Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Yelapa 2011

Yelapa 2011
There's is low fog bank over town tonight. A full moon above that layer illuminates sky in one pale glow. From the open front porch of our room, I can see across the bay to the far side of town. The lights blink and shutter at times as the power comes and goes. There is the sound of the ocean. It is not the far anyway, white noise ocean sound but the close up sound with the surges and ebbing of the surf as it crashes against the beach. The world seems very close. It's day five of the trip. Sleep is stalking me, I do not resist.
I got off the plane last Friday in PV. Darren, Trang, other Bill and I all flew together. The rest of the gang, Jeff, Sandy and Eck came in the next day. Us early birds, threw our bags in the hotel and scrambled off the fly the local site. After a hellish hike we arrived at the smallest most misbegotten launch ever. There is such a small area to take off that the launch has been extended by a metal mesh platform. The bitch is the platform doesn't follow the slope of the launch but flattens out. So just as you start to get your three steps running in, the glider unweights. The flights are ridge lift and light thermals capped hard by the inversion. The air is thick, warm, moist and full of frigate birds and turkey vultures.
That night we walked in town along the ocean. Venders were selling colorful junk for us tourist. There was a mime doing an act which we couldn't make sense of off. On the beach a man balanced huge rocks on each other. The disks in my lower back trembled in fear as I watched him lift hundreds of pounds and then slowly balance them.
The next morning I took the bus back to the airport to collect the rest of the group. After an eye ball rattling ride I stood in a thicket of arm waving taxi cab drivers looking for the new arrivals. 
The next step was to get on the boat to Yelapa. These boats are maybe twenty five feet with outboard motors. They pull up on the beach, you roll up your pants, time the surf and make your best attempt to get in with the minimum of a soaking. 
The boat ride is a little over a half an hour. The boat bangs over the water while the jungle drift by on shore. As you pass each bend of the coast line small beaches are revealed. Some with resorts, others small villages, others yet have the abandon wrecks of someone's dream house gone wrong. Rounding a steep point of land we drop into a deep bay. The mountains here a a few thousand feet tall. The town is sparsely scattered up high growing ever thicker as you descend to the ocean. There are roofs of palm fronds contrasting the ones of corrugated steel. No point of glass in the windows. The outside is not something you need to keep out here.
The boats bobs around in the surf as we, once again, time when to jump off. I wait till the wave recedes before leaping out to find my stuff on the beach that the boat driver has piled up. Our rooms are right on the beach. I'm two floors up.
After showers, unpacking, turning slowly in circles, talking... The group is ready to head out  for dinner. A paraglider favorite is Pollo Bollo. So up the stairs, down the hill, into town we go. Once into town proper I'm hoping I remember the twist and turns through the maze of walk ways to the restaurant. There are no cars and if there were they wouldn't fit on the "roads" anyway. 
A restaurant here is a roof with chairs and tables under it. There is a waist high wall on one end with a kitchen behind it. The garlic fish is a favorite. I like the breaded chicken. Dogs churn around the place being unobtrusive but just in case you have any spare food you wouldn't want you know it would have a home.
On the way back to our rooms I stop by Alan's place. Alan is a local pilot. Darren describes his place as Gilligans island with computers and flat screen tv. We say hi, catch up a bit and arrange for the truck to take us to launch the next day.
 Morning here goes like this, breakfast at the Vortex over looking the lagoon. Pancakes are favorite. Seagulls spin around in the air crying, turkey vultures pick the unfortunate out of the debris on the shore.
The next part is hiking to the truck that will take us to launch. All through town we go. Over the bridge, past the bright blue post office and then follow the equally bright blue water pipe up the hill. (Watch out for donkey shit!)
The truck gets jammed full of paragliders and pilots and then is off up the hill. The road winds around sometime super steep at others merely steep. Bends and ruts, a few streams and rocks, dust flying, a dog chases us for a miles before the climb and dust snuffs out his ethusiasim. 
Launch is over two thousand feet up. The beach is a far away strip of tan. Between the launch and the beach is a lot of jungle. Macaws go squawking past, one squawk per flap.
