Coast to Coast Day By Day – Day 5

The morning started off COLD! Temperatures had dropped below freezing and the wind still blowing 6-12 mph was even more chilling. From the comfort of my covers, Ray and I did our usual briefing call with Weather Man. Our goal was to find a way out of this weather crevasse where we could catch winds heading east. Time was of the essence where we were in danger of missing the wave and being stuck for several more days.

Hell to the No

What EVER IT TAKES, i’m going to do this

After strategizing with Dave and Ray, we came up with a plan to push the 85+ miles to Fort Stockton airport where the Continental Divide well behind us, we should be able to finally get a consistent west to east wind current. We decided that I would fly the Snake at the deck flying just 50-100 feet off the ground for the first 25 miles to where highway 20 linked with I-10. By then we would be out of the hole and I should be able to climb once past the ridgeline that was causing us so much pain.

The Weather Hole and the way out. We were starting from the Blue Pin.

Getting to work it the wind chill was freezing and the entire team had to don gloves and extra layers. We took extra care to warm up the motor properly with the half fuel load and ditched the flight deck for this leg and I carried just one radio.

Getting control of the Snake wasn’t easy and she came up quick. The thick gloves made it difficult to have a good feel as she danced around before I made my turn ready to launch and worked the throttle to keep me steady as the wind gusted through. Determined to go I throttled up and was at full stride when the wing suddenly dove to the right and I smashed into the ground in a cloud of dust. My wing was clinging to the barbed wire fence, I was also on top of my throttle and the motor was running. I couldn’t get my thick glove over the kill switch.

The team sprung into action and as they rolled me over I was able to kill the motor while they wrestled the wing, I unclipped. My flight suit torn, I visibly limped to the bench which Tom had hurriedly set out.

Ray – “Are you OK?” Harley – “I’m Fine.”
Ray – “Are you sure?” Harley – “I’m Fine!”

I wasn’t fine and they knew it. My pride dusted up and physically hurt, I barked at the team to set up again and took my gloves off to make sure I could feel the glider properly. It was clear I screwed up and buried a brake causing the glider to sharply turn to the right.

Ready to go Tom & Ray helped me to my feet. At this point, Tom noticed a crack through the backside of one of the blades of the 3-blade prop. Aaagh! Sitting down again Tom scrambled and grabbed another prop, this time opting for the variant that was less fuel-efficient but had more thrust. Ray worked quickly and soon the new prop was installed and he helped me to my feet.

We fired up the motor and quickly laid the wing out. Again the wing shot up in a flash and once stabilized and under control, I turned before quickly throttling up. Climbing to 50 feet, crabbing my way into the wind I crossed the highway and headed east up our planned flight path.

Progress was slow, but I was making about 25-35 miles an hour. An hour later I had cleared the ridge and reached highway 20 junction. My speed and altitude gradually picked up and while bumpy with some oscillation I was making acceptable progress.

Join me tomorrow as we continue into day 5. The drama isn’t over yet!

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