Since I bought my motorcycle earlier this summer (a 2008 BMW R1200RT) I’ve been looking for locations where I can practice to improve skills. A friend of mine suggested the Alameda Naval Air Station, a nearby US Navy base which was decommissioned several years ago. It has a 10000′ runway, which is closed to the public, but is the site where the Discovery Channel program Mythbusters often uses for high speed car crashes and other experiments. There are also numerous abandoned hangars, warehouses, and parking lots; the latter a very usable area for slow-speed practice.
Today, I went to the NAS to do some practice, and as well, to explore a bit. It really was fun driving around this slowly decaying piece of history – all the buildings are still standing, some are clearly unused, some are being used by commercial operations. One hangar has been repurposed as a winery, another as a vodka distillery, and another warehouse on the adjoining Navy dock, still had signage indicating it was the base of operations for the Artemis America’s Cup sailing team.
While motoring around, I noticed signs with the BMW logo, with arrows directing toward the decommissioned runway. I followed the signs and discovered a BMW event out on the runway, where anyone interested could test drive new BMW automobiles, and even take a car out onto a somewhat lame autocross course. Lame, because it was basically an oval, with one chicane on a short straight. Had I had the time, I would have done that, but I did spend a few minutes watching people having fun, thrashing and squealing the tires of brand new BMWs on the course.
I found a quiet parking lot tucked up against a warehouse, and set up a couple of slow-speed maneuvering courses, using sawed-in-half tennis balls as markers. Sawed-in-half tennis balls are actually better than other objects such as traffic cones, because when you hit traffic cones, you need to go back and set them up again, whereas sawed-in-half tennis balls just stay in the same place.
While out in the parking lot with a tape measure and my tennis balls, a security guard drove by to check out what I was doing. He told me that although he “personally” had no issue with it, this is federal property, and his “boss” might have an issue. Insurance, liability and all. We had a friendly conversation, he suggested another location (on nearby EBMUD property near the USS Hornet) I could use in the future. I thanked him for the information, and assured him that I would probably be gone within an hour. He wished me a good day, I did the same, and he drove off.
I figured that his “boss”, presumably an admiral based in Washington DC, would not be coming by any time soon 😉
Thirty minutes later, another guard drove by in a pickup truck. I’m pretty sure he was not an admiral, I saw no uniform or fancy hat. I waved to him; he kept driving.
Shortly after that, I decided that I had enough practice for the day, so I packed up and continued my tour of the base.
I found my way to the USS Hornet, a decommissioned aircraft carrier, known for service in WWII, and as the prime recovery ship for Apollo 11 and 12, the first and second manned spaceflights to the moon. It’s a museum now, open to the public. As I often carry my point-and-shoot Nikon camera with me, I decided to take the opportunity to make a portrait of my bike, with an impressive piece of hardware in the background….