I had a pretty exciting day at Woodstock on Saturday October 10, 1998-- too exciting in some ways. I launched at around 3:30 and found the air between the two fingers North and South of launch to be rather smooth. After boating around for a little while I climbed up to 2500 over and decided to try to make it to Strasburg and back since a lot of other pilots weren't having any trouble making the run. On my previous attempt to go up to Strasburg earlier in the year, I had fallen into a massive sink hole and had to land out two miles North of the primary LZ. So, this time I decided to play it safe and use the M. Fink method of staying high and going slow-- all the while checking out landable fields on the way.
When I got almost halfway there, I started to sink out and at 1000 over I turned around and headed home. Being less than 1000 over and going into unfamiliar territory seemed unsafe. When I got back near launch, the thermals started working again and I saw M. Buckley Above Me out in the valley. Well, I couldn't let that continue! So I found some big thermals and soon joined him near cloud base.
Since conditions had seemed to improve, I decided to try to make it up to Strasburg again. I was staying between 2000- 2500 over as I passed the second finger to the North. I saw a glider way below me (which turned out to be Joe Gregor ) making the run and I figured that if he wasn't having any trouble then I wouldn't. I used the go slow technique again and climbed up whenever I found a good thermal. Just as I had the radio tower in site I found that if I just pushed out a little I could maintain a straight course under a cloud while still climbing. The lift was not very strong under the cloud so I wasn't worried about cloud suck.
As I approached cloud base at 2900 over, I flew upwind of the cloud to avoid getting into to it. To my surprise, I found that I was still going up in front of the cloud. It was very enjoyable being above cloud base and looking down on the clouds-- for about 10 seconds! I pulled in to lose some altitude and the vario just kept beeping. I pulled in more-- nothing. I stuffed the bar and locked my arms-- still going up. I tried diving slipping turns-- nope. Uh oh, I'm in WAVE!
I would have taken advantage of it except that I had a row of clouds upwind of me which I couldn't see any gaps in. And I had a row of clouds downwind of me and puffies to the North and South. I was basically boxed in at 3600 over, 600' over the tops of the clouds! It was pretty scary-- but it was more aggravating. Because no matter where I went or what I did, I couldn't get down. I finally unzipped my harness and used the C. Shelton method of pushing my shin against the base tube while locking my arms. I was careful not to create a pressure point in the center of the base tube which could have caused it to bend. I finally started to go down by doing this and doing diving 360s. It seemed to take forever to get back below cloud base.
Back under the clouds, the air was smooth so I finished the trip to Strasburg. I was about to turn back and return to the LZ. But Joe had landed out North and East of the point, so I decided to join him and keep him company and bag my first real XC flight. I stayed in lift until I spotted him in this huge field North of a river. He had mentioned something about it being gnarly when he landed. But it looked like a great field-- BIG and WIDE and FLAT. I went to the far end of it to start a figure 8 approach. But when I turned upwind, the glider was going backwards. CRAP! So once again I'm diving-- this time to go forward. I thought I was flying a Falcon for a few seconds.
I only got in two 180's before turning onto final. I'm still stuffing the bar at this point and expecting the wind gradient to kick in. It kicked in at about 5 feet off the ground where I just dropped, only having time to push out at the last second and roll in on the wheels. I never got off of the base tube. As soon as the glider stopped it started bucking and trying to flip. So I had to leap up and pull down the nose wires and then wait for a lull so I could rotate the tail into the wind. The field Joe had chosen was in some sort of venturi effect with strong winds all the way to the gorund. Yikes.
Then, of course, it was a PIA getting out of the field and getting retrieved. Steve Kinsley had offered to retrieve us but had gotten lost because he thought we hadn't gone that far. Plus, the field we were in was not directly accessible since it had a gate locking the road which led to the field. So we had to carry our gliders a quarter mile out to the main road. But Steve eventually found us and then we somehow managed to find Karen in Strasburg. Joe and I had gone a total of 11.8 miles. I had thought that my first XC flight would be an exciting event, but I had not anticipated the adventure it turned out to be.
November 4, 1998