A Party in the Oat Field
7/2/11, Saturday (Update on 9/26/11 with Google earth image)
Today was my first flight in about a month. We've had a lot of not-so-good-for-soaring weather. Dick Beggs said he would crew and we set up for a closed course flight. Dick didn't want to be gone for too long, so a downwind flight wasn't in the picture. At least intentionally :).
We rigged ZT and were ready to launch just after noon. With Al Grayson towing, Steve Kennedy launched first, and I was second in line. Off tow, I found a thermal fairly quickly, climbed up to near 5,000' MSL and headed out on my intended task. During the tow, there seemed to be quite a few good thermals, so I felt confident enough to head out. My planned task was a narrow rectangle, with the first turnpoint just North of Eau Claire.
I made it to the first turnpoint with not too much problem. My best thermals of the day were right off tow, and just before lake Wisota (North of Eau Claire), which resulted in me thermaling over lake Wisota. There, the thermal was strong just at cloud base and it was tempting to thermal up through the wispy cloud, but I headed out.
I diverted from my next planned leg, and went South instead (I had intended to head North for 10 or so miles and then head NW). The cumulus clouds looked more promising to the South. This is were I started to run into problems. I started getting lower more consistently. I had one of my longest running "saves"-- just barely hanging in at around 1000' AGL for about 20 minutes. My mantra: Keep that airspeed constant, angle of bank constant, open up the turn here, close it up there, and eventually find some stronger lift that takes you higher and you can breathe more easily again!
I flew into the Military Operating Area (MOA) just to the SE of Eau Claire for a while, with the wind and being low trying to regain altitude. The winds aloft were typically between 10 and 15 mph all day. Starting to head back NW, I was making some progress, but at about 30 miles East of Menomonie, I started doubting (the seeds of all problems?) if I would make it back to Osceola. I very rarely make calls aloft, but I pulled out my cell phone and called Dick Beggs. That may have been the start of the end. Diverting enough attention to make a phone call may have let me pass up the attention needed to stay aloft. Shortly after that I was doing downwind, base and final for a landing in what turned out to be about 2' tall of oats. I had a fairly strong ground loop and the ship ended up at about 180° to my landing orientation (backwards). I didn't hear any wrenching of metal, but I'll have to give it a thorough inspection on it's next rigging. (On derigging I didn't notice any issues).
There was a farmer baling hay just across from where I landed. I called Dick Beggs before I got out of the aircraft in hopes of getting him underway as soon as possible. The farmer proceeded in his baling task; presumably there was just only so much time in the day to get the job done. I walked over to a neighboring house, and talked to some people. The farmer doing the baling owned the field I'd landed in. When the farmer came around again with his tractor. We talked and he was pleasant and didn't have a problem with me being in his field.
I spent an hour and a half sitting by a tree, communing with a nice dog and napping or meditating. This seemed to help my mental strength and stability. When the crew arrived, I was fresh!
There was a nice fire pit by the place where I was sitting:
Steve called up when I was in the process of figuring out the name of the town where I landed. He asked me who my crew was. I replied: Mr. Dick, Dick Beggs. He said that Dick hadn't gotten on the road yet and that he wondered how I would derig before sunset. Eventually I figured out he was yanking my chain and he told me that he was in the car with Dick, and they were just passing Menomonie. At that point, I pulled some mail out of a nearby mailbox and figured out the town name: Fall Creek, WI and that it was on Highway 53-- they would drive right past where I was standing. I figured that since I wasn't looking at the contents of the mail, or the name of the person on the mail, it was ethically OK for me to look at an address on some mail in a mailbox. (I'm not sure if the Federal Government would agree with me on this point, but they were not around to question).
When the crew vehicle arrived, it was nearly packed with people. Paul Campobasso had also came along for the drive! It turned out that the farmer, just in the last few days, had cut down a band of hay around the perimeter of a field neighboring where I had landed. There was an road-side opening to the field opening into this band that had been cut by the farmer. It made for easy driving into the field to within 200 feet of where I landed. We drove (and walked) right up to where we needed to in order to pull out the glider. If I had landed in the same place a few days earlier, it would have made for some difficult access to the field, with significant crops in the field and me not near the edge of a field. And so, with four of us having a party in the oat field, aside from some all-important standing around, derigging went quickly.
The day was closing in on a perfect temperature, and we finished derigging at 8:00pm-ish. Though, this doesn't capture the quality of the good time we were having. This is a part of the great camaraderie of gliding. We went to a pub that was in the neighboring area and had ourselves a beer, a good time, and a meal after the derigging.
Here's a Google Earth image of the landout location, and the location of the Brackett bar, the pub where we went after:
On the way back to Osceola, we hit something (some debris from another vehicle?) and had a flat tire on the car. After dealing with all the STUFF in the back of my car, and finding the spare, we got the spare on, STUFF back in place, people back in place, trailer back on, and back on the road.
My thanks to Dick for spending more time than he probably thought he would spend. Well at least it wasn't overnight! We got back to the airfield somewhere around 12:30am. I wasn't intentionally doing a downwind flight on this flight, not by any means. I was trying to make it back to the airfield after I rounded Eau Claire!
The OLC link for this flight is here. Additional images are here. The flight was some 128.34 sm (206.54 km) flown in 3 hours 25 minutes soaring at an average speed of 37.03 mph (59.6 km/h).
Somehow my idea of a task at angles that were at 45 degree cross wind got out of hand and wasn't even close to this. The first leg was nearly 100% downwind, putting my return leg at 100% upwind.
My new rule: if my glider's shadow is starting to look too big on the ground-- land!