Thursday, September 29, 2011

Meet me in the summertime....we can move the air

Yesterday it seems, all at once, the summer finally came to an end.  This morning we all went different ways.  It was a sad site.  I will miss the time I spent with really good friends.

For our last day, we did a few really touristy things, starting with a giant hole in the ground - Meteor Crater - where we did what any good pilots would do, watched the birds circle and discussed how we might launch from the rim and thermal up over the hole.

.....then drove back to Phoenix via Winslow, Arizona where I just couldn't resist standing on a corner ;-)  They've made quite a corner here all from one silly song.  I had to play the song for Jochen who didn't really understand why I felt the urge to stand on a corner in this sleepy little town.

Wow, I'll sure miss the giant saguaro cactus and firey sunsets here.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Grand Day

We started out by breaking the cardinal rule of hiking the Grand Canyon....DO NOT attempt to hike to the river and back in a single day.  Ha ha ha....wasn't meant for us, obviously.  

Total distance was 14.2 miles round trip and I haven't decided yet which was worse, the downhill half or the uphill half.  The downhill portion is sooooo hard on the knees and the quads.  But the 5000 ft elevation gain in mid-day heat wasn't a walk in the park either.   Actually it was a walk in the national park and we really did have a great time.   We took 2.5 hours down, had lunch and a swim in the river and then walked up again in 4 hours.  

I'm sure this has got to be the ugliest bird in the universe.....Grand Canyon condor number 47.  He was quite tame and let us get really close for pictures.  I'm sure he knows he could knock us over in a single swipe.  

At the top we celebrated with a giant steak dinner where we sat just long enough for our muscles to totally tighten up for the hour drive back to Flagstaff.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Wide Open Spaces

One thing I love so much about the United States is that we have an abundance of wilderness area.  As much as I enjoy a cute little alpine village in Europe, there is nothing like the open space we have here.  You only have to drive two hours out of Phoenix and you can start a hike into the mountains and not see another person for quite a long while.

Dustin took us up to San Francisco Mountain today for a nice 10 mile hike that ended at a nearly 13,000ft summit.  We had a gorgeous view (which isn't represented in my photos :-( ) in all directions with Meteor Crater to our east and the Grand Canyon to our north.  It was difficult for this sea level monkey, but I had a great time with the boys up at the top where we were all a bit hypoxic and giggly.  We even managed a video-Skype call from the summit to Carlos to rub it in a bit ;-)

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Tomorrow may rain so I'll follow the sun

Now that the Santa Cruz Flats Race has finished, Jochen, Dustin, Ben and I are  spending this week touring around the southwest.  These are the last days of Jochen's 6-month sabbatical and we're gonna show him some cool stuff.

After all our goodbyes, we left the Francisco Grande and drove to Flagstaff via Sedona.  The drive was very pretty.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Santa Cruz Flats Race starts today!

I'll be blogging from the SC Flats Race blog for the rest of the week.  Come check out the action here.  

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Day 5

Once again, a little improvement in conditions....slightly less stability today and apparently a great looking forecast for tomorrow and Saturday.  So, they called  a 97km task to the same goal as yesterday, but with a bit of dog leg further north.  Just heard that only Primoz made it in.  Jochen was about 30km short and Pedro just 11km short.  Haven't heard from Suan yet.

This might seal the win for Primoz.  Only two tasks remaining and I must leave at the crack of dawn tomorrow to start my long trek back to the US (via Liverpool)....I'll miss the end and I'll miss all my new Turkish friends.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Launch BBQ

This is the first time I've ever had dinner on launch at a hang gliding comp before ;-)  There's a beautiful view of the city lights from up there.  Adem, the organizer and the mayor of Kayseri and his entourage joined us and we laughed all night.  The hospitality here never ends.

Day 4

Back to a bit more stability today, but still flyable and taskable!  Just a 73km task today with goal out in the countryside again.  Looks like Frank (Spain) won the day with Primoz just behind.  Jochen, Suan and Pedro landed short in a difficult area.

Noel and I had fun on the dusty dirt roads today, even got to use the 4WD on the trusty Mitsubishi.  Jochen landed out in the middle of nothing where the powdery dust reminds me so much of Arizona.  Stopping to retrieve Suan, we kicked off a nice big thermal that got Frank up from just a couple hundred meters off the deck - and got him the day win!!

Scores Up!

