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  • Wm. Bracknell

The Virginia Beach Airshow - 2014

There was an airshow advertized for Winston-Salem for mid-September, but we opted to go to the Southwest Virginia Outdoor Exposition in Abingdon. I had to choose one and I really wanted to see another airshow. The last one Rhonda and I attended was in 2003 as a part of the centennial celebration of the Wright brothers historic first flight, in Lumberton, N. C. Our AT maintaining club had a display at the Abingdon event, and I felt obligated to offer to man the exhibit.

In addition, I wanted to see what outdoor recreational opportunities there might be around that I was not aware of. There were 63 vendors and a number of activities that were of interest. One small thing on my bucket list is to try out one of those paddle boards where one stands up rather than sits or lies down. I discovered that there are two outfitters that have it available. They also had information on canoeing on the Clinch River.

My good friend, Brian told me he and his family were planning on going to an airshow at the naval air station near Virginia Beach on the weekend of September 27th and suggested we meet them there. We hemmed and hawed up until the week of the event. I called and got a reservation at the KOA in Virginia Beach. We wanted to camp over at the First Landing State Park, but they were booked up for the weekend. We loaded the camper and truck and left Thursday morning. The Clipper camper had been sitting idle for over a year. I wanted some more towing experience and the trip to Virginia Beach was around seven hours; going around Roanoke, Charlottesville, Richmond, and Norfolk via I-81 and I-64.

As we got near the KOA, we passed the Oceana airfield as the F/A18 Hornets were streaking by overhead practicing for the airshow. We got a great site at the campground. They were at assigning the spaces as campers came in to allow plenty of room between occupied sites. It was a spacious facility with some long term units, the usual rustic rental cabins and some modern rental units. Later as we were strolling around the grounds, we saw the Blue Angels overhead also practicing their maneuvers.

Friday, we decided to ride our bikes the six miles up to the Boardwalk on Virginia Beach. There was a trail that ran all the way to Norfork Avenue, five blocks beyond Rudee Inlet, and just two blocks off the beach. It started a few blocks south of the campground. There was a paved bike path beside the boardwalk for 3.2 miles along the beach and in front of the hotels and shops. It was mildly busy with bikers, pedal carts, joggers and walkers.

It was a very pleasant setting and nice amenity for the city. I'm sure it gets unpleasantly crowded in the summer. On the return trip, we rode Atlantic Avenue back to the beginning of the trail, which was one block over. It had a wide bike lane down one side and traffic was light. It was a great time to visit the area.

On the return trip, we rode on past the entrance to the campground over to the airfield entrance on Oceana Blvd. and then further down Gen. Booth Boulevard to where the trail turned into plain sidewalk in a commercial area with stores and fast food restaurants. We turned around there and headed back to the camper for lunch

During the afternoon, there were more aircraft practices while we read and relaxed. There was a nice pool up by the office and the afternoon temperature was still good for a swim. Rhonda chose against it but after easing in, I enjoyed swimming a dozen or so laps. Brian, Venita and Holly were scheduled to arrive at their hotel around 3:30, so I gave them a call around that time to verify we all arrived safely and to plan where we wanted to have supper together. We all had a craving for seafood, it was just a matter of making a choice.

A few hours later they came down and picked us up in their very nice, new (preowned) van. We went first to the Rudee, but there was no parking and we could see a waiting line out the door, so we went next door to Rockerfella's. Rhonda and I ordered the Tidewater Steamer containing oysters, mussels, clams, shrimp, crab legs, crawfish, sausage, corn on the cob, broccoli, celery, onions, and potatoes all served in a bucket. Brian and Holly split one also. I didn't really care for the crawfish.

After the delicious meal, we drove down to the boardwalk area and strolled down Atlantic Avenue and over the pier on the beach. Before returning to the van, we stopped at an ice cream shop for a treat. It was a most enjoyable evening.

The next day the show started at 9:30 with a pre-show warm up and the main show at 10:15. We arrived before nine to get a good place to watch. There were reserved bleachers for five dollars, but when I checked on Friday and sales had closed. Soon after we arrived, we found a good spot between the bleachers and the VIP area. After placing our chairs, I walked through the static displays of aircraft and information and sales booths. A short time later, I called Brian to give him our location. We saved them three spaces beside us.

The day was filled with a big variety of ariel acrobatics and displays of military prowess from the F/A 18 Hornets. There was a jet powered glider, a wing walker, WWII T-6 trainer, the Geico Skytypers, a mini jet. sky divers, a jet powered truck, the landing of a plane on a motor home and of course, the Blue Angels.

