Venice.

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The island of Murano, of Murano glass fame.

Luke and I landed in Venice, Italy, after traveling for 24 hours from Portland. I slept for about 18 hours I think, and still wasn’t quite awake when we finally decided we should check out Venice at least a little bit before our time in the city was up. The crowds were pretty overwhelming, but we found a few places that were off the beaten path. We had eggplant parmesan, coffee, and gelato from little open air shops on the canals. If this was any indication of the food we will eat on this trip, I’d better up my exercise regimen! We did purchase day passes on the city transportation system, which are good for all of the buses and boats that travel set routes (it doesn’t cover private gondola rides). We felt it was worth the 32 euro to be able to watch the city go by in the cool ocean air (out of the crowds of people!), and to be able to visit one of the outlying islands, Murano. We didn’t get to Murano until almost 7pm–unfortunately the glass workshops were closed by then. We did find a delicious pasta dinner though! I’ve included some photos that I feel are the best of the zillion or so I took in the short time we were there.

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The colors are incredible.
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You know, just another ‘sidewalk’ in Venice.
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Some, (okay many), parts of the city were packed with tourists. We finally wandered away from the crowds and saw a more simple and real side of Venice.
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Palazzo Ducale (the Doge’s Palace).
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Again, endless colors!
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Giardini della Biennale are gardens designed during the Napoleonic Era. They are home to Venice’s annual International Art Exhibition (Biennale di Venezia), which has been taking place since 1895. This photo is of one edge of the gardens; they contain many pavilions and sculptures, and cover 450,000 square feet.
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More beautiful colors and old architecture.
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Mestre is on mainland Italy, but is connected to Venice by bridge. We stayed in a nice hotel in Mestre as it was less than half the cost of a hotel in Venice proper.

World-record task in Chelan.

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View from roughly 160km.

From the start of the competition, I knew there was a really good possibility of a huge task, and that it would be longer than the previous task record of 214km set in Australia earlier this year. It wasn’t a surprise when they posted it, but it sure was a big number with distance to goal 224.3km. The day was forecast to be windy, and the start was a little scary—I had a hard time pushing away from launch towards the lake into the wind. I briefly considered landing, but heard over the radio that the LZ was thermic and windblown too, and decided the flats—and the task—were a safer option! It took a couple tries to get high enough to make the crossing over the Colombia River towards the start cylinder. I waited until several pilots were well established near the start so that I would have some good thermal markers to aim for since my glide doesn’t reach nearly as far as some. There were nice big thermals above the power lines, and it was a relief to move beyond them and eliminate the uneasy feeling of thermalling over high-tension power lines. Many pilots drifted away from the start with the wind, but I managed a great start position! Immediately after the start, my flight computer flashed the direction and distance to the next turnpoint—103km! A crazy number, given that I’d only ever flown that far just a few days prior. There were almost always gliders climbing in front of me for the first half of the flight which made pushing forward easier. It was a huge relief to tag the midway turnpoint, but daunting at the same time as the distance to the finish point came up on my computer—113km! I really had no idea if I was capable of finishing this task, but hoped to beat my current best distance. I got within a few hundred feet of the ground twice, the second time about 50km from goal. It took some time in survival mode to find an organized thermal, and then took more time to re-establish myself up under the clouds. I left my last thermal high enough, or so I thought. My focus was lacking and I’d run out of patience when I realized, about half a kilometer from end of speed, that I didn’t have the glide needed to make goal. It was a shock to be on the ground after six hours of flight just .2km from end of speed. I was happy and heartbroken at the same time, and I walked the last 2km to goal with my glider on my back. I learned a lot from this task, and I hope to never make the same mistake again!

Chelan, second task.

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Luke doing a celebratory wingover above Omak, WA.