Scores can now be found here.  It's still a very tight race with Suan (Italy) currently leading just ten points ahead of Jochen (Belgium) in second.  Primoz (Slovenia) and Pedro (Spain) are not far behind.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Day 3

Funny how one great day of flying can make you really fall in love with a place....and I wasn't even doing the flying!  (Yes, I know Gordon, I always say I love every place).  But it's true.  We got a bit of a respite from the stability and had a little 67km task to the southwest - as it turns out, a hugely undercalled task.  The boys had a fun flight with 500-700 ups and I got to check out the landscape outside this local area.  In many ways it reminds of southern California, like the Mojave Desert, without the Joshua Trees.

Looks like Jochen won the day just ahead of Primoz.  Suan, Pedro and Frank were all in goal with one very happy Turkish pilot.  The goal field was swarming with kids who loved to say CHEESE.

Little traffic problem on the way home from goal.

But we arrived back home in time to see the sunset behind the launch mountain.

Stars among us

Jochen and maria appeared last night on an hour long live television program all about hang gliding and paragliding.  Apparently the show aired internationally with plenty of commentary from the Belgian champion and the little FAI steward on the upcoming European Championships next year.  In the end, they convinced the host to have a tandem flight next year before the comp starts!   I think Jochen should consider a career change ;-)

Monday, September 05, 2011

Task 2

Like a few other places we've flown in Europe this summer, the stability plague seems to have hit here today.  The air was so stable the task committee (Primoz, Jochen and one Turkish pilot) decided a 32km task was all they could call.  Even then, Jochen and Pedro ended up in the bomb out field.  Jochen said he didn't make a single 360 during his flight.  Meanwhile, Primoz and Suan are just in goal now.

The meteo man here at the comp has quite a resume.  He has worked for the US military in Afganistan and is a full-time meteorologist here in Turkey.  His English is nearly perfect and I had a nice conversation with him on launch today.  He said that the change of seasons (end of summer to beginning of Autumn) typically brings the nicest and most unstable conditions for this area.  Unfortunately, the last few days' weather has been anything but typical (as we seem to have found all over Europe this summer).  I didn't want to jinx anything by asking him if things were expected to improved throughout the week, but I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

Meanwhile, we're enjoying the Turkish hospitality and food....maybe Maria I a little too much!  We've also come in contact with some cool wildlife.

Jochen's advice for the day....better remove the ballast!

Bombing out isn't the worst that can happen though.

Task 1 Photos

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Pictures from the Practice Day

Day 1 - Nörüyon

To our amazement, they were able not only to finish the bleachers they were still building last night, but completely fill them up with spectators!!  It was pretty cool to have a giant audience and tons of press.  They must find girls in hang gliding to be quite a strange thing because Maria, Noel and I were definitely the most interviewed by the TV reporters.  

The kids helping out on launch are the best.  They're teaching me the important Turkish phrases like Nörüyon, which is something like "Wassup?!"  They got quite a kick out of a dorky lady trying to be hip.  The younger people tend to speak a tiny bit of English, which is always fun for joking around with them.  On the way down from launch there was a group of about six teenage boys walking down the dusty road so we piled them all in the van and took them down to the goal field.  It always ends up with heaps of giggling and no one really understanding much of the conversation.

Task 1 today was a 90 km run with 3 turnpoints coming back here to the local goal field.  Unfortunately, no pilots made it in.  Rumor has it that Suan made it the furthest, with Jochen probably second and Primoz probably third.  But, no scores yet.

It looked like a difficult day from the ground.  The beautiful little cummies we had yesterday were replaced with a totally different, dryer airmass.  The thermals looked to be a bit small and punchy.  I guess Jochen will report on the quality of the flying here at his blog though.  

Saturday, September 03, 2011


We arrived at launch this morning to find a full on construction crew...backhoe's, graders, dump trucks and steamrollers.  I so wanted to hop on the backhoe and dig a few holes ;-).  They're really serious about fixing up the launch and get this, they're building bleachers!!...not temporary, removable ones, but full concrete ones with seats and everything.

All the boys set up next to the workers who went about their business despite all of us getting in the way and spectators roaming all over the place.  They've put quite a lot of sod out along the launch and they were adding even more today and grading an area for what must be parking.  I guess overlooking a city of a million, they're expecting a lot of spectators.

They set a 140km out and return practice task to the east.  Primoz was the closest, coming back and landing short of goal by about 25km.  He said the climbs were good and strong (and a bit rough) and he got as high as 3800 meters....coooooold!

The launch faces north toward the city which really does make a cool backdrop for a take off site.  Of course, everything out front past about 3km is restricted - military, city and the big airport, so all of the tasks will head toward the east and south for the most part.