Travel Blogger Gets Up Close To Flowers, Aviation History & A Return To Nightlife on The BLVD
By Kevin Wilkerson, PubClub.com’s Travel Blogger
This was a trip not for nightlife – tho where PubClub.com goes, at least some nightlife is always involved – but for expanding horizons into the wild blue yonder and down on the ground.
I was headed to Lancaster, CA, in the high desert two hours from Los Angeles, to take in my first air show. The LA County Air Show is the end of March every year and I was invited by the City of Lancaster tourism to be a VIP at the event.
Since I had never been to an air show but had always been curious about them – I’ve been to more auto races than I can count and have long been curious to compare the two – I jumped at this opportunity.
Plus, I would be returning to Lancaster, a place I found surprisingly entertaining during a visit some nine months earlier for a classic car show, Thunder On The Lot in mid June.
While there, we would be touring Blackbird Airpark, where an actual Blackbird spy plane (and other historical aircraft) are on display in this area rich with military aviation history and making a trip back to The BLVD., a pleasant place of nightlife where my associate and I at the very least wanted to get back to the lively Pour d’Vino wine bar.
Visiting The Lancaster Poppy Reserve
And, being poppy season, we decided to start off with a visit to the poppy fields, another new activity for me.
Well, let’s just say if the Poppy Preserve’s mission is to make everything else in Lancaster stand out in comparison, then it is doing an excellent job. The line of cars to get into the Preserve brought to mind getting into Dodger Stadium for playoff game. Far better, we learned, to park for free on the side of the road and see thicker poppies outside of the preserve.
From looking at photos through the years – including one in the LA Times – that were apparently cruelly misleading, I had imagined romping through fields of waist-high flowers like the children in that scene from The Sound Of Music. Perhaps even with Julie Andrews holding my hand. Alas, the poppies were so small they didn’t even rise to the height of my shoelaces.
It didn’t help matters that, due to my stubbornness in using GPS – hey I can find it! – we relied on a Google map I had taken a picture of on my phone that had the wrong address. So we wound up at a dirt road.
Running late to meet the group as a result when we finally located the preserve, we only had enough time to do what I call “the Chevy Chase Vacation thing” (the Grand Canyon scene where they look at it for 10 seconds before sprinting back to the car).
Blackbird Aviation Park
Recovering quickly from this disappointment, I loved getting up close to the planes at Blackbird Airpark. The Blackbird is a huge aircraft and had engines that sucked up so much fuel, they had to be refueled right after takeoff by a tanker. So said our guide (I just love this kind of information from a guide, not just a barrage of statistics and figures).
It was there that I got up close to a B-52 bomber, the biggest, baddest military plane any country has ever produced. That was cool.
Nightlife On The BLVD In Lancaster
At The BLVD., we had drinks at the fantastically-designed Zela’s 750 West (inviting patio, cool little bar area and a “oh, I better not go in there because I’ll never leave” lounge). This place really knows how to make a martini, PubClub associate Rick reported. Being more of a beer guy than a martini guy, I opted for local pale ale.
We also got into the private party of the Thunderbirds at Bex, the top nightlife venue in Lancaster. We had beers with flyboys in flight suits, but they confessed they were not the actual Thunderbird pilots. Didn’t matter, they were friendly we enjoyed a few “guy laughs.”
Dinner was at Kinetic Brewing Company with its good food and local beers while we watched UCLA get out-coached and lose in March Madness.
At Pour d’Vino, we had great wines while we tried to grab the lively bartendress Candice for an interview. Candice is a blur who moves around to patrons, sings a line or two with the band and generally entertains everyone as much as the musicians; she moves so fast and so often you want to tether her to the bar to get her to be still for a moment. Not her style, tho.
The Blogger’s First Air Show Experience
And onto the air show!
The air show was cool. It was similar, but different, from an auto race.
For starters, you look up to see the action. And you can see all of it, not just a fleeting glimpse that’s more blur than car. And because of that, it doesn’t matter where you are when the planes fly, so a GA ticket gets you a full view of the action. Compare that to, say, the Long Beach Grand Prix, where a GA ticket pretty much just gets you onto the grounds.
It’s also not as loud – or continually loud – as a car race. I do feel, however, that the air show could use a little auto racing-style pumping up beforehand, for example placing the Thunderbird pilots in the back of a pickup so they can be seen and wave to the crowd.
We did get in a car, tho! Precision Exotics gives high-speed rides at many North American air shows and even lets you drive a Ferrari or Lamborghini down the runway. I opted for the ride, figuring the driver would be able to go faster than me and we reached a top speed of 170 mph. It was 24 seconds of a high-speed thrill ($150).
Back in the air, while the Thunderbirds put on a spectacular show – they are known for their incredibly tight formations – I enjoyed the WWII planes the most. That’s in large part because they did some battle re-enactments that involved flying low and “strafing” the ground with realistic machine gun fire and dropping “bombs” by setting off small explosions using pyrotechnics.
More Adventures To Come In Lancaster, CA!?
Lancaster, you’ve done it again, providing another fun weekend full of new adventures.
What more does this city two hours north of Los Angeles – which many Southern Californians zoom by on the 14 Freeway on the way to Mammoth – have to offer visitors?
Well, I hear there’s some interesting breweries.