June 12: 115 miles, lots of longer flights, I'm outta here.
Our van had a flat, so I spent the morning running around Hobbs getting it sorted. By the time we were ready to launch it was 1:15, and all the various gliders were already long gone. There had been some miscommunication with our driver also, which meant that we didn't have one... We decided to go anyhow and hitch back, thus ensuring a good day (more voodoo science, it works).
Bruce launched first and went dribbling out of the airport low, where he was joined by David Glover in his Super Floater, a hang glider flown with a paragliding harness. Kim and I climbed out slowly at first, but then had the best climb I've had this year, solid 1200 up to 13,000 feet. Kim had never done a climb like this before, she was pumped as the vario kept singing and the air turned cold FINALLY. We'd been flying in ski suits for days, just sweating, finally it was cold to where we had to put on gloves. The next few hours were spent cruising along at between 4-12 thousand over the ground, definitely a quantum leap better than any day we'd had so far. It was so dreamy to get real climbs, not 200 up flatulence, but real climbs that went to near base. We actually took a collapse during a good climb, which was useful because Kim was starting to think collapses were just lies told to scare new PG pilots (they almost are on the Monster, it's wicked solid). Kim flew a lot of the flight, which was good as conditions hand not allowed for that yet. We were exactly on the dryline; to the east of us the bases were lower, and the clouds starting to OD, while to the west the clouds slowly dissipated into a clear blue sky. At about mile 50 I choose a more westward but weaker looking line of clouds due to the development, while Bruce charged ahead straight toward a large cell. We reached an altitude of 15,000, while Bruce took one to 16,000 before bailing.
My line of clouds didn't work that well, and suddenly Kim and I were on the ground 76 miles from Hobbs, while Bruce eventually landed after 115 miles. The Super Floater HG did 95, JB and Ramy 175 on the milleniums, Michael 175 and I think Davis 150+ on his Ecstasy, but don't quote me on that. I wish that Kim and I had launched earlier for sure, the development might not have scared me off. Five minutes after Bruce landed he was hit with a 40+ gust front even though he thought he was a good 20 mils from the storm. I've seen the dryline do some wild stuff, I felt bad about putting Kim and me on the ground early, but you just don't have the range of options on a tandem that you do on a solo glider, or at least I don't feel that I do. It's better to run away and fight another day than risk a tandem disaster.
The retrieve was epic; Our first ride was with a trucker hauling a large "smooth bore" tank of sulfuric acid. Smooth bore means that the tank has no baffles to stop the slosh of acid, and so the acid can basically throw the truck all over the road. He was the only trucker in the area willing to drive the stuff because of the risk, I can see why. I learned a fair amount about the fine art of tuning your CB for those booming echoes, and just life in one of the rigs. Don't assume the truck driver coming down the road toward you is necessarily firing on all cylinders. He took us all the way to Denver City, where we eventually worked a ride with some kids out cruising the three-block downtown strip. That got us back to Hobbs, where we turned around and drove 70 miles back to get Bruce, who wasn't having good luck hitching at night in the sandstorms from the gust fronts...The day ended at 1:30 in the morning, by far the best we've had here so far.
Totally blown out for PGs, like 25+ at 10:00 in the morning. Michael launched and went 60 miles in 90 minutes, but dirted, while the rest of the crew managed somewhere between 100 and 120 before being shut down by overdevelopment.
Rainy and overcast, we're outta here. I've been here since May 20th, it's time to go back to the mountains. Conditions this spring in Hobbs simply haven't been that great, but perhaps will turn on later. I might come back and July. I'm happy to have finished a safe trip with good people and flying, but definitely psyched to get back into cool air of the Rockies. Happy flights to you for the rest of the season!