Thursday, November 1, 2012


So waiting for class to start, and of course what does my mind start to do? Go through the running list of places I want to go and things I want to see around the world. Apparently I like to live with my head in the clouds, which is totally fine until I trip and fall off the sidewalk because I wasn't paying attention,  not that that happened... But someday, when I'm all old and wrinkled like a prune, I want to be able to look at photos of all of those places on my list and say yeah I took that one and yes I was there. Everyone always says to live life without regrets, and I think the biggest regret I could ever have it to not see the world and experience the wonderful things it has to offer. Now I know I may not like every place I go to, or enjoy everything I have to do to get there, bust hey life isn't perfect, shit happens, and I can deal with that. It's all worth it in the end.

So life kind of went as planned, and I got a job at the beginning of the month. Job means money, money means food and hydro. We like money. But money also means travelling. Somehow I have ended up having a million trips I want to go on just this winter with people, so if I want to be able to go on even one of those, this job needs to start soon. Don't you wish money trees actually existed? Travelling sure is expensive... first world problems right here. The thing is though that I don't really care if I stay in a hostel sharing a bunk room with 10 other people to save some money, or eat in a tiny hole in the wall place because it's all I can afford, because those are usually where you meet the best people and get the yummiest food. Don't get me wrong, 5 star hotels and restaurants and wonderful, but I want to experience the culture of places and live like I'm from there, and that's not how you do it. Another thing I've thought about a lot lately is who I would travel with. Tour groups are out of the question, been there and did that in France and it was terrible. 2 hours in the Louvre but 6 hours to shop? You've got to be kidding me. Art history nerd inside of me was so mad about that. Don't get me wrong, that trip was amazing, but I cannot handle having me entire trip planned out for me hour by hour and being forced to so some things and not having time to do others. 

Travelling with a friend, or a small group, I think would probably be one of the best ways to go about it. That way you never end up alone in a bad situation or strange place, but you also have the company and the fun of people you know around. the problem though is if your travel personalities don't match, it's not going to be pretty. And that traveling with a group might stop you from making new friends wherever you go because you don't "need" to. For every pro there's always a con... which brings me to travelling alone. Now I know it can be very dangerous in some places, which is why some places I would only ever go with other people, but almost any first world country you go to you can get away with being by yourself, and I think that might be the way to go. You never have to change what you want to do to fit with other people, you can take as long or as short as you want in a single place, and you can alter your plans in a heartbeat without having to run it by people. That's one of my big things when I travel, I hate having everything planned out. I am totally fine flying into somewhere and maybe having a hotel booked for the first night when I fly in and then nothing after that. It's just a blank canvas for me to do anything, go anywhere or see whatever I want. And yeah it backfired sometimes and you end up driving until 3am because you can't find a hotel, but hey, it's an adventure. And I love adventures. Just incase that wasn't already clear. I'm pretty much willing to try everything once in life to see what it's all about, I mean you'll never truly know what you think about something until you experience it right. 

The funny thing though is that as much as I hate having an entire trip planned out, my life right now is the complete opposite and if I want to travel somewhere I have to completely organize my schedule around it. I feel like I'm two different people sometimes, the super organized and time scheduled university student and the crazy adventure loving girl who just wants to see the world. Both lives are fun don't get me wrong, but I wish I could spend a little bit more time on adventure and a little less being a hermit student studying for 5 midterms in one week (not cool professors, not cool). So for now I can just look ahead at the travelling opportunities I have in the near future and that gets me through the crazy over-scheduled weeks now. More to come on these ramblings... I feel like this is a fairly productive way to procrastinate...even though that's an oxymoron. Oh well!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Looking Back

So somehow it is the middle of September, and I have no idea where the time has gone. So much for that detailed post going day by day through the last week of the memory is unfortunately not that good! I can't believe the in a week from today I will already have been home for a month-that is absolutely insane to me. It's already starting to feel like Uvalde was a dream, a really realistic incredibly fun and life changing dream. Saying it was one of the best months of my life would be an understatement.

It amazes me how much I learned at the worlds about such a variety of things. First off; pretty sure my knowledge about gliders doubled. And I like to think I already had a pretty big knowledge base going into this. Not only did I get to see all of the new gliders and technologies (the Concordia is stunning!) but I learned so much about contest flying and cross-country flying just by sitting through all of the meetings and conversations! And of course the end of day flight analysis. I guess I shouldn't really be surprised at this, I mean I completely immersed myself in the gliding world for a month straight but man do I ever know a lot more now. Second, I learned a lot about myself. Putting yourself in so many different situations like that from high-stress to sleep deprived and working all day every day for a month you definitely learn a lot about your limits, personality and coping mechanisms. For example, I can sleep through any alarm when it goes off at 6am and I'm already sleep deprived no matter how loud it is. From this I also learned that I can get ready and out to the door in 5 minutes if I need to. I also learned that when the engine light is orange you can drive, but when it's red you have to stop. That last one is complete sarcasm, but for all you Canadian team members who were down there you will understand why that is funny! I also learned that I am pretty good at smiling and pushing through sleepiness and exhaustion. I may not be the most coherent or be very good at putting sentences together, but I can still get things done efficiently and effectively. I have also become quite a proficient power-napper, and happily got a few minutes of sleep many times waiting for the grid to launch, waiting for the pilots to land and after a shower before dinner. I love naps. On a more serious note though, I learned that when put in a stressful situation I'm pretty good at staying calm and working through it logically. I'm also pretty decent at diffusing stressful situations, usually by cracking some terrible joke or awkward comment but hey whatever works. I also reinforced my love for adventure and travel. I live for those random excursions that end up being the best moments of a trip, but more so I live for going to new places and seeing new things. Which is why now I don't say I hope to travel the world some day, I say I will travel the world :)
Had to write in the dust on the Jeep's dashboard...

People have a way of touching your life in ways that you would never expect. There are so many people that I might in Uvalde, from there and from around the world, that have impacted my life and I will never forget. There are the countless friends I made that can make me laugh in a split second, go on midnight ice cream adventures with, drive donuts around the airport with, play intense frisbee games with, learn about guns with, take lunch breaks with, watch airplane movies with, hide in cars from the dust with, have life chats with and of course fly planes with. These are the people that I hope will always be in my life, the ones that I'll stay in touch with and visit whenever I can because they each have a place in my heart. There is the completely unexpected person who walked into my near the end of the contest and changed everything that I would fly to the other side of the world in a heartbeat to see. Somehow in a week together we managed to have an insane amount of adventures and so many laughs that my cheeks were permanently sore. There are the incredible pilots from around the world that I was fortunate enough to meet that inspire me to chase my dreams and do what I love. They made me remember why you should never do something halfway, if you're going to do it put in your everything and you will succeed. It was also such a honour to meet them, after all they are the legends that I have heard stories about since I was a little kid! And now some of them know me by name, some have even had life talks over a beer with me... it is unreal now looking back at some of the people that  got to talk to every day like it was normal. Then there is the Canadian Team, my family for the month but more importantly my support system for the month. They were there with a funny story when I needed cheering up, water when I looked like I was about to pass out, company when I was alone, knowledge when I had questions and a car when I needed a ride (another joke for them). While my relationship with each pilot and crew member is different, they are each one that I will cherish for the rest of my life because without them none of this would have happened.