Launch is short. It's a big run and then you lift off and fly out over forest. You either find lift or not but either way it's beautiful flight. It's not been too lifty but people get to hang out for a bit. My flights were pretty lift free so I either tour over town and see the water fall or head out over the ocean and hang out.
After landing there's lunch to find before we hike up for the evening flight. The hike is a bit sweaty before you get to launch. We did find out that launching into a light right cross isn't a good idea. There was even a long time professional paraglider instructor who said it was a bad idea. After getting a couple of slow learners out of the trees (and gettin scratched and bitten and poked by thorns...) we had dinner.
It's been the coldest I've every seem it in Yelapa. For someone who had just left twenty eight below weather it wasn't very cold. Still one wrapped up a little in the evenings. In the morning you just needed to sit in the sun for a bit while eating breakfast and all was good. The first day of the SIV clinic started, as all such things do, with a briefing. All of us have towed before but a boat tow is a little different. The boat moves and so needs to be followed. There is trick to this. Next was going throughout the maneuvers that would be done on the first round of tows. These start simple and then advance till you decide to do the optional stuff or not. The basic idea is to put your glider into situations over water and then sort them out. The most important are the things that could happen to you as you become a more aggressive thermal pilot. So the first set of maneuvers were big collapses, pulling in half your wing and then flying it, keeping control. Then frontal collapses. For each set of maneuvers the pilot is towed to two thousand feet or higher. The collapses are pulled while you are way out over the ocean. If you do really goof something up you splash into the water. Some of the Mexican pilots threw their reserve parachutes for fun, but rising the salt water off your gear and getting it dry is not so much fun so no one in our group did this.
Brad G instructed this part of the trip. Brad is an excellent Arco and cross country pilot. He is a member of the U.S. National team for the worlds paragliding championships.  Not only has he found time to be at the top of these two disciplines of the sport  but also become an excellent instructor. Brad ran the group through the days maneuvers. A day is usually three tows with multiple maneuvers on the way down. Day two was more folding spindling and twisting of the gliders but this time with the speed bar on. The real cool thing was that you could fly back to the mountain after doing your maneuvers and soar till your next turn came up. That afternoon after we were done for the day certain members of the group were confronted with the margaritas of doom. Some simply stumbled around for a bit while others went missing till the next morning.
The third day the group split up a bit, some did stalls and asymmetrical spirals while others twisted up in their lines and tried to steer their gliders. 
Bill Lhotta who has already sen through a number of SIV clinics worked on his helicopter. A maneuver where you get your wing to whirl around like a helicopter blade.
  That night the margaritas of doom were avoided, seems everyone had had enough. It was jam night in town. The local musicians get together and put on a show. There was a whole lot of butt wiggling going on as the band ran through a quite reasonable rendition of Sympathy for the Devil. 
We made a lot of new friends in the pilots from all over the world. There were people here to fly the sites, others who would be in the next clinic. We all hung out, told stories, danced or and drank as one pleased.
Our final flying day Darren and I headed up the hill in the truck to fly. Eck headed home on the boat. Jeff and Sandy tool another boat out to some islands. They have great pictures of whales breaching! Darren got an extra tow to work on his asymmetrical spiral. One of The guys in the next clinic really botched his maneuver and had to full stall out of in to recover. He was so frazzled after that he ended his flight with a spot landing on the lagoon.
I had one last flight off the lower launch. I was soaring around as the winds picked up but it got more and more cross so I landed.
There was one last dinner to be had. Brad joined us and so did Edith a gal pilot from Mexico city. Brad talked about about going the world championships, coming is year on Spain. We all talked about our flights, maneuvers and got one last chance to tease the consumers of the margaritas of doom. The night ended with salsa dancing in the moonlight at the yacht club.
The last morning we got breakfast and got on the boat. We headed out of the bay. On shore, far away on a balcony we saw Brad waving goodbye. We went around a bend and Yelapa disappeared behind us. 

