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 :)

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