Linda Salamone's Blog

Friday, October 03, 2008

Estrogen Fest 2008
part three- Sunday

Beautiful forecast, cu's, big lift, sun, warm temps... perfect! Except that we had to leave some time this afternoon so earlier would be more convenient, but not necessarily better for soaring.

Caitlin and Katrin headed to the training hill, I went up to the launch to watch a bit and stock up on some essentials. It was very cross and crowded (since not many were launching) so I went to the training hill to see how the girls were doing. Caitlin was looking a little battered, the Sting was pretty muddy, and there was absolutely NO WIND at all blowing into either hill. I can't think of anything more difficult than launching in zero wind on a very shallow low slope, but Caitlin tried long and hard enough to earn the tenacity award for the day. We headed to the LZ and I waited around for some mid-day soaring.

Claire Vassort

It was getting past 1pm when I figured that I just better get my flight in. No one was soaring off the mountain (still cross) and only a few tandems were going. A solo tow went up (Claire's friend) and the clouds looked fat and inviting, but he didn't stick. When I talked to Claire she said he was just tuning a friend's glider and that there was indeed lift. I got ready to tow and tried to lower the tail of the cart I was on. After struggling with all three pins and not being able to get the thing to budge, I asked someone on the line if there were carts already set up for a smaller control frame. She said look for one with a white cradle and when I found the only one with a white cradle, it already had an unattended glider resting upon it. It's pretty uncool to move someone's glider so I just found a totally different cart and tried to make do. But I was still concerned about being pinned into the cart again. Before I got into my harness, I noticed the previously unattended glider on what I now considered "my one true cart" was presently attended. I decided to use my womanly wiles to get what I wanted and sidled on up to the guy who was struggling into his harness. And I said sweetly, "Hey, you know, I'm really coveting something of yours..." (lower head and look up and apply batting lashes). I figure he'll probably not only give up his cart but all his money too AND help me get my glider into place.

Instead, he says, "Listen, this is a pretty big pain in the ass and I'm sweating all over the place. I'll be done with it in a minute after I tow up so just get in line (bitch)." Well he didn't say the "bitch" part out loud but it came across pretty clearly... Hmmmm, a-hole..... I turned away and took one look back- I wanted him to remember the chick he wouldn't give the cart to who later kicked his ass in the air... Then I noticed something- he was struggling more than the average bear to get hooked in... Aha! He has only one leg! Oh shit! Okay, well now I feel a little stupid. The "one leg" card definitely trumps the "girl" card in pretty much ANY game. I loaded myself into my cart and figured if I got a little stuck in it, well I sort of deserve it for being such an ass.

So my tow was uneventful- bummer because it meant there was no bumps -meaning no lift. Too early... When the tug pilot began to tow me over toward the ridge, where an earlier tow was searching desperately, I spotted some birds up under a fat cu and pinned off before we got too far away. Oops, mistake.... I got nothing and the birds left. I followed them from below and got some zero, then a beep or two.. great. I had pinned off tow at 650 meters and now I am at 600. Couple of beeps and I am climbing a little - well really just not sinking - I start to search for anything going up- scan the ridge- oh that guy is hosed- scan the clouds- turning turning- where's that one legged guy? - turning- probably he is already on the ground- turning, searching WAIT! WHAT WAS THAT??? I see way above these huge clouds, a glider scooting across the small space between them. Just like I saw yesterday! WTF? A trike? Am I seeing things? Well surely I must just SUCK and there is some awesome lift out there- SOMEWHERE! My 0.2m/s lift was actually improving now but I was afraid to leave it. I kept looking for that glider and continued to climb slowly, actually a little better now and pretty soon I was almost to the big fat cloud. Just as I got to within 500' of it's bottom, I found out where and who that other glider was. It came suddenly into view above and next to me, surprising me all to hell, I peeled off away from what was now cloud-suck and this stealthy rogue glider....

When I turned back to get a better look, I saw that it indeed was the same glider on the coveted cart, a blue and white T2. Now how the F%$@ did he get so damn high earlier? Did he get sucked into the cloud and pop out the top? Was there some booming lift somewhere that he rode up NEXT to and above the clouds? Well whatever, now I was going to have to kick his ass like I intended to earlier and sort this "above the clouds" thing out later. We chased each other all over the sky and Caitlin was on the radio wondering where we all went a few times. When he headed way across the valley, I chased him down and finally got above him briefly when we wrapped a thermal together really nice. The air was getting fun and after a while I headed over to the launch intending to end my flight to start the 14 hour drive home. I counted 16 gliders on launch and none launching. The blue T2 came over and lost a bunch of altitude with wingovers and I could hear him hollering over the launch. It was so bouyant now, no threat of sinking out, and yet, no one was launching. A Combat finally ran off and scratched the ridge. I stayed way out to show him how wide the lift was but he was pinned to the mountain for some reason. Sweet lift all around the launch; wind sock straight out, and still, no gliders launching. Oh well, I had to get going so I did some wangs ( I don't know how to do real wingovers) and found some sinking air (hard to find!), and set up to land. And I did! On my feet! Just like Mike said- come in higher, get my hands higher and arc upwards. Sweet! But damn, no one with a video camera...

While I was breaking down a few minutes later, I see the T2 on the ground. Tip Rogers hops on over to me and we just start ranting and raving about the flight. When I related what I had seen early in my flight- his glider stinking high above the clouds, and my reaction to it while I was scratching- he just starts laughing. Apparently he paid extra for an 8000' tow and was just hoping that some idiot would see him that high and think he got there by climbing. He got his wish.....
Tip Rogers

After Katrin and Caitlin gathered all of our stuff while I packed up, we hit the road. As we drove away, so many gliders littered the sky. The girls wanted to see Henson's and we only got lost twice on our way there thanks to Mikey's directions. When we arrived at Henson's launch there was almost no place to park. As soon as we got out of the car I hear some guy talking excitedly about this chick pilot who actually thought he climbed to 8000'... so I join Tip in his bragging to his cronies and mention that I did actually see a lot of the top of his sail after he had to FIND lift to stay up. Then I was crowing about winning the Team Challenge a few years back and F'ing Bellerby's magazine write up describing my "hawk-like intuition" on a long-ago Whitwell flight when an argument ensued about who was better friends with the memorable Canadian. Tip proudly displayed his new-to-him Sensor that had been garaged for the last million years and in pristine condition. It brought back so many memories to be atop this site. My literary dog, Meesha, came from Henson's. I first met Kevin Carter and Steve Revo and Bo Hagewood up here. I did some of my very first XC flights in the Sequatchie Valley. And here we were, air wafting straight in, sun setting, on the first day of Team Challenge 2008. We couldn't stay long but I did hear there were over 80 gliders there, 55 pilots signed up for Team Challenge- all that there when so many pilots were still at Lookout Mountain in the air when we left . HANG GLIDING IN THE USA IS NOT DEAD!!!!!

We drove all night, switching drivers, getting lost, guzzling coffee. I made it to work by noon, Caitlin made it to her 2pm class. All good. Not as good as Mark on Ritalin and Red Bulls and me sleeping, but still - we made it in one piece.

What a great weekend. So many women pilots in one place. I got to meet a lot of the girls who supported my Team to Italy by buying T-shirts and fundraising. Carmen and Judy and Christine and Liz and Linda and Judy H and Claire and holy crap, there were a lot of girl pilots. I got to see some old friends and hang with Mikey and Dennis and Terry- my idols - a bit.

I hope we get this all together again a couple of years from now. Not to be missed!
Flights: 1
Airtime: 1:40
Alt2: 1350 meters


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