Superstitious and religious folks will often try and find a reason for things to happen the way they do. They insist that not only in the afterlife will your deeds be tallied up and judgment rendered, but also here on Earth can you count on some score-keeper in the sky to keep a close watch on your sorry ass and make sure your ‘get what you deserve’. All kinds of folksy sayings pertain to this myth – and we use them without even thinking much about the fallacy of it all.
‘Life just isn’t fair’, ‘I had it coming’, ‘Serves you right’, ‘You’re such a saint’, ‘Stay away from me, you are bad luck’… we’ve all heard them. When thinking about why on Earth I had the best of times at this year’s Annual Soaring Camp of the ASA (Auxiliary-powered Sailplane Association) in Parowan UT, I was ready to fall into this trap. Hadn’t I been leading a good life, always offering my fellow glider pilots to cut in line in front of me? Wasn’t I always kind and considerate in communicating with the bullies, the know-nothings and other assorted freaks that make life fun? Answer: no and no, but I always try my best. So then, did I deserve to have this fantastic, flawless, makes-you-want-to-cry-for-joy glider vacation in Soaring Paradise? You betcha.
When considering the following description of events as I recall them, remember that my recollection is sometimes fuzzy and that I at other times exaggerate slightly. It all started with my OLC buddies Mike and Terry from Iowa encouraging me to join them this year for an 11 day soaring camp out West. Living near Chicago, I could meet up with them going down I-80 and it was implied that they look after me and give local advice regarding the Parowan Awesomeness. After 2 days of pretty hard driving, Mike and I checked into our condo in Parowan which had all the amenities of home – except Mike’s bedroom was without AC, the poor devil. At 5,900’ MSL Parowan nights are fortunately quite cool even in Summer. As compensation for the hardship, I agreed to make the full breakfast each morning that Mike was used to, including Starbucks coffee. Parowan has a couple of motels and restaurants, if you prefer.
The Parowan FBO is run by Dave and another employee and they are full-service, let me tell you. From oxygen and ballast water to refreshments to an RV and camping area to a bathhouse and a huge tarmac that was easily holding all of our motorgliders and 6-8 pure sailplanes tied out – what an infrastructure! The motorized glider drivers had enough space to taxi from their tie-downs to the runway without tangling with other AC. Operations started casually around 11 in the morning with the first cloud markers appearing over the mountains. By 12:30 most of us were in the air and what a spectacular air mass we had for the entire camp! I flew 9 out of the 11 days and spent 52 hours in the glider covering over 3,600 mi. On the rest days Mike, Terry and I explored the wonderful canyon-lands a couple of miles away. There’s Cedar Breaks right up the mountain from Parowan, Bryce and Zion Canyon a little further out and of course the Grand Canyon some 95 mi away. We only had time to hike Cedar and Bryce, then it was back to the flying business.
If you care to look through the OLC results from June 19-29, you will find that Parowan dominated the world-wide postings for the entire time. Many of us flew every day until 7-8 PM with some die-hards staying up until 8:30 PM. Most of the days it was so good, a cave-man could have flown to Nephi UT (near Provo)… and back. My best day yielded only 860 km but there were many longer flights.
Let me tell you about a fellow German who showed up with an old LS 6 with winglets. Probably the youngest chap at the camp, he used to be a ‘Sport Soldier’ in Germany (program was discontinued). This basically meant that exceptional glider pilots could go flying after going through basic training with some expenses paid, a salary and of course a competitive glider provided to them (5 pilots shared one glider). No wonder the German Army and Air Force are feared no more. Ambitions of World Domination, fugetaboutit – a good thing. This young man called Thorsten (the h is silent, do NOT pronounce his name like Throckmorton!) is what we call back home an Überflieger, someone far removed from us regular mortals. For 4 blessed days in a row Thorsten posted an average of over 1,000 km on OLC, the shortest flight just below that mark, the longest around 1,250 km. His turn points included Ely NV, Page AR and Heber City UT. Just like the rest of the group, Thorsten freely shared his substantial insights into the local flying conditions and routes, having attended the camp multiple times.
There were two Canadians present, Randy from Toronto and Jean from Montreal who also resides in Mexico. Randy’s shtick was an irritation with what he – politically incorrectly – calls Girlywings, the 18 m extensions that most of us were flying with. Can’t fly without them Girlywings, eh Herb? was his daily comment. I had to switch to the 15 m version on my LS 8 to show him that I can beat him in his LS 6 either way, but he wouldn’t shut up. The friendly banter continued throughout the meet. His call sign of EH gave me an idea: I told him that he was not able to form a sentence without mentioning it. His answer: You’re pulling my leg, eh?
My new friend Mike from Iowa flies an immaculate DG 400 that he drives over absolutely amazing distances. Late in the evening after most everyone has landed, Mike is still out there making miles and finding lift; where, nobody knows. He earned his nick-name Iron (Butt) Mike every day. If you call him that, remember, the butt is silent – no pun intended.
Imagine landing after a full day of flying between 15 and 18 k altitude and coming down very pleased with yourself around 7 PM. You tie down the glider, stroll over to the bath house to clean up and walk into the ASA-rented hangar. There, a full catered meal cooked or barbequed by fine local chefs waits for you, complete with refreshments and desert – all for $10 to $15. That routine was kept up throughout the camp, every night! This was one well organized and fun event, my hat comes off to the Board of Directors and the many volunteers of the ASA for pulling this off.
Towing services for us non-self-launchers were provided by John, one of the local heroes of Parowan. Having sold his own towplane, he kindly rented a Cessna 172 for the meet and installed a tow hook. His expertise and local knowledge together with good early conditions every day meant that there was not one relight during the entire camp, thanks John! Except for some virga at altitude, not a drop of rain was seen during our time at Parowan – and that includes for Mike and for me the entire trip out and back.
Well, did I really deserve this absolutely perfect vacation experience? Of course not, there is nobody watching or doling out rewards and punishment. It all comes down to what few people know is actually Newton’s Fourth Law: You Have To Show Up. If you’re not taking your chances, if you don’t take that tow or make that trip, you’ll never know how good or bad it’s going to be. So go and make that trip – to Parowan!
Herb Kilian, J7
Herb Kilian learned to fly gliders on the Ith mountain in N. Germany in the 1980’s and relocated with his family to Raleigh NC in 1987. Now living in Downers Grove IL near Chicago, he flies with the Chicago Glider Club and competes in Regional contest, on the OLC and a local season-long N. Illinois contest that John Cochrane has been running for some time. He is the current president of the Chicagoland Glider Council, an organization that promotes and educates on the sport of soaring with all 3 Chicagoland glider clubs as members but open to anyone interested.