Chuck Yeager Flying Lesson: Windsock? That’s Yesterday’s News, Just Fly Your Airplane

July 28th, 2014

Had some papers to get done, overwhelmed. CY said, Let’s go fly. We stopped and got a bite to eat and as we were driving to airport, it looked like rain was on the way.

I’ve got 30 minutes, don’t I.

CY: Oh sure.

He sent me up on my own in a tail dragger.

As I was taxiing out, I checked the AWOS. 12 knot crosswinds gusting to 19!

Didn’t feel like the wind was that strong. I checked the windsock – straight down the crosswind runway.

I contemplated taking off on that runway but opted to take off on the big runway with a crosswind for the practice. If I even approached trouble, I’d re-think.

I took off – didn’t notice a crosswind really.

Then I looked. I was just naturally crabbing to be flying straight.

As I got across from the numbers on downwind, I wondered if I should just land on the crosswind runway.

I reasoned – I need crosswind practice. If I feel I’m getting to close to beyond my ability, I’ll just go around and land on crosswind runway.

I put in one notch of flaps. I kept feeling slight down drafts so I had to put in some power – always a bit touchy as to too little or too much.

As I was settling down for landing, I was ballooned up. I put on a little power to sort myself out. And then floated. And floated. I slowly settled and took off the power.

Reacted with ailerons. Feet kept working but it wasn’t too worrisome.

I came to a stop-ish and powered up and took off again.

I had to keep looking at the ball – I don’t always feel the skid.

I came around again. Checked the AWOS. Winds just at 12 knots (really?). No gusts.

Same experience – some down drafts so a bit of power.

Landed, felt the wind try to push sort of, used ailerons, all calm.  I noticed I started going a little toward the side of the runway. Ready to put in power if needed, I pressed on the left rudder. I was slow enough and down enough….that it was enough. I didn’t need any power.

Took off again. Figured once more. The clouds were still not getting angry.

Had to crab again to stay straight on take off, and before turning crosswind.

I listened to AWOS on downwind. 15 knots.

Hmm.

Crosswind runway – straight down it…..

I still need crosswind practice so I’ll go as far as I’m comfortable.

I put in one notch of flaps.

A little power – was getting a bit more precise so not too much for the down drafts.

I flared, kept it flying until I touched down on all three tires.

It still felt as though I wasn’t down completely. Weird.

I kept the ailerons subtlely active as well as my feet. And as I held course on the ground now ahead of the curve, consciously tried to figure out what was going on.

Stopped before the exit and exited.

I thought about another t/o and landing…..I was doing well….and decided time to go in.

CY had told me how to fly crosswind, and shown me by flying some serious crosswinds (not intentionally just happened) and I did it: that’s what I did so the crosswind was not as frightening or even barely noticeable…..and, of course, it worked:

CY’s advice: Don’t worry about the AWOS or windsock, that’s yesterday’s news – just fly your airplane.

And I did. And had a great time!

c. GCYI

 

Victoria In the Ring with Larry Holmes, Heavyweight Boxing Champion

July 20th, 2014

“One second you were standing next to me, the next you’re on the TV screen in front of me,” said John, the executive producer.

It all started a few weeks before. I had met several producers in 1979 at the Cannes Film Festival during my junior year abroad. One hired me to help with the first English televised Cannes Film Festival Awards show to be filmed in a couple of days.

I showed up in the afternoon for set-up. It was the craziest, most inefficient set up I had ever seen. The guys in charge wanted the chairs over here – 300. After we did that, no over here. I mutinied. Here I was in beautiful southern France, inside re-setting chairs because the guy in charge couldn’t visualize?

I asked him what result he wanted and got it done. Next they had me babysit some of the talent. Robert Morley, an English character actor.

We sat on the deck overlooking the Mediterranean. I was 21 and had learned some social skills.

I asked him if he would like something to eat or drink.

“Yes. A coke, please.”

“And get yourself something.”

