Friday 8th July - Sisteron to Til Chatel and half way home
Friday arrived and this looked as though it would be the last day as the weather was forecast to deteriorate over the weekend so we planned to move as far north as possible to make the final drive home as short as possible. The night before we sat at the dinner table planning our final destination, a small airfield, Aerodrome de Til-Chatel, which was right next to the motorway about 25kms to the north of Dijon.
We didn’t get started straight away as it always seemed to take a little time for the soaring conditions to start. After saying a few goodbyes it was time to get going. Quite frustratingly from my point I had to turn down a flight in a local Duo to start the ‘great escape’ up the country.
The Binder set off before anyone else had even got ready and once established I was on my way too. This was going to be the easiest of all the journeys for me as the whole route was more or less motorways all the way. Due to the uncertainty with the weather I stuck the aerial on top of the car, set up the handheld so we could stay in contact and then I set off.
As I approached Grenoble the cloud had lowered and was now at mid mountain height with the mountain tops visible. I tried calling the glider on the radio but nothing. I kept going to try and find some better signal but nothing until I got to a tollbooth and heard 13 talking to another glider. I tried again and still no reply. Unfortunately, it didn’t work in the foot of the mountains and gave up trying at the 3rd time of the aerial being blown over by a passing lorry.
Once I came out of the tunnel I sent a text and swiftly received a reply ‘keep going, I think we will make it :)’. Little did I know at this point but they gave up with this soaring malarkey and were on a 130k glide into the flat plains of central France.
Looking at the conditions I thought I would be miles ahead but around 3pm I received a text saying ‘we are here, how are you doing?’ Unfortunately I wasn’t able to do a nice straight glide so as I was still a little distance away, of course they decided not to land but explore the flat plains where the newly formed thermals were going to 7000’.
I arrived at the airfield and was warmly welcomed by the local pilots. The Binder soon arrived and landing on the flat, smooth, 100m wide grass runway. It seemed that France was littered with little gems like this.
That night we spent in a nearby village. Beer on tap and some of the most amazing food that I have ever had. Again, it was the first for me at trying rabbit – which was very nice, and then real French cheeses. I’m used to working with things which do not move – so when you see things you are about to eat crawl across a wooden board – that really isn’t my cup of tea.
Saturday 9th July - Last leg
We arrived back at the airfield bright and early, and the weather was certainly beginning to change as it was the first time we had donned a fleece. Not only was it colder, but the sun had disappeared and we derigged in the rain!
Robin and Ed drove the French stint. We arrived for out train at the tunnel 28hours early (yes you did read that right) and managed to get an earlier train, however had a 4 hour wait. We went for a little trip along the coast, a walk along the top of the cliff and then it was time for me to take the wheel.
I managed to squeeze the car and trailer on and off the train, and the journey continued on the proper side of the road. I was always a little nervous with an expensive glider on the back and having two of the owners travelling me. Happily, I think the flying had taken its toll and they were out for the count. Not that I could get much speed up anyway as, despite it being approaching midnight, we spent most of our time on the M20 and M25 in traffic.
We finally made it back to the club and driving across the airfield I could tell that Robin had woken and had his eyes on me like a hawk, more than any time before – not because I was going too fast, not that I was going to crash into anything but to ensure that I was not going to drive anywhere near the newly seeded SW run take off patch!
There we have it, that was the end of the trip and what a trip it was, and certainly not one that I will forget in a hurray! Ok, not quite then end – we did meet up at the club the next day and sat in the sun on the picnic tables with a lovely refreshing beer! Perfect way to end the trip!
The views from both the ground and the air were stunning, the glider was in the air everyday and a total of 6500kms and 70hours flown, the most than any other before. The car travelled over 3700km and the Shogun was apt for the job – the semi-automatic gearbox saved me from hours of cramp in the left leg coming down the mountain sides. The company (when I had it that was) wasn’t bad either!