Thursday, July 12, 2012

My Dream Flight

I woke up, yet again, to another beautiful sunrise. I’ve said it before, but it seems like every time there’s a beautiful sunrise, it’s not only gonna be a good day, but a good day to fly (especially when the sun wakes me up before my alarm). I got a text from Woody saying he was going to kite at Kahana, so I met him a while later. I kited with him for about an hour and we decided to hike up. Alaska Jason showed up and joined us. Conditions were really good. In fact, Alaska Jason launched, got up with ease over Pu’u Piei, and then crossed the bay! It took me a bit longer to get high enough to even think about crossing.

I finally got about 2100’ above Pu’u Piei and after trying to get higher, I noticed I was losing altitude. Then I noticed Jason was heading back across the bay. The water was glass and it had gotten surprisingly lighter. Mad Dog, Alex and Lake were on high launch. I was getting lower and lower and tried to work the lift above north launch. Woody was getting lower, too, and decided to head in to land (it was time for his nap). Alex launched and pushed me out of the way, as I got lower, I decided to top land. Just kidding, he didn’t really push me out of the way, but I didn’t want to get in his – I’m glad I landed because I didn’t know I would be flying a total of 5 hours today! It gave me a chance to take a little break. FlyStrong had just arrived and noticed how light it had gotten. He was skeptical, but about to hike up. I told him by the time he got up there it would fill in again and be good.

Alaska Jason wasn’t gonna make it to launch after coming back across the bay, so he landed and hiked back up. Mad Dog launched after Alex and Lake proceeded. Mad Dog had to work a little harder, but made it look easy. By the time Lake launched, the wind had picked back up and lift was easy, he went straight up from high north launch. Alaska Jason was on mid launch and watched me top land there. After waiting a little while, he decided launching from there would work just fine, and it did. I launched from mid shortly after him. FlyStrong was on regular and launched a while after me.

Alex, Mad Dog and Lake were already crossing the bay. We worked the lift around Rhino for quite some time before heading to the back to Pu’u Piei. Some parts rocked me around a bit. At one point, I thought I was going to get a collapse, the wing jerked me around so much, as I went backward, then forward. I turned and went to Pu’u Piei and got pulled up by the strings of God as I was his puppet . . .err, that’s what it felt like. There was plenty of lift back there. I got about 2100’ and we could see the clouds coming in, some of them had a little rain. I pushed out front and used them to help cross the bay. FlyStrong was in front of me and he was so high as he made the crossing that he was using Big Ears to get out of the lift. We flew through the clouds, with a little rain as we made the crossing. By this time, I already had friends from the ranch calling me, “I see you!!!” I said, “Noooo . .I’m not there yet, but I’m trying to make it!! Those are my friends.. I’m on my way!!! I’m crossing Kahana Bay right now, I’m flying in a cloud, in the rain, I think I’m gonna make it!!!”

FlyStrong came in over Crouching Lion and just kept cruisin' he was so high he went to the next ridge. I took a wide line and went out front then tucked in over the Lion. I was about 1100’, but got stuck in the venturi, or whatever the heck that is that doesn’t let you go forward. I knew I wasn’t going forward. It was pushing me sideways along the mountain. I looked down and noticed I was going 1.5 mph. I added full speedbar and still struggled to penetrate, but finally made it out of there. I was never afraid that I was too low, but it was an uneasy feeling not being able to penetrate in there. Alex had come back from Kualoa and was giving me advice on what I should do, where I should try to get lift and how high I should be to cross over Hidden Valley. He suggested I should cross the valley at 1800’, I was only 1200’ and I responded, “Wow. I have a lot of work to do.” He said, “Yeah, you do.” I heard Sidehill on the radio driving below; he was so excited I crossed the bay!

I got about 2k and crossed Hidden Valley, and made it the rest of the way with ease. It was a beautiful day to be flying, and an awesome day to be flying across Ka'a’awa Valley. I watched the buses driving the route of the Movie Site and Ranch Tour; the ATV tours; and the horseback rides below me. I looked at the hundreds of cows in the valley, the ponds, the different ridge lines on the mountains, the “Kissing Gorillas”, the orchid farm, and many other things that I look at from the ground below every single day.

It was so cool to see Mokoli’i Island rise above the ridge line of Kualoa. The majestic views of Ka’a’awa Valley and Pu’u Ohulehule glowing in the back of the valley as the sun was getting lower in the late afternoon were amazing. The different colors of the water in Kaneohe Bay and the clouds high above were just as beautiful.

