Nov. 6th, 2011

dreaminghope: (Sunspot)
I'm in that tedious stage of sick where I can't actually do anything - too weak, and any cold air or physical exertion makes me cough - but where I am not sick enough to be apathetic about it. I have pneumonia. Just a mild case, and the antibiotics seem to be working, but it has got me housebound... actually, pretty much chairbound. My cat's happy at least; my lap currently makes the perfect place for a ten-hour nap.

But it does give me some time to actually write up our latest flying adventures. Hard to believe it was three weeks ago, but we finally got in our first entirely solo flying day. On October 14th, the three of us who have been flying together since our first Slope Soaring class did some evening weather forecasting, and reached the conclusion that the next day may very well be flyable. Another check in the morning and a quick phone consultation, and we were off. Russ and I picked up Craig in front of his building in the mid-morning (later than we usually go out, as the outflow was expected to linger, perhaps in part due to the time of year), and we were off to the mountain.

On the way up, the conversation was about cloud formations, Starbucks bakery items, and Russ and I's brand new niece (born at 1 AM the day before), and was carefully not about being nervous about our first unsupervised flights. Maybe I was the only one.

We know the LZ well at this point, so we drove straight up the mountain. We've been flying Mount Woodside all summer, so everything was familiar as we pulled into the parking lot, sorted out water bottles and granola bars, then packed our wings up to the launch. Russ volunteered to drive the first round, so Craig and I got our wings laid out, checked our lines rather obsessively, then got in line. There wasn't a lot of wind, but it was a bit cross at times, so the line was slow moving as each pilot had to carefully wait for the right cycle to come straight up the mountain. Since there wasn't a lot of lift, no one was rushing and the feeling on launch was fairly relaxed and mellow. Lots of pilots were just hanging out, waiting to see how the day was going to develop.

The three of us did sled runs all day. There was some lift out there, but it was hard to stay in. Those who stayed up were working hard for it and spending a lot of time "scratching" (circling in areas of no lift or drop while looking for a thermal). Russ, Craig, and I just focused on good launches and landings, and we got in three flights each.




In the pictures above, I can almost hear myself saying "c'mon, c'mon! Pull!", which is pretty much what I was probably thinking.

We all had good forward launches all day. I had one - my second launch of the day - where a little gust popped me a bit when I stabilized the wing, so I unloaded it a bit, but I remembered my training, fully committed to getting my weight down and running hard, and successfully launched despite the brief mis-step. When Craig had a little problem with his wing not coming up evenly, he aborted it cleanly, then shook it off and had a great launch shortly after. We were doing it: making decisions and being responsible for ourselves.

The perfect end for me was my last landing of the day. I came in over the south-west corner, over the "three sisters" - the trees on the Riverside LZ that we use to estimate our elevation - and noticed that I was lower than usual, so I turned on to downwind. As I made my next turn on to base, my feet were level with the tree tops: the absolute perfect height. I turned on to final, lined up with the runway and flared at the perfect height. I felt like I stepped out of the air and on to the ground, and I found myself in the first third of the runway, right where I had wanted to land. I even had time to turn to face my wing and bring it down tidily.

I may have ruined the cool factor of such a good landing by turning to my friends who'd already landed and screaming "Did you see that!" across the entire field.

The local flying season is definitely slowing. By the time I am healthy, we will probably be into the rainy time of year. Russ and I hope to get in some travelling with our wings during the off-season, and hopefully there will be kiting and slope soaring and maybe a random winter flying day or two at Mount Blanchard, but it was still nice to end on a high note: "Did you see that!"

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