Linda Salamone's Blog

Thursday, January 08, 2009

New Year in Florida- ALL OVER FLORIDA!!!!

New Years’ Eve- arriving at Wallaby Ranch- in time for the party, and for the cold windy weather. Reports about Jamie and Lauren’s flights online were taunting me and I couldn’t get to Florida fast enough. But after arriving, the weather was not good for flying so, on New Year’s Day, the obligatory (but pleasant) visit to my mother’s in Naples was added to the agenda. The New Year's Eve party at Wallaby was great, lots of old and new faces- great to see Raean and Fred and Patty Cameron- former Women's Team members (and good friends!) The wine and beer and food was well stocked until the wee hours. Some of the Quest crew was actually attending- nice to see...
I had read about Scot Trublood’s operation in the Ozreport so I talked Mark into a detour to Bonita Springs en route to Naples. My new Garmin Nuvi was proving it’s worth when Lauren gave me Scot’s address. He lives on a canal near to “Doc’s”, a restaurant right on the water. Scot put a call into his captain, to try to get a New Year’s Day flight in for us, and while waiting we headed to the local hot-spot, “Doc’s”. Doc’s has a beach-fare menu and a kiosk on the beach where they rent water motor sport vehicles, paddle boats, and parasail rides. Knowing that Scot had already had a slight run-in with this operation, after lunch I approached the guy at the kiosk and asked if this was where they did the “hand- gliding”. He said “no, we do parasailing” and when I asked if he knew anything about the other thing, he looked me dead in the eye and said, “Nope, not a thing”. This guy had already called the authorities more than once to screw with Scot, who is competing in the same niche, and his lie was so deliberate it was actually comical. Back at Scot’s, his captain couldn’t be lured from another job so late in the day, so we headed to the beach to see a spectacular sunset, and some dolphins herding a school of mullets just 20 yards away from us in the gentle surf. My sister and her family joined us for the aquatic show and later we all had dinner with my mom.
In the morning the plan was set: 4 flight parks in 3 days. Friday- Paradise Hang Gliding and the Florida Ridge (forecast was less windy now). Saturday- Wallaby Ranch. Sunday- Quest Air. Not having had a flight on the first of the year was a bummer- especially after reading about some flights back home. At Paradise, Mark took a tandem with Scot, I took a tandem with Mark, then I had a solo flight. Scot’s operation is slick. He went over everything with me and even though I haven’t platform towed in many years, this was simple. Q Wilson, Scot’s partner, and a really great photographer (lots of these photos are his), was on the release when I yelled “clear!” For the first 50 feet, I was sure I had forgotten how to fly a hang glider and I wouldn’t live to see another day. But as soon as I eased the bar of the 225 Falcon 3 out to trim, I just started grinning and didn’t stop until right around yesterday! They towed me up til 2000’ of line paid out, and when I saw the boat make a big U-turn back at me, I hit the release. The huge wing handles beautifully even with my solo weight on it, and I wanged around a little in the morning breeze. I could see the whole coast line (what a view!) and I scanned the water for dolphins or rays or schools of fish. I set up an approach to land on the starboard side of the boat and even though I rounded out early, splashdown- I mean landing- was easy on the floats Scot has outfitted for the wing. Flying above water is such a freaky trip- I was conscious of where all the hook knives and other cutting implements were before I ever launched. But it was all so easy and everything went perfectly. The ride back to the dock was like a bonus eco-tour. The next stop was the Florida Ridge for an afternoon soar, so we hightailed it outta there while there was a lot of day still left .I really can’t say enough good things about what Scot has going there. He’s thought everything through and delivers a really good time, whatever your skill level. I’ll put his contact info here- 1-888-WINGS-FL (or a land line at 239-947-8940)and hope that anyone headed to Florida this season makes a flight off the gulf coast in Bonita Springs part of their winter getaway.
At the Florida Ridge, Steve Larsen and Cheryl Uhl were at the ready with gliders and tows. I got into a 140 Falcon (little bit different than a 225!), Mark got a 170 Falcon, and three other pilots took to the air behind Cary Lloyd. Steve was cruising around in a funky rigid wing machine and DocSoc flew and his wife and kids were there. It was a bit windy and after a strange upright tow (not used to the single surface deal), I found myself in nice lift near base until I got blown too far away from the field. I chased someone that just got off tow and thought I was pretty much going to land out, but I patiently made my way upwind and back into the range of the flight park. After I topped out my last climb, I made an attempt to get into some smoke from a fire near the field but landed (a little short of my mark- Falcons!) when it didn’t pay off. Cheryl and Steve were so welcoming and accommodating, and it was great to get a chance to check out this flight park when there isn’t a comp going on. Seeing the two of them is always great- especially when they have crazy costumes on… Talking to DocSoc’s wife after the flight also gave me an idea about some things I may be able to contribute on a personal level to other women pilots in this sport- sort of in keeping with what was started at Lookout Mountain in September.