As I flew, I sent a picture to many of my friends who were working and said, well... I’ll clean it up a bit - I told them, “I made it!!!!” Everyone was just as excited for me as I was excited to be there. They knew how badly I wanted to fly over Kualoa as I watch other pilots do it all the time while I’m at work. They watch me watch them in envy. I called my roommate and sent a text to her kids to let them know I was over the ranch. I also called my supervisor and said, “Shannon. . . I MADE IT!!” I had a huge smile on my face; stoked. He was like, “You are freakin’ crazy, Bonnie! That’s awesome! Have fun and be safe up there.” Before he hung up, I heard him tell someone, “She called and said, ‘I made it!’” He was excited for me, too. We talk about this flight all the time. I called him back a little later and told him I’d be landing there. He, again, told me to be careful, and he came out to watch me.

A couple of my friends called and said, “I see you! Can you see us waving? We’re by the clock out room!” So I looked down and saw them; waved, and took a photo, then told them I would be landing in the front pasture. They asked me when (I knew they just clocked out and were ready to go), so I told them I could land now. I told them where I had planned to land: in front of my house, in the front pasture, closer to the cars in the parking lot. As I made my way towards my expected lz, I saw Shawnie and Lani parked near the pasture where I told them I would land.

I was so high above the ranch, I decided to do a nose-down spiral to get down. It was epic. It was so fun watching Kualoa spin all around me. I scared those that were watching because they thought I was out of control. I landed next to Shawnie and Lani and they were so excited for me. They thought that was the coolest thing ever. Shannon came up and said, “Bonnie, I have those EAP papers in my office – you need to come in and get them!” (EAP stands for Employee Assistance Program and he thinks I need help.) He thinks I am crazy and I scare him all the time. I love coming in to work and saying, “Hey Shannon? Guess what I did yesterday?!”, or, “Hey Shannon... I did it again!” (That was when I hiked Pu’u Ohulehule the second time). The look on his face is always amazement, then he tells me what he always tells me, "You're crazy, Bonnie."

FlyStrong came in to land just after me. I told him to land where I did. It was weird to come in and land without having to think about it, since the lz was so large. We used the flag to see the direction of the wind. FlyStrong came in perfectly. Well. . . I finally made my dream flight and I’m very excited about it. Thanks to everyone for their help and advice. Thanks to FlyStrong for leading me – and especially thanks for the pictures (that was a huge part of my dream during this special flight), and for landing with me. Congratulations to Alaska Jason and Lake for making it their first time, too. This flight was also special to me because none of my Kualoa friends have ever seen me fly before and I'm glad some of them finally got to experience it. Thanks to Shawnie for the ride back to Kahana. That was super fun and I cannot WAIT to do it again! Best. Flight. Ever.

I had to use FlyStrong’s picture for my cover for this story.


Thom said...

First, thanks for the coffee read, you did great!

I was hoping to get over there with you but I had 2 failed attempts and by the time I finally made it, all were gone. But I do think there was an impression of your smile on Kaaawa Valley.

Next time you'll have to land at Bonnie's Beach or MDKS or Hygenics or maybe even MPU. What ever you accomplish won't surprise me, but I will definitely want to be there or read about it.

Fly High, Fly Safe, Go Far !!!

JJ Jameson

Ka'a'awa Larry said...

OK, Bonnie!!! You beat me to it. Guess that's what I get for not being there as often as I would like. Now you can give me pointers on how to do it.

Great write-up as usual. You have a gift of being able to weave a story and your pictures are always an excellent addition to the text.

Hearty congratulations!!

Maui Doug said...

Congratulations Bon Bon, Lake, and Alaska Jason!
Bonnie nice landings for you and Bill at the ranch! I'm glad you didnt get retrieved by the bulls! :-)

Gravity said...

Three years ago Bonnie and I crossed the bay for the 1st time tandem (my 1st bay crossing tandem) and she said "I can't frigging wait until I can do this and land at my work"

Her 1st glider never was gonna get there, but she tried anyway.
Now with the new machine and lots of guidance, it's been done!

But, we call her Bonkers for a reason. So I can just imagine this is just the tip of the iceberg for her XC adventures. if Bonkers is missing, just look over the ranch!

Congrats Bonkers.
Next stop PWC?


JeffMc said...

So stoked for you BonBon! I remember my "first time" fondly too. Crossed with Alex on a day I forgot my radio and flight deck. Finally pulled it off just by "using the force". I've had mixed results ever since, but it sure is fun trying!


Duck said...

Congrats Bon Bon!! I know how much you have wanted that flight. Great write-up snd pics as always!

DaveZ said...

Bonnie - Congrats and thanks for the great read - your enthusiasm really shines through! One day soon I'll make that crossing!