Saturday, February 09, 2008

Writers on the Storm...bum...bum, bum, bum, bum

The weather has been terrible for weeks . . . months really: Rain; Wind; Rain & Wind; Wind & Rain. Needless to say (but, I’ll say it anyway), there has been VERY little flying on Oahu as of late. What little bit there has been, has not been done by me. Additionally, given the poor weather, I have been rather sloth-like; no exercise, except for twelve-ounce curls. That all changed today.

At 0735 hrs, the NWS’ readings were not promising. But, I was hopeful. By 1000 hrs, the Kahana faithful were already preparing to hike up. Don & I arrived about the same time. There were already a couple of gliders in the air and a few pilots on various launches; High, Middle, Low. “It’s blowing really north,” we were informed, “If it were me, I’d go to the North Launch.” We didn’t even check the conditions at the LZ; we just headed for the North Launch trailhead.

Mud. Slippery, slimery mud: the result of weeks of rain . . . months really. The trail to North Launch was exhausting; one step forward, two slips back. My lack of exercise reared its ugly head as I huffed & puffed and dragged my weary butt up the side of the mountain; watching Don disappear into the forest. By the time I reached the lower launch, Alex had top landed and Don was setting up. The wind was light and NOT north. In fact, the lovely June was radioing from the beach, “It’s light and 70 degrees on the beach. Why are you dumb asses on North Launch?” (That may not have been her exact words.)

After a nice light-wind launch by Alex, I felt a bit of a breeze building. You know how, at the middle launch on the north ridge, if you try to launch your glider in light wind and you have a snag and your wing comes up cock-eyed and, after you fix it, you have to run really really fast & hard in order to get flying speed, but you don’t really have much room before you crash into a bunch of trees, but you decide to run anyway . . . well . . . Don said I looked like a bowling ball crashing into a bunch of pins.

The trees pulled me out of my harness and I was hanging by my . . . uh . . . well . . . it was a fairly uncomfortable flying configuration. After about five minutes of scratch & sniff, I finally got enough altitude to safely adjust my position and my . . . uh . . . flight suit.

Above the rhino horn, lift was abundant; as were the clouds. Everyone skyed out. Then, the rain came. I was in the back of the valley, watching a squall that promised to moisten all of our skins. Several pilots were discussing plans of action: Top land and hide in a spider-hole; head to the beach and ball up wings; fly around the squall; fly through the squall.

I was very high and gaining altitude. So, I headed to the ocean. Funny thing about clouds . . . they suck your wing upwards. I was very, very high when I reached the road: Rain pelting me in the face; but, I had a good tack on Crouching Lion. Hmmm . . . cross the bay in a deluge or run back & top-land . . . decisions, decision, decisions. I reached the road with about a grand of atmosphere between me and the pavement; clouds pissing on my wing like a soldier on a three-day pass during Oktoberfest. The lift at Crouching Lion was LIGHT.

When I say, “LIGHT,” I mean . . . you know how, when you’re over at Crouching Lion and your wing is NOT sodden with fifty pounds of rainwater and there is very little lift and you wonder, “Should I continue to scratch & sniff on this side of the bay or head back to the safety of the LZ?” and you say, “What could possibly go wrong?” and you find out that NOT finding lift will cause you to get too low and when you try to head back to the LZ and you know you are not going to make it and you crash into the fish pond and have to drag your wing out of the Pacific Ocean . . . that sucks.

Not wanting to do that (again), I headed back . . . back through the squall . . . as if I weren’t wet enough already. Very wet paragliders land (fall out of the sky) very differently than dry, crisp paragliders. Let’s just say, I had 1/3 of a good flight (not so perfect launch, wonderful -- though quite wet -- flight, not so perfect landing.) After kiting my wing dry, Berndt suggested we fly again.

Hiking twice . . . did I mention I’ve neglected to exercise lately? I huffed and puffed my way to Low Launch and managed to launch like a pilot who knows how to fly paragliders. Everyone in the air was already heading downrange. I benched up and took a hard left turn. There were HUGE squalls heading right for us. People were heading for LZs all over the place. I landed at Hau’ula with Alex, Scrappy, Berndt, and the lovely June. I was the last to land. Apparently, there were several . . . uh . . . "exciting" landings preceding my arrival. My landing was “OK,” but, not “perfect;” 2/3 of a good flight . . . good launch, good flight, marginal landing.