Anyhow, a call to Malcolm on the way back to Wallaby secured a really nice hooch (thanks Steve A.). I got my glider set up early Saturday morning and had Mike Barber take a look at the ding in my leading edge. We decided it was basically a non-issue and I got ready to fly. It was looking pretty good but by the time the afternoon tows began, some high clouds moved in. I had a great tow- rock solid- and pinned off in some light lift to the south. I waffled around, not daring to leave my little bubble for almost an hour. I did eventually see people I know in the air- Fred, Patty, Mark, Mikey- but it was tough to stay up and I was being very conservative. When the sun started peaking out, things improved. I joined Mark briefly in a thermal and then headed north to further facilitate the “4 flight parks in 3 days” deal. I set my sights on Quest Air and headed out over the Bronson Ranch. After two thermals, I knew I wasn’t going to make it. I had some zero sink at 400 meters over the mines and I didn’t dare go down in there especially on a weekend- too many locked gates! I saw the gliderport to the west and decided to head over. I asked Mark over the radio if the Seminole guys had a problem with hang gliders, and when he said he didn’t know, I figured I’d find out for sure… real soon…. My glide over Rte 33 was eerily silent. No lift, no sink, but really really quiet. Like NO wind noise…WTF? I was looking all around for other aircraft during my base and final… nothing. But so very very silent. I lifted my visor, still silent. I felt the wind and realized suddenly that my ears were totally plugged up. As I pulled in for speed to land, I grabbed my nose and blew and – wow! – wind noise! Back to reality! I landed using as little runway as I could but wound up sliding in on my belly like I meant to do just that. At the ready with apologies and batting eyelashes, a few glider pilots came by and smiled welcomingly, remarking at how smoothly I had landed (ha ha!) My budding head cold was the only annoyance. Russel and Lori Brown came by while I was breaking down- they were as surprised to see me as I was them! Patty and Mark arrived pretty quick and we dropped my glider at Quest before heading out to dinner with Fred, Rae, Mike, Patty and a couple of new pilots. Sushi.. great day. I had had a 2 hour flight and Patty was sure it was the FOTD… (Chuck Stoner's pic below)
Sunday at Quest… what can I say? this trip just kept getting better and better. The only thing missing now was Lauren. Paul, Carl, Jamie and I set out to do 100 miles. Mark agreed to drive after a taking a local flight, and the rest of us set about ensuring that the flight would be short by getting completely prepared for a long one… you know what they say- wear a T-shirt and don’t carry a cell phone and you’ll fly 200 miles… And actually, I flew for 40 minutes and had to take a relight while Carl already left and Paul and Jamie were having NO trouble staying up. When we made the move to leave, a few thermals later found me a whole thermal behind the two of them. Carl was even out of radio communication but we pressed north. At one point, Jamie left a climb a little early and Paul and I stayed to top it off. She got really low and had a nice save but never got back into the game. Paul and I parted ways east of Ocala, I headed west under the good clouds and he waited for us girls to show up further east…. We never did…. When Jamie landed I considered going back to her to keep the retrieve reasonable. I knew Carl was way north, Paul way east, and I had taken a hard turn west… ugh… Jamie said not to be ridiculous about coming back to her so as a compromise I turned back towards where I figured was in line with Carl and floated around in the late day lift. When I left my last climb, I heard Carl on the radio. He was on the ground to the northeast of me so I just stayed on my long death glide. I had passed Ocala airport, and John Travolta’s airport had been in view, and I set up a nice long final up a hill in a horse-less field. Horse country for sure, judging by the nice fences. Landed on my belly again for some reason… Nice landowners, no problems. 90 minutes later and my ride showed up. Jamie and Paul loaded up my glider and Mark had cold drinks in the truck. Perfect! We found Carl in a bar (of course!) and grabbed a late dinner on the way back.
Back at the Wallaby hooch late, time to nurse my head cold and my strained back. Patty said good-bye Monday morning and a new rule was created at Wallaby- especially in my honor, I think. But the whole 4 flight parks in 3 days (two XC’s, a splashdown in the gulf, and a visit to some great people at the Ridge) was sooooo worth it. Leaving Monday was really tough- high cu’s and light wind- the best day yet- of course! And arriving in Rochester to 10 degree weather, snow, and no luggage! I think I need a vacation from my vacation…
1/2/08 airtime 20 minutes total
1/3/08 airtime 2:02, distance (I think 15 miles- I’ll check)
1/4/08 airtime :41 minutes
1/4/08 airtime 3:34, distance (no clue, gotta download- maybe 50 miles???)


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