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Skyport to the Painted Cave spine ~ 6 miles
return to Parma ~ 6 miles
total distance around 1 turnpoint ~ 12 miles
~ 1½ hours airtime, 12:40ish to 2:10
Not a stellar day, but good enough to whack at the cobwebs. Pam (my wife) and Tess (my 6 year old daughter) were out of town for the school break, and Sam (11 year old son) was at Andre's (Sam's friend) for a sleep over in SB, so I had the house to myself. No view of the mountains, but did a quick weather check on the computer. Thought of hiking up to the Nuthouse, but didn't know if I could, plus it might be overgrown, and the day was getting on. Opted for a morning bike ride to look for may fleece that must have bounced out of my back basket on yesterday's evening ride. Notice some vultures gaggle in an early low bubble and figured why not. Back at the house about 10:15.
I made an attempt a few weeks ago to sort my gear. Kited the glider at a park and took inventory. Ordered a helmet. Bonded with new radios. Got some missing speed bar hardware, and appropriated Pam's old flight suit because mine was torn. The new helmet arrived, but was too small. I'd put on 20 pounds, so the flight suit will only fit without a jacket, but since it was a warm day, I should be ok. I needed a shakedown cruse to get the speed bar adjusted and figure out a radio mounting options.
I'd loaned my belly pack to Sam, and it was nowhere to be found, so I dusted off an old stiff one and configured it for the days weather. Took Topa Chase to Parma for a posted 11 o'clock meet, but no one was home. Changed into pants and boots to burn 10 minutes, but no shows. Discovered I'd left my b belly pack with radios etc at home, but still had my vario. Parked my truck at a turnout on Gibraltar Road just above El Cielito. Walked back to the stop sign to thumb up to launch. It was breathing uphill ok walking down the road.
Soaking in the ambiance at the stop sign for 5 minutes and the first vehicle was Hammer. I think he flew to the San Marcos Pass and back, then out to the Training Hill. He was planning to walk to his house, then ride his bike up to launch for his truck. We exchanged cell numbers but I must have wrote his down wrong.
The Eliminator was breathing in, but weak. Skyport had some short weak cycles, but the lulls were long. Discovered that in addition to forgetting my belly pack, I also didn't have the speed bar I needed to tune, so I used my relief tube and cord to fashion another. Hammer got off first and mapped out the weak lift, drifting light from the SE. I needed 3 pull-up attempts, but finally had a clean backward departure. The pull of the harness and separation from earth felt good. 12:40ish
About a half dozen paragliders had launched from the Alternator and were marking the hot spots. Bobbed along the back face to the R&R with a couple hundred over launch and gained a hundred on the way. Topped out in the low 4s and connected low in the saddle between the Peak and Cathedral. Upper drift was still light form the SE. Getting a few hundred over the Peak. Spotted Robert making good time near the VOR. One of the PGs was ahead on glide toward the Alternator, and there was as gaggle over Westbowl. Hammer passed above eastbound as I came in on No Name.
Progressively lower but easy connections and still able to climb above the VOR. Considered top landing. The conditions looked good, but the VOR's streamer was down so I was leery that the launch might be overgrown. Opted to reach over to Painted Cave. Got there about 3K, but didn't have enough to reach back for the windmill. Fished around and worked some scraps. Drift was from the west down lower as the day aged. Finally left with arrival altitude and got back to the VOR spine with 22. Needed one and got back above 3, but couldn't climb up the spine. Went with the drift from the west and bridged back to the east spine of No Name, and finally able to climb up for cushion at West Bowl. Topped about 37 and tried back to the saddle in front of The Alternator, but the day was getting weaker.
Dribble back down and tested a glide toward Cathedral with 29, but it didn't look good so I turned tail and bobbed back to the sweet spot. Climb up to 34 and east bound off the end with 32. Drift was from the west. Fished around at Cathedral behind the power lines, but no joy. Low across the Holly Hills and a hundred over the burned down Monastery.
A little clumsy on the landing at Parma. 2:10. Zack was there zipping up with a couple of tandem students. Pack up and walked back up for the truck.
Tried calling Robert, but got a wrong number. Went to pick up Sam and Andre from the Mesa so stropped by Robert's, but he must have already left on his retrieval ride. It was breezing from the west, but too cross for Wilcox.
Took the boys to the video store and grocery shopping for bachelor night. Andre was having a sleep over at our house.
It had been 4½ years since my [last flight in October 2005]. I felt aged and physically winded doing stuff that used to be easy. It took 3 launch attempts in the light cycles. The glider didn't come up straight on the first 2 and there wasn't enough room to correct before running out off runway. Fortunately, I was dressed light in the heat, but tramping around took my breathe away. For the 3rd pull-up, I laid out more to the east where it wasn't so steep. The cycles were getting better and I got off easy. The tug of the harness lifting me away from the hill felt great.
I was a rusty, but it's pretty much like riding a bike, however, I wasn't able to out climb anyone. The day turned out to be good for the task. A little high pressure jiggle, but nothing scary. I started to setup for a top landing at the Alternator, but it was buoyant, and I didn't feel dialed in. Landing conditions at upper Parma were good, light from the SW. I was little off on the pendulum timing and forgot about my ankle until I needed it. Touch down was ok but I wasn't able to kite the glider afterward.
I appreciate the community effort to keep the Skyport useable. The rebuild work after the fire is impressive, but compared to smooth spongy lawn of 96, along with the flower gardens, park benches, camping pads, and side trails, it is currently a sore sight beyond hope of reclamation. Hundreds of yards of top soil are gone and it is weathering into a jagged rocky eroded stubble. It reminds me of my body, so I guess we'll age together and hopefully share a few more miles. I'll especially miss the old oak that I extracted many a canopy from. It was a great launch aid and the only shade on the hill side.
I later learned the low turnout was due to the Big Sur weekend. It was a blessing to forget my radio and avoid the distraction. It seems like karma that Robert, SB's nourishing matriarch, boosted me to launch. We were the only ones there. And I met Zack by the tree at Parma on landing, representing our passionate vibrant youth. Alone again after he bid farewell with his students. The hike back to my truck, through the head high Parma grass, was also a part of the game, but I'll need to adjust limited mobility. I can no longer absorb a hard hit without getting hurt, but I know one is coming. I'll try and remind myself to be cautious & conservative, but life in general and paragliding in particular is not black and white.
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