It’s a rainy June afternoon here in Houston. A low pressure system moved in and with it a tropical storm. I am sitting back sipping a coffee, watching the world cup on mute, and recollecting the past couple of months of flying
Cowboy Up hosted a fabulous 15 year anniversary party which landed on Memorial Day weekend. The timing couldn’t have been better because the soaring forecasts and weather models were looking favorable for some great flying. I was in contact with Ingo, my main Hang Gliding travel companion, and we planned for some challenging flying tasks.
Ingo and I launched and charged off to the North. Our goal was a 100km triangle task. Soon, we found out that we had bit off more than we could chew. The conditions were not as good as they were predicted to be. How could this be? Well, as we got flying we noticed that many of the local rice fields were shimmering with water. The Wharton area rice farmers had flooded the fields and this put a major damper on our thermals. Through teamwork, however, Ingo and I managed to stay up in the most broken lift and we changed plans and decided a southerly route would be more appropriate. To the north the sky was drying out and to the south of us there was a bit of over-development. Somehow, between the two of us there was a miscommunication and I headed off to the south without Ingo.
Again, I found myself struggling to stay up in the ratty thermals. “If I could only make it back to the airport.” I thought as I bounced around looking for some lift. I gazed back out over highway 59 and there was a series of clouds that were developing nicely. I decided that was my best bet to make it back to the airport. So, I went on a very bad glide and lost it all. Ingo said later that he saw me gliding in the sink and he said he was thankful that he was flying a topless glider!
When I finally got to the point where I thought I would be catching the thermal from the cloud I was aiming for I was at 900′. I got a good look of the town of Wharton on my glide…I was LOW! But, I had landing options that looked pretty nice…there was an exceptionally well mowed lawn to my west that I was almost delighted to land in. Thankfully, I finally hit my thermal and climbed back up to make an easy glide back to Wharton! As I am nearing the airport I see Ingo moving his glider, he had already landed before me. I managed to get Ingo on the radio and he gave me the report on the wind direction. I came in for a beautiful landing. Given the days adverse conditions, we had quite an amazing day of soaring and adventure!!!
When I learned that Cowboy Up was going to be out of town for the week I scratched my head and wondered, “How am I going to fly?” Then I remembered Gregg Ludwigs’ Lake Shore Hang Gliding operation up on Lake Conroe! I shot Gregg a message and soon we had scheduled some time on the boat for some towing!
It was a “Saturday” morning and there wasn’t anyone on the lake. There was a steady 10-12 mph breeze coming from the SE. Gregg F. also showed up to fly and thankfully he did because he has a nice Falcon 3 195 that is all decked out for floats. I brought a Edel 3005 variometer and strapped it up high on the downtube. We would be able to hear the vario just not be able to see it. Knowing our altitude wasn’t a problem though because both of the Greggs run an altimeter watch the pilot can use easily on the wrist.
All of our tows were smooth and straight. There was minimal turbulence in the air and we were able to get some high tows up to 2400′!!! It was really nice to be up high looking down on the lake. My first tow I wasn’t able to find any lift and sank back down to the lake.
Gregg F. had a couple of tows and so did Mike Hoffman, it was really good to see all the guys and hang out by the water. Also, there was a special cameo appearance by my platform launch instructor Mark Moore! I was really happy to see him up and walking around after struggling with some health problems. I couldn’t believe it has already been two years since I got my platform launch sign off! Then again, I can believe two years has gone by, time really flies when you are FLYING!
Anyways, I got back in the harness for my second flight. It went great. Note to self: Close mouth when flying Hang Glider. I found my mouth getting really dry…it was because I was smiling too much! Stay hydrated!
Like I was saying, it was my second tow of the day, but this time after releasing from tow I tried for some thermals over this little peninsula instead of trying under the clouds over the lake. Sure enough, boom, I hit a blue sky thermal and I was able to climb the Falcon 3 195 with pontoons up a few hundred feet!!! I don’t have any idea how strong the lift was because I couldn’t see the vario. But I was getting full turns in the lift! It was great! I managed to extend my flight! If it weren’t for the strong winds aloft I could have stayed with it longer. I decided to not drift away and I had a great landing by the boat.
GREAT TIMES!!! THANKS GREGG & GREGG!!!