I have to take a moment to say thank you to Nick and Christine. They not only let me help them everyday but they voluntarily put up with me for three weeks straight! It was an honour to be able to be crew for them and I am so thankful to have had that opportunity. I have to say, it was really awesome being able to help the people that I have grown up around at our gliding club-I still remember being a little kid and being completely is awe of the two of them! From breakfast at the Kettle every morning to hiding from the dust in the ac of the car, to the infamous retrieve it sure was a month of fun adventure and countless memories. Go ST!!

So things that stand out to me from the last week of the contest:
-The flying of course! As per typical Uvalde, the weather was amazing. They had insanely long flights, +500km and crazy speeds. They came up with a really cool statistic at the last meeting; if you add together the distances of everyones flights you could make it to the moon and back and still have some km's left over, how cool is that :D The weather held up until the closing ceremonies too which was great, it did get a little stormy looking a few days but like usual it all bypassed Uvalde. It's a little storage, it will rain 20 miles away but it never rains there...
-The international party night! More like the international booze night though... There was about 14 teams that set up table in the big tent at the airport on the Tuesday night and had food/booze from their countries set up for people to try. Everyone had a great time touring around the table and checking out what people ad brought which was a pretty big variety. You had everything from Belgian beer to Italian pasta to beer and Macdonalds (American table...stereotypes!). But I think people had the most fun trying whatever kind of alcohol was being served at each table, and boy was there a whole life of different things. What was great about that night though was how it really brought everyone together and people from different teams were all brought together to hang out and talk. Everywhere you looked countries were mixing with each other and great friendships were being made. Quite a successful night!
-The mid-air collision. When Ed called me that afternoon to ask me to go back to the field because their had been an accident I actually felt my heart stop. It had been something that everyone was afraid of happening, and was every teams worst nightmare. Thankfully though both pilots were okay (not so much the planes but that's alright) and neither of them was a Canadian. The 15m class task was cancelled for the day so they all came home and I think I can speak for all the crew that we were very happy to have them coming home and land. What really struck a chord with me was at the morning meeting the next day and the two pilots involved had a good talk and were shaking hands and hugging-there was no hard feelings and they were both just happy to be there in one piece. It was very powerful.
-The last pilots meeting. Everyone has this strange mix of sad and happy going on that you could feel the minute you walked into the room. Sad because this was it, it was all ending and everyone had been having such a good time, happy though because everyone was starting to get really tired and exhausted from so much heat, flying and constantly being on the go.
Team Canada table

-The final party, also known as the Farewell Fiesta! What a night, those pilots (and crew) sure know how to party when there's no more flying! It was a great night and a chance to have one last hoorah before everyone would be leaving the nest day. What really hit me was the difference between this party and the opening party: first, everyone has massive smiles plastered on their faces, second, everyone was mixing and talking with other teams. The opening party had been fun but everyone pretty much stuck to the crowd of people they knew (mostly their own team), whereas this time it was a jumble of countries and teams all over the place. It was great to see how everyone had branched out and made such good friends with the others! It was really like everyone just came together, bonded by this once-in-a-lifetime experience. I ended up closing out the night with some of the Australian, South African and Austrian teams who I gave up trying to keep up with after the third round of shots was brought to the table... I think it's a pilot thing to have an impressively high alcohol tolerance. It was a definitely one of the best nights though and I had a blast!
-The closing ceremonies. Most notably, it rained. Yes, it RAINED in Uvalde! Shock. The locals were ecstatic because they were in a stage 4 drought at this point and us foreigners didn't care because we didn't have to fly. It was a bit of a bummer though because everything was set up outside so we had to put up with a drizzle through the entire ceremony. Most notably was the flyover from the P-51, Waco, Pawnee and Cub right in the middle of the prayer again (you boys have impeccable timing). Prizes were awarded to pilots with Cheshire cat size grins, team photos were taken, belt buckles handed out (I wanted one SO bad-they were gorgeous!) and many hugs goodbye were given. It was actually so sad saying goodbye to everyone because the majority of the people I still have no idea when I will see again. Poland 2014 everyone? Our team was all leaving that day too so I had to say be to them swell because I wasn't headed out until the next day! Sad Sonia.
Rain, pilots&crew and the flag circle

-Driving out of Uvalde. I knew it was going to be hard to leave, but I never imagined it would be that hard. Poor Edward had to deal with me crying most of the car ride to San Antonio...what a trooper. I was leaving behind what had become my home over the past month, friends that had gotten so used to having in my everyday life and a town and airport that I had grown to love. It really felt like I was leaving home, which has never happened to me before. Normally I'm sad to leave a vacation spot but this was different. Everything we drove by I tried to memorize because I don't know when I'll see any of it next, I don't want to loose my mental picture of that special little town. Having an entire day to wait at the airport didn't help the sadness either, my flight didn't leave until 6 and we got into San Antonio at 9:30. I lost it when the plane took off too...poor guy sitting next to me didn't know what to do. It was in that instant that I really hit me that it was all over, that I was really leaving. The trip home was a bit of an adventure too, Chicago has massive thunderstorms which delayed all the flights so we left at 1:30am instead of 11:30. Oh and it was freeeeeezing cold! After being in 45 degrees for a month (which actually felt normal by the end of it), 20 is a major shock to your system. I'm not ashamed to say I wore jeans and hoodies around the first few days I was home because I couldn't handle the cold.

Looking back and writing things down it's hitting me all over again what an incredible month that was. So many memories, friendships and adventures that I will cherish for the rest of my life. And 1200 pictures just incase I forget anything...ahem. The one thing that I think is hilarious is that I only have 1 picture with myself in it, and maybe 20 that have people in them. Typical me. I really need to stop doing that though, I have no pictures of all these incredible people that came into my life! So frustrating. Oh well I guess that just means I'll have to see them again soon so we can take pictures :) I have crazy amounts of airplane and sky photos though, go figure! So here's to the 32nd Annual World Gliding Championships-soemthing I will never forget and always hold close to my heart.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Updates soon to come!

Howdy ya'll (yep I'm bringing Texas speak back to Ottawa with me)! Just wanted to update that yes, I will be doing a big post on the second half of the contest, and yes it will be soon. I want to write something decent and it's taking me quite a bit longer then planned, but I'l have it up tomorrow or the day after. Hope all of you who travelled long ways home had a had a safe trip, I had a wonderful time meeting all of you!

Monday, August 20, 2012

America's Most Wanted

So I've heard all of these stories about how serious the law enforcement is in the States, especially in Texas, but I never expected to actually come into contact with it... I have however come into very close contact with said enforcement twice since I've been here, both times within about 12 hours of each other. Go figure right? But not to worry, it turned out well both times because no, I was not doing anything crazy illegal or dumb. Just bad timing and luck on my part apparently!

