Years ago, I would drive to Lone Pine on the Thursday before the annual Manzanar Pilgrimage, which is always held on the last Saturday of April. The extra day would allow me to drive around the area and sight see. I rarely get that chance if I drive up on Friday.
By chance, I drove east of the Manzanar site entrance on the road that extends from the current northerly turn off from U.S. Highway 395 (Los Angeles Department of Water and Power road), and runs along the northern boundary of the Manzanar National Historic Site).
Very quickly, I came upon an abandoned airport I had never heard about. I took flying lessons in the late 1960’s, and accumulated a modest 225 hours of flight time, so I did something silly. I drove to one end of a runway, turned around and raced to the other end (about 5,300 feet away). I made believe I was taking off in a real airplane. It was absurd, but still I enjoyed the minute or so of make believe.
Having just read about the floods in that valley that hit the Manzanar National Historic Site, I noticed the Manzanar landing strip (not part of the Manzanar concentration camp) shown in the Google Earth map of the Manzanar flood area, included in this story:
That lead me to do some surfing, and I found finding an excellent discussion with great pictures:
I enjoy particularly that I’m not the only one having raced a car along the airfield.
Scott Aguilar, a member of the Lone Pine Time Trials Committee, reported in 2005 that, “…the use of the runways for automobile racing time trials continues to this day. It is an annual event that takes place in May, traditionally on the weekend before Memorial Day, but this has varied slightly in recent years. It is a charity event, with all proceeds going to the LA Braille Institute Youth Center. Black tire marks from one of our events are visible in the overview photo. We go to the field a few weekends in advance of the event to knock down weeds and patch major holes in the runway surface which lie near the driving line. After the event, we are required to repair the white ‘X’s as needed if we have left any marks on them. To my knowledge, ours is the only activity that takes place on the grounds.”
More information is available on Wikimapia.
Maybe next spring, I’ll drive up a day early and repeat the adventure.
Fred Bradford, a long-time member of the Manzanar Committee, writes from Monterey Park, California.
The views expressed in this story are those of the author, and are not necessarily those of the Manzanar Committee.
LEAD PHOTO: Overhead view of the airport at Manzanar, abandoned long ago, east of U.S. Highway 395. Manzanar National Historic Site lies west of the highway. The Los Angeles Aqueduct borders the old airport on the east. Photo courtesy Google Earth.
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