Thursday, September 1, 2016

Eccentricities and Airplanes in Front Royal

Saturday morning I was up bright and early to drive out to the Virginia Airshow in Front Royal. I planned on being there before sunup as there were going to be hot air balloons which I wanted to photograph as they slowly ascended through the morning mist just as the first rays of sun broke through to illuminate the jewel colored canopies. Or so I thought. I arrived to find there was nobody there, only a couple of guys who were setting up entrance security. And just a couple of small nondescript aircraft sat on the tarmac, there were no vintage cars yet, and not a single balloon team had arrived. There was no point in hanging around, the actual show wasn't kicking off until 10am so I drove off down the country lanes.
I trundled down graveled roads kicking up clouds of dust behind me and barely passing any other vehicles. I came across a strange sight, a dead possum only a foot or so from a dead copperhead in the road and wondered how that had come to pass. I assumed they had possibly been fighting until a truck came barreling around the corner, ending any chance of a winner leaving the scene of conflict.
The morning was beautiful, still crisp with dew shrouding the grass and wisps of fog rolled past me as I stood on the verge and took photos. Birds filled the air with happy chirrups and the sweet smell of hay and meadow flowers filled every breath.
I came across a few interesting sights, a scenic spot for kayaking that I duly noted, and also a house with a fine collection of vintage cars rusting under trees and standing in tall grass. I'll go back there in the fall, it was far too early to be knocking on doors this morning. A street sign made me chuckle and a rusted suit of armor peering out from the side of an abandoned warehouse causing me to do a double-take, he appeared to be beckoning me...
I eventually made it back a few hours later to the airshow which by now was a hive of activity. I parked Stuart in a grassy field and was about to start walking towards the gate on the other side of the road when a guy called me over so I could ride in the tractor taxi that was about to leave. The sun was glaring and beating down on the top of my head, the humidity was sapping my energy, so I gratefully climbed aboard.
Once inside I was a little dismayed to see how small the event was. I had assumed that there would be a fine collection of old fighter planes and the advert had claimed that 100 cars would be there too yet only 1 truck and about 40 cars were lined up on the hot tarmac. But the atmosphere was wonderfully inviting. Bealton's Flying Circus were there with their gaily colored blue, red and yellow biplanes, 40's and 50's music blared out from large speakers while a convoy of mini planes loaded with tots pottered past me.
The wings of the standing planes provided much sought after shade which was filling up fast as folks placed chairs in a line or stretched a blanket across these small patches of sheltered ground that were likely at least 20 degrees cooler than that being bombarded by the heat rays from the high sun.
I strolled around taking photos while bombs were dropped behind me along the runway by low flying planes, cheered on loudly by the the crowd. I was extremely grateful to spot a beer tent in the distance and beetled towards it. I slowly drank a chilled craft ale while chatting to folks, all of us squeezed together like sardines, trying desperately to find a niche under the tarps stretched out overhead. Why does every airshow always have such blistering hot weather? We couldn't have been much hotter if we'd been sitting in a cannibal's cauldron. I wondered if that was why some of the vintage vehicles hadn't shown. Maybe their old tires can't withstand the intense heat from the black tarmac as well as their modern counterparts. The ground seemed to almost be sucking in the heat, absorbing it with such ferocity, that I was amazed it hadn't turned into a molten quicksand. Few people were now sitting on the terra firma, unless in the shade, and I was very pleased to see that people hadn't brought dogs to the event.
This intricate Lucas logo caught my eye on a large headlamp so I zoomed in for a closer look. There were some impressive cars here today although a few too many Mustangs, quite a lot of them modern with souped up motors; I had zero interest in those.
I eventually felt my head and face burning and took refuge under a wide plane wing, having to squeeze in among the folks already camped in this cooler sanctuary. I couldn't zoom in too far with my short lens so had to crop the images a lot, resulting in the poor quality, and had to admire the stoic determination of those photographers that had stood by the fence throughout the whole program.
One of the pilots getting a lift back to base after his impressive show of loops and corkscrews and upside down flying, the crowd giving him huge applause. And then it was time for the little Army plane to get up in the air for some acrobatics. It was heaved out onto the runway and withing minutes was hundreds of feet up in the sky, then swooping low for fly by's, all performed with the E.T. theme music blasting from the speakers.
By about 1pm I was done with the sweltering, sizzling, searing, scorching sun and made my way back to the entrance, hopping from one patch of shade to the next until I saw the shuttle. I felt sticky and grubby with a complete void where my energy reserves should have been, there was no way I wanted to walk back to the car. I clambered down from the cart, and walked towards Stuart, rushing to turn the AC on full blast. And then sucked on a cold Slurpee driving home, looking forward to a nap later. No more sun for me that day!

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