This item was written on 19 February 2018
A few weeks ago I watched one of Michael Portillo’s 'Great American Railroads’ programmes that included a section about Lake Tahoe in Nevada and that triggered my memory of a visit to that lake. One day in the early 1990s when I was working as the PRO for the Red Arrows, the then Red Arrows Team Manager, Squadron Leader Les Garside-Beattie (known simply as LGB) and I were invited to go all the way to Reno, Nevada, to attend a three-day international conference about the organisation of public air displays and the associated PR.
As an RAF Retired Officer Grade 2 (Sqn Ldr equivalent) I was entitled to business class travel for international flights exceeding five hours – and the cost presumably came out of Civil Service funds. When we checked in at London Heathrow, I tried to get LGB upgraded to Business Class so we could travel together but British Airways would not agree.
En route, after a late-afternoon take-off, an obviously worried elderly lady seated in the row in front of me, summoned one of the cabin staff. I could not help overhearing the conversation. That lady was obviously worried about why the sun had gone down shortly after leaving London, then had come up again, after only a very short night, a few hours later. The worried lady wondered why we had turned back; she had been told that she would arrive in Los Angeles on the same day that she had left London. In fact, we were flying a northern polar great circle route - so the aircraft had been in and out of the 'night'. somewhere in the vicinity of Greenland. The air hostess (for that is what they were then called) reassured the worried lady that we were still en route to Los Angeles and she tried to explain about Great Circle routes. A little later, when the same hostess was serving dinner, I complimented her on the explanation she had given to the worried lady (who was soundly asleep by this time). The hostess asked me why I was going to Los Angeles. When I told her, that got me an invitation to the flight deck for the let-down, approach and landing at LAX.
LGB and I met up again when we checked in for the onward two-hour flight to Reno. A few minutes after take-off we passed the famous Hollywood sign on the side of a hill. I knew virtually nothing about Reno except what I read in a brochure during the flight: that it is 4,500 ft above sea level on a plateau at the foothills of the Sierra Nevada, has a ‘vibrant night life’ with many casinos and is known as "The Biggest Little City in the World”.
I can’t, in all honesty, report that the Reno conference was very relevant to either LGB or me but the social activities were very pleasant. On the third and final day, a friendly USAF colleague offered to take LGB and me for a day out to Lake Tahoe, a large freshwater lake high in the Sierra Nevada. Lying at 6,225 ft (1,897 m), it straddles the state line between California and Nevada, west of Carson City. We went, not on the main road, but on a minor road – much twisting and turning as we climbed through the magnificent mountain scenery. We crossed the state boundary into California - marked only by a single road sign - before eventually dropping down to the lakeside, where, for some inexplicable reason, LGB and I posed for the photograph below (taken by our host on my camera). Not surprisingly, the water was icy cold. I was never sure whether LGB was pushing me in or making sure I didn't fall in.
NB I have just come across a fascinating web page called ‘8 Things You May Not Know About the Hollywood Sign’ - click here to open it in a new window.).