Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Baja Trip - Day 3 (Part 1)

Friday, July 15, 2005 (Morning)
After the past 2 days, we were itching to fly. We awoke to the entire coast fogged in, but we expected it to lift. After breakfast we did some motoring as we waited for the sky to clear. The winds were slightly South and by 10:00 cloud base was up to around 800 feet. With the southerly winds, the La Salina ridge was out, but we figured that once the fog burned off thermal heating in the flats in front of launch would have it blowing in.

On a previous trip Jeff and Stinky had soared a small hill with condominiums and houses on top at the golf course about 2 miles to the south. It’s a small site, definite bandito territory as you have to get past the guards to get into the gated community. The site is slightly south facing so we hatched a plan where Jeff and I would motor down and see if there was enough lift to stay up while the rest of the crew avoided the guards in the truck.

Jeff and I launched and we flew down the coast. Once we were past the La Salina marina, the coastline changed drastically, becoming rocky and gnarly. On the way down we saw some interesting things, including some very expensive homes hidden in with the typically Mexican shambles. We even saw the fuselage of an old prop powered airliner that was up on stilts and being used as a home.

Upon arriving at the golf course hill it was obvious that there wasn’t enough wind rolling up the hill for us to stay up. We made several passes, waving at the condo owners having breakfast on their balconies. On the way back to Brent’s, I swung over to the ridge to test the lift and found the wind starting to turn to the west.

Once the truck crew made it back, Steve and Brad did some motoring. Steve headed back to the ridge and found it starting to pick up. We load up the gear and headed to the top, with Steve electing to top land with the motor and wait for us. (No small feat for a guy with zero PG flights, but Steve is a great motor pilot and he had no problem.)

Getting kinda long here, so I will post the afternoon activity in a seperate post.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Baja Trip - Day 2

Thursday, July 14, 2005
Still wake up early, as do most of the crew (obviously seasoned pros at drinking, as no one shows any ill effects from last nights fun). While Rob C. (Henceforth known as ‘Stinky Rob’, or just ‘Stinky’) motored on the beach, Jeff, Steve and I headed to K58 for some breakfast. When everything is closed at K58, we swing north a few miles and find a great little place in La Mision – 3 tables, 1 lady working there (cooking, waiting tables, and cleaning). A hearty breakfast of chorizo con huevos and beans ensures we have adequate propulsion for flying later in the day.

The ridge at La Salina is still socked in and the weather reports don’t show it clearing. So we elect to head south to try and find the ridge at San Antonio del Mar. This is supposed to be a primo soaring spot, with a 200 ft cliff right on the beach. We have the GPS coords and a general idea of where to go, so we head south. We pass through the tourist town of Ensenada (first stop for all the south bound cruise ships out of LA) and a couple of small villages before hitting our first military checkpoint. They waive us through, but the experience freaked out Brad. Supposedly, you are required to have a tourist visa to go south of Ensenada. We didn’t have them, but it really didn’t matter.

A little over 3 hours after heading south, we find the turn off to San Antonio. The GPS says we are 10 miles away, but we spend the next hour trying to find the spot. The coast is completely fogged in, with only a couple hundred feet of visibility, making it hard to get our bearings. Steve works the GPS and naviates like a pro.

We finally find the lower launch (60ft) and on it, 3 old-timers from LA camping. These guys have been coming to Baja on an annual camping trip for over 20 years and they had the coolest restored 1946 Army bus. Check out the photos.

It was blowing in slightly and you could almost see the beach, so Brad decided to try his luck. A 60 foot sledder later and he was packing his glider up and hiking back to us. We packed it in after that and started the journey back north.

The drive back didn't seem quicker than the one down, but maybe that was because Skybrake was driving. Again we were waved through the checkpoint, and again Brad was pretty nervous about it all. We did stop long enough to buy some cups of fresh sliced mango from the lady’s selling them at the checkpoint. They squeeze a bit of lime over them and dust them with chili powder. Yum!

We stopped at Ensenada for groceries and made it back to Brent’s by 4:00 pm. We could just barely see the top of the ridge so we decided to do some recon to try and find the road to the top (and hopefully save us a hike when it was flyable).

Jeff and I strapped on the motors and the rest of the team went in the truck. The plan was for us to fly up and find the road and radio control the truck to the top. By the time I covered the mile between the beach and the ridge, cloud base had dropped to almost ridge level and more low clouds were blowing in from the north. Jeff and I radioed the truck through a few back roads and a gated subdivision before base dropped to about 350ft and it got too rowdy for us to hang. We headed back to the beach and left the guys in the truck to finish the task of finding launch on their own.

Turns out, we didn’t even have them close, but instead we had them on a dead end road up the wrong side of the mountain. Thankfully, when they crashed the gate into the subdivision, the security guards noticed them and were in hot pursuit. With Stinky’s asi-asi Spanish skills, the security guard was able to give them directions to launch. All this took about 2 hours after Jeff and I left going back to the beach, and we were out of radio contact the entire time.

Finally, Jeff and I gave up waiting on the other guys and walked down the beach to the Baja Seasons for some dinner. We got in contact with the truck guys after they made their way down and they meet us for a late dinner.

Not a great PG day, but everyone but Steve did fly at some point and we found the road to launch as well as how to get to San Antonio del Mar.

Baja Trip - Day 1

Wednesday, July 13, 2005
I wake up very early (my body still on Central time) so I do more work until the Mexican place next to the Hampton opens up. At 8, I head over for a plate of churizo con huevos (hmmm, pork fat and eggs!). The boys won’t arrive until noon so I kill more time working on a proposal and doing paperwork.

Around 11:00 I get a call that Jeff, Rob and Steve have arrived, Brad’s flight is delayed. I head over to meet Rob at Avis where we load all my swag from Wal-mart into the Expedition and return my rental car to Hertz. We pick up Jeff and Steve and head out to the El Cajon airport to pickup the motors Jeff and Steve shipped out. We get to check out the shop of Steve’s competition in the prop business (nice folks) and we transfer the gliders and other assorted gear to the roof of the truck so we can load in the motors in the back.

After getting everything loaded, we head back into San Diego, to the North Park area to meet Phil Russman for lunch. The great sushi place I ate at last time was closed at lunch so we settle for Thai next door. After lunch we head back to the airport to pick up Skybrake and then head south for the border.

On the way south, we stop off at an ATM for Rob C to get cash and I am thoroughly ridiculed for wanted to stop and buy toilet paper before crossing the border. We then hit I-5 south and are soon in Old Mexico. Once we get south of Rosarito, the coast is fogged in and it gets worse as we drive south. Within an hour we arrive at Baja Brent’s beach house and unload most of the gear and put the motors together.

We also find that the house is completely out of toilet paper! Vindication!

We then head north to the sand dunes about 10 miles north in hopes soaring twin tuned exhausts, burning nitro. The kid on it was racing up the dunes at around 70 mph. After realizing that he is a pretty good rider (and we won’t get to see any carnage) we head to the liquor store and then to dinner at a local place. After dinner, we engage in some moderate social drinking to the tune of a couple cases of beer and a bottle of rum and them hit the sack.

Baja Trip - Day 0

Tuesday, July 12, 2005
Get up and do some work, head to the airport for the 5+ hour (and 2 stop) flight to the west coast. Arrive in San Diego around 2pm and head out in search of supplies. Quick stops at REI and Wal-Mart nets me new sunglasses, a battery for my Sunnto watch, 6 cases of bottled water, and a cheap cooler. Head to the hotel to finish some work and then fish tacos for dinner followed by more work.