Thursday Night:
So one thing about me when I travel, is that I'm terrified of loosing my passport. I never want to have to be that person stuck in a foreign country with a stolen passport going what the heck do I do know! So I try to always leave my passport tucked away safe somewhere, and I definitely don't carry it around on my on a daily basis because I know I'd leave it somewhere by accident. Apparently I should rethink this when driving around Southern Texas though... It all started with Stuart (crewing for the Australian team) and I decided to get out of town and away from the light pollution to check out the stars because they're pretty incredible down here. So we drove maybe 30 miles out of town (a little bit further then we thought we had), pulled up next to a ranch in the middle of no where and hopped out to do some star gazing. And wow were they ever beautiful! You could clearly see hundreds of them, and even a huge part of the milky way, absolutely incredible. It's easy to get lost in the sky when it looks like that and it got kind of late so we headed back, and it was about 10 miles out of Uvalde that we hit trouble. Because that area is fairly close to the border, they have these border patrol checkpoints set up aroud on main highways and roads that everyone has to stop through, usually it only take a minute or two. Actually we had gone through one on the way to retrieve Nick and had no problems! I had totally forgotten there was one on this side of the road back into town and it was a bit or a surprise to be turning off into it all of a sudden. It was past midnight at this point though and the checkpoint was completely empty, so all attention was on us. This is the wonderful start that the conversation took:
Boarder guard: Citizenship?
Us: Canadian and Australian
Guard: Passports please
Us: *pregnant pause* We don't have them on us, they're back in Uvalde. We just drove out of town to look at stars!
Guard: You need to have your passports on you. I'm going to need you to pull over off to the left please.
Oh good. So over we pull, he takes our ID's and heads inside with them. Meanwhile there was two other guards standing around while a third one and a dog sniffed around the car (thank goodness there was nothing interesting for the dog!). The two asked us what we were doing here (weird combination in Uvalde right?) so we started explaining about the World's and what our part there was. Turns out both of them had heard about what was going on an were really interested in it! We had a good chat with them about gliding and how it works, what the contest was all about and how long we had been there for. They were really friendly and relaxed which made it a little bit better, but then the third one came back out walking with quite a purpose. Turns out they don't enjoy having to look up ID and did a whole background check on us and where he had travelled...impressive how easily and quickly they have access to all of that. Then there was a whole bunch of talk about records being unclear and having to dig through stuff in files, which was followed by some sentence involving the word "deported". Bad bad word. I mean we both love our own countries but we'd like to go back out of free will thank you! He didn't really seem to have grounds to do that though, but he did give us a huge talking to about not having our passports and all that jazz, making sure it was clear that we knew how easy it would be to get shipped home. It was pretty nerve wracking that's for sure! Finally we got the ID's back and were sent on our way (with waves and byes from the other two guards) and off we went. Never been so happy to see the sign for Uvalde! I mean I love a good adventure but not that much of one. So note to self, if I'm ever back in that part of Texas, bring a passport with you the minute you head out of town. It did give us a pretty funny story for the next day at the field though that for sure.

Friday morning:
On my way back to the house after the meeting I was passing a car that was swerving a bit and making me nervous to drive behind, but I made the mistake of accelerating a little bit over the 50mph speed limit. Within about 10 seconds of getting in front of this guy there was a cop behind me with its lights flashing, oh yay! Not so much. So I pull over in the church parking lot, and I'm sweating bullets because I don't have my passport on me. Cop comes over and tells me I was going 54 in a 50, I try and explain why but he's not having it. Takes my license, and goes to pull up the vehicle registration and all that good stuff. Turns out I had actually accidentally given him my health card by mistake instead of my drivers license (same pocket of my wallet, my bad), but he didn't realize that until about 5 minutes later when he came back and was curious about us driving with "a health permit"... I quickly corrected my mistake and he seemed relieved that it made much more sense now. That was just the start though, because apparently he noticed that the little registration sticker on the front windshield was expired. Bad news bears. I should have checked that, but I never even thought of it! Another lesson learned. So I was in trouble, because that means the car is technically illegally driving around, and in theory he could have impounded the car or taken me in. Thankfully he asked an open ended question that let me explain about the gliding contest and why I was here, which seemed to warm him up a little. I may have played the poor innocent canadian girl card a little bit too... hey I need to be arrested like a need a hole in the head. After much talking and deliberating on his part he decided to let me off with a warning on my "speeding", and let me go as long as I promised to go straight home (which was like 6 blocks away). Which I realize was really lucky! Man was I ever happy to drive away. He did make it very clear though that "they'd be around so I had better not be driving the car until it was sorted out", just incase I felt like being a crazy idiot and testing my luck after that... Not happening. So straight home I went! So note to self, never go over the speed limit, even by a little, and alway always check every date on a car before you drive it. No more cops please!

So now if you see by face on America's Most Wanted you'll know why. Let's just hope they don't have some red x on my name when I try to get through customs today to get home! Funny jokes right... I'd like them to stay as jokes though, I've had enough law excitement for one trip.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Retrieve

Okay so I finally have the time to sit down and actually write about Fridays adventure. I kept hearing about all of these crazy retrieves that people have here in Texas, and now I finally have one on my own! Though I would be lying if I was this positive about it the whole time it was happening...

So Friday looked like a great flying day, but there was a threat of thunderstorms to the North (storms almost always come down from the hill country). And boy did we ever start seeing those thunderstorms as of about 5pm, and they just kept getting darker, closer, and getting more lightening. The 15m class was the last to start, and Nick had started on the later side, so he ended up getting chased down south by the storm and couldn't make it back through, hence the land out. The same thing happened to quite a few of the guys who started later on in the afternoon; they all got cut off by these massive storms rolling through. Ironically though, while they got an inch of rain up in the North, not a drop of rain hit Uvalde and the surrounding area. And so it was at about 8pm that the phone rang and we got the spot tracker message that Nick had landed out about 35 miles outside of Cotulla. He said he had landed right nest to the El Caballero ranch airstrip ("caballero" being the Spanish word for "cowboy")For those of you who don't know Texas, Cotulla is a very small town to the south of Uvalde kind of in the middle of no where, so 35 miles outside of there is very much the middle of no where. It was going to be an interesting retrieve that's for sure because it was about a 3 hour drive one way. Because we knew it was going to be a difficult retrieve and we don't really know Texas, Christina and I enlisted Conrad to come with us, which would end up being a saving grace! He will probably run away screaming if I ever ask him to help with something again though...

It was about 8:15 when we finally left the field, trailer rolling and GPS programmed with the coordinates and headed off South. And I know better then to blindly trust a GPS (technology often fails me...) so I had pulled out a good old fashioned road map and checked to make sure that it was sending us to the right place, which it was. Good right? Nope. While Conrad had a nice nap in the back, I dozed off for a bit too and somewhere along way the GPS coordinates got changed to ones across the border in Mexico. So it started sending us to Mexico. And know when we figured it out? When we were in Laredo, about 50 feet from the border crossing and the GPS was telling us to go through. Yep that was not our finest moment. We finally got the trailer turned around and in a parking lot thanks to Conrad's excellent trailer backing up skills (for lack of a better term) because we had been stuck on a one way entry into the border crossing. I was trying to reprogram the GPS to the proper coordinates but it kept saying we had to go to Mexico, so we put it on a time out and punched the coordinates into the GPS on Conrad's iPhone, which thankfully knew where we needed to go. Good news! Bad news; we had gone over an hour to far south. So our nice little detour down to Laredo had just added 2 hours to our already long trip, it was going to be a good night.