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

RIdge soaring '10

It's the fourth day of the clinic. I'm driving to the site with the windshield wipers going to fend off the mist. A big jet materialises out of the gloom overhead, flaps downs, contrails spinning off the edges. It's setting up a landing approach, east to west. That's not a good sign as I'm looking for west winds, soaring, west winds.

This is the trip of anomalies. There's never been a trip before that has had three days of no soaring. Now there is. Then again I've never had a trip where most of the people's names start with "J". (Jeff, Joan, John, Jon, Johannes, Janel.) Or where twenty percent of the pilots are women. Or where so many people lose their phones.

I've gotten a bit despondent. The beach is where you go to escape flakey weather. Hot land, cold water, these are big powerful weather influencers. Even as I drove that morning I could see the branches of the trees bent from the trunks to the east. This is the sculpting of the westerly sea breeze day after day. It's what happens most of the time, west wind, why can't it happen now?

It's not that we're not flying at all. There are short flights off the dunes. People are working on spot landings and kiting skills. The group has been hiking at point Lobos and up into the redwoods. But as the organizer of this I'm starting to twitch. All these people have taken off time for work, bought plane tickets and paid me to take them ridge soaring but the weather won't let me do my job.

Janel was the victim of the weather's rude humors. She just getting back into flying after a serious accident. She could only get time off for half the trip. And it was, to the minute, the bad half of the trip. After days of short flights and hikes back up the dunes, Janel's last day had come. She hung out till she had to pack up and leave. The winds were still light. Twenty minutes later the winds finally starts to pick up. It's a bit cross and it's already late in the day so we decide to scramble down to the far end of the dunes where the curve of the bay would hopefully make the winds straighter. Wind chasing in usually a goose chase but this time it works. The more experienced pilots are launched immediately upon their arrival. I start getting the newer pilots flying. And then the phone rings. It's Janel, she's driving down the highway seeing us all in the air. If only the wind would have held off five more minutes at least she wouldn't had to see everyone else getting the flights the weather wouldn't give her.

The winds are medium strong so everyone is getting plenty of height and there's lots of room as the lift band is fat. I'm playing air traffic control. The new guys need a some time to fly without traffic and get use to soaring the dunes. I give each new pilot a piece of dune to fly alone, then one of the other pilots flies the rules of the right of way with them. I then send them further down the dunes to fly with the rest of the group before launching the next pilot. Soon everyone is up. The group is now spread out over the entire five miles of dunes. I keep the newer folks closer to my end of the dunes to keep an eye on things. I find a good place to sit in the sand and feel an incredible sense of relief. If nothing else, everyone will go home with a great flight. I give some occasional input over the radio as the flights turn from minutes to hours.

With the sun getting lower in the sky the winds lighten a bit. With five miles of dunes to explore some of the pilots have landed out on the beach. The dunes are not a consistent wall, there are gaps that have to be crossed to get to the next section. With the lighter winds some of the crossings are getting harder to make. After a bit all the newer folks are on the beach. This my chance to get in the air. I launch and head south along the dunes. I soon find the whole group, either airborne, packing up or hiking back. Bob is down on the beach. I see his back pack was left behind on launch. Hmmm.. Could I....? I swoop onto launch, pause for an instant to grab the bag between my feet, kangaroo launch back into the air, fly down to Bob and drop the pack.

Now the day is giving up and everyone is landing. There will be a bit of the "who can stay up the longest" game but our day is not over. There is a picnic to be had in the redwoods. I land and call my sister Martha and tell her we are on the ground and packing up. They have the grill lit. We now have to collect everyone, pack gear, get in the cars, drive to the store for supplies and get to the picnic. This group had a tendency to come unraveled, but we finally get everyone in the cars with food bought and head down the Big Sur coast.

Right before the the Bixby bridge is the turn off, one dirt road to the locked gate, then down the narrow track carved into the hillside. The flowers have stayed in bloom late in the year. It's evening but still light, colors surrounded by shadow make up the hills, the bridge is a black silhouette with the ocean brilliant in the low evening sun. Our wagon train of cars poke slowly around the bends in the steep road. Then we enter the redwoods and it might as well be another world, tall trees, ferns, the stream.
The cars are parked, stuff unloaded. The dogs barks as we approach. I can smell the grill going.