I promptly got it – or three – for him. And one diet for me.

I then used what a grande social dame in England had taught me when I was 17 and fairly shy with adults. Or with her. She said, “My daughter Emma was painfully shy when she was 17. I told her ask your dinner partner about himself – he’ll go on for hours and think you are the most scintillating woman.”

So I asked Mr. Morley about himself.

He sighed and responded with a short answer.

I asked another question. He patted me on the knee and said, “My dear, I love you very much, but for the answer to those questions, you must go read a book – I’m sure my history is somewhere.”

I would have but….there was no internet in those days and no book on Robert Morley readily available. So I stopped talking.

He wanted to take a nap anyway.

Every now and again he would awake and make some pronouncement such as:

“I do so love the south of France…..”

Snooze.

“Too good for the French.”

He continued in this way for the next two hours. What fun!

That evening in time to help with the televised awards, I arrived in a beautiful one of a kind dress designed by a friend of my mothers, a great New York designer, and high heels.

I thought I’d get to meet all the actors backstage but I was assigned to sit in a specific seat in the audience and hold the cue cards for the talent  Hmmm.

So I put the cue cards in the seat and helped elsewhere until it was time. The audience was filling up rapidly.

Just before “show time”, I returned to my seat to find it occupied by a fairly long, white haired, slight, fey man. I told him he was sitting in my seat and to please move.

He said. “But I was told to sit here.”

Sternly, I demanded: “By whom?”

He pointed to some fellow at the end of the row.

I looked at him, back at the seat usurper – I had no time for this nonsense. The show was about to start and I had to be ready – my first job in international TV.

I insisted: “He is not official. You will have to get out of this seat. I have a job to do. You will either leave or I will call security.”

That aroused the man at the end of the row and the man in my seat. They found another one somewhere.

I sat down, my job intact, relieved.

The couple behind me said: “Good for you! We’ve never seen anyone take on Andy Warhol before and so politely and effectively.”

What?

“Didn’t you recognize him?”

Me: No, but I don’t care who he was – it was clearly taken.

Unwittingly, I had impressed the crowd. While I was familiar with his paintings, I hadn’t read his book either so I’m not sure what I would have said or asked had there been time. While I like his paintings fine, I really never saw him as a genius that others did. All in the marketing.

The show started. I held up the cue cards.

There was a change in scene……only no one was removing the two chairs on stage for the next presenter or scene. No one.

I got up, went up the stairs to the stage and in my high heels and dress, manhandled the large chairs to the side. No help from anyone. Ridiculous.

And went back to my seat….which no one dared to take at this point J

There were technical problems. Sally Fields threatened to leave if they didn’t give her award to her immediately. I was told the French had strict unions so they cut the cable when the delay went on too long.

A good idea, not well-planned, went bust.

I had intended to follow a friend to Florence, Italy to learn Italian there but instead I was offered more television production work. I figured I didn’t know if I’d be offered that work again and Florence would still be there…(I still haven’t gone for the 6 week Italian course, though, and it might have been a better option! :-)

Back in the States, the same group hired me to work the televising of the Larry Holmes v Mike Weaver heavyweight boxing championship at Madison Square Garden as well as the television show of Spartakiade – Spartacade – in Russia.

While prepping the show in New York City, I walked by a couple of female employees/assistants reviewing some promos for the show and remarked, “The number is wrong,” and continued out the door to my appointment.

I heard, “Can’t be. I’ve watched this 100 times. No way.”

I suggested as I headed to the elevator: “I could be wrong – why not double check it?” They had worked for Wussler for years so I wasn’t going to argue.

They didn’t double check it and sent it to one of the sponsors of the show.

It was promptly returned. The numbers were wrong.  Wussler was very embarrassed – might lose a huge sponsor. How could this happen?

The younger gal was so upset and eventually they acknowledged to their boss that I had seen it, told them, and they hadn’t believed me.  I had a new respect from some, annoyance from the gals.

