Linda Salamone's Blog

Sunday, May 30, 2010

I wrote this more than a week ago:

Here we are waiting on top of the mountain. This is the last official day - unless we get a 500pt task, then we’ll add tomorrow as a world championship competition day. But the cloud we are engulfed in at 1:30pm is reluctant to lift. Solid white outside the café for hours now. Gliders are all set up but we can’t see them unless we are standing right next to them. Seems unreal that this is almost over and it ended up so unlike my expectations. I stopped writing when it felt as though the rain and fog and sleet would emote from my blog. Like an elephant in the room- we really don’t talk about this situation for more than one second in case in engulfs us and we lose all hope. We joke about it, we get our gliders ready, we speak enthusiastically every day and every night. But the weather just doesn’t let up. The organizers, the press, the volunteers, the support crews, and the pilots have this strange bond of silence. Because really there aren’t a whole lot of things you can say about it. I‘ll quote a friend: “Credo che questo sia l’evento piu’ sfortunato della storia”. Truly. But we party, we make plans- the ‘alternate program’ we call it. And it’s usually a blast and a half. Making new connections and seeing old friends is absolutely awesome. But we don’t get to fly in this beautiful place. Each day is like Groundhog Day- even the food I am served by my wonderful landlady is the same day after day. Like the sky, the rain, the mountain in the very near distance whose peak we cant even see every morning. This morning even the castle was enshrouded in cloud. So, here we are waiting on top of the mountain. One. More. Time…..

And I add this today- on my way back home after the strange and wonderful and frustrating time I had….:

We had our gliders set up until the last cable car was due to leave. I thought I had made the correct decision to pack up and ride down as it stayed socked in until 5pm and beyond. I didn’t want to risk walking down the mountain in the slush. But at the headquarters I saw that just before 6pm the sky opened enough and gliders launched and were staying up low over the castle. Oh well, another opportunity missed. We might get another chance to have a fun task Saturday, but the meet was officially over now. Not one single task flown. Another party in the tent, some time in the local bar until closing time, and Saturday morning the sun is huge and bright for the first time since I arrived. This place, I swear, is cursed for competitions. A slap in the face to be squinting out my window at the bright sunny and warm day!!! We head up the mountain and set up in the sunshine and have a task set so the organizers can have an excuse to give away all the daily prizes that never got awarded.
I launch off the east ramp because the wind is very cross. Ollie tells me just before that there is a ton of wind on the ground but it is not windy up here. I don’t find much lift except a bubble in front of the launch and when a rigid joins me too close, I leave. Sinking all the way out towards the first turn point, finally I get some beepings. I try to core this thermal and it turns into a monster. I get a few good turns, then I am headed over the falls and banking hard to keep from going over. I cant hang onto this thing for very long and at some point I realize it’s no use. I decide then that this is not worth ir- I see 37kph on my vario for windspeed and a sock on the valley below me sticking straight out. It is a paragliding school and a glider is kiting but the wind is obviously howling. After 25 minutes in the air, I put it down in this PG school and two minutes later Jamie joins me. At least she concurs that this air is shit, and later we figure it is rotor from a SE wind blowing over the back some, mixing with the strong valley winds below. I never even made the first waypoint which was only a few Ks out. Oh well, I live to tell about it!!! And nothing is broken.
The party/ceremony in the evening Saturday was strange- only a few made part of the course and one made it around. Natalia will take first in our meet - Corinna and Kathleen round out the top 3. But it is not a world title, just for fun, and the Adidas goodies and such become door prizes and pretty much everyone goes home with something cool. I got a backpack which is pretty fitting because I seem to have accumulated a whole ton of stuff to put in it. Heather Mull sings a song that Claudia, Hadewych, me and the Spanish team butchered the week before. Its “Have You Ever Seen the Rain?” and we added a bunch of our own words. Claudia printed up a bunch of copies after we banged it out on my laptop a few nights prior, so everyone had a copy and sang along. Heather was awesome and it got a lot of laughs and applause. That song continues to run through my head….
Later we closed the local bar down again, dancing our asses off and saying goodbyes and making plans for travel. I was headed to Bassano del Grappa the next day- I couldn’t wait to get to Italy where the sun shines all the time, the flying is great, and my friend Mirella waits. I packed up my room and got ready to head out when Stephan convinced me to have a fly off the Tegelberg again. Riding up the cable car one last time- it’s sunny and warm today (of course- the world meet is over!) and there is no snow on launch. In fact, it’s dry and even hot up there. Tons of PGs are waiting more than an hour to launch. We set up and I take off after Stephan. The HG ramp is not so crowded and there is no real wait. He heads back behind a piece of the mountain, I don’t dare go there- I am still so intimidated by the rock faces of the Alps. They look like they could eat you up. But I get a screamer of a climb out front and get right up to base where it’s a bit cloud sucky. When I pull out away from the cloud, I am still climbing for a while and wind up above most of the bases in the blue. Very cool. I watch Stephan thermalling much lower…and still behind the damn ridge! I lose him and fly around and visit the area when I had my ass handed to me the day before. And it was STILL shitty there. So I find where the air was softer and more friendly and just took it all in for a while. I really had to get going to Italy so after an hour or so I ditched all that abundant lift and headed to tour the castles. They are so impressive from above and I could see all the tourist streaming into the Neuschwanstein. I came into the huge field to land and Timethy was there to take some photos. I have a fairly decent no step landing- but dropped it at the last second straight down to save the shock on my arm. My arm was sore as is customary now, even after a short flight, but only for two minutes which is also the norm. We have dinner at the Italian place to say good bye to Giovanni the proprietor, and take a few more pictures of my landladies in “our” backyard. I was so glad to have had a really sweet flight finally over the Tegelberg- so grateful Stephan talked me into it.
Off to Italy….The drive through the Alps was breathtaking.
Mirella was waiting up late- we were a little lost but her amazingly loud whistle in the night put us in her driveway. Bassano was totally ON the next day and we headed there, just 40K away. I just kept saying to Mirella- siamo qui, a Bassano- insieme finalamente…and it was all I could do not to cry. Seeing her again, finally being at Bassano in the warm sun and the familiar Italian language all around….I could read the road signs and menus and speak with her finally in both English and Italian…We met Jesus and he gave Timethy a glider, helmet, harness and vario, and though he hasn’t flown a hang glider in 5 years, he handled the topless Laminar like he never left the sport. I almost sank out right after launch trying to get into a climb under Mirella. She’s going up like a bat out of hell, and I am finding NOTHING below her. I headed out to land but got a climb down low- I would repeat that a few times- never making cloudbase but having a great time flying in the really friendly air. I found Timethy at some point way up high and we climbed in a big boaty thermal for a while. He was my very first footlaunch instructor some 14 years ago and now we fly together for the first time ever- him in Jesus’ glider!!! So yeah, I met Jesus in Italy, and he is a really cool dude… He set up the glider, and then was there to break it down after we landed some 90 minutes later. He even took my rental car off launch to the LZ. Life is GOOD! My landing was identical to the one I had at Tegelberg the day before so I’m really happy. We had dinner with a bunch of PG pilots up on the mountain. I can still hear the cowbells on the mountaintop with their melancholy ringing. It was surreal. I was so happy to be there- like coming home after weeks in the cold rain amidst the harsh-sounding German language.
Tuesday was going to be a repeat of the great soaring conditions but Timethy having no glider today made us decide to go to Venice. We got a bit lost on the trains on the way but finally made it there. We just wandered around the streets and canals and it was so hot and sunny, just like I had imagined it would be. I was still thawing out from my weeks in Germany. Mirella made a fantastic dinner and took me to her salon very late at night to cut my hair- something I had asked her to do weeks before. To go home with something she gave me- and see it every day… my hair. Only two people besides my mother have ever cut it and it was such a cool thing that she did for me.
In the morning we left- heading back to the German Open competition in Grainbach, which I had considered entering but decided against after seeing the same shitty forecast as Tegelberg’s. I was taking pictures of the sunny ruins and castles in Italy, when as soon as we crossed the border into Austria- BAM! Huge thunderstorm and torrential rain and Oh My God… Here we are back in Bavaria… and of course… it is raining- and 20 degrees colder!!!! Bernd and Stephan and Julia and Regina and Rebekka are all here trying to have yet another comp in the Bavarian Alps. The entertainment was improvised and so great that night- lots of guitars and a sitar and our voices- singing every thing and playing spoons and harmonicas and- shit- really great. My time here is limited and even the constant rain can’t invade my good mood. I got shortpacked in the drizzle the next day and finished packing for New York… Of course the sun was bright and shining the day I leave….
So now I sit, on a plane back home. The last 6+ weeks seem like half a lifetime. It began by driving with my daughter down to Florida- her flying lessons, the Rob Kells comp, falling back in love with flying after some scary events in the air, the Flytec Race and Rally, facing the “Linda Arn” field in Moultrie, Georgia, getting stuck at Quest with no ID or money, frying my laptop, seeing my mother in Naples and then heading to Germany, getting settled in for the ‘Big Meet that Never Was”, seeing the whole Italian team again and finding ways to stay busy, the castles, the salt pools, Claudia and Daphne, Timethy, huge disappointments and frustratingly great surprises, Italy, Mirella, Jesus, more frustration, then goodbyes- definitely too many goodbyes.
So many people supported my attendance at these meets. Buying shirts, just sending money in support, sending really great messages. I feel like I didn’t my part with the blogging and keeping the information flowing. I have such a difficult time hiding negative emotions I might be feeling and sometimes writing actually makes it worse. It was so hard to keep positive during the Worlds and I knew writing anything would probably bring me to my knees. After I left for Italy I had no more internet except through my Blackberry. So this is my apology for not keeping up. I have so many pictures and I’ll get them up on Facebook soon. I have a ton of work to catch up on- I am late getting back to my job and I acquired a new boss somehow while I was gone. But I’ll get them up soon and in the meantime- Daphne did a killer job capturing on a daily basis what was happening in real time at Tegelberg. Her video editing was amazing and I’ll be reliving it myself when I get a fast connection to view it all. I met some of the most dynamic women during this trip- and reconnected with some old friends. Overall- great experience. I would have liked to have had a competition, but maybe there’s a reason why that didn’t happen which isn’t apparent at this time. pictures soon...


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