Thursday, July 1, 2010


The sea of Nevada

Why in the world do we have so much Nevada? To be fair Nevada is no larger than any other of the states that I will pass through on this trip. But, where as Colorado does have the mind numbingly boring eastern plains, they are soon enough relieved by the stunning sceanery of the mountains. After that the high desert takes over into Utah. Then, cresting over Soilder pass, one drops into the Wasatch valley all lush with streams and fields before the buzzing activity of Salt Lake City consumes everything. Then there are the salt flats. And then Nevada. 
At first the grey teeth of rock thrusting up through gums of sage bush and biting the sky are yet another environment to absorb. But like a multi course dinner where every dish is mash potatoes, one soon aches for a change.
When I saw the sign pointing out that Reno was 511 miles away, I started working on a plan.
It occurred to me that there is a hell of a lot of coast south of Panama City that nobody is making much use of. What if couple of fifty miles long strips were brought up to surround a small inland sea. Then Nevada would become an attraction instead of a chore.  
I stopped by city hall in Elko to see if I could talk anyone into my idea. No one could find any fault in my plan. If Utah has a Great Salt Lake why couldn't Nevada have an inland sea. There was some concerns that Panama would miss it's coast line till I explained the sea would merely move inward to form a new coast. After a few days of the waves washing against the land no one would be able to tell the difference. Sure someone might think that the walk to the beach was way too short but that could be explained away as the product of poor memory.
As there is endless money available right now for these type of "shovel ready" projects, the city officials of Elko told me that they should have the new sea in place later that afternoon. I jumped back on my car egar to see my idea realized.
I soon entered the jungles of Humbolt county. The roads were poor as of yet as the soil needed time to settle before a real road was laid. I drove slowly on the dirt road listening to sound of holler moneys bellowing at the more adgile and teasing spider monkeys.  Here at the beginning of the jungle I saw Jack rabbits with swollen bellies napping in the shade. After spending their whole lives eating sage bush the rabbits had gorged themselves senseless. And speaking of pigging out, wild pigs were grunting about is a state of agitation. Perhaps the moving of the coast line beneithe there feet had been unsettling.
I drove with my head out the window looking up and all about. That is until a snake dropped off a tree on me. My flailing around only sucseeded in sending the snake flying into the car. At this point it was looped around the rearview mirror eyeing me with intent. That was the intent of where, exactly, to bite me. As I was paying  very little attention my driving, I bounced off a log by the side of the road. The car heaved to one side and the snake gave me one last glaring looking as it flew passed my face and out the window.

After that excitement I was thinking of taking a break when I saw a small bambo shelter with a palm frond roof. There were hand written signs, in Spanish, hanging from it that I could make no sense of. I pulled over.
I am always surprised at how much communication can go on between two people who speak different languages. I found out that Javier would like to sell me  a drink. I sat at his table drinking what I think was a banana mango smoothy. It was a buck. Obviously Javier was in need of some corporate branding like a nice logo and a uniform as then he could have easily charged four dollars for my drink. Toucans flew around looking for any fruit to job off. One actually got it's beak in my drink before I could pull it away.
Javier was surprised at how many Americanas He had seen today. While I was thinking, "Well, what else would you see in the middle of Nevada." it ocurred to me that maybe Javier had been scooped up when the sections of coast line had been removed from Panama. He may have no idea of where he was or what had happened. I decided that I would not be the one to explain his situation to him, especially when our form of communication depended on way too much arm waving.
I had finished my drink and grinned and waved my goodbyes.