Back at the LZ, with beer! Chef Dorothy Colby treated a bunch of smelly, tired, beer-drinking PG pilots to a WONDERFUL buffet of beautiful cheeses, breads, peppers, veggies, and olives. We felt as if we’d been transported away from our island paradise to a valley in the French countryside. All praise to Chef Colby!!

Nightshift and the lovely June decided to hike up. Don suggested that we do the same. So . . . there I was, huffing & puffing as I made my way up the mountainside for the third time. (Did I mention that I’ve not been exercising much lately?!) We were running out of daylight. There was a squall coming in. Two scratch & sniffers (Nightshift & the lovely June) were already heading for the beach. I was the third to launch. Of course, the moment I launched, the big, grey cloud overhead pissed all over me. I managed to get high, fly through the squall, and stay aloft for 35 minutes before darkness threatened to make packing-up difficult. This was 3/3 of a good flight . . . good launch; good flight; and good landing. I guess the third time really is the charm.

Pro Bowl tomorrow!!


Waianae Jim said...

Good story Pete - You captured the downrange part that I sort of left out (since I wasn't involved in that adventure).

Alex said...

Thanks for the story, Pete. I hope you don't mind my minor edits to your epic tale. And I hope you don't mind, and that Berndt doesn't mind either: I stuck his pictures on your article.

Anonymous said...

Pete, good one, sounds so dramatic ;)
just FYI, right after your launch, when Don and I were laid out on launch, 6 inch centipede walked from where your wing was - not sure if it came from your Addict or the grass - just thought the story would have been even more entertaining, if you took it for a flight and it fell on you mid air ;))

sandy said...

I am quite certain "dumb a___s" were NOT June's exact words, she would never use such language on a ham radio ;-). I, myself, am still learning new things about Kahana and flying in general, and am very open to hearing the insights of all of my fellow pilots and especially looking to consider their perspective as I prepare to send myself off into the invisible ocean of air.

Peter, you are wise in many ways, and I'm sure if a centipede had fallen in your lap you would have handled it with your usual aplomb, or well, at least flown the glider while bracing yourself for the unthinkable and then written a great story to tell about it :-)

firedave said...

A few years ago, I was laying out my gear on Cactus and as I put my harness and wing down about 2 feet from each other, a centipede scurries from the wing to the harness.
I grab the harness at the same moment the centipede arrives there, and am suprised to find no centipede on the ground. I give the harness a thorough going over but can't find the centipede. Oh well, might as well go flying.
About an hour or so later, over hang launch I feel something wiggling around the waistband of my shorts and instinctively slap at it. Needless to say the little bastard got a bite in and a long drop to his new home. I got a nice welt and an embarassing story to tell, but I finally found that centipede.

Nick said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nick said...

Centipedes! Speaking of bugs, whilst unpacking my house this weekend I learned an important lesson: The next time you store anything, make sure there are NO holes in ANY boxes, bags, paragliders, etc.

I had the pleasure of evicting an ant colony from one of my paragliding harnesses and a box. The box colony was huge! The ants were huge, red and maybe a 1/2 inch long! The clue light hit when I would see an occasional ant in the house. Where did that fella come from, I thought? Then I caught one coming out of a handle hole in one of my dish pack boxes. Oh crapola! I wasn't in a house where I could just toss it outside, but on the 34th floor of a condo. Tossing it in the hallway wouldn't win the hearts and minds of my neighbors. I’m sure it's also written in the house rules that you're not allowed to toss giant ant colonies into the hallway. Instead I ran the box to the lanai and had a look inside. Sure enough, there were *hundreds* of the buggers. I gave the box a couple of shakes and a few ants decided to break for it and prompted found a new home under my feet. Strangely most of the ants stayed in the box. I managed to lift up a book in the box.


It was a scene that I will not soon forget. A couple hundred ants perfectly arranged in a grid, surrounding a lake of larva.

