Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Last 3 days & Personal Resetting

After yesterday’s long flight and drive home (my slacker driver slept while I drove the final 130 miles), and Gary’s forecast of lighter winds and bluer skies I decided to take a day off. And after hearing of how the others went I had no regrets.

As has become traditional, BJ had the longest flight, albeit a paltry 125 miles to Crystal City, a flight so short as to drop his daily average flight below seven hours. Eduardo, who had chosen not to fly on the previous long day, also made it to Crystal City.

The other two Brazilians made it 55 miles into the Callaghan Ranch of ill fame (associated with a notorious four hour retrieve of Paris Williams that once cost me four new tires). Paulo and Moikano landed not because of poor conditions, but because of their poor condition: both had become badly airsick. For Moikano airsickness is unusual, but Paulo routinely takes medication before flight to prevent it. However, this time he had forgotten to do so and when the first symptoms appeared he tried to dig the pills out of a harness pocket in which he had them along with his cell phone and passport. But as he rooted around for the pills the other two items began to fall free. Reasoning that the passport was the more critical, he successfully grabbed it as the cell phone began a long, slow motion tumble to the mesquite below. Perhaps in compensation for that, they enjoyed an excellent retrieve in which their driver Louie was guided in by Mr. Callaghan, the owner of the enormous (third largest in Texas) ranch, and whom Louie called the coolest eighty six year old guy he has ever met. Mr. Callaghan would like a tandem ride some time.

Finally, there is Mike Barber’s third straight exciting retrieve. To recap, in his two previous flights Mike had first had trouble with a midget rent-a-cop at an oil facility; then he had piled in during an excessively exciting canyon landing. This time Mikey was back in the neighborhood of his little renta-cop buddy, and rather than land there and renew their acquaintanceship he thought it wise to land elsewhere. So he picked a nearby large open area thoughtfully cleared of mesquite by an arm of the Shell Oil Company. But once again officious corporate minions chose to make an issue of Mike’s arrival (landing was an inappropriate word to describe his downwind return to earth). As he dusted himself off, he was a mere quarter mile from the gate, but at first they would neither let him out, nor let Faye in to pick him up. Precisely why all of this was happening is beyond logic, but in the end Mikey did get out and home in good time.

Back at the field Gary introduced his new bride Christine to the doubtful pleasures of bondage when they borrowed an old military parachute so that she could accompany Gary in the Gemini for some local soaring. In the end, the ‘chute harness proved so painful that they had to cut the flight short, with Gary reporting a thirty mile glide back to the field at 115 mph while losing only 400 feet under a fabulous late day sky.

Tuesday Morning June 28 : Dueling Prognosticators

The day began ominously with an ultimately optimistic email from Gary suggesting that by Thursday more useful weather patterns will re-assert themselves after this two-day period of, ahem, “re-setting”. Davis’ return volley arrived minutes later, the graphic of a wind chart contradicting Gary. Their disagreements highlight the difficulty of forecasting the weather phenomena that we need to line up for our long flights.

In the meantime, I was looking at maps and contemplating some sort of local tourist flying, perhaps heading southeastward, parallel to the Rio Grande towards McAllen. After planning a couple of routes and loading a number of airport waypoints into the gps, I happily headed to the airport in the hopes of flying somewhere other than along the long rut northward.

Following a dynamic launch and tow in the heat of the day I pinned off into a deceptively good looking sky. At 1:30 pm I was probably a bit early, and the clouds proved unreliable and short lived. They also briefly overdeveloped and shaded the ground as I began my slog southwards with a stronger than expected 13mph crosswind. Getting low out in the mesquite six miles south of the airport I gave up, and after a brief scare made it back to the airport with my tail between my legs to land after 1.5 hours.

The sky began to look better at that point, but the stronger headwind compelled even the indefatigable BJ Herring to give up at the first turn point of an attempt at breaking the rigid wing 100 kilometer speed-triangle record. He landed back at the airport after his shortest flight of this campaign, further reducing his daily flight average down to a paltry six hours. Youth nowadays are truly soft.

We all then repaired to the motel’s swimming pool where a couple of gin and tonics improved my outlook on the day.

Wednesday June 29: Dueling Prognosticators, v.2

Today’s morning email again brought contradictory forecasts: Gary’s typically optimistic one, quickly followed by Davis darker tones. Unfortunately, irrespective of which one is the more accurate, it would seem that we are in for at least a couple of days of mediocre conditions resulting from the influence of the year’s first tropical storm, Arlene. Arlene is lollygaggin’ in Mexico, just south of the Texas border. It would appear that we will see only peripheral effects of the storm, although the memories of past tropical storms and hurricanes in this alleged desert are worrying.

In the meantime, Gary, Robin Hamilton in his semi-sailplane Swift, and BJ are about to embark on a big triangle that is oriented northward in the hopes of benefiting from the better weather north of the storm. I may go to the airport and play locally for a bit as it could be a couple of days before we otherwise get to fly again.

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