The trip back to California was worse then I had expected. I had a lady kick the back of my seat for 9 hours on the flight from Munich, and a child kick my seat for 6 hours on the flight from Philadelphia. The immigration and customs at Philadelphia took more than two hours. They had 48 stations, but only 8 were opened (it reminded me of the post office). We had to pick up all of our luggage at customs, then re-check it at the domestic terminal. This trip, the 15 hours of dry air on the plane gave me a soar throat. Nancy did not fair any better, but it is nice to be back in the USA. What we missed most was the lack of variety. In Austria and Germany everything seemed the same. Same streets, same menus in the restaurants, same trees etc. In a 3 mile radius around my house in San Jose we have a least 10 different types of restaurants. It was also very crowed over there. Even though we spent most of our time away from big cities, we never seemed to be more than a couple of miles from a village. Flying home over Nevada and looking down at places where you could drive for hours and never see another person makes me realize how much space we have left in the USA.
On the long flight back home, I had a lot of time to think about my flying in Austria. I was trying to come up with a better way of describing what it is like to fly there. We had two types of flying days. On what I will call the "good" days, we were climbing to 13,000'+ over mountains with peaks between 7,000' and 9,000'. I found that if you got below 5,000' or 6,000' you were soon on the deck. The valleys were 2,000', but there was very little lift low in the valleys (they are very wet and green). I made goal every day on the "good" days. On the "bad" days, the cloud bases were between 8,000' and 9,000' (in many areas lower than the peaks). On these days I never made goal. I have come up with a couple of scenarios to describe these "bad" days. For those that have flown King, imagine flying between May and Salmon (up that canyon), with the clouds below the peaks and the wind blowing 20+ mph, and make two complete round trips (130+ miles). The second scenario is to fly from McClellan (NV) to Silver Springs with the clouds lower than the peaks, 20+ mph wind and again make the round trip twice. Oh, and I forgot, fly at speeds between 55 and 60 mph while on glides. If you miss one thermal, you are one the ground.
I also gave some thought to what kind of pilot the USA would have to send to Austria to be competitive (this is in no way meant to question the ability of most of the current USA team members). This would be my ideal pilot. Take a Dean Tiegs or Kevin Frost (for their experience in high winds in the mountains), make them loose 80 to 100 pounds each, (the Italian pilots have the frontal area of a dinner plate), take 20 to 30 years off their age, give them a harness for comps only, with 20 to 30 pounds of ballast (Christian's harness was so tight he had bruises on his hips, I don't think you could have slid a credit card between him and his harness), give them the latest and greatest glider (a $12,000 to $18,000 investment, and tweak this glider for this comp, Christian's glider had very little washout). Don't forget the special vario with total energy compensation (the stick thermals at 60 mph make it virtually mandatory).
Don't get me wrong, I really enjoyed the flying in Austria. Though many days the air was rough, I never felt like I was going to tumble. In fact, you could say the rigid gliders are now less likely to tumble, given the fact that two of the flex wings tumbled and none of the rigids. The scenery from the air was spectacular. I am glad I had the chance to fly there.
Me getting ready to leave the set up area.