Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Happy to be home

Yesterday was my first day back from a particularly rough visit to DC. It was freezing cold, and they got a rare foot of snow, but I was working too many hours to enjoy it, skipping a lot of sleep, and then I caught a stomach bug and had to skip eating for the last week.

I know the weather has not been great for flying in my absence. Yesterday's forecast called for another day of strong trades, 15-25 mph. I figured flying was out of the question, so I made plans to run some errands in town. I called Dorothy and offered to pick up the kids in the afternoon. Then visiting pilot Larry from Arkansas called me from Kahana and said it looked great. Turns out he was not planning to fly, since he's just started training with Pete, but his son lives in Kaaawa so he couldn't help checking it out.

I was skeptical, given the forecast, but I met him out there to see for myself, and sure enough, it was light and north with clear skies. The sensor called it 7 mph at 33 degrees. Still wondering if the strong wind was just around the corner, I hiked the north ridge with Larry. Scot called and I told him to come on out - he couldn't believe it was flyable because it was pouring at his house. Dorothy called, and she couldn't believe it was flyable because it was blowing so strong in town. I couldn't believe it either, but I figured I'd get in a quick flight in this lucky little window before I had to pick the kids up. It was kind of hot so I didn't bother to wear my jacket - a decision I would later regret.

I had to work hard to get up and stay up for my first flight - at one point I made it close to 1,500 but then never could get back up there, struggling to stay up around 1,200 until Scot arrived and hiked up the east ridge. I toplanded as he arrived at low launch, and I excused myself to take care of some urgent business. Scot hiked to the top, and I set up at mid launch. The winds appeared to be lightening up even further. I launched but couldn't get up, and made a horrible emergency top-landing just a few feet below the lip of the big divot next to low launch, scrambling to get my footing and climb up and out of there. Then Scot launched but didn't find much - he headed to the north ridge, and found even less there, finally plowing through some rubber trees to make a last-ditch downwind top crash at the low launch over there. I launched again, and toplanded at low launch again, more gracefully this time.

But then I realized I had somehow lost my new phone - the lanyard was hanging down with nothing on it. I spent a long time scouring all my launch and landing spots, but couldn't find it. Scot finally sorted himself out and relaunched from north ridge, but still wasn't getting up easily, and he came back to the east ridge and toplanded at low launch to help me look for the phone. After Scot called me a few times we finally heard it ringing and I was overjoyed to find it hiding in the undergrowth, caked with dirt and kind of scratched up - I wonder if I might have stepped on it at some point. That's okay - any phone that hooks up with a paraglider pilot has to expect that kind of treatment. I was just happy to find it.

By this time the wind was actually feeling a hair stronger. Like maybe we'd be able to get up. I launched and easily rose up above high launch, so I toplanded there to make an important phone call. "Um, Dorothy? You know how I said I'd pick the kids up today? Would it be okay if like, I had a nice long flight instead? Because after being here for three hours it finally feels like we might get a nice one." I'm sure you already know what her answer was.

Scot wasted no time getting up and out of there. He was in the left seat all day, calling the shots. He was the first one to climb out above Puu Piei, the first to make it across the bay, the first to Kualoa, and the first to return. I was happy to follow. I don't know if it's his wing or his prodigious skills, but the last few times I've flown with him I've found myself below and behind him most of the time, and this day was no exception. Larry was down below at his son's house in Kaaawa, up the hill behind Bobo's, watching us soar overhead, and talking with Scot on the radio. (My battery had given out earlier so I was flying in radio silence.) He is very stoked to get his training started in earnest.

Cloudbase was on the low side, barely above two grand, and lift was generally light but smooth, so we took our time climbing and crossing the valleys. The only problem was the cold - it was surprisingly chilly up there. At one point we had considered coming back from Kualoa and going all the way down to Pounders, but we were so frozen by the time we got back to Kahana that we landed just to warm ourselves up. Later on, Nightshift and Chandler hiked up for the evening session. I was actually tempted to hike back up, and I had the overwhelming gall to call Dorothy one last time and see if she would mind my being late for dinner, and this time her cryptic answer was: "I'm not going to tell you no." I astutely interpreted the hidden message in that remark, and scrambled home to get dinner started as Chandler and Nightshift hiked without me.

What a great day. Thanks to Scot for the mountain money and the cold beverages. Looks like today might be a repeat: Jonie is already at Kahana, and Chandler and Deanna and others are heading out as well. Stay tuned for another report.

I'm so happy to be home!


Anonymous said...

Thanks for bringing the flying weather back, dude..

DaveZ said...

I had to google 'mountain money'.