This Sunday was a day of great weather sandwiched between many impossible days! With serendipitous timing, tandem hopefuls once again converged on Kuratake.
Outstanding conditions set in from unusually early in the morning, and 10 AM saw us already soaring high over Kuratake with Matty. It's been a while since a tandem has topped out over the summit, and we were also able to do a nearly one-hour tour of the entire massif: Yahazudake, Komeyama, Oniiwa. What a flight!
Julio was next for another amazing flight: topping out again, flying for nearly an hour and, for the first time ever, top-landing the tandem at Kuratake!
Two more flights followed, and I'm sorry for forgetting to take pictures in all my excitement 😞 Besides the mental workout, after more than 3 hours in the air of aggressive maneuvering of the tandem's heavy controls, my arms felt fairly cooked! And as the usual apprehension before taking off dissolved into the elation of the purest form of flight, my passengers kept me so busy engaged in conversation that thermaling had to be put on autopilot much of the time. We watched and imitated thermaling birds, found a smoke-marked thermal that helped us make a low save, looked for movement in the trees below to find pockets of lift, talked about Kamishima's unique 'Colombian Necktie Thermal'. From our high perch we enjoyed great views of the Goshoura and Shishijima Islands, Mt. Unzen, Aso, and even Kirishima and Kagoshima's Sakurajima. We viewed Kuratake's bird- and plant-life from the air we also chatted about topics as diverse as physics, horticulture and, of course, the X-Alps! Each flight was very different and exciting for me due to both the changing conditions and the different thoughts of each of my flying companions.
I can honestly say I've never had such active and positive engagement from my passengers before! That made the day really fun and enjoyable for me. In fact, after it was all over, as Leanne and I made the last trip up the hill to drop off the tandem gear, I felt too excited just to go home, and so I grabbed my own gear and flew down the mountain, in the gusty and difficult west wind that was picking up, then took my headlamp and ran up the mountain and down the back-side in the dark for some X-Alps training. And even after that, I still felt hyper!
Thanks guys for not only your material but also spiritual support! Training for the X-Alps, although always quite enjoyable, can be a grind because of the duration and volume of grueling work one has to do, and other preparations such as sponsor and logistical work can also wear one down. Every now and then, a little impromptu encouragement from others can make a huge difference, re-centering my psyche and reminding me why I am doing all this. It really helps! And, a special thanks to Mary-Ellen for once again helping to organize this day, for helping with out T-shirt design, and for the very constructive comments about further sponsorship and funding ideas.
Let's do it again!
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