At the Holmes/Weaver fight, I was in the control room at Madison Square Garden. I had secured tickets for my father and my brother. Great seats. It was their first time to attend a professional fight. The company had sent its limo to pick them up at the train station and take them to the hotel. Then to pick them up at the hotel and take them to the Garden.

I remember meeting Don King – and his hair – on the elevator. I asked him what he did before he was a boxing promoter.

He was honest: “I ran the numbers.” I smiled knowingly although I had no idea what he meant. We arrived at our floor thankfully because I had nothing – no follow up question. I hadn’t read his book either.

Later, the producer said he was stunned Don King was so honest with me and explained “running the numbers” was part of illegal gambling.

Oh.

I remember watching the fight in the control room and thinking: Dang! I might as well be home watching it on TV – no crowd ambiance, no live performance, no…my family is having a more authentic experience than I am.

I helped with replays, etc. but towards the end – the near complete knock-out in the 11th round – it all took a life of its own.

When it was clear I was superfluous, I left the control room and went to the arena where the crowd was. I had a pass so security did not bother me too much. I explained I was supposed to watch the fight in person. They weren’t sure what I meant but clearly I wasn’t a threat.

I tried to squeeze out of the way. I tried to find a seat as I kept moving toward the ring.

As I was running down the aisle toward the ring, looking for a seat or place to watch innocuously, the fight ended in the 12th round with a TKO (technical knock-out). Cheers.

I kept moving to the ring and as others climbed in through the ropes, so did I.

And then…..

I stood there wondering what do I do now? Congratulate Holmes?

He was walking around the ring, still pumped up. I sensed he wanted to punch Weaver out again – but Weaver wasn’t there so whoever got in the way next….

He turned the corner and was heading my way…

Uh. Hmmm. Gotta go. Didn’t think “Congratulations” was going to cut it. And suddenly I really did have to go.

I climbed back out and ran back the same way to the control room.

When I got there, John noticed and that’s when he said:

“One second you were standing next to me, the next you’re on the TV screen in front of me….

In the ring!”

I responded: “I kept running and running and that’s where I ended up. But Holmes didn’t seem to be giving anyone a warm welcome so I thought I’d better come back.”

John was still trying to sort out if his eyes deceived him and how I had accomplished that.

Later at the after party, an uninvited fan pestered Larry Holmes for his autograph.

Holmes punched him out.

c. GCYI

 

 

 

 

 

Need a soda pop?

June 30th, 2014

When we were in Tonopah, NV, training for war (World War II), some of the guys like Hammond, would land on the main roads, stop at the gas station just to get a soda.

Different time.

c. GCYI

You Put Perfume in the Air, It Touches Everyone

June 29th, 2014

We haven’t seen our pals the Oak Ridge Boys in a while so we put on one of their CDs driving home from flying today and sang along.

“Everyday” was on. I rocked on.

“You know a smile never goes out of style
So brighten up the one that you wear.
Let it shine and you just might find
You’ll lighten up the load that you bear.

You know with all the trouble and sorrow in the world
It seems like the least we can do,
Just take that smile into the street
And share it with everybody you meet.”

A week ago, I was having a tough day but managed to smile at a small, elderly lady at the grocery store. She apparently had been having a bad day, too, and my smile lightened her load. She smiled back at me gratefully.

It reminded me of a story my Dad tells.

One day my Dad was having his shoes shined at his usual place (in fact the shoe shiner was the father of Reggie Jackson – so Dad followed Reggie’s career from when he was just a kid).

Dad sat next to an elderly, elegantly dressed black gentleman also there to have his shoes shined.

The gentleman complimented my father on his suit and hat.

My father replied: Thank you very much. Coming from such an elegant man as yourself, it is a fine compliment indeed.

The gentleman responded with the following: You put perfume in the air, it touches everyone.

