www.RacingT-6.org for info.
WHO DID WHAT
Despite all their grief, Miss t’Wichie’s crew persevered, fixed the tire and replaced the tank! Coop’s efforts put him in the Bronze final, and Yah-hoo! At 188.7 mph, he won! Talk about an excited guy! See his pic!
Delta’s Keith McMann was frustrated by a prop leak under high load, wasting power from his new engine. However, in the T-6 Silver, he pushed The Red Knight to 211.57 mph for seventh place.
First timer Brother Vic, with Gunslinger, had a great weekend, coming third in the Bronze at 211.85. This exceptional showing made him ‘Rookie of the Year,’ with big hugs and smiles at the Banquet later.
Unless you follow results closely, things are complicated. Big for me was watching my old Barn Floor engine compete in the T-6 Gold. I cheered and cheered for Dennis, but he was off the pace. On lap 2, leader, Six Pack, plunked down with a broken prop bolt, allowing Ken Dwelle to take the lead and win at 244.5 mph in Tinker Toy. Midnight Miss came sixth. Sigh.
Dejected, I limped back to the pits for the Unlimited Gold. The hugely popular battle between Rare Bear and P-51 Strega had everyone cheering, until Rare Bear blew the engine and pulled up billowing smoke and hollering Mayday. The crowd fervently prayed John Penny down to safety on the far runway, where the prop stopped.
Tiger Desfani in Strega streaked on to win at a blistering 483.86 mph, with our good friend Howard Pardue, trundling around behind the pack with his trusty old Bearcat.
Fastest guy of the week was Curt Brown, in his Delfin jet at 587mph, but to we round engine prop blokes, that's kinda cheating. Sigh.
At the Awards Banquet over scrumptious Prime Rib, it transpired that Dennis’s friend Carter Clark flew Race 43, and my yelling was for naught.
Their other Buehn entry, Midnight Express, flown by Ott Claremont, came second in the Bronze! So we celebrated after all!
TO AND FRO NOTES
It was a great trip. I saw much down the Cascade Mountains, east from Seattle and through Yakima, and Bend. Cheeseburger with Jan and Gill Faust at Summer Lake Lodge. A look at Oregon’s lonesome Paisley airport, almost stayed in the ‘Sage Rooms’ on ‘John’ Street, but pressed on past abandoned water mills, and the old time Niles Hotel at Alturas, California, to the splendid comfort of the Super 8 Motel at Susanville.
Next morning after a bit of barbering, I was spiffy for the supremely indifferent local airport dog, Radar. Manager Steve Datema said he was always like that. Some fascinating old aviation photos graced the walls. From there it was a quick run into Reno.
Homeward I headed for McMinneville near Portland. Fifty miles out of Su-ville, I found I was out of water, and was mighty relieved to come upon a Rest Area, next one 45 miles, only to find the copious water fountains smothered in plastic bags marked ‘Water not potable. Do not drink!’ and I was headed for Dead Horse Pass!
Much later at Grants Pass, I met Rude, a much bewhiskered elderly biker, fixing his Harley’s exhaust. Headed from Tennessee to Alaska with his delightful wife.
At McMinnville, the excellent Red Lion Inn, included bacon and eggs with continental breakfast!
Hey! Down at the airport, Mint B-25, Super Rabbit, awaited ferry to Australia, with Big Jerry’s old bomb bay fuel tank.
The Evergreen Aviation Museum is incredible, and worth the visit simply to peer inside Howard Hughes’ incredible Spruce Goose. And so to Vancouver, dear old Kitsilano and The Mary.
BACK AT DELTA
I was surprised to find long time resident Ray Brown had his mint Pitts S1S for sale. It’s been a Delta showpiece by the Old Coffee Shop these past 10 years. He says it took 10 years to build and is sad it must go, but Ray is getting on and the pretty little biplane needs to be flown. Wonder where she’ll go?
So I guess that’s all for now, so till next time, fly safe.
Tony & The Mary, Old COPA Guys.