This one’s reprinted from about three years ago, and yes, it’s a true story.
One breezy winter day we had no chance of any usable thermal activity and the only slope angled suitably for ridge lift seemed too far up a narrow canyon to safely approach nose first. Time to improvise.
First we flew across the canyon’s mouth, drifting sideways. When we reached the opposite wall we turned back out and began a series of long crabbing figure-eights at minimum sink speed, recrossing the canyon each way and turning slowly into the wind at either side. It took a while (most things do, don’t they?) but gradually we drifted backward, downwind, up the canyon to its head without ever pointing our nose in that direction.
Common ridge lift in moderate wind seldom carries more than a thousand feet above high ground, but this venturi stuff tossed us almost twice that. High enough for courage to dive over the top and down the other side, through wicked sink into well marked wave miles downwind of home. From there we concocted a neat little cross-country, joining other wave elsewhere and returning to our local area from the north after departing to the south – on a winter day that was otherwise ‘unsoarable’.
Unless you fly right.
First, Happy Thanksgiving and CONGRATULATIONS to John Pallidino, who flew his first glider solos last weekend — now comes the fun part!
So anyway, we’ve been building lots of character lately, whether we wish to or not, and it might continue this week as well. We’ll see more pleasant days of partly to mostly with comfy temps and… thermals, not so much, except maybe Saturday in the mountains. Sunday on the other hand might be a wave day. We won’t be holding a vote on that, you’ll just have to wait and see what Gaia decides.
There are similarities between soaring and golf that reveal as much about us as the activities themselves. (Full disclosure, I don’t golf a bit, but know some folks who do, whatever that’s worth.) Among the more maddening parallels, whether out on there on the course or up here a mile, on course, the sporting day begins and ends knowing however well you do, you could have done better. Time and again your deficiencies are exposed for all to see, as others of apparently the same species make it look so easy! Always short of some high ideal, you involuntarily torture yourself every time you think of it while waiting another week. Drives ya nuts, don’t it?
Here’s guessing it wasn’t always so easy for those you envy, either. No doubt they tortured themselves plenty in the past. Maybe that helps and maybe it doesn’t. Maybe they still torture themselves. Either way, none of it’s worth getting out of bed for unless you truly enjoy the process. If not, why bother? When the game becomes a source of anguish, you’re torturing yourself for the wrong reasons.
I’m glad we don’t have to play in the shade.
Bobby Jones, on being told it was 105 in the shade
As a kid I lived to play ball. Not to win anything, just to play. In high school sports I preferred practice over the official games, because we got to play more. When a coach started teaching us how to hurt opponents without being caught I decided to quit and take up romance instead. To play more, without being caught.
In soaring, when the ‘big boys’ are chasing each other through the sky hoping to reach some arbitrary goal before their friends do, I’m inclined to probe my limits somewhere near the ground (higher ground the better) looking to learn the heretofore unimagined. That for me is the point of going in the first place. If score is kept I’m sure to be the loser, but who’s keeping score, and why? It’s me who’s s’posed to be enjoying this after all, and finishing last means I get to play longer, more time in the gym. So there.
This is why you don’t want me in your foursome on the links. Where ‘serious’ players start by launching straight down a fairway to get as close to the flag as possible, I’m apt to try for that sand trap almost out of range on the long side, even if it takes an extra stroke or two. And if I wind up in the woods over there, better yet. Why? Keeps things interesting, and sets up more hard shots instead of fewer easy ones. If hitting that ball is integral to the fun, and challenge makes everything more fun, why swing as few times as possible? I’d rather hazard the wrong end of a driving range and tee peoples’ shots accurately back to them, like shagging flies in the outfield. Honestly, how could that not be more fun? Think of dodging the incoming as a bonus (helmets for wimps only). Goethe would understand.
Do you? If floating in heaven is something you really do enjoy, why hurry through it as if you’re running from the cops? Wherever you are, in the air or on the ground, this moment here and now is the only one you get. The sages say slow down and savor it while you still can.
This week will turn out much like last week did, perfect gardening weather with lots of partly to mostly and light westerly breezes. The sunniest will be Saturday, they say, with 3 or 4-knot thermals rising to somewhere above pattern altitude, more or less. And so on.
Also this news: complaints about the heat are no longer being accepted.