By John Kraske
Got a good view of my shadow in the glory hole above. What magic! I was the first to launch after the sun starting kicking up thermals. I had quite a few coaches yelling out, "I see thermals coming up", "the birds are going up", "the streamer is a little cross, now it's coming straight in", etc. I always appreciate a team of launch coaches, but lean toward following my own inner guide. I offered up my spot to anyone who was ready to go. Everyone declined. I guess I was going to be the "wind dummy". I was waiting for the trees on the sw corner to move in sync with the ground cover at the front of launch. I picked my cycle after a couple failed attempts to pull up. All my selected indicators looked good. My wing felt solid overhead, and I was off, turned to the right, nabbed a thermal and tracked it across and over launch. Lost it, and turned back to the west and followed our feathered friends above, tracking to the northeast. Wind Dummy, up and away. The hordes were following. The sky clearing a little; bluing up. It was a little edgy and wild at first but later settled into a nice smooth pattern. I guess those dark waters of the bay and mud flats had been collecting the day's slow heating and were anxious to let'm go. Those babies came up with vile determination that rocked my world and made me want to cinch in my chest strap. But I couldn't let go of my toggles without getting rocked. Edgy little bastardo's! And, I was feeling a little rusty having not flown for more than a week. Soon the surrounding air was filled with bright colored rags, spread from out over the bay to high over the top of Blanchard and the coastline and hills to the north. Muted shadows of wings were disappearing in the marine layer and clouds. I picked a blue hole between two active looking grays and found a pathway to heaven. It's cold there ya know. I was tempted to push for a xc north and figured I could easily make the valley at Alger if the lift quit. The lakes were gorgeous and the lift was diminishing with wings heading for the lz. Ross had top landed and I heard Steve Forslund on my radio imploring me to get his truck. He was flying for Edison and a landing near the LongHorn. His truck was parked on top so I abandoned my thoughts of an xc to give it a go. I figured there'd be one chance. I missed it. I was the last wing in the sky. Over an hour of cloud dancing and my fingers were like pop cycle sticks. Before launching I thought, 'if I put hand warmers in my gloves I'll have a short sledder. If I leave them out, I'll have a long flight.' It worked. My fingers didn't. Big ears at launch would have saved me the shuttle time back up, but - hey - if I'd have grabbed any of my lines, my fingers would have shattered in a million bits.
Brewski's, grins and giggles at the Longhorn was a nice way to end the day. Early March just doesn't get any better than that here in the Pacific Northwest. Well, an afterthought, Kathy could have been there flying tandem with me. I'm sure I wouldn't have been nearly as cold.
I hear it was good at Tiger too.