I left Bakersfield at 0500 Thursday morning, headed north to Reno for the 45th Championship Air Races and Air Show. Not much to see until I climbed out of the toxic soup that is California's Central Valley... and things got stunning. Traffic was light during this midweek jaunt. What a beautiful place. Despite the altitude, I can actually breathe up there. Here's Der Schnellpanzer up in the High Sierra, on the way to Sonora Pass. At Sonora Pass. Check the altitude reading on the GPS. Once up and over the pass, I descended to the 395... and more pedestrian crap. Didn't stop for more pix until Reno. The next day at Stead Field, the aerogeekery began in earnest. Here's F7F Bad Kitty. Three of the four flying F7Fs were at Reno- one of them (Big Bossman) actively races. I've never seen this beauty before- the immaculately restored P-51B Impatient Virgin. Just stunning. I have no idea what the sory behind this copper Rolls Royce was...but it was cool as hell. These next few pix were taken over the following three days of racing and associated aerotardery... most from the Pits. Pit passes were more than the entry fee, but if you go to Reno you simply have to get pit passes- it's where all the fun is. Here's the Voodoo team working away oin their P-51D. Dig dat Merlin. Voodoo, by the way, blew their race engine during practice.... but took the Unlimited Bronze Class at 371 mph using with a stock engine. Here's Voodoo during one of the Bronze heats, with Silver Unlimited Yak-3U Steadfast on the ramp waiting for the Silver races. Here's a shot of Steadfast in her pits. A "new build" Yak-3, it could be a condenduh with a bit more power- her best speed during the final Silver race was 385 mph. It looked so damned cool in planform with that traingular wing in planform, I had to buy their t-shirt. Need moar F7F? Here's Big Bossman, siglehandedly rendering Viagra obsolete with the roar of her mighty twin 2100hp Pratt & Whitney R-2800-34Ws. A pure brute-force bird, she mostly just stayed low in the weeds with the throttle firewalled. Here she is taxiing back. She was a bit disappointing this year, squarely in the middle of the Silver pack with a 387 mph posting. Still no slouch, and an amazing airplane. The same guy who owns and flies the F7F Big Bossman (Mike Brown, hence the "MB" on the vertical) also operates a pair of Hawker Sea Furies- September Pops & September Fury. Here's September Pops in one of the Silver heats. And her sister ship, September Fury, racing the Bakersfield local boy (Tiger Destefani) who eventually won the Gold for the first time in ten years in his rather heavily-tweaked P-51 Strega. This battle was just fucking epic- the brute force Sea Fury would pull away in the straights, while the more efficient Strega would eat away at the lead during the turns. Wow. The highly-modified F8F Rare Bear had a new (wealthy) owner and crew chief, but was plagued with engine problems all weekend. Was a shame, but she's still the fastest piston aircraft in the world. The F2G Super Corsair was just incredible to watch. That prop is huge. She placed in the middle of the Silver pack, just under Bossman. Still- a one of a kind aircraft, and treat to see still doing what she started in 1949. Here's the F2G fighting off a P-51D, probably Merlin's Magic. Is there anyone my age (I'm 44) who didn't own the Cox .049 control-line version of the P-51D Miss America? She's still flying! Had a little PhotoShop fun with Miss America here. Here's an FM-2 Wildcat, the hilariously named Air Biscuit. A cool airplane, hoplessly outclassed even by the other "slow" Bronze class aircraft at 265 mph. Not all of the racing was the old heavy-iron Unlimited class birds... lets not forget the T-6 class. Silly and slow, but these guys seem to have the most fun. The Sport class is a very competitive one. My buddy Jon Sharp's Nemesis NXT posted a qualifying speed of 406 mph- that's faster than all but the Gold class Unlimiteds! Here's Nemesis on the way to dominating Sport. Again. Jon retired the first Nemesis, a Formula 1 racer (F1 birds are all Continental O200 powered- same engine as a Cessna 150) to the honor of the National Air and Space Museum. This year, the incredible Endevor took the honors. What a gorgeous airplane. I fell deeply and totally in lust with the Sport class pace airplane, the sexy Lancair Evolution. What a svelte piece of PT-6 powered goodness. And yes, it's a homebuilt kit airplane.... a $500k to $1mil kitplane. Dig the radio-controlled tug. The Thunderbirds were there... Note to the USAF- don't put the F-22 Raptor Demo on the same show as the Thunderbirds- the stuff the F-22 can do makes the T-Birds routine in the F-16 look lame. Here's the F-22 Heritage Flight Team (with the irreplaceable P-38E Glacier Girl). Sweet. And soon- it was time to flee Reno. I left the hotel room at just before 0600, and caught a gorgeous sunrise and moonset over the valley as I climbed high toward the East shore of Lake Tahoe. Beautiful, but cold- the temps dropped into the low 40 deg F range... thank God for heated grips. I continued to climb south to Carson Pass over the Sierras... where the temp dipped just above freezing. Still had to stop and take pix- it was just unreal- the kind of beauty that brings tears to your eyes... and clarity to the the sinuses. One of the best parts of my 400 mile wander home was a quick hammer through "The Little Dragon, Highway 49. Wow- what a ride. Got twisties?