The perfume this gentleman put in the air, continues to touch many, many people, even 50 years later:

When I smiled at the elderly lady and she smiled back….well that perfume….touched me, too.

c. GCYI

Flight Instruction from Chuck Yeager

June 29th, 2014

Today, I was bit more brave. A few months ago, I might not have gone flying. But incrementally I was getting more experience and confidence and really more options in my arsenal.

It seemed windy, perhaps too windy? I figured, I’d get in the airplane and taxi out. See how I felt taxiing.

The winds were 9 kts at 300 degrees. The runway heading was 320.

Our friend flew with me – not a pilot, but a good passenger – JN. Gen Yeager watched from the ground.

He has always said, Fly your airplane. ASOS and AWOS is yesterday’s news.

He is right about that, no less so today.

Some people don’t understand that instruction. What it means is if the wind picks up your wing, move your aileron to put the wing back to level or where you want to be. Expecting the winds to be what was reported a minute, 5 minutes, or 30 minutes prior is a waste of time. What are they now is important.

Taxiing out was no problem. I headed into the wind for the run-up.

True to form, while my head was down checking instruments, magnetos, etc.; JN alerted me to a plane nearby.

As I lifted my head, I couldn’t believe that a big Ag plane was taxiing right for us with no signs of stopping and without calling in.

I radioed: Do you see me? Do you see me? My options weren’t great – rev up and pull onto the grass which could be hiding unknown hazards.

He finally stopped – but too close for comfort and unnecessary as this is a big airport.

I finished my run-up and then turned the easiest way which also happened to be the way that would cause my prop wash to rock him. Heh heh. Although he was so heavy, I doubt it was a blip – or even, he may have been nuts enough to enjoy it.

I called in, quickly took the runway, put in a notch of flaps, asked my passenger if he was ready, he was, and took off.

Me: Do you want to go look at anything.

JN: No, I’m good.

So I set up for doing stop and go’s.

I was on final, losing altitude, not confident enough I’d make the runway without power, or more importantly, not enough extra cushion, so put on some power. It’s a long runway.

We flared. We kissed the runway, lifted a little, kissed the runway, lifted a little and we were down.

I wasn’t worried – no moment of panic.

We took off.

Around the pattern again. On final, put on some power again – just a bit concerned about making the end of the runway.

Which meant we floated a little when we got there.

We kissed the runway; this time the wheel came up. A little aileron put it down again. I was glad I didn’t really over control – but then it wasn’t a violent or harsh uplift. Just the right one for my comfort zone :-)

Again, I was glad….still not panicked.

We took off again.

This time, I called: Full stop. It was a hot day (97 degrees), fairly bumpy, and I didn’t want to find my concentration lacking for a fourth go-round. And the winds typically become stronger and variable about this time of day.

I turned earlier onto base to see if I could make it, or feel I could make it, without power. As I turned final, I realized, the 9 knot wind was putting on the brakes.

We came in, flared, landed on wheels. As I put down the tail, we popped up and were blown to the left. I put a little power back on and centered the plane.

It bounced a little every which way. I concentrated on landing straight so we didn’t get into trouble.

We got down. Back up about a foot.  Down again. As I controlled the pushing with ailerons, I got the left wheel firmly down too, and tail.

We were pushed left on the ground but I was on top of it so we straightened out.

And immediately slowed down. The above took about 10 seconds.

I called out: We’re down. Safe.

JN: Good thing it’s a wide runway.

We actually weren’t even close to the side but to a non-pilot, not in control, I can understand his viewpoint.

We exited at the next taxi way and headed in.

I was so glad I wasn’t panicked, no lump in my throat as I corrected.

JN: I thought crosswinds would blow your wing up and throw you to the side.

I smiled and said: I was compensating. Not to say those were heavy crosswinds but…

Clearly he had a high tolerance of deviation or I had done a pretty good job this time….Doesn’t matter – I felt pretty good – not a big crosswind but enough to test me.

When we got back to the hangar, Gen Yeager said simply: Your second landing was better than the first.

JN reported we just had a little grass on the tires.

