I woke before six this morning to the sound of raindrops on my roof. Ordinarily I love listening to rain on the roof of the teardrop but today I was hoping for NO RAIN because the Blue Angels don’t fly in rain. You might think that is unusual because other planes fly in rain all the time and these guys are excellent pilots. The difference is that in diamond formation they fly with only 18 inches between the wingtip of one plane and the canopy of the plane beside it. So any rain is a “no go”. The forecast was for showers off and on throughout the morning and I hoped the weather would clear.
Because I was excited about the possible air show and because I thought today might be a long day away from the beach, I decided to go for an early walk along the Gulf. So what if it was sprinkling? I made some coffee and headed up the road to a good beach access point. When I got there the sprinkles had turned to steady drizzle so I sat under the park pavilion for enjoyable coffee time. Once again I thought how fortunate I am to have a teardrop – people in big rigs were certainly just hanging out inside their campers and I had the seaside view to myself. Finally the rain stopped but by then I was ready to head to the Naval Air Station to see whether the Angels would be flying.
Our luck was fabulous; not only did the rain stop but the cloud cover was high enough that we got to see the entire range of maneuvers – both the “low show” under 3000 feet and the “high” show which goes to 6000. I’ve always loved to watch planes, especially military planes, and it surprises me a little that I had never gone to the effort to attend a Blue Angels show before. I think I first heard of them performing in Waynesboro, VA before I was old enough to drive, and I’ve just never been at the right place and time. The maneuvers of any one of the pilots would have been impressive but the precision with which the team flies in formation is astounding. We saw dizzying turns, rolls, loops – you name it. Speeds were often close to 600 mph and in the tightest turns the G force is 7 times normal (so a 200 lb pilot would apply 1400 lb of force against his seat). Imagine that if you’ve ever felt squished by someone pressing against you!
After the air show I headed toward Gulf Shores, Alabama for a late lunch. My friend Emily had suggested I visit Sea-N-Suds for their crab claws. She cautioned me that they would be fried but well worth it. She was right (Emily has NEVER steered me wrong!). My plan was to visit Orange Beach after that but I decided some resting time was more critical so I returned to the campground and after a break went for an evening walk on the beach. Once again I was beyond sight of anyone else. I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect day.
The trip odometer says I have traveled 1748 miles since I left home a week ago. Mapquest tells me I am only 50 miles closer to Oregon than when I left…but what an amazing detour!