Bumping along the road I came at last to the sea of Nevada. There was a fine sand beach with palm trees reaching out over it for the sun. At the water's edge there was hundreds of orange vested highway repair workers. As is well known, it is essential to the balance of the universe that these people are employed at all times. That is why they are seen all summer long dragging around orange cones placing them, seemingly at random, on the roads. Now, a hundred miles of interstate had been disturbed by the new sea. Sticking orange cones in the jungle would be pointless as would be floating them on the sea. Their new job was to ferry the cars across the sea on a large bambo raft. I drove my car up on to the raft. It sloshed back and forth violently.
A legion of orange vested people pushed the raft into the sea. Another legion picked up long bambo poles and started poling me across the water. I sat on the roof of the car. I was surprised to see seagulls had already found this new sea. They whirled overhead squawking. I sat there reflecting that my idea had been a great sucsess. This was way grander than endless miles of Nevada. I soon found out that not everyone had agreed with me. I was chatting one of the gals poling the raft. She informed me that all of Lovelock Nevada had been submerged. Houses flooded, lands lost. They were pissed. She went on about how some knuckle heads had come up with the plan in Elko and had forced it through without consulting anyone. I kept very quite as she told me about a how football rivalery was most likely behind it as Lovelock had always crushed Elko.
At the far side I waved goodbye to my orange vested friends. I crossed the beach and back into the jungle. In a few miles I saw a building going up. The sign on it said The Curved Banana Saloon. Well it was Nevada after all. The jungle ended aburuptly in a pile of mud and dirt. I drove down directly onto  the highway. It had been a long time since I had been over fifteen miles per hour. The speed felt exicting. In a few minutes I saw a sign, Reno 24 miles.


Day one

I headed up the Grizzly creek trail from the rest stop in Glenwood canyon. I had a large book of Jane Austen novels clutched in one hand. The path swung around like a slow motion roller coaster. There was the sound of the creek to my left, thousands of feet of orange red rock cliff over head. Purple flowers, like fuzzy antenna hovered over the tall grass over there. And over there yellow flowers huddled under the bushes. A tumbled stack of rock sloped upward to my right. But over there, some other rocks had muscled their way in amongst the soil and tree roots. Everwhere were trees and the green, angled light that was filtered through the leaves. Wasn't long before I had found a suitible place to lay down by the creek started to delve into Lizzy and Mr Darcy misrepresentation of their fellings to each other.

I have see a bunch of movies of Austen books but had yet to read any of them. Reading books of movies you've seen can have a mixed out come. On the up side the book can provide a wealth of depth of charactors you already like. On the other hand if you liked the movie but the movie butchered to book, then you wonder what the two ever had to do with each other and whether there is any point on continueing. So far I'm enjoying the book. Didn't expect the language to be as odd as it is though.

Some unknowable time later I awoke with the book laying on me. Getting up with the slouth that day time sleeping brings, I headed further up the trail. It occurred to me that, even though I had resently chain sawed my foot, that I was relatively uninjured and had no time pressures on this trip. Now was the opportunity to hike further up the trail then I had been before. Of course in Colorado, going as far as you can go and going as far as the trail goes, can be two very different things. For all I knew this trail could go on for days.

At some point it was time to turn around and start driving again. It's that time of year when we head out to Monterey to fly our paragliders. I've got nothing but hot weather and lots of desert to see the next few days.
I've got a newer car thanks to the CU police that crashed into my last one. The new one, alas does not have AC. So I built a fine evaporative cooler out of a fan, plastic storage bin and a humidifer wick. Ok, if doesn't blow freezing air at me but for $40 it's the difference between being baked alive and being reasonably comfortable. Plus the weird thing bungyed to my dash board pleases me to no end.

Got 41mpg on my first tank, full moon guitar playing in the desert, camp set, sleep comes.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Packing paranoia

9:07 Saturday MOrning.

I'm leaving by 11:00 for the ridge soaring paragliding trip I teach each year.

Right now I'm twirling around trying to finish packing even though... I'm done. But it doesn't feel like I'm done yet. There is still that lingering feeling that I'm missing something. Flying in the face of that idea is that the car is packed to the ceiling. I have also made lists, and written down everything as I put it in the car. I've already checked the list for things I think I might have forgotten.

The final bit will be the, "did I lock the door" challenge.

Anyway, from here on out I will blogging from the, I Smear. Typos will increase.

More Fun Soon.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

The last of trip.

