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!