A Relaxed Sunday
Andy Power and I had been tossing around the duties of Field Operations Officer (FOO) at the soaring club for today like a hot potato. He had orignally been scheduled as FOO, but had to go out of town. I offered to take over. The day before, however, I saw the soaring forecast. It looked like a cross-country day. I knew I'd be really frustrated to be sitting on the ground on a day when I could be a hundred miles away in the air. It had turned out that Andy had arrived back into town early from his trip, and had offered again to take the hot potato back. So, I called him up and not only was he willing to FOO for Sunday, but he wanted to fly on Monday too (I had been trying to get people to fly on Monday). Great!
As a further interesting part of the day, earlier in the week I had gotten a call from a fellow who wanted to get a glider ride. He (Mike) had taken an intro glider course I'd offered up here in Duluth a couple of years back. Him and his friend both wanted rides. I figured they were my friends (being from Duluth and having taken a course from me), so I'd take them up for a flight and split costs with them. I asked them to come out to the airfield at 9am on Sunday, thinking I could take them up for a ride before I took off on my cross-country flight. (Early in they day there is little lift, so these would be short rides.)
On Sunday, Mike and Charles showed up at the airport, and I got them to help me rig, and then gave them each rides in one of our club L-13's. As a curious side effect of giving these rides, I got progressively more relaxed on each ride. After the second ride, I had little motivation to take off on my own cross-country flight! As a second issue, it turned out that Andy Power and I had some miscommunication and he was not understanding that I was expecting him to show up at the airfield and FOO -- so I had FOO responsibilities too. After giving the rides to Mike and Charles, I was sitting at the end of the runway and Steve Kennedy and Dick Beggs looked at me expectantly-- encouraging me to take off in my own ship-- the others there would take care of FOO duties. With their motivation building my own back up, I finished getting ready to head out and fly in my own ship.
All this giving of rides, and getting my motivation back took some time, so I launched late-- at 2:30pm. Darryll Dodson was my crew. I had roped him into this at the last moment! I talked to him about my flight plans. The day before, I had been planning a 275 mile out and return to near La Crosse. Talking to Darryll, realizing I was getting a late start, I decided it would be best to shorten these plans. So, I told Darryll I was going to make for Stanton and Faribault and then come back. I had been wanting to do this route for some time.
Bill Argyros was our tow pilot, and once I got into the air, my first thermal was a boomer (around 500' per minute). I headed out towards New Richmond, and as I flew I changed my mind. If I could stay high and get consistently good lift, could I still make my 275 mile out & return? Who knows? You never make goals unless you try! So, I made for La Crosse. Well, the La Crosse story was not to be. I got low near Durand, but climbed all the way back up to cloud base (over 7,000' MSL), but that was to be my last good climb. I turned around on my flight at about 93 miles out of OEO (Osceola, WI), and started heading back. However, I didn't make much progress on my return trip.
I had encountered Jim Hard flying his 1-26 (on the radio, I never did see him) near Menominee. He was continuing East, and I wanted to go South East. In retrospect, I should have paid attention to his flight path. He follows the lift (and the wind). In talking to him later, he said he was avoiding the area where I went because of the way it looked. And rightly so, in short order after I turned to head back to OEO, I was looking for a field to make my landing. I picked a somewhat green looking field that turned out later to be a stubbly, very flat, alfalfa field-- an excellent place to land. I was about a few miles miles East of Alma, WI and Independence, WI was the nearest town.
In many ways, the day really started after the landing. I had no cell phone coverage (this was starting to be an all too familiar story in farmer's fields with my AT&T service-- I had recently changed my cell phone to AT&T) in the field. Walking off the field, I met the field owner, Elma, and the farmer who rented the field-- Bill. Neither of them had a cell phone, but Bill took me into one of the farm buildings to let me use their phone. I called up Darryll and told him generally where I was. (I had forgotten to put a pen on my emergency kit-- so had to go back to the glider with my pen, write down my lat/long, and give him another call later to pass along my coordinates for the car GPS).
Darryll started making his way to the field then-- he was in Baldwin, watching some parachuting. He had to return to OEO to grab my car & trailer before he headed out.
The hired hand of the house, Peter, and I went into the house on the farm, and had a chat. This was really, simply, amazing. Peter and I had a meaningful spiritual conversation for the next couple of hours. Wow. How often does that happen? Peter liked to talk about his views, but also was a good listener. We both poured our hearts out into the conversation. I hope to see him again one day.
I called Darryll back, and the car GPS estimated that he was an hour out from the field. I decided I should start getting the glider ready for derigging. At that time, Bill came back (he and Elma both had to leave when I first arrived), and he offered to pull my glider to edge of the field with his 4-wheeler. As a testimonial to how flat the field was, with me on the back of the 4-wheeler and Bill driving, he drove, flat out, across the field to my ship. Far fewer bumps than at OEO on the grass!
Just as we were getting ready to pull the glider to the edge of the field, and the sun was going down, Darryll arrived. The timing was perfect. We got the glider to edge of the field, having a good time cutting up with Bill, and started the derigging process. Another local showed up at that part (I think his name was Rienhart), and chatted with us as were putting the glider back in the box, asking many questions about our unusual hobby and aircraft. Here is the glider at sunset:
I should make another note about Elma. She was a gentle lady, who was very gracious and fully on top of her game. Sadly, her husband had passed away a few weeks back, but she was still happy to meet me. I'll be sending her this writeup and some pictures.
Darryll and I arrived back at OEO around 1am. We had tried to get some food at the McDonalds in Baldwin, but they had just stopped serving. Ooops. Darryll, I owe you a meal!!
The flight was about 2.5 hours, with a total distance of 116.28 miles (187.14 km; OLC Classic) flown at an average of 49.25 mph (79.26 km/h). Here's a link to the OLC. And here's a link to a few more pictures.