Now I had to weigh my options. 1) Use chemical warfare (spray). No way, my college/highschool year books are in there! 2) Wage psychological warfare (Wait it out). No way, I don't want the ants to relocate somewhere else in the building. 3) Bug bomb? (Not qualified in that weapon system) 4) Brute force attack! Not sure if it was the wisest decision, but I chose option 4, with a little bit of option 1. I generously sprayed a circle of death around the box, then I upended the box.

What ensued next can only be described as a stomp fest. I can only imagine what I looked like from afar. It was like a dance dance revolution game that would not end! I could see my score scrolling in front of me: Excellent, excellent, perfect, miss, miss, perfect, excellent, miss... Different forms of dancing raced through my head, but the only that was definitely a bad idea...breakdancing...especially the "worm". Did mention I was wearing flip flops...

After awhile, my legs were hurting, I was sweating, and my senses were finely attuned to stomp on anything that moved. Which explains why the Styrofoam peanut that flitted by was also crushed. The ants were getting faster, even the ones desperately carting away larvae.
In the end, I was victorious. The scene of battle was glorious. Crushed, writhing carcasses all over my lanai. A sense of relief crept over me…until I saw an ant come from my PG harness. Maybe it was a strangler from the box colony? I kicked my harness and sure enough a dozen more ants spilled out. Not again! The lanai floor is covered in ant guts and I don’t want to drag my harness through that…besides its getting dark. I decide to wait till the next day, after all, one more day can’t hurt? The next day I threw my harness into a trashbag and carted to the nearest park. I shook out the harness and only about 50 ants were still there. Whew. I took the opportunity to inspect the wing (my older Sky wing) and was happy to find no ants. I would have kited the wing right there, but the city buildings were causing all kinds of rotor.
The moral of the story is: Don’t fly with passengers sporting more than 2 legs.
I’m back.

I only hope that the ant I missed is not hiding in a corner, plotting its "Phase IV" revenge. (Look up phase IV, it's a movie)

Anonymous said...

Nice one Nick,

Glad i started this with one innocent centipede observation ;))

Great reading first thing in the morning, brutal ( ant guts and chemical warfare ), yet settle ( wearing slippers ), sophisticated ( dance revolution game ) and civilized ( 34th floor lanai )

As our ( British accent speaking ) friend Summer would say - BRILLIANT !!

And Dave, sorry, had no idea, sounds horrible to us mortal people, but just like another Fireman Dave flying story though ;))

Brazilian Ray said...

Nick, only you can make a ant story an oscar winner! I could picture every bit of it! fun story!

Brazilian Ray

Anonymous said...

Nice one, Pedro. Great title, too; "Riders on the Storm" is one of my faves. Certainly is appropriate for the weather we've been having lately.

Nick, you can come to my house and exterminate ants any day. The entertainment value promises to be high, at least. Those were probably carpenter ants, BTW. I had to evict a colony from one of my boxes of memorabilia a few years back. I was successful, but not before they had destroyed a lot of stuff I didn't want to lose. Nasty beasts: I hope you got the queen.

Nick said...

20/20 hindsight, I could have used a vacuum!

Suicide said...

Nicki . . . Vacuum? That's a bit high tech. Are you qualified in that weapon system?

I had the same issue in my old house, but the buggers were actually a nice little family of rats cisiting of an an over-protective mommy and several pinkies.

Mom was aggressive and (quite litterally) scared the piss out of me. In stead of running a way and forcing me to buy rat pioson for her dining pleasure, she attacked my booted foot.

I hate to say that I stomped the creatures to gooey puddles on the tiled floors. So . . . instead . . . I'll suggest that I hastened their departure from this world into the next.

War is hell.

Alex said...

Okay, no more disgusting stories, please! Now I have two brain stains just from the comments on this post! I'm going to have to slap an R rating on here to keep the kiddies safe.

volfik said...

let me know, when you R rate this post. i have one heavy cat eviction story from the North Shore, but it's definitely not suitable for PG rated forum

man, i'm such a geek, posting away ... let's go flying you Bums ;))