Since my incident with clouds many many flights ago, I have had an aversion to them. I have avoided them at all cost, even when noticing that others appear to disappear into them and get higher than me all the time. I would always yell and scold on the radio (if you can believe such a thing), but really it was only due to my own fear of getting too close. Yesterday was different. The clouds were wispy, and I can finally believe the responses to my scoldings: Thom, we are just alongside, in between and above. This was the first time the clouds and I have spoken on friendly terms.
The tandem boys were out doing their job in multitudes, so a report from them that it was perfect only meant that they could launch and land with their tanker wings. It didn't relay the message I wanted to hear. Then a call from one of my building managers put the brakes on my pending trip to the Dill with Woody. Good thing, since I heard it got stronger out there. When the smoke cleared, and I heard that the Mad Dog was at Makapuu wanting to give an XC a try, I headed that way.
On the way, never looking at the road, of course, I glared at the clouds. They were too low again to make a trip to the north, but I still had hopes. Mad Dog was playing with his planes on the LZ, but still thinking of flying till he glanced at the radar. Yes, he now has a smart phone. He said: Thom, I see squalls coming in an hour, so I am out. He muttered as he looped his toy planes. I thought: Really? I am going anyway! I need to make some adjustments to my pod that just have to be done in the air.
Jorge asked for a ride up, and for help with a tandem, so we headed up to Crazy Man's. Jorge and Doug were working the clouds, and I was slowly edging my way towards those white wispy hands of god. The lift was smooth, almost too smooth for this pilot, but it was calming and eerie at first.
I road alongside one, not getting close, checking my visibility, penetration, direction, and compass constantly. Then another cloud was approaching, and I was in between two translucent banks, like a valley of cotton. The beeps were slow and constant as I rose. Finally, I was above them all, the low ones that is. There were some topping the skies so far up that even Doug Hoffman couldn't reach them. There was no more upward lift at this point, just a steady zero as the vario went silent.
I could see left, right and beyond with great penetration. I was still nervous, but a euphoric giddy feeling was taking over. I could see rabbit island through a hole, and various landmarks through the gaps to constanly fulfill my need for visual reference. Remember, before you stick your head in the clouds, these are just wispies I'm talking about, not towering Marge Simpsons, or blanketing Black Bottom Bettys. Wispies are clear white webs of the sky but they still deserve respect.
This flight is going to go down as one of my favorites of all times. I was alone, with no XC in sight, due to the meaner looking clouds downrange, and I didn't talk on the radio (much). I stayed aware of my surroundings and the pilots below me and around me, but mostly I just grinned. This was just fun. I landed with the biggest smile and a high that was so different from what I get from the biggest XCs I have done.
I had so much buoyant lift that a trip to the backside of the rabbit was in order.
Jorge and Maui Doug were in the LZ gearing up for another flight to share the skies with hopeful new pilots. I looked at them and they were feeling the same. All we could say is, wow, lets do that again. I only had to think about it for a second. Okay, we were off to launch again.
By the time I got up and played low with Fireman
Dave, there appeared to be some wet clouds rolling in. Jorge and Maui Doug were emerging from the wispy room again, and their passengers were ecstatic. We all landed at the LZ, along with hangies Goto and Fred. During the debriefing, we learned that Goto had invited TommyRD to land in Waimanalo with them. But then he forgot to tell him the plan had changed back to the LZ. So, believe it or not, in a group like Mad Dog, Jorge, Maui Doug, Fireman Dave and Sidehill, the only pilot to really pull off an XC was TommyRD. When he arrived back, he said: That was fun! I think I am going to tag along with you guys on the next downrange run. Awesome. another XC-bitten pilot.
This writeup isn't perfectly clear, and honestly, neither was the visibility of the flight! This was a special day that we hardly ever get, where the clouds actually formed around us in a gentle handshake with no cumulus clouds to be seen. Clouds are not usually this friendly or benign, so take heed and do not use this as an excuse to explore the white room. We have had many pilots get sucked in with very different stories.
Roll Call: B-Ray, Joey, Jorge, Maui Doug, Fireman Dave, Frank, 5-0, TommyRD, Sidehill, Sean, Dave 5-Cent, Goto and Fred. Thanks again and again to 5-0 for the beverages and to Dorothy for the awesome Jerky chips. Her mom would be proud!
On a day that I thought wouldn't be anything great... so...
It's always Time to Fly Get Your Gear and Go!!!!!!!!!!!!! 'cause you just never know!