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Late Entry: Nellis AFB, Red Flag and Thunderbirds; Santa Barbara Event; Vandenberg AFB; Port Hueneme; Basket Boats??? Hula Babes

I must apologize to all my Air Force friends for omitting two entries from our BSPFT (Brief Stop for Physical Fitness Training) at Nellis AFB in Las Vegas… the first is for our good friend Bill Bayer, who is a retired USAF Lieutenant Colonel air battle manager ground control intercept (GCI) weapons controller. That’s the guy who vectors our fighters to intercept enemy aircraft or to drop bombs on the bad guys just a mile or two away (that’s called close air support, or CAS.) Bill had been stationed at Nellis, and spent a lot of time working out of this building, and also in the 120F desert, usually without air conditioning and cold Sam Adams.  Red Flag is the Air Force’s premier air-to-air combat training exercise. Think of Tom Cruise in Topgun for the ACM (air combat maneuvering) part, but the Air Force has 75,000 square miles of airspace to play in over the Nevada desert. (That means if they have to bail out of their aircraft, they can land near a casino or Mustang Ranch for R&R… but I digress.)  Bill also was part of the 4477th Test and Evaluation Squadron that flew Soviet (that’s what they called the Russians back during the Cold War) MiG-17, -21 and -23 fighters as aggressor aircraft against our fighters.

Nellis is also the home of the Air Force’s Thunderbirds, a group of high performance fighter aircraft and pilots who try to emulate the Navy’s Blue Angels. (I may not be invited back to Nellis after this blog post… sigh…)  Okay, actually the Thunderbirds are really hot s..t pilots as well!

Now, back to California… this serene sunset scene was taken at Seal Beach, where several hawks were often found in the branches of these trees, on the lookout for a meal provided by unwary ground squirrels.

Up the coast past Los Angeles is Santa Barbara, a thoroughly delightful city about 100 miles northwest of LAX. And it only takes about two to seven hours to get there from the city of the angels, depending on traffic. Did I mention earlier that L.A. traffic is insane, day or night??? We stayed at an Elks Lodge RV park in Goleta, just west of Santa Barbara, where Suzanne gave her Transformative Power of Hope presentation to an enthusiastic group of attendees at an International Association of Near Death Studies (IANDS) meeting at Unity of Santa Barbara. Thanks to Barbara Bartolome for sponsoring Suzanne and to her husband Victor for his interest in our RV; hopefully we will see you two on the road soon in your own motor coach! (Basketball fans may recognize Vic’s name; he played center for the Golden State Warriors back in the 70s; at 7′ tall, Victor is an imposing guy – I felt like a dwarf standing next to him.)

We then motored up to Vandenberg AFB for a week of camping near the beach. This peaceful setting, like the one from Seal Beach, has an almost invisible hazard… well, the tide rips and cold water are a problem for many, but not nearly as deadly as…

… this warning sign suggested…  Yes, great white sharks (Carcharodon carcharias) are not uncommon here, as this area is home to seals and sea lions, which make a high fat banquet for these apex marine predators. (I decided not to swim at this beach.)

We did go for a nice walk on this beach, however. But what’s with the jackets in July? Oh, I forgot to mention that this area is quite chilly, with the cold water California Current flowing just off the beach with 57F temperature water and upwelling of nutrient-rich sediments that provide nourishment for fish, such as sardines, mackerel and tuna. Nighttime temps at the campground were in the 50s, perfect sleeping weather, and daytime highs rarely got to 75 while we were there.

After Vandenberg, we relocated to the Port Hueneme SeaBee (Naval Construction Battalion) base near Oxnard. It’s right near some major marinas where the pups, being docks-hounds, like to walk. Back when they were much younger, Suzanne was walking them down a pier when Gretchen discovered parts of a dead fish. She scarfed up a piece, but then spit out a pretty disgusting fish eye… even our puppies have their limits. 

In this marina were several interesting yachts, but what really caught my eye was a Vietnamese basket boat stowed upside-down beneath some kayaks. Navy sailors who spent time there will immediately recognize the unique shape and design of these tiny self-propelled fishing boats, often found miles offshore, with one or two fishermen or women using simple hand lines. A mother boat will often drop dozens of these boats in prime fishing areas, and return hours or even a day later to pick up the fisherman and his catch. At night, it was not unusual to see the dim flicker of a Bic lighter a hundred yards or less ahead of your ship, requiring an instant course change to prevent running the boat down. This was the first basket boat I had seen since 1973 when I did my last deployment to Vietnam. 

This boating photo requires some explanation. I have seen bicyclists, horseback riders and skateboarders using their smart phones, but never a kayak fisherman… maybe he’s checking a fishing app for the best bait to use???

It’s too bad that we had already filed our income tax return back in April, because fer sure I’d have gone to Eddie for my tax advice had we been in Hollywood Beach… hey, who needs a last name, or some high-falutin’ corporation name? Just ask for Eddie!!! “We find money others miss”.

Finally, frequent readers may recall Hula Babe, the sexy little number that our dear friends Sharon and Joyce gave me last year. (Hula Babe is Al Gore-approved – solar-powered, non-polluting and low-maintenance). When I saw a dozen of her cousins in a marina store window , I wanted them all, but alas, the store was closed, so Hula Babe won’t have any friends to join her in the coach while MLB is on travel…  sigh…    


  • S/V Magnolia
    Posted September 4, 2018 at 1:03 am

    How many Air Force friends DID you have?? Safe travels, stay near Navy Bases if I were you…just sayn

  • Anonymous
    Posted September 4, 2018 at 1:04 am

    That part of the California coastline sounds like what I was used to growing up in Oregon. Have you ran into any wildfires on your travels yet? Brad


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