Eventually we made it to Catulla, and headed out into the wild to track down Nick. It was really spooky to be driving around there because there is nothing other then a few oil drill camps and the odd ranch; it's completely silent and pitch black other then the few lights from those places. We started getting close to Nick at about 12:45am, but we were starting to have to drive on little back dirt roads through ranches to get to him. Thankfully the first to gates we needed to get through we open, but our luck ended there. It got to a point where every single road we went down ended in a massive padlocked gate, and we were just driving around in circles. Insert Conrad's trailer driving skills again because making a 3 point turn on a single lane dirt road in Texas bush with a 20 foot trailer is not exactly a walk in the park. It was so frustrating because we had Nicks coordinates, and we could see them on the iPhone on google earth, but we couldn't get to them. We tried all the roads we could to get to him but we couldn't get through. And you don't want to be cutting the locks on gates in Texas that's for sure.

Meanwhile poor Nick had been sitting in his glider for hours, alone and in the dark with God only knows what roaming around in the fields. We got a message from him at one point that scorpions were circling the glider, just incase it wasn't already exciting enough. At this point we had been driving around for so long trying to find him that we were running out of ideas, and realized it was time to call back to Uvalde for help. It was about 2am at this point, and we were down to less then a quarter tank of gas (that last has station we passed 40 miles back? yeah we should have stopped at it). Fortunately our ID badges had numbers to contact the contest headquarters on and we got through to a fellow Canadian  Brian Millner who would help us get out of this pickle. We also had support coming from Ed who we had been keeping up to date and was waiting up for us to reach Nick. A phone call from Headquaters to the Uvalde Sheriff got them in contact with the Sheriff of the area that we were in, who managed to get in touch with the ranch owner of El Caballero (who's gate we needed to get through). All this took a while though and we had gotten to a point where we couldn't afford to waste gas driving around, so we stopped and got out to look at the stars. Because we were so far away from any light pollution, it was so clear that you could clearly see hundreds of stars, the milky way and even a handful of shooting stars! Okay well I only saw one shooting star, but Conrad sure saw a bunch. It was a nice little break from the stress of the whole ordeal to just lay down on the hood of the car and get lost in the sky for a minute. Then thankfully I got a phone call from the ranch owner saying he was sending his son and a ranch hand to open the gate for us! He just had to call their phone enough to wake them up because it was almost 3am at this point...

I don't think any of us had ever been so happy to see a set of car headlights coming at us on the other side of a gate before. And plus it had gotten a little spooky sitting in the pitch black in front of the gate for a bit waiting for them to show up, all those opening scenes of horror movies start to play through our mind. I almost had a heart attack when some kind of little animal scurried across the roof of the car, much to Conrad and Christine's amusement. I startle easily on a good day but stick me in that kind of situation and I'll jump a foot in the air at anything. Oopsies? So the ranchers son and ranch hand lead us back into the ranch and to the airstrip, which just like he said, Nick was on the other side of the fence from in a soft field. Seeing Nick and the glider come out of the darkness was such a massive relief at that point, we finally found him! Ironically enough he hadn't landed at the airstrip because he was afraid of getting stuck behind a locked gate... the airstrip gate itself wasn't locked but the ranch gate sure was... What are the chances? We got the glider de-rigged and back in the box in record time, and thankfully didn't have to unhitch the car to use it's headlights because the ranchers stayed and shone their truck lights on the glider and trailer for us. They were such good sports about the whole thing, especially considering we had woken them up at 3am. All said and done it was just before 4am when we finally pulled out and started the drive back home. And we did have enough gas to make it back to Catulla and the nearest gas station! We did not however have an American Visa card to be able to pay at the pump (the station was long closed for the night), so it was Conrad to the rescue (again!) with his american credit card. Since everyone else had driven at that point, I volunteered to drive the 2 and a half hours back to Uvalde, but man I sure could have used to tooth picks to keep my eyes open. But we made it back all safe and sound, just as the sun was coming up at about 6:15. People were starting their days, and even coming to rig their gliders, just as we were getting home and wanting to go to bed... It was a pretty sunrise though, even though it was the second one I had seen in one day because I had been up at 6:30am the past morning! I took a picture of the clock in the kitchen when we got home, it was 6:25 I believe, but I can't seem to find it. I had completely forgotten to take any picture of the revive until then! Which I'm actually quite sad about. But I've got the story so I don't mind not having pictures quite as much. And so we went to take a brief nap before having to get up and going back to the airport for flying that say, the rooster going off at the house next door that I usually wake up to actually lulled me to sleep...

And so there it is, my crazy Texas retrieve! The rest of the story about what Saturday was like after all that will be included in my sum up of contest days 6-10 that I'll put up either tonight or tomorrow. And I'll be cleaning, cooking and helping with anything I can for the rest of my time here to try and make this up to Conrad, because while he was an invaluable help, I owe him big time for getting him into this adventure! Oh and I forgot to put in before, just as we we leaving he and Christine went out to check something on the trailer and low and behold there was a rattle snake curled up, head up, right there next to them. Scary right? We had just been walking all over the place there in really dim lighting taking the plane apart... Nick and I were both quite happy to have been in the car.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Wind storms, cloud streets and mustangs

Okay so I knew that once the contest started life would get kind of crazy, apparently I underestimated the level of craziness though. Hence the complete fail on my part of updating this blog, which I am very sorry about! So this is going to be me trying to sum up the first 4 days of the contest, I’ll try my best not to leave anything out but some of the smaller details are escaping me. 

The past days have however followed the same kind of pattern so I won’t bore you with repeating myself over and over about that. All that has really changed from the daily routine is the times that things happen because they are now flying much bigger and longer tasks. Grid is at noon, earliest launch has been at 12:20 but it was later the second contest day. Their tasks have all been upwards of 500km so that means they are usually flying on task for at least 4 hours, almost 5 on day 3. That puts them down on the ground fairly late in the day, somewhere in the ball park of 6:15-7:30. It’s kind of fun to be able to watch the sun rise in the morning as you get the plane ready and then watch it set as you put the plane away for the night. That does mean very long days though, and we’re all getting pretty worn out. But the rest day is set for Sunday so we get a break soon!  

Day 1
I don’t think anything particularly exciting happened except the fact that it was the first contest day. You could literally feel everyones energy that morning getting ready and at the pilots meeting-they were all so antsy to finally start flying for points. They have also started a cool thing where the winner of each class gets to have the flag in the colour of their classes grid sheets on the team table so that everyone in the room can find the winners at a glance. They are doing the same for the winner of the team cup from the past day (the team that scored the highest overall) except they get a texas flag for the day! Here’s hoping that we have it sitting at the team Canada table one day.

