Unexpected Visit From The Blue Angels

Today was the first day this week we didn’t have any rain in the forecast, and since I didn’t have any photo appointments to attend to I decided to spend the day in San Francisco. I didn’t have anything in particular I wanted to do or see, but it beat the alternative of staying home inside all day.

I left the house around 10:30am and I made it into the city by noon. As I drove across the Bay Bridge I noticed that it was very hazy out, but the temperature was warm at around 65 degrees or so. San Francisco always seems to have really good weather when I go and I usually have to peel off layers because I over prepare each time. Today was no exception.

I decided to head out to the northern side of the Golden Gate Bridge as my first stop. I’d only walked out onto the bridge once so I figured today would be a good day to do it again. Little did I know that construction crews had closed off the walkway about 100 yards away from the parking area so my walk turned into a quick bathroom stop.

Rather than just head back into the city I decided to drive up a road that goes up the side of a hill above the bridge for a better view of the city. Due to the haze it wasn’t the best photo opportunity, but it was still a nice view.

I drove back down the hill and across the bridge to make my way over to Union Square for a bite to eat. I was hungry so I thought pizza at Blondie’s would be a good choice. After finding a parking garage I walked the 5 or so blocks down to Powell and Market where Blondie’s is located. It’s a busy area as there is a cable car station right outside where all the tourists line up to ride the cable cars up and over the hills to Fisherman’s Wharf. Blondie’s pizza isn’t the best pizza in the world, but I have memories of eating the large slices on trips to the UC Berkeley campus back in high school, and so I like to go back in once in a while. There is the location in Berkeley and the one here in San Francisco. As far as I can tell it hasn’t changed in the 26+ years I’ve been going, other than the price of a slice.

On my way back to the car I took a different route and ended up walking past the Apple store. It was as busy as it ever is inside, but it was even more crowded outside. For the past couple of days people have been bringing flowers in honor of Steve Jobs who passed away this past Wednesday. On the windows there were hundreds, if not thousands, of Post-It notes that people have been leaving since Wednesday. Whether you liked or disliked the man, or didn’t know anything about him, it’s hard not to acknowledge his impact on technology and what he accomplished. I’m not an Apple Fan Boy as they’re called, but I own a few Apple products and I appreciate the innovations that were put to use to create them. I can understand why people are affected by his passing.

By the time I decided to head back home I thought I heard what sounded like jets flying by once in a while. I couldn’t see anything to know for sure so I dismissed the noise as just being city noises. As I made it over to the Bay Bridge entrance I caught a glimpse of a fighter jet off to my left flying straight up to the sky. Putting two and two together I did a quick Google search on my iPhone (Thanks, Steve!), and found out that it’s Fleet Week in San Francisco and they were in the middle of practicing for the air show that takes place over the weekend.

I exited the Bay Bridge at Treasure Island hoping I’d be able to see some of the planes. I was lucky enough to get a parking spot right at the water’s edge for a good view of the bay. The bad part was that I was looking directly into the sun, which was even harsher due to the hazy conditions. The focal point of the air show was over near Crissy Field near the Golden Gate Bridge, but I still thought I might be able to see some of the planes. As it turned out the distance and hazy skies were making it pretty difficult to see much of anything except a few smoke trails and the occasional dark spot in the sky.

Just as I was about to give up and head home I heard a large plane approach from behind. It was the support plane for the Blue Angels, aptly named “Fat Albert”. It’s a C-130 decked out in the Blue Angels blue and gold colors and it flew right over my head on it’s way over to Crissy Field. It actually made a few circles around the bay and passed by several times. I hoped that it also meant the Blue Angels would follow suit.

Once Fat Albert was finished I saw a formation of 6 planes approaching from the north. It was very far from where I was and it looked like they wouldn’t be coming anywhere near me at the beginning of their performance. After about 10 minutes a couple of the jets veered off to the south and disappeared. A few minutes later they came screaming over the small hill on Treasure Island to my left and flew above me at no more than a few hundred feet. This was much closer than I had expected to get. For the next 45 minutes the jets did their maneuvers out over the bay with several flyovers near my location. As quickly as it all started it ended, though.

All in all it was a fun show to watch, and I’m glad I caught a glimpse of that first jet. It capped off a nice day in San Francisco.

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October 2011
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