The Wild Blue Yonder

It makes you want to hop a ride, doesn’t it? Or maybe that’s just me! This was taken at a flying circus down at Bealeton, Virginia last fall. It’s a great show, if you’ve never been and a good value. I wouldn’t mind going back if I’m ever in the area again.

Want to know more? You can read about my experience.

It’s too cold for biplane flying around here right now but it sure is fun. It’s much different than any other flying experience and a little like flying in a time machine.

Want to go? Spring would be a great time for a road trip to Bealeton!

Road Trip Highlight: Flying Circus Air Show

Sunday Flying Circus (259)

When I heard about the Flying Circus down at Bealeton, Virginia it sounded like a fun way to pass an afternoon. Little did I know that it would turn out to be a trip highlight.

This event has taken place every Sunday from May through October since 1970 and I can understand why. It’s an action packed air show filled with humor, excitement, danger and fun involving some fascinating aircraft.

FB18 Sunday Flying Circus (91)

They use a variety of biplanes to demonstrate old school barnstorming techniques and World War I era maneuvers. Think target practice using bags of pancake mix and the use of a hook to pick up a mailbag. I loved seeing them attempt to pop balloon with their propellers and the acrobatic flying is just incredible.

There’s a master of ceremonies who narrates the action and who tells stories about the planes and their pilots. On this particular day there were nine biplanes in the air and they had a couple of guests, including a sort of rock star pilot who flew the cutest little jet at a terrifying 300 miles per hour – upside down, sideways and straight up in the air. It was crazy.

Plus there was a wing walker – part artist, part athlete and all daredevil – who wowed the crowd by hanging off the wings and by doing other stunts that I couldn’t do on the ground, much less at 80 miles per hour in the sky.

They give plane rides before and after the show. You can even buy an acrobatic flight.

And no, I didn’t do that.

But I did get to see a bunch of volunteers work together to lift a wheelchair bound veteran from his chair into a biplane using a bucket truck and harness. He went up in one plane and his daughter in another. It was delightful to see them take off in tandem and then chase each other on the horizon. I chatted with him after his ride. He was still glowing and I was as excited for him as if he were my own grandfather.

The show is about ninety minutes but you’re welcome to come early to see the planes and take a ride. While they do sell concessions, they invite folks to bring a picnic and enjoy the day. I arrived a couple of hours early so I could photograph the planes and watch them fly. I packed a veggie sub, a book, a comfy chair and went prepared to do some people watching too.

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It was relaxing, interesting and fun – exactly what I needed on that day.

If you like airplanes and airshows, this is a terrific event. At $15 admission, it’s a real bargain. Unless you can make it this weekend, you’ve missed out for this season but it’s never too early to start planning next year’s adventures. Read all about the Flying Circus Air Show here! 

The road trip continues tomorrow! Check back to see where I go next!


The Perfect Long Weekend (And Some Free Advice)

Nothing says freedom like a solo road trip. I hit the road Friday afternoon for a trek down to Winchester, Virginia where I made my home until starting the leisurely trip north Monday.

When planning this trip, more than a dozen scenarios were on the table but nothing really excited me. I was studying a map of Virginia when Winchester caught my eye and a vague recollection that Patsy Cline was from here made me pause.

A visit to her museum was one of the highlights of my trip to Nashville this spring and I had to wonder if there were other things to do around Winchester. Turns out this was a silly question. The area is rich in history and natural beauty and there is no shortage of things to do.

In fact, I packed a lot into my long weekend but needed far more time to do everything that looked interesting. I did hit the highlights and saw a lot in places along the way as well.

Sometimes I wish that I had a specific interest- a certain period of time or a field like aviation or rock collecting. It would be nice to be an expert in something.

But that’s not how I’m wired and trips like this make that especially clear.

My activities ranged from Civil War era attractions like Stonewall Jackson’s Headquarters and the battlefield at Mannasess to a flying circus, an awesome cavern and the childhood home of Patsy Cline.

The good news about having such a broad range of interests is that there’s always something to learn and a lot of surprises to enjoy.

The highways were useful when I just needed to make time but secondary routes were more fun when the goal was to sit back and enjoy the view. It was about 50/50, a ratio that worked well given the mountainous terrain of West Virginia, Maryland and Virginia.

This trip was memorable despite the fact I’ve been battling a sinus infection for weeks and still wasn’t feeling my best. For this reason, I took it easier and rested more than normal but still finished each day satisfied with all I had done.

This also helped some with the mental fatigue that’s been dogging me for a few months. I didn’t know what time it was most of the weekend and did not care.

Regardless of how fast or slow I move, I have a knack for attracting people who want to talk.

At the flying circus, I was befriended by a 74 year old gent with a soft Virginia drawl and a curiosity about the sign he saw me taking a picture with. He listened with interest as I told him why solo travel is fun. I also explained that it’s a necessity as I’m not prepared to stop going places simply because I don’t have a mate or someone to go along for the ride.

He gave me two pieces of advice:

1. If you want to retire early, live well below your means and lower your expectations. He should know – he retired at age 54.

2. To never lose my sense of adventure and bravery.

I liked him and appreciated the advice.

On the other hand, a younger man in the same conversation said that no wife of his would be out running around by herself like I do.

I smiled and told him it’s a good thing I’m no one’s wife. Jerk.

I’ll stick with the wisdom of the older man, thank you.

Sunday Mannassess and the road there (95)

After leaving Winchester Monday morning, I followed the recommendation of a friend and took a detour to Lurray Caverns about an hour south of Winchester. Then it was a meandering journey to Clarksburg, West Virginia by way of Oakland, Maryland. My use of finally paid off and I cashed in a free night’s stay at Clarksburg before heading home the next day.

This was a perfect long weekend. With no real schedule and no one to please but myself, it was easy to just enjoy the adventure without pressure or worry. There are several stories to share including some unexpected things from along the way. Those usually make for the  best stories, those things you don’t plan.

We’ll get started tomorrow with a visit to the Patsy Cline House!