I was looking forward to this weekend all of last week. It is the Big Sur hang gliding weekend. My first time out of town flying and that too over the Pacific. But thanks to coastal weather not looking ideal for Saturday, the trip reduced to Sunday only. Determined to not lose the opportunity to car-camp, I went to Hollister for several tow flights, geared up with sleeping bag, stove and instant noodles. And what a Saturday it turned out to be.
I had some great tow flights at Hollister. Despite no luck with thermals, my flare landings improved by leaps and bounds. I also flew a lot more relaxed, maybe that explains my textbook landings. I scored nearly 45 minutes in air, totaling just north of 7 hours of airtime till date. Hang 3 is now just 3 hours away.
I took off before sundown for Big Sur. Destination Plasket creek campground before the town of Gorda. As always I dreaded the CA-1 traffic but to my disbelief I basically had the road to myself. Driving on an empty mountain road in a moonlit night by the pacific has its own charm. Stopped a few times, turned off the lights, and took in the view. No wind and no usual shivering in cold was another big plus.
The campground was full but car camping has great advantages. The camp host let me park for the night at an adjacent parking lot for a $5 fee. And then I found the parking lot was next to the sand dollar landing zone!!! I turned off the lights, and suddenly the place felt magical, almost surreal. A big meadow next to the ocean was flooded in soft moonlight. Above me was a star studded sky with a few jets here and there. Dead silence, not another human in sight. I took in every single moment of this bliss. I could appreciate the rarity of all the elements coming together to offer me this kind of solitude.
I fired up the stove to cook some Maggi. The hot noodles was delicious after such a tiring day. And while I write this blog sitting on folded second row seats on a Honda Pilot, I figure this is the best hotel room ever. Sleeping in an SUV like this is not only cheap, it takes less space, involves no hassle of a tent, and is warm enough. I would be doing this more often. I miss not having Priti on this trip, but she is out enjoying a great ski weekend, so its alright.
Gotta see what tomorrow brings. Goodnight.
Sunday, 20 Jan 2013:
Woke up around 6:30. Loved the view as I opened my eyes. Took a short hike to watch the ocean. The weather was just too good. This could be an epic flying day. We set up the streamers at the main LZ, in front of Pacific Valley ranger station. One by one the other pilots showed up. Loren, Tom, Jesse, EricR, EricF, Alejandro and Vicky were all charged up for what seemed to be an great flying day. We loaded up our gliders on the trucks of EricF and Harold and headed for “The Knob”. What a treacherous road! I would not dream of driving on such broken dirt road! Half an hour later we were at the launch point but oh boy, 25 mph wind from mountain to the sea. Huge bummer. We went back to the LZ and noticed the wind was just perfect. Immediately we headed for the Wild Cattle launch via Nacimiento-Fergusson road (paved) and Plasket ridge road (dirt). 45 impatient minutes and we were there. It was a real disappointment to see the wind in opposite direction once again. The view was breathtaking and that alone was worth the long ride up. Gorgeous view of the pacific in bright sun. Perfect place for hanging out with fellow pilots. We waited and waited. Around 4pm the wind showed some signs of turning back but it didn’t really become favorable for launch. By 4pm we called it a day and started back to LZ. Despite all this, I am looking forward to coming back another day, hopefully soon.
A TON of thanks to Harold Johnson and Eric Froehlich for driving us around to the launch sites and teaching us a bunch of technical matters.