As we drove home, General Yeager commented: You were a little hot (fast) on final.

Me: You’re right.

After a few minutes: I get a little scared I’m not going to make the runway.

Gen Y: Why?

Me: I don’t know – but it just means I have to control the float and not get impatient. I guess the headwind felt like too big a brake. aI guess I should wait a little longer to put in power, IF I need it. And just in little increments, not so much at once.

Gen Y: That’s what power is for.

Amen.

c. GCYI

 

 

 

 

 

 

Snake Doctors and Grandpa Yeager: Musings of Childhood

June 28th, 2014

From General Yeager:

I was watching a fleet of snake doctors today. That’s what we called dragon flies as kids.

Reminded me of my grandfather: Grandpa Yeager. He could fix anything. I used to hike from Myra, then later, when we moved, from Hamlin – quite a long way – to visit Grandpa Yeager. He literally lived up a creek. Mom would supply me with an onion – I’d eat the whole thing, peelin’s and all, on the way.

Even today some of the walls of Grandpa and Grandma Yeager’s house are still standing. You can see where the go-down was – there’s still some glass there.

And where the crapper was. On the creek.

Downstream of course.

You can also see where are “refridgerator” was – a little cave above the creek that stayed cool all summer long too.

The gas well is still there, too.

Grandpa Yeager had a glass eye, which he would take out, turn upside down, and put back in much to our amusement. He never let something like only having one seeing eye stop him.

He was skinny as a rail. Grandma Yeager, however, was not.

I recently learned Grandma Yeager’s first name, as to me her first name was “Grandma”.  Her given first name was Adeline. Grandma Yeager was rather large. She was the barometer of big.

If someone said someone was really big!

People, with eyes wide, incredulous, would say: As big as Adeline?

Grandpa Yeager’s father was known as “Big Frank (Yeager)”.  He had had 27 children. 14 by the first wife who died in childbirth. 13 by the second wife who refused to have a 14th child!

To the current generation, his son, or grandson, also each named Frank, is the one now known as “Big Frank (Yeager)”. So it made for an amusing search

Also, Grandpa Yeager and one of his brothers were both named Marion. One was Marion General, oddly was my Grandfather – two generals in the family now. And the brother was Marion Newman – which most referred to as Newman to ease the confusion.

This got confusing when we went back to the area looking for his house.

Grandpa and Grandma Yeager have a beautiful gravestone – I’m standing in front of it for my fb photo.

I learned a lot from him.

c. GCYI

 

First Hike into the High Sierras with Chuck Yeager

June 26th, 2014

The first time Gen Yeager and I went into the High Sierras, it was such a wonder.

I so wanted to go but he never took girls and his trip had been planned for years – the usual annual trip timed for the best golden trout fishing. Then at the last minute, two of the three people with whom he was going dropped out 3 days before the trip. We had already shopped for all the food. He turned to me, squinted his eyes: Would you like to go?

SURE!

and

Gasp! I had no good hiking boots. I scrambled. Shoes never fit me. Oddly the cheapest ones fit the best. They weren’t the greatest – not very deep tread but….they’d just have to do.

I had only been camping once before – my girls’ school had had an Outward Bound weekend the weekend before school started – 8th grade. One of our tasks was getting everyone over a wall.

Well. We had a 350 lb teacher with us. We never did quite figure out how to get everyone over. OR how to get him over. We tried every which way: All of the rest of us hoisting. Some of us at the top of the wall pulling, some hoisting. All of us pulling. All of us couldn’t lift him. The counselor finally gave us a pass. (Because he had no answers, either, is the real reason!)

Fortunately, CY and I had been doing longer hikes and with packs just for him to train for the annual 2-4 week trip into the Sierras.

I also had to ask a friend if he minded if I canceled or postponed our trip to climb Mt. Shasta (made weeks before for the time CY would be hiking in the Sierras). The friend couldn’t believe I would have kept my word if he hadn’t let me out of it. But he did.