Today looked much better than yesterday, and a long task was called that played into the south wind forecast to pick up in the afternoon. I had a horrid start, putting me 15 or 20 minutes behind the main group, and I left the Butte and headed across Lake Chelan with only a few other gliders in sight. It was immediately clear that I needed to fly conservatively but quickly if I hoped to finish the task. I was able to make the first turnpoint at 4th of July Peak with a few other gliders around to help mark thermals, but then got pushed back to a ridge north of the course line. I got quite low, but was able to climb back to cloud base before headed towards the next turnpoint. I thought I knew where the next waypoint was located, but proved to myself that I didn’t, falling farther behind as I attempted to work my way across the Columbia River thinking their airport was up on the flats on the other side. Halfway across I figured out my mistake and returned to the west shore to tag the airport. I then re-crossed the river quite low and managed to climb out of a shallow canyon on the east side with a retrieve vehicle ‘stalking’ me the whole way in anticipation of an early landing! I finally established up on the flats, and liked the looks of the cloud street building nicely along the course line above a plateau to the east of the River. I remembered that the task briefing including a warning about looooong retrieve from that plateau, but the cloud street above it made me believe that it would work. It certainly did, and I made goal just after Luke–it turned out we had flown the same course line, me just behind him–for the last two hours of the flight. I set another personal best distance of 114km, landing in Omak, Washington, and spent the better part of 45 minutes trying to land due to widespread glass-off lift that made me wish I wasn’t so ready to land almost six hours in the air!

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Me launching Chelan Butte. Photo by Martina Machackova at Martina Machackova Photography and Design. Thanks for the sweet photo Martina! (check out her Facebook and Instagram pages too!)
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Heading towards 4th of July Peak (one of the little bumps at the turn in the river). Photo by TJ Sopher.

Chelan Nationals.

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Some of the Enzo 2s headed out across the flats. Wish I could claim ownership of this picture, but I can’t 🙂 Photo by: Brad Gunnuscio

Two weeks after Rat Race it was time to head to Chelan, Washington, to compete at the Chelan Nationals. This competition is known for putting up some big tasks, and rumor had it that they were out to beat the record for the longest, successful competition task, previously set by the Chelan comp back in 2014 and recently broken in Australia at the Manila Open with a 214km task in which only 2 pilots made goal. Chelan certainly delivered, and on July 15th, an amazing 64 pilots made goal in a 224km task! I even got a little mention in XC Magazine’s write up of the task, finishing heartbreakingly close to goal (2.2km short).

Overall, the competition was a success for me; I destroyed my previous best distance flights and learned so much! I’m looking forward to the next opportunity to compete… maybe Mexico in January?! I’m going to create a post for each day to make things more readable and include photos and links to tracklogs–check out these and other flights of mine at the Leonardo Flight Database.

No flying? Bike instead!

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Beautiful! …too bad my mountain biking skills didn’t allow me to ride much of it. Indy, on the other hand, styled everything!

I had the day off and wanted to do a longer bike ride. I found a ride on Rattlesnake Mountain’s logging roads that’s only about 10 miles from Issaquah. I figured it would be pretty quiet since it was a rainy Sunday, and I was right! Until we got onto the more popular north side of the mountain where hiking trails cross the logging roads, we didn’t see anyone! It was supposed to be an 18 mile ride, but the directions weren’t awesome, and I missed a teeny, tiny, unmarked trail in the woods which would have taken us right back to the truck. Instead, we took a trail that led us down a steep hillside on a freeride-style bike trail too steep for me to ride –Indy didn’t seem to mind a bit–and into a separate drainage from where I’d parked the truck. We ended up making another small loop to connect back with our original path to take the trail I’d missed, and ended up with a 21.5 mile ride! Indy seemed unfazed despite the fact I was pretty ready for a nap and some food! Here are some pictures from the day.

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Indy lounging, pre-ride. Good thing she was conserving her energy!
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Part of the epic views we found at the top.
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Salmon berries everywhere!
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Looking back towards Snoqualmie Pass.

 

Xilitla.

