Month: October 2011
#523 Vance Brand
The Gathering at Monument Valley 2011
We made good time and were were approaching Moab by 6 where I made a command decision, which was happily agreed to by my first mate, to spend the night in a nice hotel rather than set up camp in the dark. We checked into the Hampden where Dawn was gracefully recognised for her travel status and comped a deluxe room. Then we spent the rest of the evening wandering around town where I showed her, The Rim Bicycle Shop. The Rim is arguably the place where the Mountain Bike Boom started. Rob and Bill Groff Road that horse like champions and Moab’s economy blossomed into International Fame. There are probably 15 bike shops in town now but “Rob em and Bill em” were the first. I was proud to be working with them back then and delighted to meet Bill’s son who was working the shop. Later we had a light dinner and went to bed early.
Day Two Thursday Oct. 13
We didn’t get out of town as early as planned. Business got in the way and so Dawn spent the morning working out on some medical sales reps instead of the treadmill she had planned on. I kept myself busy playing with the hotel TV and enjoying their free breakfast spread. We were on our way by noon and at the campsite by 3:00. We quickly set up camp and went down to the airstrip for the first flight of the trip.
Several pilots had also arrived early and were lounging around waiting for the air to mellow. At 5:00 it was declared good and people started launching. The winds were light and coming from all the wrong places. On the Airport apron the wind was coming directly from the west face of a 900 foot wall of rock. It was hard to figure, I could see that it must have been a north wind that was being deflected but it was disconcerting to launch toward the rock and I didn’t like the fact that the terrain dropped 30 feet into rough country and detention ponds. It was not going to be pretty if someone had problems right after launch and … the go-no-go point was far too close to the start for my taste.
My launch was not without drama. The wing came up fine, I had committed to launch, and was just beginning to feel some lift when the wing collapsed about 30% on the right side. I stayed on the power and it popped out just before I would have had to abort. Two seconds later I was 50 feet over a detention pond and checking my wing to make sure everything was good. Later talked to Robert about the launch and he affirmed that I had done everything right. He couldn’t tell what caused the collapse other than a pocket of bad air caused by the wind deflecting off the wall.
It wasn’t a long flight; I stayed 500 feet above the flats just east and north of the patch. The air was warm and smooth, the monuments were bright orange contrasting hugely with the area around Gouldings that was already darkened by the shadow of Oljeto Mesa towering 900 feet above the airstrip. When I decided to land I flew to the far end of the 3700 foot runway and floated the entire length at 10 feet or less. I told myself I should to do more of this type of flying, 1/3 power and using the brakes to fine tune altitude.
IT WAS NICE! It’s possible I’ve been blaming the Falcon for the bus like performance when the real issue is the wing. Next time I’m at Vance Brand I’m going to have to fly the Eden and see.
That evening we shared hotdogs with Robert Kittila and Andy McGavin. After dinner I fired up the campfire where we sat and watched a nearly full moon rise over the monuments. Later, Scott Richie his wife Tamera and a couple of other pilots joined us where the discussion was primarily about the care and feeding of two stroke motors. Occasionally we slipped into metaphysics lead by our resident “guru” Andy but no matter how hard we tried to keep it meaningful the talk always came back to paraflying and powerplants.
The wind was light with occasional puffs coming from the cut between Oljeto and Rock Door Mesa. Yesterday I had been amazed at the way the PPCs could disregard the wind direction. They would just lay out the wing, pop it overhead and taxi to the runway. I knew my wing required more input to keep it overhead but …”I could do that too … Couldn’t I?”. Seeing them motor over to the runway and roll down that beautiful long strip was very tempting. It would have been easier with the Eden III but I still needed to adjust the brake lines. So… I compromised, instead of trying to taxi downwind across the apron and turn 90 degrees I set-up at the top of the apron, facing into the wind but 45 degrees off the runway. The wing came up clean and quickly stabilized. I turned down the runway and made a nice crosswind.launch. The POWERPLAY is sluggish and turns like a bus but it doesn’t need much speed to fly and it doesn’t dance overhead like the Eden. Its all good.
What a flight! It was perfect in every way, warm smooth air, not a soul around me and one of the most spectacular views in the world. Thank You God.
When I landed things were wrapping up for the morning. A few guys were doing acro around the airstrip but most were packing their wings and loading up. Robert, Andy, Dawn and I went up to the lodge and had a celebratory breakfast. I checked in with Barb who assured me that everything was good for our dinner on Sat. night. EXCEPT…. SURPRISE SURPRISE… We were not going to be allowed to bring beer or wine into the Banquet. It’s not really a big deal because most of us curb the booze in favor of flying but this is the third year that they have said yes you can then no you can’t. I’m going to stop asking.
