So, after getting back to camp from our milkshake outing, I took a quick look at the weather forecast. There had been a lot of in-depth weather analysis going on every morning all week, which always resulted in the same bottom-line answer I would have given after a two-minute glance at couple of websites. My quick synopsis for the next two days was “Friday raining, Saturday NW but very strong”. And with that, I quickly packed up my tent and hit the road while everybody else was having dinner, since I didn’t anticipate any more flying (I was right about that). I was signed up for the US Orienteering Championships in Rochester NY on the weekend, and although I had figured that I would likely miss at least Saturday’s race, but with my early start, it looked like I’d be able to get there in time. (I turned out to be very wrong about that, see below.) And I bid farewell to Henson’s Gap.
There aren’t any results from the Team Challenge posted that I can see, but I’ll amend this post if and when they show up. (A post on the OZ Report indicates that we finished in fifth place out of six teams, only a few points out of fourth, but well behind the top three. There were also supposedly two paraglider teams, but they weren’t mentioned.) The Critical Mass team was in the basement going into the fifth day, but since Vitaly and I both made goal, we scored some points and may have pulled ahead of somebody. The scoring didn’t make any difference to me, though there was definitely some frustration on the team with the fact that we didn’t get to do much XC flying. That was more a matter of the conditions than our abilities, as there were a lot of pilots who weren’t getting anywhere but the bailout LZ. I managed to get six flights in five days, from two launches to five landing fields, though the average flight time was only about 15 minutes and I really only got above launch once.
Overall, was I pleased with the trip? Not really. I don’t regret having gone, and my feeling is that it was exactly what it was supposed to be (given the unpredictable weather conditions), but it turned out to not really be my thing. I made a decision many years ago that I wasn’t going to do any hang gliding competitions, because that’s not what interests me, but I made an exception for the Team Challenge because I viewed it as more of an XC flying clinic, with some superficial contest trappings. But the truth was that it put a lot more structure on the flying than I like to have. What with the specified goals, the launch windows, the specified setup areas for the teams and launch line priority, the 18 pages of rules, etc., it took a lot of the fun out of the flying for me. I understand that other people thrive on that sort of thing, and that’s fine, but for me the highlight was probably when we were told on Wednesday that we could go free flying at Whitwell in the morning if we wanted, and I had a chance to go hang gliding independent of the competition. I did learn things, among them that my aversion to real comps has been reinforced, and I wouldn’t be interested in the Team Challenge in the future, either. I’d rather just go the the Sequatchie Valley some other time and fly.
A tale of Vibe transmissions
I drive a 2005 Pontiac Vibe. It’s an excellent car. My previous car was a 2003 Vibe that I bought new, and which is still on the road, with probably about 400000 miles, being driven my my girlfriend’s college-age daughter. The car has had only two significant mechanical failures: I had to replace the transmission twice. The first time, it started making noise in Wyoming, and I made it to Connecticut, within three hours of home, when it went to pieces. The second time, I got only about 50 miles of warning when it died in New Hampshire. The manual gearbox seems to be the Achilles heel of this car; I also know of a guy who had a Toyota Matrix (mechanically the same car) who had one such failure and junked it the second time it happened.
My “new” Vibe (which I bought used with 112000 miles) is now up to 175000, and it’s maybe overdue for a transmission failure. Around the time that we pulled into Henson’s Gap, I started noticing subtle, distressing sounds coming from that vicinity. I kept listening all week, and also as I started driving north. I can’t remember exactly what it sounded like the other times, but what I was hearing sounds like a death rattle to me. I stopped on Thursday night at the home of an old friend in far western Virginia, and discussed my plight with him, as well as one idea that I was considering. I was concerned that I might get stranded on the way home, and have to deal with getting the car fixed in a faraway place, plus I’d have to travel home and come back to retrieve the car, and in the meantime I’d have to come up with someplace to stash the two gliders on my roof. I saw the potential for a nightmare.
It was time for Plan B.