I’m rather extra glad I didn’t go to Mt. Shasta with this friend – he did not hire a very experienced guide (as I would have done but he claimed to be experienced….not as I would prefer) and ended up spending the night in a sling on the mountain. Very dangerous. And very cold.

CY’s daughter asked me dubiously what I planned to do about…well….menses, although she used another term. It’s the reason she didn’t go camping any more. I replied, I don’t know but plenty of women have done it before so I’ll figure it out.  I’m not going to let it limit me. Baffled, she wasn’t keen on that answer.

CY and I packed according to his well-worn and tested list and drove to Reno airport where we picked up CY’s brother and drove on down to Lone Pine. Hal pointed out the sights.

We joined up with the motel owners, a couple of CY’s other friends and had a hearty dinner.

The next morning after our last big breakfast, we drove up to the portal. And started hiking. We were a large group – some were just hiking to the pass, having lunch with us, and returning the same day.

CY made it clear that I was to start out slow – most people who start out fast end up with mountain sickness and cutting their trip short – especially the young-uns in their 30′s and 40′s.

Every few zigzags, CY would say, “Victoria, you want to stop for a blow?” I always did. I didn’t care to sit down though – getting up with a 40 lb pack was the hard part.

My feet were killing me – definitely was developing blisters. I was partly afraid to take off my boots to put on moleskin, afraid I’d never get them back on again.

One of the hikers was a doctor – I asked him. His response (unbelievably) was: It just means you are walking too fast. Slow down.

If I had walked any more slowly, I would have been going backwards/downhill.

After 2 miles and 3000′ elevation, we arrived at the pass. Sooooo beautiful. Lots of snow.

Our last sandwiches – which the day trippers had carried up. I tried to find a private facility. (meaning bush).

After about an hour, the day trippers headed back and we headed on. Another 8 miles and about a loss of 1000′.

The first part brought us to a higher point. I about fainted, I was so tired. I sat down.

I got my second strength back.

We ran into a guy whom the group usually sees towards the end of the trip – he brings in lots of goodies. It was his last day so he gave us a few things. We would have been more receptive 10 days in – but now it was just more weight. I still gratefully accepted some of it – one never knows.

Some of the rock formations and tree formations were so intricate and inspired the imagination. At one point we were talking to Hal as he was seated. CY stepped back and caught himself – or I caught him. It was a long drop.

We heard a plane go by. We flashed a mirror. It circled back, dipped its wing, and headed home. It had two of our day trippers on board.

When we got to camp, I got on a rock and took off my boots. Ah relief. But: Oh my goodness. I had blisters…on blisters…on blisters…on blisters.

CY told me to go help M get some water for camp: soup, hot chocolate….

Oops. I dreaded putting my boots back on but I did not want CY to regret bringing a “girl” into the Sierras.

He looked over, saw me in bare feet, looked at my bare feet and was stunned.

M said he had some slippers I could wear. I was soooo grateful, wondering why I hadn’t thought to bring some slippers. Those worked for in camp but were too difficult to walk down to the water. I started out – trying to get there. M said he was fine handling it on his own.

Relief, again.

CY could not believe how awful or awfully painful my feet looked. But more, he couldn’t believe I hadn’t complained.

Well. I knew my feet weren’t in danger – meaning no bleeding blisters ripe for infection – and so it was just pain. And I didn’t want to be a drag. Complaining wouldn’t help the pain.

I could see he catalogued that on the plus side.

We set up our tent and sleeping bags.

Hal offered that we use the soup and hot chocolate from his bag. I thought bemusedly: that’s a lot of trust that we’d share ours later.

Silly me. CY clued me in – don’t let him do that – he’s trying to lessen his weight.

Ah. Shoulda known. I appreciated CY warning the new kid (me). From others.

He tells the story that on the first day hiking up the mountain – He started out with 50lb pack and I started out with  a 35 lb pack. At some point, I apparently said, “You look like hell, let me alleviate some of your weight,” and took 5 lbs out of his sack and put it in mine.

