40 Days of Summer in Winter

40 Days of Summer in Winter

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Woodrat launch
Hi friends!!

On 12 June, Matty (my husband) and I cleaned out our fridge, packed our summer wardrobes, locked up the house, dropped our dog at K9 boot-camp (my parents house where she would enjoy a much needed regime of remedial training and rigorous exercise) and waved goodbye to work and responsibility… We were finally en route to the US of A for our 6 week tour!

After 8 years together and 4 years on the matrimony pony this would be our first trip overseas and our anticipated “schedules” for the trip were somewhat… contradictory. I would fly 2 paragliding comps, several weeks of XC touring and an SIV. Matty on the other hand would focus on recharging his battery… primarily working on his tan, visiting various choice cigar bars, developing a taste for rye whiskey, indulging a daily diet of biscuits and gravy and various other US culinary delights and hitting Vegas for a week of UFC, cabaret and poker ;)

We arrived in LA and had 5 nights there. Matty was fascinated by it – the atmosphere, the people watching and the contrast in standard of living from one subway station to the next. But I couldn’t help noticing the heavy pollution, the overall signs of wear and tear on the city and the hint of desperation in the people who constantly approach you on the hustle.

I was relieved to finally fly out to Medford (Oregon) for some clean air to breathe and my first comp – the Rat Race at Woodrat. The Rat Race was also the US Nationals in 2012 and 175 or so pilots rocked up to compete. I launched for the first task of the comp, having not flown a paraglider for 2 months and was prepared for a bollocks-ing. Pilots at Woodrat talk a lot about “bump tolerance” and there is a reason for that – it was rougher than I am used to back home and at times I felt like I was sitting in an arm chair wrestling a raccoon. The days where I spent 5-6 hours in the harness had me exhausted.

We finished the comp with 6 task-able days and the task committee did an awesome job setting tasks that allowed pilots to make the most of the predominantly great flying conditions. I had particularly memorable flights in tasks 3 and 4. Overall I finished 9th in sports class and 2nd in the women’s. Given the standard of the field and US pilots I was happy with this result, but still resolved to find a way to make the machine go faster in future… ;) I really loved the flying in Woodrat – it is technical, interesting, beautiful and challenging on many levels. A highlight of the comp for me was meeting and flying with the lovely Melanie Pfister ;) what an awesome pilot!

Matty made a number of short films about our time at Woodrat and the one about the Rat Race can be found here: https://vimeo.com/45138856, the other one (his masterpiece apparently) is still in production… ;)

The awesome weather in Woodrat was followed by weeks of virtually un-flyable weather on XC tour. Matty and I headed north with 6 other pilots to sit out the wind and rain in Bend (Oregon) in the hope of flying Pine Mountain when it cleared.

Don’t you love hearing the words “worst season in years” when you’re on tour!?!? Only 4 days in the next two weeks would prove flyable… Fortunately they were decent days and I flew 190km from Pine, followed by 130km to the Canadian border over Indian reservations and a 100km out and return over the flats from Chelan (tracklogs here: http://www.xcontest.org/world/en/pilots/detail:KariRoberson).

The tour finished and while Matty headed to Vegas, we launched into the Chelan XC Open. Forty-nine pilots turned up for it and we were treated to 6 fantastic days of racing. In fact it should have been 7 days, but our luck continued true to form and on the first night the Butte was struck by lightening during an electrical storm and set on fire… It continued to burn and we were forced to can the next day as fire crews scrambled around on the side of the hill and dumped water from helicopters…

on chelan butte with kcThe highlight of the comp for me was task 2, when I made goal and had my first ever day win in sports class :) I wound up finishing 5th in sports class and second in the women’s. Doug and Denise Stroop run a fantastic comp in Chelan – very relaxed but still well organized. It was also awesome to fly with my mate Meredyth Malocsay again, to meet and fly with Nicole McLearn (another awesome pilot) and to meet Kari Castle, our launch director (…what a legend!!). So many top birds kicking ass in paragliding in the US and Canada ;) very inspiring stuff!!

So Matty returned safe and sound from Vegas (bank balance only slightly depleted) and the trip was drawing to a close. I just had to keep him out of the Indian casinos and complete my (first ever) SIV over the final three days before we jumped a plane home again… Piece of cake… ;)

My SIV course was with Brad Gunnuscio at Lake Entiat, a few miles down the road from Chelan. The course was an epic three days where I found myself perpetually pushed out of my comfort zone. I quickly realized I had a few lazy little bad habits that I was not even aware of in my flying ;) Brad straightened me out pretty quick smart though and even managed to keep me out of the drink ;)

During the course I put the Factor2 through its paces with the full range of collapses (off and on full bar, dynamic etc) and learned to fly my collapsed glider better before clearing it, steering into and falling into collapses. I got more comfortable with hard spirals. I did stalls and resets (including dynamic stalls from wing overs – yeehaa!!). I learned to handle/clear cravats more effectively. I did spin recovery (dynamic as well as learning them as a way to clear nasty cravats)… Throughout the drama the glider performed like a dream with no surprises – awesome!! A big thanks to Brad, Ryan and Pro-Tow – you guys are running an impressive tow/SIV operation out there ;)

Any pilots with further questions on how the Factor2 responds/recovers in an SIV are welcome to contact me directly at ilikechillilots@hotmail.com ;)

Overall Matty and I have loved our time in the US. I have flown just about to my heart’s content and Matty has acquired a gorgeous tan, an impressive beard and an additional 5kgs to his girth ;) we will be back for sure!!

Unfortunately as we head for home our trip has ended on a very sad note – we have had a phone call from my parents to say that our beautiful, much loved English staffordshire bull-terrier, Persimmon, came to grief and passed away before her time at age 5 during our trip. Pers was the most loyal of companions, an expert guard-dog against marauding possums and birds, with an impressive resume of silly tricks and a lovely little nature. We loved her very, very much and we will always miss her. Rest in peace little mate.

So, it is with mixed feelings that we return to the real world.  Blue skies everyone!!