Road Trip to Las Vegas – Day 2 – Flying Hurricane

[ Happy Mood: Happy ]
Spark and I left Richfield, UT this morning and drove to Cedar City, UT with a plan to fly the "K-Mart" site. But it’s not a K-Mart anymore, it’s a Staples. We setup a windsock in the LZ and got a weather update. They were calling for 10-20 out of the west. But most important, launch may not have been reachable due to snow. So we decided to head down to Hurricane after all and try to fly there. So we retrieved the windsock and headed down to Hurricane.

The main LZ is almost gone now. There is a gravel pit and houses. We drove around a while and found a nice field just to the north, almost directly below Molly’s Nipple. So we left Spark’s car by the field with some streamers and we headed to launch in my car. It’s takes a while to drive from the LZ to launch. Maybe 45 minutes. The road is 2WD except for a short stretch near the top that requires 4WD low and some clearance. My little 4-door Suzuki Sidekick did OK. As we climbed up the hill I was surprised to see a pickup behind us with 3 gliders on the roof – cool.

We got to launch and were greeted by Bruce, Greg, and Chad (I think it’s Chad) from the greater SLC area. They had just arrived today as well. We walked to launch and it was straight in at 15. Perfect. We all quickly setup, too quickly really. There was talk of it getting stronger later. Being the least experienced pilot I didn’t want to launch last and Bruce was kind enough to wait for me. The other three launched just before I was ready.

I let all of this rushing get in my way. I misplaced my sunglasses and had to borrow Bruce’s at the last minute. My motion sickness "watch" went dead. Crap. This isn’t going to be good. I had spare batteries in the car but no time to deal with them. I hadn’t eaten anything since breakfast 6 hours earlier. At least I had my camelback on me for in-flight water.

So I got hooked in and walked to launch with Bruce on the nose. It was pretty manageable so I didn’t really need any help but was glad he was there just in case. I got into position and picked up the glider for my first foot launch since early November. It felt good and the wind was straight in. I yelled "Clear!" and took 1 and half steps before I was flying and going up. I made a left turn climbing a bit then I hit sink. And more sink. And I think some more sink.

I was now 400 feet below launch turning in the direction of the LZ thinking I was done after just a couple of minutes. But I stayed in close to the ridge. Just about when I was going to leave the ridge to setup an approach I felt the nose go up. The vario started beeping. OK, work it. I did a bunch of 180’s in the lift. Soon I was even with launch again – Yippee! Still going up. Now I could do 360’s. I rode this wonderful thermal up to 1650′ over launch. I was way higher than the other three guys in the air. Bruce launched just about this time. I was so much happier than a few minutes ago.

But just as suddenly the thermal was gone and now I was in big sink again. I sunk back down to a few hundred over and found another thermal. There was no ridge lift to be found. It was a thermal only day. For the next hour I worked from as low as 300 below launch up to about 1,000 over launch. I never got nearly as high as the first thermal got me. A couple of guys headed pretty far south on the ridge. One mentioned getting to the AZ border. I never went more than 1/2 mile south of launch. I was too worried about sinking out and not making our primary LZ.

About 30 minutes into the flight I got the first hints of minor nausea kicking in. I did my best to minimize head movements. But about an hour into the flight three of us were low and close so I needed to look around a lot while trying to work what lift I could find. At about 500′ above launch I did one too many quick head movements and what little was in my stomach made a mad dash for the exit. Oh what fun this is. I need to clean my helmet some. Luckily there was little in me but water. I actually felt a little better after the purge. I ended up flying for 20 more minutes before I was just too tired to try anymore. It was a punchy day. My shoulders were really tired. I had no energy left from not eating. And of course I had just been sick.

So I left the ridge and headed out the short distance to the LZ. The tell tales were showing light winds out of the SW. I made a nice approach and aimed for the corner of the field. I got into ground effect and could tell I had a little wind. I did a light flare and did a wonderful two step landing. I was very happy about that. And I landed very close to were I was aiming. I need to get my spots in for my H3 so this was good practice. Greg landing a couple minutes after me followed seconds later by Spark. Bruce was a few minutes later. A while later Chad called on the phone saying he top landed back near the corral. One less car to retrieve.

So we packed up, loaded Spark’s car and headed back up to get my car. It was 6pm by the time we got back up there. It was glassing off. Launch was straight in at 15 and smooth. Oh well. We were too tired at this point and we had to drive to Las Vegas. So we headed down to get dinner. We ended up stopping in Saint George instead for a quick bite. We then finished the drive to Las Vegas. I arrived at Radwhacker’s house about 9:15 PDT.

Despite getting sick and all the other little things I am very happy about today’s flight. It wasn’t an easy day. The much more seasoned pilot’s were commenting on getting turned toward the hill a few times and fighting the thermals a bit. I experienced the same and was very glad to hear it wasn’t just me. Saturday’s plan it to do some towing in Las Vegas and Sunday looks like a good mountain flying day near Las Vegas. Until then – enjoy.

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