This happened several times so that I ended up with 50 lbs and he ended up with 35 lbs. So I had already had my turn as the new kid.

He also tells people about 15 lbs of mine was crampax as he calls all those supplies.

We ate dinner and chatted a bit. Then CY and I turned in. A beautiful night – starry. Many satellites going by. Some planes.

Except for the altitude, I slept pretty darn well.

Stay tuned for day two.

c. GCYI

Bagels – REAL bagels

June 25th, 2014

Our friend explained:       Most bagels, especially outside NYC, are just bread. Real bagels are made as follows: 1st the dough is boiled & then put thru the oven to finish them off w/ that crusty outside.

And the big debate is can a bagel be a bagel is it isn’t made with NYC water…..

My response: Definitely bagels are much better in NYC so that water thing might hold water HAHAHAHA. Uh. Sorry.

I wonder if we’ll hear from him again.

c. GCYI

Brothers

June 22nd, 2014

One time one of my older brothers, when we were teenagers, after going on and on at the dinner table re his opinion of a movie, asked me: What did you think of that terrible movie?

I burst out laughing.

To his credit he got the humor immediately. (How could I disagree with that tone of voice?)

Another time, one bro said to the other:

What do you think about all the apathy and ignorance at school?

Other bro said: I don’t know and I don’t care.  :-)

 

 

Another Adventure w/ CY – Indy 500

May 25th, 2014

I don’t remember who won – I was more interested in the food. Just kidding.

GCY and I went to the Indy 500 in 2007. What fun!

We got there just in time to do the Thursday before race around the track. Gen Yeager went first in the backseat of one of the drivers. That is not easy getting in and out of the car.

After 3-4 times around at 100 and something, about 2 seconds it felt like, he was back and it was my turn.

I kitted up and got in. The crew made sure I was buckled in, helmet on right, etc.

We took off. Lots of side G’s. Those turns were quite some side load. I decided it wasn’t my day to die so decided to enjoy the ride, keep my eyes open and stay present.

Wow. What a sport.

It was over too fast and we were slowing down to 100 mph, then slower and slower till we stopped where he had picked me up. I got out, shook myself out and I think someone took a photo but can’t remember where it would be.

They told me I had gone a few mph faster than Chuck – probably the first time ever :-) If true.

As I approached Chuck, a tall woman with a very deep voice grabbed him, literally grabbed him and tried to spin him around, for a photo. Didn’t ask, just insisted. It startled him and everyone. He wasn’t going to take that from no man-woman, no matter that she was twice his size. The sheriff, our host and friend, clued her in re respect and that she wasn’t the star that day. Danica then asked politely if she could take a photo with him and all was well.

We ran into General Hester whom we had met in Hawaii and his wife. I told him what to expect. He was excited to race around the course.

We went over to visit Juggs – the caterer. What a character and nice guy. Of course he fed us some very good food. Chuck hadn’t seen him since Chuck had been the pace car driver in 1986 and 1988 as well as flying the P-51 in a fly-by in the 90′s.

For the parade, rather than be in it, General Yeager decided to just watch it at a designated VIP section.

It was so VIP that we were virtually the only ones there – it was the very end of the parade…..

Some times.

A block before us, we saw some of the floats turn off. Whaaa—?

We tried to yell and wave at them they were going the wrong way. So we and about 30 other people along that last block missed a bit

Funny.

Another day, we were at a luncheon, and they had a fly-by right over downtown Indianapolis. The cool factor just never goes away.

The day of the race, the sheriff took us and some friends to the venue.  We went straight to the top floor to watch. What a view. We said hello to Peyton Manning. What a gracious fellow. I couldn’t get the photo/lighting right and both the guys were very patient with me as I repositioned them several times.

Before the race, we went down to the field. Chuck was going to be the pace car for the pace car. They have booked the pace car celebs so far in advance that they had to come up with something for the 60th anniversary of breaking the sound barrier.