Day 2
Another day of contest flying, and quite a good one at that. We had some incredibly strong gust fronts come through at the end of the day though and our tent took a bit of a beating...

We tried tying it down again but in the end the safest bet was to take it down for the night. We were all impressed that there were no flying cows and glider trailers at one point actually. But the guys had great flights (and had fun!) so it all worked out. The sky did look pretty threatening at one point though but it completely avoided us; that’s the crazy Texas weather for ya’ll! 
Stormy skies!

And as a side note to the contest goings on, I have realized that I know use both eh and ya’ll in sentences now. Strange combination right? They’re both just so easy to use that it’s hard not too! I’m going to get some funny looks when I get back home though... I’ll just start walking around Ottawa in my boots and hat saying ya’ll and see how it goes. My excuse is that we lived here when I was learning how to talk so I had the accent as a kid and that’s why it comes back to me so easily. And I’m sticking with that.

That night I had dinner with our fellow Canadian Willem, his Swiss team and Conrad which was a lot of fun. We went to that fantastic Mexican place down the road which I hadn't been back too so I was happy with that. Dinner was quite entertaining though because we had English, Swiss and Spanish going trying to get everyone into the conversation, I think the poor waitress was completely lost! I also learned that Horchata (a Spanish rice milk drink) is actually very good. really sweet but good. It’s kind of like a thinner less eggy version of egg nog with a hint of cinnamon. If that makes any sense. If you get the chance to try it do it!

Day 3
Another good day of flying, once again a crazy long task of something around 600km. We have yet to have a “typical Uvalde weather day though” since the contest started and every morning we wake up to a clear blue sky. It always ends up being covered in big cloud streets though by the afternoon so hey we’re not complaining. That night was also the night of the American team party which was a lot of fun! In true Texas style they had a longhorn bull there (names Oreo...go figure) and were serving chili dogs and beer. Everyone seemed to really enjoy getting a chance to relax and have a good time with old and new friends. I have to say it’s pretty amazing to see all of these people from 24 different countries all sitting around talking like they’ve known each other for years, it’s something that is really unique about the gliding community. 
Cloud streets anyone?

What everyone was most excited about though was the two rides in the P-51 mustang that Mark Hufftutler offered up for silent auction. I really wish I was rich sometimes. They had it parked outside the tent for everyone to admire; it’s in absolutely immaculate condition. A little back story to it is that Chuck Yager has actually flown that plane in particular and asked for it to be painted exactly like his Glamorous Glen was, so they did! I think there may have been a little puddle of drool around it by the time it went back to the hanger... The best part though was when Conrad hopped in and started the engine for us, it was dark at that point so you could see the blue flames coming out of the sides-so cool! Just incase I was unsure I now know what I’m buying when I win the lottery. I got to have some fun later on to because Aaron let me hop on the tow vehicle when they went out to tow it back into the hanger at the end of the night. Pretty unreal to be driving pulling a mustang behind you. I realize now though that I still haven’t taken a picture of it, so I will have to do that tomorrow and put one up. They usually have the Huff air hanger open during the day so you can go in and look at all of their ridiculously cool toys. Definitely my favorite place at the airport. We decided to go for a walk around the runways later that night too which was really nice, the stars here are stunning and that was still with the light pollution from the airport lights. We did have to keep an eye out for rattlers though, or correction I, the paranoid Canadian, kept an eye out and jumped about 3 feet in the air when I saw a smudge on the runway. Not my finest moment. It was kind of spooky walking through the rows of gliders that late at night though with no people and cars around; it was such a contrast to the bustling place it is all day. I also got to see the Uvalde town dunk tank; yes they actually have one that works and is used fairly often! Priceless.

Day 4
Another typical contest day with nothing too exciting or out of the ordinary. Actually no, yesterday’s landings were absolutely insane. Everyone cam back within about half an hour of each other! That’s a hundred gliders on two runways. I think the most we counted was 14 gliders in the pattern all at once, and that was just the ones on downwind, final, touching down and rolling. They were stacking up at the end of the runway almost faster then we could pull them off and out of the way, but the ground crew does a great job of making sure it never turns into a complete mess. It is stressful as all get out though because every second counts when that many are landing at the same time. One day I’ll have to bring my camera out and take some shots, but I can’t make any promises because it’s going to be very hard to find time to take any.  The guys had a good day though, and they all seemed to have had fun so that’s what counts!

There is a much shorter task today because of the threat of thunder storms to the North. The tasks sent them way down south to avoid this, but they’re still getting them to come home around 5pm just to make sure. Which means that I should probably go get my stuff together because it’s already 4. It’s amazing how fast time flies when you never stop moving and doing things, I don’t know where the days go! Looking out of my window it seems to still be blue skies though so maybe we’ll get lucky. Dan the weather man (yes it rhymes and yes I still think it’s funny) says there should be another gust front coming through though so I think we will take the tent down again just to be safe. We found out after the last one that it actually split parts of the poles in half...duct tape to the rescue. I also learned today that apparently the morning meetings and launches are being filmed and streamed on the contest website, so go check it out! The launch is pretty amazing to watch, I’ll do a detailed post about it with pictures later on this week. 

That’s all that I can think of for now, though knowing me the minute I post this I’ll think of 10 things I forgot. More updates to come tomorrow, from now on I will make sure to post every day while they are up flying. 
Canadian pride :)

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Let the contest begin!

The weather was not so great yesterday compared to what it usually is down here and so Nick was the only one who flew. He did have a god flight though, better then he was originally expecting that's for sure! And fortunately he wasn't back too late in the evening because last night was the Pre-Competition Party at the local fairgrounds. They managed to get all 500+ of us in a massive building there for a true night of Texas fun. There was bandanas and straw hats at the door, texas flags on the tables, brisket and refried beans for dinner and a live country band. It was a lot of fun! Apparently you learn how to dance before you can walk here; the locals pulled a whole bunch of us out on the dance floor to stop the night away to some "easy" dances (the chicken dance at the end was a little bit more my speed, I've got two serious left feet). Needless to say it was an adventure of an evening, even though it did end fairly early because we all had to be up bright and early this morning for the parade and opening ceremonies.

Now I had been told that Uvalde likes parades, but I don't think any of us were prepared for the magnitude of it. Every team is sponsored by a business in town (we are sponsored by the electrical company AEP Texas) and so it was up to each business to make a float for their team. And here I was thinking a parade meant everyone walking around a block holding flags... There was everything from an old firetruck to a tractor pulling a trailer that had been decked out with tables and chairs in the parade. Team Canada has a nice big red pickup truck that we all pilled in the back of and decked out with Canadian flags.
Team Canada! (Christine and Annemarie were inside the truck in the AC)
The parade started in the centre of town at the First State Bank because they had a huge parking lot that we could all get ourselves organized in. From there the floats followed by the marching band made its way all the way down the main street to the stadium at the other end of town in alphabetical order by team (it was a good couple miles!). The streets in the heat of town were actually lined with people, all friendly and waving and welcoming us into their town. People had chair out on their front lawns, families were out in full force and even peoples dogs and cats came out to watch the show. We had a blast! I have to say it was pretty awesome to be sitting there with the flags representing Canada-it was a bit of a surreal moment. Once we got to the stadium they got us all lined up in alphabetical order by team again so we could walk in and around the track as a group. The crews went halfway around the track and then peeled off to the side to go up to the bleachers and watch so it was just the pilots and the team captains that stood in the official places around the stage. 

