I was a Live Exhibit at the Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum Dulles Annex, Udvar-Hazy Center,
March 25, 2006

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Woodstock Over the Fall Foliage, October 27, 2008

Woodstock Fall Trees 10/27/2008 from Cragin S on Vimeo.

Mark C and I spent Monday morning exchanging hopeful interpretations of the afternoon forecast for Woodstock. THese were tempered by my office window view of a totally overcast grey sky to the west from McLean. Since neither of us could fly the upcoming weekend, we decided to chance the timing of the front moving in, and depart our jobs at lunch time. I drove in rain from McLean until nearly Gainesville out I-66. Our coordinated timing was excellent, with Mark pulling in behind me along the Interstate about 15 miles past the rain line. We convoyed in to the LZ, where Tony D was waiting. He planted his brand new raffle-won windsock and we took my truck to launch.

At the top we found Hank & Karma's truck, glider still no the rack, and Ellis's car. None of them were around. As we set up our gliders, looking out at the still totally overcast valley and marveling at the failed forecast for 41% cloud cover, all three arrived, multiple dogs in tow. After some consideration, Hank decided not to fly, but did hang around to give all of us a hand. He kept his bike, and Karma headed home with the dog.

Hank , Ellis, and Tony helped Mark launch, so we'd have a good sky report for our H2. A bit later, with report of a bit rowdy but do-able from Mark, the three of us crewed Tony off. I think this was his 4th Woodstock flight.

I was able to suit up and with assist from Hank and Ellis was off the mountain side about 5:25. I felt good about the launch run and pitch, and left the slot with plenty of speed. As soon as I turned right, I found comfortable lift and worked the local area, slowly reaching about 800' over launch. Mark and Tony were another 800' above me at the north finger. As I continued my ascent, I lost track of them both. When I reached about 2,500 MSL, I spotted them both below me and to the south, out over the river. as they played down there, I kept finding stronger and broader lift. At 3,400 MSL I noted that the cloud base was interestingly near. At 3,600 MSL, it occurred to me that Mark was making no attempt to join me. Passing through 3,700 and still climbing in strong lift, I looked at those rolling cloud bottoms and figured out I just might be in for more of a ride than I had wanted. Down would be a very good thing. I pulled in a little, and kept going up. Hmmmm. I stiffed the bar and began hauling tail out into the valley. I was maintaining a nice 600-800 fpm down, and had good control so just kept it up. Well out over the valley, at about launch height, I backed the speed off to trim, hoping to boat around a bit. Nope.. that just put me back into a moderate up mode. OK - stuff the bar some more. I was out near the red barn on Moose Lodge Road, and decided to skip the main LZ and use the long field Hank had described as his "second favorite LZ." Fast approach, lots of speed well into the final leg, and I was still getting kicked around. However, brought it in safely with a nice flair, and was happily on the ground at 6:00. I agree with Hank's comment, I think I was messing at the edge of some wave up there. Glad I had the experience. Glad I dove down out of it easily.

While I was packing up, Mark radioed from overhead that Tony had landed in the main LZ. Mark joined Tony a little later. By the time Mark drove up to provide transport back to launch, I was all packed up and even had my glider over the barbed wire fence, ready to load. Tony headed home, happy with his day, and Mark and I stopped at the Handy Mart for a fill up ($2.29 /gal!) and a few brews.
(Note - the Annheuser distributor pretty much owns the cooler case in that store. We went for Yeungling Lager.)

We toasted the day and some truly fun flying up at the parking lot at the top, while listening to the winds howl in. It was a great day to play hooky, and all the folks who were discouraged by the clouds and rain in DC, well, you just lost out.

Thanks to Mark for prompting our escape. Congrats to Tony for a successful fall flight. Special appreciation to Ellis and Hank for sticking around to help us all fly.