Patrick Dempsey’s people came over and asked me if General Yeager would like to come over and meet Patrick. I was pretty sure Gen Yeager had no idea who he was. Even so, I told the minder: “No, courtesy would suggest that Patrick come over her and say hello to General Yeager.”

The minder wasn’t used to that but knew I wasn’t kidding so he went back to Patrick and spoke to him. Patrick immediately came over and graciously tuck out his hand introduced himself.

General Yeager chatted with Patrick a little – then asked: “Are you a pro driver?”

Patrick chuckled and replied, “No, sir, I’m an actor.” That didn’t happen often.

General Yeager gave him some tips about driving the pace car and not running into him as Gen Yeager would be ahead of him.

We went over to the pace car as it lined up and chatted with Johnny Rutherford who was the co-driver in the pace car.

Apparently General Yeager sat on the hood of Dario Franchitti’s race car. That year, Dario won his first Indy 500. He gave some credit to his hero Chuck Yeager – it was good luck.  I missed this as our friends and I were racing to get back to the top floor to get a better view of the start of the race.

I was torn – where would be the best view? On the ground or above….

Apparently Dario had been at a private event on a private ranch at the same time as we. Everyone got to meet Dario but me. I keep wanting to misspell his name Franchetti – I remember racing when Mario Andretti was on top of his game.

I had been to several races by odd circumstances.

The first one, I was in Cannes at the film festival for a course at UPenn. We went over to Monte Carlo, dressed formally and went to the casino – the last of the elegance. I ran into Omar Shariff looking handsome as ever. I said hello and he wanted to know why I wanted to meet him – he was a hasbeen. He, as a self-proclaimed hasbeen, looked far better than almost any top of their game guys I have ever seen.

We were on the streets the day of the Formula One race, me bemoaning the fact that I had not written to Princess Grace in time and how could I find her now – they’d think I was a nut. (We knew her family from Philadelphia. I never did meet her as she died shortly after that, but later I was a guest of her son).

As I was trying to figure out how I could see the race since I was there, I ran into someone I had met at the film festival. He said come with me – we’re going on a boat in the harbor, maybe a cruise.

Okay.

We walked somewhat out of town and in came a dinghy. We boarded and went out to a catamaran hooked up to several boats.

It was the perfect view of the race. And the food was great.

If you’ve never been to a Formula race, it’s pretty funny. The cars come around for about 5 seconds and then you wait a while until they come around again. Have to time going to the ladies room or some other event – because you blink you could miss the lap in front of you.

The next race I attended was Watkins Glen. I was in the pits working for television as assistant to the producer. Wildly loud. I was in my last year at UVA.

I spied Paul Newman and radioed the producer.

“Ask him if he’ll do an interview.”

I went up to him, politely waited till he finished his conversation.

He turned to me. I introduced myself and asked him.

He did not answer, just turned his back rudely.

I then said, “I’m sorry to upset you. May I just say personally, I’m pleased to meet a race car driver and wish you well in the race.”

He turned his back even more. I learned later this was not unusual for him. He was very rude to a gal with whom I grew up even though she was a guest of his wife’s on many weekends. Clearly we all just caught him at the wrong time.

I moved on. And learned a lot from the announcer – his interviews were far more interesting and in depth, far more prepared, than any I’ve seen since then on television or radio.

Then a friend invited me to another Formula One race in Long Beach, CA. Same as Monte Carlo. A long wait, then you see the first car and zoom, it’s over for 30 minutes. Funny.

Another acquaintance, after driving with me during rush hour in LA said I should become a race car driver. I was pretty good but….the ganging up, etc on the course….just too wrong and dangerous.

In any case, at the Indy 500, it was fascinating to watch – television does not give it justice – you just don’t get the sense of speed as they zoom by.

When the race was over, we vamoosed and beat the traffic.

What a fun weekend.

c. GCYI