By Gary Kemp
The sky, a vaulting blue dome as the sun rises and illuminates the valley. My two friends and I decide today is the day to race for fun and see what we can do in the way of speed and distance. We launch early and are soon climbing swiftly in the house thermal and top out under some small white whispies and decide on the first turnpoint. We head east toward the pink red escarpment that we can see in the clear air, more than 100 miles distant. Markers have not yet begun to form as we spread apart covering almost two miles abreast to better find the thermals. One surges ahead and we quickly lose sight of him. A bit later we see a flash of a wing in the distance and like sharks honing in on a yellow fin tuna we target him and quickly close the distance to join him in the thermal. Climbing rapidly now we again top out, now close to 18000 feet under beautifully forming cumulus as we again head into the distance.
A short time later we have diverged although still in contact, I spot an ancient city in the distance and thinking there will be lift I head there and see tall minarets, libraries with sweeping windows and large public buildings, I have lost altitude and form and now am sweeping low in human form to circle the buildings, I look out at my wings to discover they are just my arms and I am still flying. I swoop around the buildings hoping for lift and spy an open window. I fly and cruise through halls of beautiful art work, paintings and sculpture. Across the width of the largest room I spot another window and as I get closer I see a dust devil outside and through the window I contact strong lift and now rising again inside my sailplane. I continue on and soon join my comrades heading for the second turn.
These are the kinds of dreams I have during the year, they fill my mind two or three times a week as I write my book and now as Peter Kelly has asked me to contribute to “The Spirit of Soaring” dialogue.
I have not flown a glider in ten years, can’t believe that it is that long, but I am still a soaring pilot and part of the gliding and racing community. I turn my head to the sky whenever I see a soaring bird or hear an engine or see a beautiful cloud street heading into the distance.
Every morning I check out the Williams soaring website, rec.aviation. soaring site. I look forward to communication from the Hollister and Avenal guys and what they are doing and I want to know what Ramey and Kempton’s latest flights are.
When I was flying I was like the grade school kid after a long summer looking forward to the start of school to see all of my friends at the first contest or event of the year. I often was the first to fly cross country from Williams in the Spring, to see what I could do that was new and to see my friends again.
Competition and cross country gave me the high that made life interesting. Finishing a task that shouldn’t have been possible, doing something new and doing it with friends was something I looked forward to. I have gone out to Turf to talk to Gary Boggs and to Arizona soaring at Estrella to just be around some sailplanes.
This is the Spirit of Soaring and I still have it and miss my association with my soaring friends that I once had.