After breakfast we lounged around the campsite and took a nap. I was delighted to get the same site. It is at the top of the campground and looks through the cut toward the Big Indian Monument. It was easy to sit in the sunshine and relax while a light breeze came up the cut and played with the windsock. A guy could get used to this. An additional bonus was, that this year, the fly in fell during a full moon and so during our campfires we watched the moon rise over the park..
After our nap and showers Dawn and I checked in with Bob who said he would be happy to take her on a flight. At 5:00p we went down to the field and Dawn caught her first flight of the trip with Ken. He took her around the backside of Oljeto Mesa over the campground and alongside Rock Door Mesa. As soon as she landed Bob was ready so she hustled over to his machine and was up again. This was a much longer flight and she got to see the backside of King on his Throne and Saddleback.
|Kings on his Throne, Stagecoach, Bear & Rabbit, Castle Rock|
That night we teamed up with the Richies and to cook at their fire. Both of us brought ribs, there was plenty to go around. Dawn also prepared one of our Zucchinis and some sweet potatoes for a side. The campfire was made complete when we made samores with giant marshmallows.
This was most excellent! Randy took me up in his weight shift Delta. It was just too easy. He lined up at the top of the runway and did a down wind launch. Wow! For an hour and twenty minutes we flew and covered pretty much the entire area. First we went to the North and did some ridge soaring on Train Rock. The delta flys at a little over 60mph and could turn on a dime. However, it was not tight enough for Randy who complained that he wasn’t able to stay in the thermals. I was impressed …. the way he would drop a wingtip and seemingly pivot over one point of the desert floor. Randy apologised for not bringing training bars so that I could try my hand at the controls but he needn’t have. It was a pleasure not having to fly the plane, I was free to sit take pictures and enjoy the ride.
After Train Rock we headed over to Eagle Rock and the Sitting Hen and did some close Fly-Byes. I would have been worried about rotor flying all the way around but it is not the same issue with the Delta. After exploring the entire group of “North East Monoliths” we entered the park and explored area containing the Mittens, Three Sisters and Elephant Butte. When we left the park Randy went along the backside of Oljeto Mesa and flew the crack between Oljeto and Rock Door. It is always fun to see my tent and the windsock from above. The landing was as easy as the take off … smooth and clean. Thanks Randy!
That evening we all met up at the Lodge for a “non-banquet” banquet. Mo and I were sitting with a relatively new PPC pilot who told us all about his experience of being lifted to 16,000 ft and how he pulled an enormous stall falling over 15,000 feet before he recovered only to be lifted to 16,000 again. It had to be the greatest fish story of the event. Mo and I refrained from quizzing the fellow. I didn’t write up a speech and Paul Anthem wasn’t there too entertain us … so it was just friends and new friends sharing a meal. Later we met back at the campfire and continued the festivities. One thing … As in years past they told me we could bring adult beverages into the lodge and at the last minutes changed their mind. Barb was embarrassed but it was really … no big deal.
|The View Hotel and Visitor Center|
|About half of us were availble for this shot|
Powered Paragliding Colorado Flight #518
This was an exploratory flight, there were balloons off to the north but a little too far to chase down, so I stayed close and explored the area. It is beautiful… there are lakes and orchard and plenty to keep me busy for a long time to come. I stayed up for 40 minutes and took several photos including one of Boulder where my daughter Stefania is living.
|New home field|
|Saint Mary’s Church|
The landing was bumpy … I touched down and was so busy negotiating the bumps that I just barely shut the motor shut down in time to protect the wing. This place needs some work but it is legal… I have the owners permission and its close to home.
Powered Paragliding Colorado Flights #516 # 517
About 20 minutes later two vehicles pulled in next to my truck, it was Robert and Peter with his PG wings. I set-up to land but after touching down decided it was too soon to quit and relaunched in an extended touch and go. When I did come down Robert Peter and I shot the bull and talked about the options for Peter to get into PPG.
The first stick of Swoop divers came in and I took the opportunity to reset. I wanted to get some air while it was still good the sun was getting high and I knew it wouldn’t be long before the thermals started popping.. From 400 feet I watched Robert blow a launch and when it looked like he was going to wait for some breeze I turned south again to catch the sights. The ballooons had all dropped to the nap and were playing chase the rabbit. There were several Light sport aircraft in the area and just a great day to fly.
There was a new pilot at the field … Chris … who had a new Flat Top with the new ultra light trike. He was a PG guy with some experience but had never flown motor before. Robert and I spotted while he set up and launched in an amazingly short distance. Impressive machine. I wish it’s dealer was a little more mainstream. I was concerned because the pilot had no formal training and his landing was a bit scary … but he got down fine and it was all good.
|Vance Brand Airport|