“Wouldn’t it be cool to fly 100 miles…on the same day that you flew 100 miles the year before?” That is what I thought as we drove to Cowboy Up. I was in the car with Rich and Makbule as I looked out the window, I noticed a haze in the air under the already puffy cumulus sky. “You know, last year when I flew my first 100miler, the sky was just like this…hazy.” I said to Rich and Mak. Then I made a phone call to my grandmother…see, last year before I flew my first 100 miler, I called my Mom and my Grandma. I figured I better keep up the tradition.
But this years Mothers Day 100 miler wasn’t going to come as easy as last years. Not by far. Sunday morning, Mothers Day, we were setting up gliders by 11am and by noon we were already launching into a cumulus filled sky. I was kinda worried that it was going to over develop because the cumulus clouds were getting tall. Not to mention the heat, Houston Heat, muggy, hot, you can cut it with a knife. The cloudbase was looking low and the forecast was for 3500-4ooo feet ceiling, in reality the cloudbase was closer to 3000′. There were not any clearly defined streets, like you would hope for, but rather clouds everywhere. The bottoms of the clouds were wispy and raggedy.
Rich launched first and was managing to stay up high. I launched second and I hoped off the tow at around 1600′ in some decent 3-400′ up. Rich was already on glide to the next cloud by the time that I got up. However, by the time that I was chasing him, Rich lost a ton of altitude on his glide looking for lift. Soon, Makbule was launching and later Robin.
There was a solid 13-15mph tailwind, with the cloudbase so low you really couldn’t make too many mistakes. Soon Rich and Makbule were scratching together. I watched both of them working together to stay up. Meanwhile, I played a very conservative game. I was topping out and boating around with my cloud. Below us, the rice fields were glistening. Not good, just the day before those rice fields were dry…now they were flooded. The fields were wet and the thermals were weak, broken up, drifting, and really hard to stay with. You couldn’t make a full circle in these thermals…you couldn’t really relax and just climb up…you had to work for it. When I did find lift I stopped and topped out…one last look back to see Rich and Mak, they weren’t high but they weren’t low either…somewhere around 2000′. I was hoping that they were going to climb out and catch up with me.
The first 40 miles all the way up to Interstate highway 10 were like this. I lost track of how many times I thought I was going to land. On several occasions I gave up on my weak broken up lift and just went downwind, content with the idea of landing in a boggy rice paddy. But low in behold, I was able to find some more scraps, just enough to help me get to the next scraps. I was stuck at 2400′ forever… it seemed like. Once I had made it to I-10 and on to some dryer ground I thought it was going to get easier. I was wrong. It was more of the same broken up lift, and it was really requiring all of my mental ability to keep on point with the thermals. I was so desperate to find a good core and throw my arms over the bar and relax! Instead I was getting 1/2 turns in lift and falling out over the sides…
Soon, I was coming up on Brenham, where I had landed the day before. I was low, and I was flying over the same LZ from yesterday where I landed out. Downwind was the town with no LZs, I had to make something happen and I was really dreading to land where I did the day before. Luckily, the chicken coops on top of a hill were producing a good thermal. I was able to climb out and glide over Brenham with ease.
Heading north past Brenham, towards Hearne, there is a large forest. The year before I flew right over that forest with out any problems. That day, every single cloud was producing a perfect thermal. This year, not even close…there were no guarantees. You could fly to a cloud and just get a 50-100 up and waste 30minutes not gaining anything. I chose a path to the west, towards lake Sommerville that offered more opportunities for landing out than last years track over the forest.
Once I got near the lake, I got stuck again, I spent another 20minutes at 1800-2000′ looking for broken lift, not losing or gaining, just drifting. Then eventually giving up and going downwind to find it. Thankfully, the birds were actually helping out with the thermals. Back below I-10, it was as if the birds were playing practical jokes on us pilots, flying in sink, flying upwind, just going everywhere. Finally, I was able to relax and enjoy my power bar at 4 o’clock.
I was really topping out with every climb as I neared 100miles. “Oh boy, I’m so close to repeating what I did last year!” I thought. I didn’t want to blow it and land at 95miles or something…. I wanted that 100 bad! But like I said, there were no guarantees and I struggled to make that 100 miles happen!
College Station is the town that you get to see when you make 100 miles. I had a 15:1 glide to Hearne. “I’m going to make it!” I thought. I showed up at Hearne sky high, and there was no way I was going to spiral down to land there…oh no….I wanted to fly over my old LZ…maybe even land in my old LZ and say hi to KC in Calvert. Luckily, I was able to get another climb and make it to Calvert, HIGH! I decided to keep on pushing and not wind it down. I had to make a big jump to another cloud and fell short.
I found a nice pasture and flew over the house with a pool in the backyard. I waved at the girl in the pool, they waved back. I squared up into the wind, using my GPS to see the ground speed to help find wind direction, and I had a perfect no step landing in the pasture. 1000 times better than last year when I beaked it!!! 135 miles!!! This time, I had a GPS tracker, a cell phone battery, and another tracker running on my cell phone. Unlike last years….
Thankfully Christopher drove and picked up me and the other pilots. We had a great dinner, thanks Robin!!! Great times!!!