Monday, July 14, 2014

Task 7: Starburst!

After the last six grueling days, I have to admit I was ready for a break. And it seemed like we might get one. This final task day started overcast and still, and it looked like things might not even heat up enough to get us up over the butte. Wind techs were sledding to the LZ, and there were no dust devils to be seen over the flats, and none were forming up on launch. Nevertheless a task was called. I’d never seen one quite like it: a starburst pattern originating from a central point over the flats, with petals in each direction, like a flower, returning to the center each time. How beautiful and horrible! Apparently they chose the central area because it's known locally as a sink zone. Just to make things interesting. The launch time was moved back after a while, to give things more time to heat up.

Task 6: The Perfect Out and Return

Now this was getting ridiculous: we had another day of perfect weather. After four hours of sleep, I woke up to hear they’d postponed the start of the day by an hour. Thank god for small favors. I snoozed a bit more, and then Thom and I rode up the hill to see what kind of devilish torture the task committee would devise for us after yesterday’s massive flight. Today a slightly less ambitious 93 km out and return task was called, to Sims Corner and back. They said it was the perfect out and return flight. Well that’s not a short distance by any means, but at least the retrieve would be simpler! Apparently a couple of retrieve volunteers had quit after the previous long day, and no one could really blame them. But they found a couple more helpful folks to fill in.

Task 5: A Very, Very, Very Long Day

Conditions on the fifth day were perfect: light wind and clear skies. They called a 206 km task. Some said it was the longest task ever called in the US, or maybe even the world. Everyone was excited. But I was a bit overwhelmed. I hate how competitions up the ante on their tasks each day, when I am so slow to dial in to the flying! But I was game to see how far I could go. And I was really hoping to put together a few more pieces of this flatland cross country puzzle. Up until now I hadn’t made a single turn point in this event. Maybe today I would finally tag one!

Task 4: Eleventh Hour Reprieves

The forecast called for a passing cold front to bring strong wind today. No one had high hopes for a good day. In fact some seemed interested in taking a break! The event was on hold for an hour this morning, but then the organization made the call to head up the mountain and try to run a task, the 4th one in a row. They said the forecast for afternoon wind speed was 20-30 mph. Anything over that and it would be a safety concern! They called a downwind run of about 64km. The big brushfire in Entiat was still burning from yesterday, with over 5,000 acres burned so far. A huge wall of smoke was parked out over the flats, and would probably get blown over the course line at some point as the wind direction shifted.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Rough Riders

Alex and I do not know how these top guns can do this every day. Competitions usually have a few weather days to give pilots a break. But this one delivered perfect weather conditions every single day, that's seven straight days of thermaling and flying cross country over the desert of eastern Washington. Each of those seven days was full to the brim with competition activity. We quickly fell into a routine where the only thing missing was enough sleep. Maybe we can catch up on our sleep on the flight home!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Reaper's Tale: Smokey and the Bandits

[Submitted by Reaper on Wind Lines] Aloha 'Ol Smokeys! Well, today was a little smokey with the fires in Wells Canyon, Brewster, and a few remnants from McNeil canyon fires.
This morning was a bit strong and North on launch so the task commitee almost called off the days task just to give everyone a much needed break. Forty plus hours of flying, and more than that for us volunteers, plus 100+ degree heat and dry hot weather really takes it's toll. Even Jorge looked worked after yesterdays task, and he even said to me "Reaper, I'm taking a month off from tandems when I get home, whew".

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Tasks 1-3: Dust to Dust

It's hard to find time for reflection when you are so busy at grown-up summer camp. A crazy summer camp of flying, drinking, swimming, and more flying, in a lake resort oasis in the middle of the baking hot, dry, dusty desert farmland of eastern Washington. So much has happened over the last four days, it's going to be tough to recall. Plus, I'm a few brain cells down. I mean, because of all the, you know, sun. But today’s flight was tragically short, and I’m back at the motel early, so I finally have a little time.