Thursday, May 15. We made it!
Clint and Tomo and Daniel (Guillaume) and Dan (Miller) leave Calgary
around 5:30 PM, driving in Clint's truck. The landscape south of the
city is stunning, and we are treated to a magnificent sunset. The
massive wind turbines north of Lethbridge are awe-inspiring, as is the
trestle bridge – which was the longest in the world when the bridge
was built almost a hundred years ago.
We arrive at the United States border shortly before 10:00. The four
of us make an interesting group, and we raise a few eyebrows there.
Tomo is travelling with a Japanese passport, and he has never visited
the United States before. Clint has entries in his passport for Egypt
and Jordan, and Dan has entries for Cuba. Daniel is Korean, visiting
Canada on a temporary work visa, and travelling with a Belgian
passport that was issued in France. To top it all off, we are all
looking a little nervous… (We have heard all about SIV maneuvers and
they sound pretty damn scary.) However, it takes only 40 minutes to
do the paperwork, which is a lot less than it might have been.
Surprisingly, the folks at US customs are great, and we don't
experience any hassles or major delays. Nobody has to endure a strip
search or (much worse) watch uniformed neanderthals with handguns
unpack his glider and spread it all over the pavement at the border.
We alternate drivers through the night, and we arrive in Salt Lake
City at 8:00 in the morning. The first place we visit is (of course)
Point of the Mountain. If there is any possibility of a flight at the
south side, then we want to be there for it. Conditions are too
strong, though, and only the hang gliders are setting up. The hill is
impressive – and we are all feeling a little jealous. (Only Clint has
seen the north slope, so the rest of us have no idea how jealous we
We drive to Sandy, just south of Salt Lake City, to say hello to the
guys at Super Fly. Chris is out towing, so we decide to continue
south to Yuba Lake and check out the site for tomorrow's course. At
Yuba Lake we find four other pilots on the beach. They have been
doing maneuvers over the water all morning, and they don't look any
worse for the wear. The "witching hour" at Yuba Lake starts at noon,
and the wind changes while we're chatting. When Chris returns to
shore with the boat, he suggests they switch to towing behind the
truck, so we head over to the road and wait for him there.
When the truck arrives, it looks like something out of a Mad Max
movie. It's a large vehicle, painted jet black, with tinted windows
and black hubs on huge knobby tires. The box has been replaced with a
flat-bed dominated by tow equipment: a huge spool of tow line, a gas
engine, and an enormous tool box. We are standing at the side of the
road in the blasting heat when the truck pulls up in a cloud of dust,
and for a moment it reminds me of one of the horsemen of the apocalypse.
With the exception of Clint, we have never met Chris Santacroce
before. The truck stops and Chris climbs out. He is tanned and dusty
and grinning like a Chesire cat. "Welcome to the desert!" he says,
with all the grace and charm of a host welcoming guests to paradise.
It takes no more than three seconds to get a very clear impression of
Chris, and time only reinforces that first impression: he is equal
parts boyish enthusiasm, impish mischief, grandfatherly wisdom, and
Zen master – like a genie who has escaped his lamp.
One at a time, he tows the other four pilots to an impressive height,
and we stay to watch their flights for a while. Afterward we drive to
a small town called Scipio, about ten miles south of Yuba Lake, where
we meet up with Mathieu and Trevor, and we check in to the hotel for a
few hours of sleep.
(Mathieu arrived a day earlier, and conditions were ideal last night
for ridge soaring. He is still euphoric over his first soaring
flight, more than 20 minutes in the air. Mathieu has also had time
for some sight-seeing in Salt Lake City, and several times he comments
on how clean the city is, and how friendly the people there. One
couple handed him the keys to their vehicle when he offered to drive
it down to the landing zone for them. Just imagine how remarkable
that is: an American giving his car keys to a complete stranger with a
strong French accent!)
After dinner we drive out to the lake and we practice a few
inflations. The wind is too light for anything except forwards. It
is good to practice though. The weather in and around Calgary has
been dismal the past several months, so most of us have not even
inflated our gliders this year. We return to the hotel early, anxious
and jittery over tomorrow's first SIV flights.
Hey Vincene and Keith (Vincene, could you please forward this to Keith as
I do not have his email address),
could you please TEXT Trevors cell phone number to me, as he has my
harness to pass on to Santa and I need to get it back from him if he picks
it up from santa.
We had a great towing yesterday after Chris got a couple of injectors
replaced in his boats engine - everyone did really well and got at least 1
tow in each. Tomo had a little excitement on his second flight, and his
360 turned into a sprial dive, which Chris managed to get him out of in
Epic day today... we towed up until late afternoon, and everyone got in at
least 2 more tows today, so some had 4 maneuver flights total, others had
5 or 6, and all finished the course with a smile on their face! Tomo was
a little more hesitant today after his spiral dive yeasterday, but still
managed couple of good flights.
I had a bit of a blip on my last attempt. It was starting to pick up and
get quite switchy with thermals on the beach. I was hooked in, and there
wwas zero wind. The instant I started my inflation, a thermal kicked off,
and the wind was straight down beach - my glider weather vained away from
the water, i got picked up and tossed down. I caught mh hand in a rut,
and when I looked at it, my finger was going 90 degrees in the wrong
direction. I thought it was broke, so I tried to abort the flight - Chris
thought I was trying to correct, and unfortunatley I got pulled into the
water and did a face plant in knee deep water, so my glider and reserve
got soaked so I couldnt fly any more. We looked at my finger and thought
it was broke cause of the direction, or severely disolcated. He gave me
800 mg of ibuprofen, and I chased that with a can of redbull. After about
10 minutes, he mnade the comment "I just want to pull that finger
stright...just give it a yank!" Not sure if he was serious or not, but
with a bit of hestiation i gritted my teeth, and pulled. It made a
horrific asound just like in the movies with about 4 bone pops, I groaned,
and it was back in place (all the guys kinda had a horrific look on their
faces when it cracked like that), but my glider and reserve were still
wet so that ended up my last short flight of the day. That is about all
that happened this weekend in terms of injuries (lol, at least this time
it didnt cost TIC another $30000, lol). If chris can do a repack for me
tomorrow, I will try and fly at the point with the rest of the crew
tomorrow night if conditions allow. Everyone is flying with a lot more
confidence than they came down with, so they might fly the point under
Was awesome down here, especially the weather, and Mathieu tells me he is
still a fabulous great guy. He even managed his first thermals over the
beach and gained a bit of alitutude!"
Believe it or not, Trevor was probably the rockstar of this group of guys
doing their first SIVs, nailing most of his maneuvers and then towing up
for some thermals on his last flight which lasted 20 - 30 minutes..
ANywas, that is all for now.
See you in a few days.