The teams all formed a semi-circle around the stage that had all of the contest officials.

Right as we sat down and the ceremony was about to being the rumbling of an airplane engine started getting closer and we got buzzed right overhead by Conrad in the Huffstutler's P-51 mustang. It is a beautiful plane! I wonder what I need to get a ride... Unfortunately I don't have a good picture of it because it came too fast for me to get my camera out an on. That was definitely a way to start the contest off with a bang. The ceremony itself was MC'd by Mark Huffstutler who did a wonderful job, and we heard speeches from the town major, head judge, contest director, SSA representative and the president of the IGC (international gliding council) who was the one to officially pronounce the contest open. They were all just so happy to have everyone hear, it was very nice to heard all the wonderful things they had to say about the contest and the gliding community! After that everyone was all around taking group pictures and such (hey all the pilots were dressed nicely and clean...a rare occasion) and then we had the rest of the afternoon off to relax. I think everyone is maximizing that relax part because after today there definitely won't be much time for that! And that's pretty much all I've got to report from the past two days, starting tomorrow though things are going to kick into over gear so I will definitely have some stories and photos to share of the first official contest day. It has finally begun!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Teams of the world

For those of you asking, here's a list of all 24 countries competing in the worlds! For details on the pilots, planes, classes and team captains check out the official page on the Worlds website

-Czech Republic
-Great Britain
-South Africa
-United States

Saturday is the opening ceremony and when all of the country flags get put up at the field so I'll be able to put some photos up that night.

A day in the life...

So yesterday was the first day we got to practice with all three pilots flying and all crew at the airport, and I have to say it went quite well! We really needed this opportunity to see what it would be like when the official contest starts and iron out any kinks that would come along. We seemed to have sucessfully  done this so fingers crossed it goes this smoothly for the rest of the contest! Here's a breakdown of today which was a fairly typical contest day minus the fact that they had a slightly shorter task then they usually would here (3 hours 15 min instead of 4+ hours).

6:30am : Alarm goes off and I contemplate throwing it across the room and pretending I never heard it. But I do manage to roll out of bed knowing the there is coffee in the somewhat near future.

7:15am : At the airport ready to get to covers off and water up ST.
Morning overcast (the best flying days here start off like this!)

8:30-9am : Pull out and head to the grid, pass over the scales to get weighed and pull into staging position off to the side of the grid.

9am : Breakfast at the Kettle, good food and fast service. There's always other tables of pilots around, including our good friends Sergei and his Russian team. They always come in just as we finish eating so the ongoing joke is that we only eat coffee and water...

10:15am : Pilots meeting in the gymnasium on the Southwest Texas Junior College Campus. Pilots and Team Captains sit at their country tables and crew sit up in the bleachers. I keep forgetting to bring my camera to take a picture so tomorrow I'll try and remember so I can put one up here-there's a whole lot of people in that gym! 

10:45am : Team Canada meeting after the main meeting to discuss weather, tasks, strategy, crew organization, announcements of the day, etc.

11:30pm :After the meeting it's back to the house if there's time to grab a quick break from the heat in some AC. Lately I've been getting back at the same time as the guys do for lunch so we pop on the Olympics for a bit and see what going on. The only problem is I can't find any Canadian coverage here at all! And they only have one channel of Olympics here (compared to the 10 I'm used to back at home) and the only sports I've seen them show so far is swimming and gymnastics with a slight break for a water polo game one time.

12:40pm : Grid time. It varies each day depending on the weather and when the sky starts "working". It was such a late grid time yesterday because of this (before it was usually noon).  
15m and 18m grid on the runway-and this is only about half the planes because not every flies on the practice days!

1:40pm : Begin the launch! All weather dependant again on what time it starts, but once it gets going it only takes about an hour to get all there guys and the open class that is gridded on the taxiway up and in the air. With 12 towplanes there's never a moment where nothing is happening. It also helps when the pilots already has the canopy closed, rope hocked up and wing dolly off the minute their towplane lands! The runway at the taxiway both launch at the same time so the towplanes are divided between the two, landing on either side of the runway.
You can tell by the clouds that this was taken on a different day, but I wanted to show the simultanious launch on both the runway and the taxiway. Here we've got an self-launching open class glider taking off at the same time as a 15m glider is being towed up. If you can see there is also a towplane taxiing into position at the front of the 15m class and another one about to turn final in the air.

3pm: Last gliders launched and it's back to Canada base at the airfield to monitor the radios for our pilots start times. We listen on 3 different frequencies at this point to make sure we catch everything: 1: our Canadian team frequency, 2: the airport frequency, 3: the safety and emergencies frequency. It's a good things there's at least 4 of us there because that's a lot of stuff to be paying attention to! Once the pilots call us their start times we e-mail them in to the scorers office and wait for the confirmation e-mail back. 

3:30pm: Our last pilot started out on course so now we head back to our Team Captains room to continue monitoring the radios, communicate with the pilots giving them weather updates and following their Spot trackers online. For those who don't know a Spot is a tracking device that send out coordinated every 10 minutes and plots it on a map, so we can watch this trace and see them as they move along on course. From here we'll swap out people while they're flying so we each get about an hour to get groceries, do laundry, run errands, etc.

6:30pm : ST was the first to start and is the first to call 30km from the airport so we pack up and move back to Canada base at the airport.
Glider passing overhead dumping his water in preparation to land. The weather is so good here that almost every gliders is filled up to full capacity to maximize use of the condition!

7pm : All three gliders are back safe and sounds on the ground and are being washed, getting their covers put on and being tied down for the night. The pilots download their flight logs and submit them online to the scorers office. The internet sure saves us a lot of running around to hand things in!

7:30pm : All the gliders are "tucked in" for the night (we seem to talk about them like people sometimes I'm realizing...) and everyone starts to make their way back to their respective hotels. Now today was a pretty early day, usually we don't finish up until 8 at the earliest, but it could be as last at 9 some nights if the daylight permits.

After that it's up to everyone what they do with their night. Some night we will get the whole team together for dinner but most nights everyone kind of just does their own things. That being said there will always be a little group of Canadians at one of the restaurants in town for dinner to join! I try and get to bed at a decent hour every night because I know that the next morning is going to start very early. I'm not always very successful at doing so though... And that's a day in my life here at the worlds! 

