Thursday, June 07, 2007

Drifting Down the River

(I apologize for getting so far behind on my blog.)

On May 22nd, I took a "mental health day" from work and went flying at Mount Ascutney. I met Rodger in Leominster and we shared the rest of the ride north in his truck. Like my first flight in New England this year, it was below freezing when I left home, the sky was clear, and the wind was light.

After we setup our gliders, we looked for signs of thermal activity and watched a military plane refuel in-air far above us. John A launched first and easily climbed up. I waited for some wind to blow in and ran off the rock next. John and I were soon at 9000 feet in the turbulent air rolling off an inversion layer. I headed to some wispy clouds forming over the high ground to the south. I expected John to leave with me, but he stayed behind until I found a reasonable climb. John and I played around the Springfield Vermont area in widespread, but broken, lift. John finally moved on to the south, but I wanted to hang out with my ground crew so I flew most of the way back to the mountain to meet Greg and Dan. I marked a good climb and we quickly joined up.

I was eager to move on, but Greg and Dan wanted to stop for every bit of lift. It was fun playing around for awhile, but I was soon getting impatient. I decided to head back upwind when I saw Jon and Toni coming our way. I knew I could catch up with Dan and Greg later. I flew with Jon, but Toni was a bit lower. I was also scanning the sky and the radio for Rodger, but couldn't find him. I found out later that Jake and Rodger landed at Morningside and Jon and Toni landed near Charlestown New Hampshire.

After a quick climb I caught up with Greg and Dan out in the blue, but I was much higher. I could have passed them and hooked up with John A who was climbing further to the south. Instead, I decided to blow-off a couple thousand feet and hook up with the low man, which at that time was Greg. Well, that was a dumb move since I ended up struggling along with Greg. I finally moved on and found a relaxing climb north of Bellows Falls Vermont. I wanted to fly over town assuming the town would be brewing up good thermals. Greg wanted to stay on the high ground to the west so we parted ways. I found a good climb over town and the water falls, but lost most of my newly gained altitude in a long line of sink on the glide south.

I came in a few hundred feet below Greg back on the west side of the river but wasn't satisfied with the broken lift he was parked in. I drifted out over the valley and didn't find anything and was soon shopping for an LZ. I found a measly 50 fpm climb 300 feet over a tree-line and slowly started climbing out. Meanwhile Dan called out a strong climb just south of me, but probably 5000 feet higher. Greg, who stayed behind in the weak climb had enough altitude to connect with Dan's climb. I lost track of them after that when I turned off my radio to concentrate on my elusive little climb.

I slowly floated upward in the light northeast wind and enjoyed the scenery. It can be a lot of fun flying slow in mellow air where you can feel every little shift and surge in the thermal. Eventually I got high enough to looking for a new place to land further down the river. I turned my radio back on and heard Dan and Greg heading towards Brattleboro, Vermont to the south. I had enough altitude to leave Putney Vermont, but decided to turn around when the two fields downstream looked like they were planted with winter wheat; I wasn't going to ruin someone's crop just for a couple miles. I headed back to a nice short green hayfield across the railroad tracks from an picturesque Vermont farm.

I later learned John A landed in a field where the owner's were definitely not happy to see him. According to John, the owners were quite vocal and started tossing equipment across the fence line. As all this was happening, Greg and Dan floated into the same field! Although I landed a couple miles shorter, I was glad to miss out on that experience. ;-)

Alan, Greg, Dan, and John picked me up on the way back north. Meanwhile Rodger was heading south. I jumped to Rodger's truck at the closest bridge across the river and was soon heading home.

I know I have learned much from racing, but didn't realize racing was also changing my personal style of flying. I found myself becoming inpatient where in past years I would have been content. Even when I felt I was "hanging back" others thought I was "pushing". It's funny to hear comments like that because I always saw myself as the slow pokey one!