Blue Angels Homecoming Show 2014

After Tallahassee, our next planned destination along I-10 west was New Orleans. At around a 400 mile drive, it was a longer trip than we were willing to make in one day. About halfway between the two cities lies Pensacola, a reasonable place for an overnight stop. We had learned a few weeks earlier that that the Navy’s Blue Angels would be doing their final airshow of 2015 in early November in Pensacola, so we timed our last few RV park stays to land us “in the right place, at the right time”.

We would only be staying two nights in Pensacola: arrive Saturday and set up camp, spend the night, spend Sunday at the air show, break camp and depart Monday morning. Since we were single-minded about this stay, we chose an inexpensive RV park very close to the navy base. In fact, as we pulled into the park on Saturday afternoon, we saw the Angels flying right over the RV park multiple times during their Saturday show.

Team AeroDynamix, the world's largest air show team

Team AeroDynamix, the world’s largest air show team

Sometimes things don’t go as planned

Unfortunately, what was supposed to be a simple and fun stay didn’t get off to a good start. Within minutes of arriving at the RV park, we had two big problems. As usual, Kathie went to the office to sign us in, and I got to work disconnecting Red, our Honda CR-V tow car.

We quickly learned that even though we had called ahead and made reservations, they had no sites available for us. They did have one “last resort” site behind the office that they don’t use under normal circumstances, so we ended up there. The site had its water and sewer connections on opposite sides, and was very sloped. Even after driving Rover’s lowest wheel up onto three layers of boards and using our leveling jacks, we couldn’t get close to level. We moved to a slightly different location on the lawn behind the office and changed Rover’s orientation, and were able to get level but with our water connection now almost 25 feet away. Our water hose barely reached, and after turning on the water, there was almost no pressure, certainly not enough to be useful. Instead of relying on the city water pressure, we left it on for a long time to slowly fill Rover’s water tank, and we ran our own water pump during our stay.

Meanwhile, I found that while towing, Red’s battery had become almost completely drained, and I could not start the car. The process of towing does put drain on the battery: we need to leave the key in “accessory” mode so that the steering wheel turns, and our auxiliary braking system uses electricity to operate our power brakes remotely every time Rover’s brakes are activated. However, when we had Red set up for towing, we had our RV dealer install a “charge line” from Rover to Red, which would keep Red’s battery charged up while towing. For some reason, the charge line has stopped working. Another camper gave us a jumpstart, and we let Red’s battery charge back up.

After two hours more setup time than usual, we were finally settled in, though a little tired and cranky.

CH-53 Sea Stallion, a really massive helicopter

CH-53 Sea Stallion, a really massive helicopter

On to the air show and Blue Angels

Sunday turned out to be a great day for the show. Since it was quite cold in the morning, we had to dress warmly in layers, but by noon we were baking in the sun and trying not to get sunburned. We wandered around looking at all the impressive planes and helicopters arrayed on the tarmac. We paid a small fee for bleacher seating, which turned out to be a good idea, since anytime anything interesting happened, someone at the front of the viewing area would stand up, so the people behind them would stand, and so on, until everyone was blocked. Being on the bleachers meant we had a pretty good view of the show!

Team AeroDynamix

Team AeroDynamix

While the Blue Angels are the highlight and finale of the show, there are hours of events leading up to their performance. One of my favorites was Team AeroDynamix, a group of ten pilots flying precise formation in their home-built kit planes. We were also wowed by wing walker Teresa Stokes, who performed maneuvers on the wing of Gene Soucy’s plan while he did loops and twists and dives.

Wing walker Teresa Stokes and pilot Gene Soucy

Wing walker Teresa Stokes and pilot Gene Soucy

Also on the agenda was some drag racing by Neal Darnell in the Shockwave Jet Truck. We expected this to be pretty silly and cheesy, but it was actually great, and we’re glad we got to see it! The truck’s top speed record is 375 MPH, and it gets to that speed extremely quickly, overtaking and passing the planes flying overhead during the staged races.

The ShockWave Jet Truck

The Shockwave Jet Truck accelerating from zero to 350+ MPH in a few seconds

Of course the Blue Angels were extremely impressive. We saw them perform in Virginia a few years back, and this year’s show was just as good. Once again we were blown away by the noise from the F/A-18 Hornets, especially when they unexpectedly flew right overhead while we were distracted looking in some other direction! If you haven’t been to a Blue Angels show, check the 2015 schedule and try to arrange your travel plans to coincide with a show—they’re not to be missed!

The Blue Angels flying in close formation, just 18 inches between each plane

The Blue Angels flying in tight formation, just 18 inches between each plane

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The grand finale

Michael Fischer

After a high-tech career spanning software development and systems administration to leading hundreds of engineers across cities and continents, I’m now slowing things down a bit. Traveling full-time in an RV with my awesome wife Kathie and our two big dogs Max and Opie, I’m now pursuing smaller personal software projects while seeing North America up close.

5 Comments

  1. Debbie   •  

    Beautiful pictures of the planes! So professional! Bummer on the campsite. Those things do happen but it’s never pleasant, right?

  2. Jonathan Scharf   •  

    Hi Mike,

    We see the Blue Angels every other Memorial Day weekend up here on Long Island at Jones Beach. On the alternate year the Air Force Thunderbirds are the headliner. You are quite right if you haven’t seen them or if it’s been a while do yourself a favor and attend on their shows.

    Glad to hear you were able to get into the RV park. Most places are usually booked solid weeks before an event like that. Sorry to hear about the added grief of the dead battery. Check the fuse suppling the power to the 7- pin connecter that might be the culprit.

    Keep on trucking’ and enjoyin’

  3. Mike   •     Author

    Jonathan, thanks! The fuse is OK, but there’s no power to that socket in the fuse box. Still trying to trace all the wires…

  4. Richard L. King   •  

    Mike,

    I saw your comment regards Quartzsite on “Dave and Diane’s” Blog Comment section. Everyone is certainly welcome to join us. If you want to follow the information on this years’ Happening, you can go here:

    http://www.tiffinrvnetwork.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=139&t=59218

    This is on the TRVN forum and I hope you can get there, if you are not registered. If you are not familiar with TRVN, it is the best source of information and help with a Tiffin coach.

    Best regards,
    Richard

    • Mike   •     Author

      Thanks Richard! I’ve been following (and posting on) the QZ thread on TVRN for a while now. I didn’t know the Tiffin comment on Dave & Diane’s blog was referring to the TVRN gathering until they clarified in their reply. Thanks for the info! -Mike

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