Monday, July 30, 2012

Playing catchup

So it's only the second week and I'm already 5 days behind...I need to up my game. So here goes a sum up of the past week or so, a couple days of not doing much and 3 days of not stopping. The 25th was one of those days of not doing much, Dave was registering so I had the day to go around and take some pictures, and spend some time at the pool which was quite nice! Dave flew the 26th so I spent the day out at the field. It was a pretty good flying day and he flew another 500km. Such good weather here and it's only going to get better as the contest goes on! Ed, our esteemed team captain also pulled in today so the team is starting to come together. The airport was closed to us glider people on the 27th and so we had the first safety briefing and meetings that morning. Everyone else pulled in that morning so we were happy to have Nick, Christine, Jerzy, Maria and Dan all with us at the meeting. Go team Canada!
F1 all ready for a great day of soaring

The 28th was the first official practice day, and that's when all the real fun began. We're now starting to nail down a routine as a team, and by the time the contest starts we should be a well oiled machine. The past three days I've been helping either Nick or Dave, whoever was flying that day. It means early mornings and long days out in the heat until 8 at night, but I'm having so much fun! It is an unreal experience. The amount of pilots and crew is crazy, there's literally hundreds of people here. The tie down field has an impressive amount of trailers in it, all organized perfectly so that everyone has plenty of room to rig and pull out. I'll have to climb up on something tall to try and get a picture of the magnitude of it. Only problem is that some people seem to like to speed down the dirt paths which causes huge dust clouds...not so nice for the clean gliders. 

It's best to water and pull out to the runway early in the morning before it gets too hot, then have some down time for a quick breakfast before the morning pilots meeting at 10am every morning. They had to move the meeting to the gymnasium on the college campus because the auditorium was too small for all of us! For clarification there the Southwest Texas Junior College shares a fence with the airport and they have generously let us use some of their rooms and gym for out meetings. After the meeting it's time to get the last things together, get ourselves organized out at Canada base back at the tie down area and get out to the runway in time to pull out for grid time. 
Canada base (one of the only shelters on the field that has proved strong enough to withstand the winds at night!)

Grid and launch is a frenzy of activity, all happening incredibly efficiently without a hitch. The ground crew does a fantastic job launching, especially considering they're running around in 100 degree weather. Having 10-12 towplanes does help though...there's literally never a moment where a glider isn't taking off or a towplane isn't landing. This is one of those times that I'm glad to not be running or working the ground ops. The freshly paved runways are nice and smooth for the gliders but the dark black sure makes you feel like your shoes are going to start melting into the runway. Light, white clothes! Though it's only the first week and my sock, tshirt and short tan are already becoming quite prominent...I need to spend more time by the pool apparently. After launch we head back to Canada base and take shifts listening and working the radio and sending starting times in. It's really nice to have that little hour break to head back and grab some lunch in air conditioning! I have a whole newfound love and appreciation for AC, it is a saving grace out here. Then we're all back well before landing to get them off the runways safely and fast, because there is a TON of people all coming back within an hour. It's an incredible hour of contest finishes, water dumping and jam packed circuits that keeps pilots and crews alike aware and focused on the task at hand. When you have 10 gliders landing one after another in a line down the runway, a mistake it not an option. Needless to say, I have never seen that many gliders landing at the same time before, it's spectacular to watch. 
This was the stack up that happened within about a minute and a half!

Tomorrow I will try and make a more detailed description of the day, because honestly the past few days have all just melded into one big blur of airplanes and dust. So my apologies for the slightly scatterbrained and broad post that this was, but hey better then not writing anything at all right? And now it's time to sleep because 6am sure is going to come fast.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Airport days, mexican food and ant hills.

And again I find myself combining two days into one post, because Monday (day 4) I did not really do anything productive at all; which would have resulted in an extremely boring blog post. And while it would have provided good reading material for people looking to fall asleep on their keyboard, I chose to spare everyone else. Basically another day of errands, a hunt for souvenirs to bring back for friends and family and the search for the prefect birthday present for a certain sister of mine who I promised would be coming from Texas. Other then that the eventful part of my day was dinner with Aaron and Edward, where most importantly I learned that Don Marcilenos is actually not the best mexican food in town, but rather one of the worst...Aaron looked absolutely horrified when I mentioned that I thought it was good! But hey compared to the stuff we have in Ottawa it is. But now I've been told I have to go to a place on the other side of town because that seems to be the best mexican in Uvalde.

Today (Tuesday, Day 5) I finally got to spend a day at the airport! Dave Springford, F1, decided it was time to fly so off it was to make myself useful for the day. It was so good to be back out at the airport, and I was surprised by the amount of glider trailers and teams that are already here! We (being the Canadian team) are sandwiched nicely in between the Swedish team and what we think is the Russian teams spot. Putting the plane together turned out the be a bit of an adventure because there is an fire ant hill right under where the wing meets the fuselage... And it also turned out to be a bit more of an adventure when I tried to turn the hose off and turned it on stronger by mistake, completely soaking myself and splashing Virginia in the process too, oops! It ended up being Conrad's jeep to the rescue too because the tow ball on the back of the truck that Dave had rented was way to high to tow a glider, it came halfway up my leg! But we got F1 out to the taxiway and off to the side all set to go for launch at 1pm all safe and sound.

After a quick lunch it was time to launch everyone, about 30 which was a lot more then we expected! Many tow ropes and tow circuits later everyone was off and going like gangbusters towards to good clouds to the south. 

Uvalde provided it's beautiful cue dotted sky right on schedule as per usual. Dave had a great flight with some pretty fast speeds, check out his flight log on our team blog After that it was just washing they layers of dust off the glider and tucking it into it's overnight tie downs and covers (or airplane pyjamas as a certain Luke refers to them as which is much more fun) for the night and packing up. Then it was off to dinner at the Mexican restaurant recommended by Aaron, which he was right, has fantastic food. I can't for the life of me remember the name, or pronounce it for that matter, but I now know how to get to it so I'm all set! It does have an...interesting crowd of locals in it but hey it's good food. But of course because of the invasion of glider pilots there was 3 tables of pilots dotted around the room so, one tables of which I actually knew from the Pre-Worlds last year so it was all good. And now I am completely wiped out from the heat and am headed to bed! But it's definitely a good tired, and I still have a whole contest full of busy days at the airport ahead of me to look forward to. 

Monday, July 23, 2012

Cats, rivers and scenic lookouts

I've decided to combine days 2&3 into one post, because Saturday I did not really do anything at all. Which was quite nice I might add, after such a crazy day Friday it was nice to sleep in and relax. My afternoon considered of grocery shopping (the debate between Walmart or HEB continues), checking out the airport (so many glider trailers already there!) and getting my temporary membership at the country club (it has a pool, need I say more?). Pretty exciting stuff. Oh actually my excitement for the day walking out of the country club and hearing something rustling in the bushes, and here you are trained to be afraid of everything low to the gourd that moves, because chances are it bites. So while I am in the middle of panicking, it runs out of the buses and comes right at me! It was a cat. A little tiny black and white stripped cat. Panic moment over, and now I just feel silly. The cat was actually quite adorable and purred like a little airplane the minute I started petting it. Appropriate right?

Sunday however turned into a bit of an adventure. Edward decided that since I had never been to Garner State Park that we had to go see it. I didn't quite know what I was expecting, but it was definitely not this. Not only is the park absolutely massive, but it is packed full of people camping, swimming in the river, hiking the trails and picnicking in the sand. We hiked up a bit to a rock ledge and it turned out to have an amazing view of the rolling hills of west texas.