After lunch, the clouds started to build and the cloud ceiling was affecting some of the performances that required more attitude. Also, the skytypers could not do their best with the clouds as a backdrop. Just as the Blue Angels started their demonstrations, it started to sprinkle. When the rain picked up, we headed toward the parking lot. It did not really ever rain that hard or last that long.

Even though we got to the truck and into an exit lane quickly, it was over an hour before we were out of the airfield and back on a city street.

I t was a great show. I always enjoy seeing and feeling the power of the jets flying and appreciate the skill of all the pilots from the small Cessna to the Super Hornets. The jet truck is a special treat, especially the race with a jet aircraft. The vapor cone (sonic ripple) of the jets was an amazing sight. This is produced when the aircraft reaches the sound barrier. We had never heard of it or seen it before.

We had planned to meet Brian and Holly at nine on Sunday morning to ride bikes with them on the boardwalk, but there were still light intermittent showers. We rode over to a shopping center and spent some time browsing, waiting for the rain to clear out, but the morning passed and our ride never materialized.

When the clouds started to break up, we went back to the campground to pack up. I wanted to see and stay at the First Landing State Park, so we drove the eight miles over to the park. I called them to be sure there were sites available. Through our experience, we find that most of the weekend campers check out around lunch on Sunday, leaving many spaces available.

One of my recreational goals is to camp at all the Virginia state parks with campgrounds. There are 24 with camping and this would be number five.We made an initial pass through the campground to see what sites were available. We selected one that was not close to other campers. After setting up, we headed out to the beach on the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay.

First Landing State Park (formerly Seashore State Park) offers recreational opportunities at Cape Henry in the independent city of Virginia Beach, Virginia. The entire park is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as Seashore State Park Historic District, for its significance as the first planned state park of Virginia and for other reasons. The state park is near the site of the first landing on April 26, 1607 of Christopher Newport and the Virginia Company colonists before establishing themselves at Jamestown about forty miles up the James River. Native American canoes, colonial settlers, 20th century schooners and modern cargo ships have navigated the park's waterways. During the War of 1812, its Cypress swamps were a source of fresh water for merchant mariners, pirates and military ships. According to local legend, Blackbeard hid in the Narrows area of the park, and interior waterways served as landing sites for Union and Confederate patrols and blockade-runners during the Civil War. Built, in part by an all African-American Civilian Conservation Corps in 1933-1940. It is Virginia's most-visited state park, it's a natural oasis in Virginia Beach's urban oceanfront area. The park has 20 miles of trails and 1.5 miles of sandy Chesapeake Bay beach frontage. Offering many recreational and educational activities, it's a great place to explore unusual habitats featuring bald cypress trees, lagoons, rare plants and wildlife, and maritime forest ecology.

There was a raised boardwalk across the sand dunes from the park road to the beach. It was a little breezy and evidently, ideal for sail boarding. There were several guys riding the waves up and down the beach being towed by their kites or para sails. One was quite skilled. He could get up some real speed and make some big jumps off the waves.

One thing we noticed that there were hundreds of dead horseshoe crabs all up and down the beach. Our first thought that it was just empty shell that had been shed, but nearly all of them contained the bodies. I would love to have found out why there were so many carcases. On one part of the beach, there was a display someone or a group had made with the crabs. They had set them up in rows with sticks as if they were soldiers. The thing that gave away the creators was the boy scout insignia and the troop number made with the crabs. Rhonda recognized it before I did. When we came into the campground earlier, we had seen one area where scouts breaking down camp and loading up.

We we left the beach, we went up to the gift shop so I could purchase a park pin to mark my visit. Afterward, we returned to the site and unloaded the bikes to check out the Cape Henry Trail that was across the road from the entrance to the park. It was a seven and half mile trail even though we rode close to eight miles because of the up and back, we did not go all the way down to 64th street on Linkhorn Bay at the Narrows. It was a nice trail in a very heavily treed area.

I went back over to the beach with the camera, when we returned so I could get a picture of the crab army. While I was there a large freighter came into view from around the cape. I guess it was headed into the Chesapeake Bay.

We went to bed earlier than usual, so we could get up early and get on the road to beat the early morning traffic around the Norfolk area. We made it home in eight hours, stopping for gas, lunch in Fincastle and the Camping World there outside of Roanoake.

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