We left the hostel at 545am to drop Christo off at the airport, and then Luke and I headed north towards Xilitla, our first planned stop. I’d written up a little itinerary a few days earlier, just to make sure the distances and stops were feasible, and we were happy for the early start to ‘catch up’ on our drive north!

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Looking back down on Highway 120.

We drove over a twisty mountain pass and down into the valley where Xilitla is. We went out to visit the Edward James Gardens in Las Pozas, the whole reason for this stop. It was 50 pesos each to see the most amazing sculpture garden I’ve even seen! Both Luke and I felt like little kids running around in a playground full of amazing pools, waterfalls, jungle plants, and endless stairs and sculptures. I’ll post some of Luke’s beautiful photography when he’s done editing, but for now mine will have to do.

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Stairway to more gardens!
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I love the curves, angles, and colors of this sculpture.
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One of the many waterfalls.
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The gardens are located in subtropical rainforest on the eastern side of the Sierra Gorda Range.
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The ‘main’ set of falls at Las Pozas.

We ate a gourmet meal just off the central square in Xilitla, and decided camping on the street was the safest and easiest option. Stuffing two dogs and two adults in the back of the truck wasn’t super easy, and we actually ended up sleeping with only a sheet over us because it was pretty warm in there! Tomorrow night we will be in Monterrey, and hopefully will find a hotel where we can all stretch out.

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Our gourmet meal consisted of cheese ‘fondue’ with chorizo sausage, fresh tortillas, and the restaurant’s ‘snack’ plate: Ritz crackers with cream cheese, sliced ham/deli meat, cubes of cheese, and some cooked beef of some sort. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t quite what we expected either. 🙂

Departure. Almost.

We left Valle today. We had agreed to try to leave at noon, which would hopefully get us out of Valle by 1230 so that Christo should easily make his 545 flight out of Mexico City. It also worked out that Luke was flying in around 3pm, so my plan was to pick up Luke and drop off Christo at the same time. It was a great plan until we didn’t leave Valle until 145, got pulled over by the police for speeding, and then got caught in heinous Friday afternoon Mexico City style rush hour traffic. We also missed the airport the first three times due to the amazing navigational abilities of my old and very slow iPhone, and ARRIVED at the airport at 545. BIG oops. Christo went in to see what he could do to reschedule his flight while I tried to find a place to park so that I could find Luke and wait for Christo. This was further complicated by the fact that my phone had run out of minutes, so I couldn’t text or call either of the guys. I tried one parking garage only to find that the truck was WAY taller than 2.1 meters. While the parking garage attendant directed traffic, I backed the truck down the ramp (did I mention I was driving Christo’s truck for the very first time ever?!). I won’t lie, I was almost in tears, overwhelmed from the stressful drive, it was getting dark, I didn’t want to leave the airport because I was afraid I wouldn’t find my way back without my phone navigation working since it took us three tries to get there WITH navigation, and I felt bad that Christo had missed his flight. After getting kicked out of two ‘parking’ spots by airport security, I managed to find a place to park and then was able to work on putting more minutes on my phone with my credit card. While I was working on that, there was a knock on the window. I looked up, expecting to see more airport police telling me to move for the third time, but it was Luke! I was so happy to see him! And, he had a Mexican cell phone that actually worked, so we were able to call Christo and see what the plan was. He said he’d been able to re-book his flight for the following morning for only $60, and found another connecting flight for $117. Not bad for a missed international flight! We found a hostel five minutes from the airport that arranged secure parking for us and let us have both dogs in the room. We got a two connected rooms for $60, plus a little more for the parking.

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Indy checking out the eclectic decor at the hostel.

The place was… interesting, but secure. The toilet in the women’s room was missing the tank cover, and someone had made one out of a piece of cloth decorated with fake flowers. There was also free breakfast which consisted of cereal, fruit, and milk. The milk was on the stove, and the woman made a motion of just pouring the milk out from under the yellow, chunky skin on the top. I think I’ll be skipping the cereal and milk in the morning!

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Milk. Yummmm.