The hill did go much higher, but in that heat I have to say I was a wuss and decided not to go any higher. It really hits you when you start doing any physical exercise that your body does need that adjustment period to get used to coping with the extreme heat. After that we went dow to the river and did some exploring. While the was water this year (last year all the river beds were empty), it was not very deep, maybe was it deep in the middle, so most people just grab a tube and float down the river with friends for the afternoon. It looked like so much fun! It actually reminded me exactly of the "lazy rivers" that they  always have at water parks, only this one was really and incredibly picturesque.
We wandered around here for a bit, taking time to dip out feet in for a bit and man was that ever refreshing! I just wish I had had a bathing suit because it definitely would have felt nice to flop into the water after being in the sun for so long. After that we headed started to head home when Edward remembered there was another place with a lazy river like this nearby that usually wasn't as crowded. Turns out that a lot of other people knew about it too, it was even more crowded then the other one! So we decided to call it day and make our way home, taking a few detours on the way to catch come photos of the hills. I'm having a bit of a love affair with my new camera (Canon Rebel T3i for those of you wondering) and so any time I see a new light of angle to shoot I just can't resist. There's still so many settings I don't know about, so much to learn! So many pictures to take. A late dinner and a few episodes of River Monsters later (really creepy critters but once you start watching you totally get hooked) I was exhausted. I don't think I've slept as well as I do here in a very long time, something about the way the heat makes you sleep like a baby is just wonderful.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Airplanes, Mariachi bands and heat.

And so the adventure begins. Early. Very early. It was up at 3am in order to make it to the Ottawa airport before 4:30 in order to have plenty of time to go through customs and catch my 6am flight. I must say though, the terminal does give quite a nice view of the sun rising. The Tim Hortons lady however really needs to step up her game, when you have 20 people all needing coffee badly you might want to up it to a slightly faster snails pace...Finally with coffee in hand I get on the regional jet that will take me to Chicago, and from there catch my connecting flight into San Antonio. It’s just a little jet but it sure has power and we made it into Chicago 20 minutes early! After a slight adventure trying to navigate around Chicago airport (it has 6 concourses!!), I ended up in the awesome colourful light tunnel that crosses underneath the tar mack and found concourse C. And I had time to spare, it was going pretty well. So had packing my suitcase the night before for that matter- I managed to actually have room left over and could zip it up with ease (something which never happens to me, queen of overpacking). Though I do have to give mom some credit for helping me thin out my pile of stuff to pack, it may or may not have been as big as me when I started, ahem. 

Then it was into another regional jet to fly to San Antonio. And let me just give a side note of travel advice, while it is fine to book plane tickets last minute, be prepared to get the back seats next to the bathroom that no one else wanted. I was however sitting next to a very nice lady for Guatemala who seems to have travelled around the (including living in Winnipeg, or Winterpeg as she fondly referred to it) and the two of us had quite nice life chats. That's one of the things I love most about travelling, you meet the most interesting people and have these wonderful conversations in the most random places. Once I landed in San Antonio I had to figure out a way to get me and my giant suitcase downtown to meet some of my AOII sister from UTSA for lunch. Shuttle bus seemed like the best bet, and it even included a friendly driver who took a few detours to show me some of the local hidden treasures that aren't on the tourist map. I now know that the Thirsty Monkey is the best bar in town and that the spinning restaurant will give you free admission to sightsee if you order a drink. I finally made it to Market Square, and found my way to Mi Tierra Restaurant, which according to everyone it seems is the best Mexican food in San Antonio and some of the best in Texas. Walking through the door I would also learn that it was the most authentic too, never In my life have I seen a restaurant quite as elaborately decorated as this one...

I was so happy to be able to meet 3 of the wonderful ladies of our Upsilon Lambda chapter, we had so much fun!  Even though the Mariachi band took a keen interest in us and kept trying to play for our table (it's great to listen to in the restaurant but when they surround you it's just plain awkward). After lunch it was back to the airport to wait for my friend Conrad's roommate Edward to pick me up from the airport after he was done work at 5. 3 hours at an airport is a significant amount of time for people watching, and I noticed some patterns. This was this family sitting on the benches next to me and they had this adorable looking little girl who was wandering around, completely enthralled by the airport. Now they were there for about 2 hours, and many people stopped to say hi to the little girl or play with her for a minute, but what I thought was most interesting the watch was the business men. About 3/4 of these men in suits looking like they were going somewhere important actually stopped for quite a few minutes to say hi to this little girl and play along with whatever game she had going. Watching this from the sidelines was one of the cutest things I've seen in a while, all these high powered men sure seem to have big hearts; welcome to Texas.

After quite an adventure trying to find Edward in the airport, we finally found each other and headed off to Uvalde. The sun was setting over the hills to the west and the sky was completely clear blue; it was a beautiful drive to say the least. Pulling into the little town of Uvalde felt like coming home, it's crazy to think it had already been a year since I had been here. The Walmart is still as big as ever, Don Marcilennos still as colourfully painted as it was last year and Rockin R still the little place tucked away with the best real Texan clothing around. My beautiful cowboy boots come from there actually, and let me just say how happy I am to get to wear them on a daily basis again and not get any funny looks. After and insane day of travelling it definitely felt nice to pull into their house, and if  didn't already feel at home opening the door and seeing airplanes project, decoration and memorabilia all around the house would have done it. I have to say I owe Conrad big time for opening his home up to me without thinking twice when I asked if there was any way I could crash here for a bit until my hotel reservation starts. Because living in a box here is not an option, you'd melt. Oh yeah did I mention it's hot here? Like really hot (40 degrees during the day or higher!). I have to get used to the feeling of walking out of a car or building and feeling like I just got wrapped up in a thermal blanket turned on high. Last year I was fine with the heat by the end of the couple weeks so well see how long it takes me this year. After a quick dinner at Jack's steak house (fantastic food, even though I don't eat steak) I was about ready to pass out. It was 11pm here, 12pm my body time which meant I had been up for about 20 hours running on 3 hours of sleep. Needless to say I had barely hit the pillow and was out like a light. And that's one day over already, 29 to go! But I'm not counting down, because that would mean I'm excited to leave, of which I am the complete opposite :)  

Friday, July 20, 2012

What it's all about

And so the blog beings. I've always written travel diaries when I go on trips and taken hundreds of pictures and people always want to see them and hear about what happened. But then they see how much stuff I have to show, and I see them go a squirrely and start regretting they ever asked; enter blog. This is going to be my condensed version of my travels, a post every day I'm gone (hopefully!) with a few photos to sum up the day. That way anyone who's interested can follow through my trips with me as it's happening instead of when it's all over! I can't however promise that there won't be some random posts here and there about nothing, or posts that are disorganized, because hey, if you know me you should expect that :D And for gliding contests/events I'll try and update with tasks and scores every day as well so that those of you who couldn't make it but want to know what's going on can get it right as it's happening.
Hope you have fun travelling with me!