Going home, Yelapa

The plane is rattling around in the sky. Three hours and I'll be home. I awoke to the sound of the surf on the beach. I'll go to sleep to the sound of the wood stove crackeling. Sand for snow.

I had breakfest on the pier as the high tide surf tried to slop it's way over the wall onto my table. Pelicans were swarming the fishing boats. The group of us finished up and got on the boat. A hundred feet off the pier we saw Carl waving from shore. Hold on! Back to pick up Carl. The surf was really big. As we went from beach to beach picking people up, the boat would dart in and then back off. We would be lifted high as the surf sucked back under us. I'd look down at bare sand just before us, sure  that we would be thrown upon the beach. But the boat pilot had it all timed just right.
Out of the bay onto the ocean, the heavly laden boat wallowed. There was too much weight for the boat to get up on plane. The boat just pushed through the water like a plow in deep snow. A few times it seemed like we might turn over.
Darren's friend Mike got us set up in the first bar he could find in PV. The long wait, till the plane left, began. For those that drank, a plan was quickly in place.
Slowly the wind shifted around into the south west. That meant the launch above Bob's house might be working. I could tell that Darren really wanted to go. Now we only had two hours till we had to get to the airport. I sort of remember how to get there but clearly remember that it is a scramble on a shitty trail and that the launch is tiny knoll that has been extented by a raised wire mesh. (really)  Light wind launches are completely hairball. And I've got the sniffles. I'm trying to sinc up to Darren's ethusiasim. I'm failing but think, "What the he'll". There is concern that we will all miss the plane because of Darren and I's boondogle. But in the true spirit of paragliding priorities we go to find a taxi that has some idea of where to go. The third guy we talk to does.
After winding up the streets, I'm not sure where the trail starts. I know where the hard way is. But remember there was a better way. Time is ticking. We head up the nasty path. It's steep and lose. Soon, as I remember, it turns into some sort of water course and gets even steeper. I must use my hands to pull myself up. Then it's through the rocks and bush. I see the scaffolding that supports the launch extention. Launch extention? What the hell am I talking about? Well, there simply isn't enough room there. So a scaffold with thick wire mesh was put up to make just enough room.  Indoor outdoor carparting is thrown over the back. While the front has been left open mesh to let the air through. (once again, no really) However, someone had done some work up there and there was some more room. Just enough for a  forward launch. Darren is about to put this to the test. The winds are light. I stand in front so I might have some chance of waving him off if the launch is no good. It's good! I go and get my gear ready. It's hard to be patient with your glider when there is so little room. But "right" is better than "quick". And I am off. I've got houses below and below that the beach. A sea bird is turning in lift below me but it is bird lift. My flight is soon over. We pack up on the beach, catch a cab and are back ten minutes late, just as the rest of the gang are ready to leave us behind.

The rest of the story is about linking one form of transportation to another till I'm standing at my front door. It's snowing.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Darren goes flying (we watch)

Yelapa day five

Darren just landed after two and a half hours. This  is best day, of all days and trips we have done. Darren, without his vario, launched first and landed last, therefore out flying everyone. (The whole gang got great flights.) Darren flew out to the front ridge. At first I thought he was going to miss out. The guys that launched later got right into thermals and were flying over launch. While Darren was stuck far below. But then he got a nice thermal and flew all the way back over launch. After that, as everyone sunk out one by one, Darren just kept flying around.
I was starting to wonder if Yelapa was really the place to go. I've never been skunked here, but I've been waiting for that one great day. Now we've had one.

I missed it though. I woke up with a head full of crap. My right ear wouldn't repressurize on the drive up the mountain. Felt woozy everytime I stood up. I'm on the evening launch now. Watching white caps coming in out on the ocean.

Later, after short but reasonable flight, I'm watching Darren fly some more. There has been a lot of that today. Darren got just a little more lift than I and got into the next layer of air. From that position he could just keep boating around. It's him and the turkey vultures. 

It's the last day at Yelapa. Tomorrow we get on the boat to go to the taxi to go to the... But we will try one more flying spot. Now it's off to Meme's to see the band play.