Satellite view

Okay, I’m excited about going away. I NEED to go away for awhile. So, as I eagerly await a long-needed break from life, I continue to find ways to remind me that I’m going on a trip. I added current weather conditions for the retreat location on this blog last night and have just added my latest reminder – a Google map that shows a satellite view of the Junction Kite Retreat location. Amazing, isn’t it?! 

View Larger Map

One has to admit that technology is amazing. Just a few years ago, who would have ever imagined we could easily find satellite views of just about anyplace on Earth? Heck, kite aerial photography may be great but it certainly can’t compare to the magic of satellite photography!

Junction, here I come!

Obviously, it’s been awhile since I last posted on this blog. Life has been far too stressful, for such an incredibly long period of time, that I’ve been too preoccupied to even do something as wonderful as flying or making kites. It’s been five months since I last posted here. Anyway, as the title of this entry reveals, I’m going to the Junction, Texas Kite Making Retreat again this year. While I certainly can’t afford it, things have been so awful that everyone who knows what I’ve gone through have all said “go for it” and they did so in no uncertain terms. I hope I remember how to use a sewing machine! (I’m sure I will.)

I made the decision to go just this evening (and it was, to be honest, almost an impulsive decision – although I generally don’t do that) after coming home from a couple of groups at church. I’m hoping (and praying very hard) that things will take a turn for the better this month but I’m not going to count my chickens before they hatch. Just the same, if you’re reading this and you pray, PLEASE pray for things to take a turn for the better.

As I noted last year on this blog, good ‘ole American Airlines LOST my luggage for FOUR LONG DAYS. They essentially put a HUGE dent in my experience of last year’s retreat (although I still had a great time, even if I did smell bad) and they sent me a voucher for a future trip. I made the decision to book a flight around 11 PM (it’s 2 AM now – yes, I have severe sleep problems, on top of everything else) and sent in my “reservation” to the retreat organizer. She’s about the only one I know that stays up as late as I do and I’ve already recieved a response! Apparently, there will be a couple of Asian kite builders flying in for some of the classes – is that cool or what?!

Obviously, it’s very late now and I had better try and get some sleep (again, I don’t know how successful I will be but I’ll try to think about how fun it’ll be to go back to Junction this year). In addition to all of the kite fun we had last year (even if we really didn’t have any real wind to speak of), I’m going to make it a point to try and catch a glimpse of an armadillo this time (in addition to all of the deer that populate the grounds). Can’t wait!

New Year’s Day with the San Diego Kite Club, Part 2

Banners in the breezeWell, I didn’t quite finish my post from the other day so here’s “Part 2” – after watching the synchronized kite fliers, the wind picked up a bit and the banners started fluttering a bit more, which is always a good thing at a kite festival. I was particularly fascinated with the red white and blue set that resembled an America flag (pictured on the left). If one looks closely (double click on the photo for a larger view), it’s possible to see some of the goodies set out for the raffle located to the right of the flag banners. Mentioning “raffle,” shortly after I took this picture, I went back to watch my boy work more on his kite when, rather suddenly, our friend Iris, ran up to me to make sure I received my final set of raffle tickets because the drawing was about to begin. Last year, my boy and I did exceptionally well (we won several kites!) so I purchased the same number of tickets this year. While we didn’t win as many things (not that it matters) we still won! In fact, of the two items I had hoped for the most, one was a Cody box kite. Cody’s are very stable American kites that have been around for a long time and were originally invented by Samuel Franklin Cody (no relation to Buffalo Bill). Interestingly, these were used as a man-lifters (yes, they were big). While Cody’s resemble box kites, they have an extra set of wings that make them look rather bat-like. The Cody I won isn’t very big but that doesn’t matter – it still looks cool. Then, my boy had the winning ticket for a “Kite Dynamics Kite Building and Experiment Kit” which can be used to about a hundred different kites, as well as many variations. Again, too cool!

At the conclusion of the raffle, there was also an auction in which we managed to get several more kites at a steep discount from what they would cost retail – we won a box kite, a stunt kite, a Prism Triad, and a “cube kite.” All in all, it was a very inexpensive (but great way) to build our collection.

My kite archMany people usually leave right after the auction but, as there was still sunlight to fly in, we stayed a bit longer. I managed to get my kite arch up with the help of Dan, current president and one of the founding members of the San Diego Kite Club (they were a bit tangled and he helped me undo the mess). Fortunately, the wind came up enough so that the arch could go up for a short while. Unfortunately, the breeze died out but that was merely a signal for us to call it a day. After packing up my kite arch, I decided to take a quick video of my banners with my carp and my Catherine’s Wheel attached. Sadly, one of my banner poles broke so I was only able to put up two of my three banners. I was very happy; however, that my Catherine’s Wheel which worked like a charm. 

Once the car was packed up, I took my boy to Belmont Park where we spent the evening on the bumpercars before heading home. As always, I can’t imagine a better way to have some fun than to be with him.

New Year’s Day with the San Diego Kite Club

Huge trilobits at the 2008 New Year's Kite Festival in San Diego

For the second year in a row, my boy and I went to San Diego for their annual New Year’s Day Kite Festival and it was, once again, fantastic! This year, we went down a bit early and arrived on New Year’s Eve around 11:30 AM in order to enjoy a fighter kite competition. While there were not too many competitors (and I certainly didn’t enter as I haven’t flown for a couple of months), the participants were outstanding! As expected, my boy and I met Dave and Iris (two of the nicest people anywhere!) and Dave filled us in on the backgrounds of some of those were engaged in kite warfare. Unlike fighter kite competitions in other parts of the world where the goal is to cut the line of your opponent’s kite (and often glass coated lines are used), the intent of American competitions is to merely touch the line of your challenger from either above or below – and that selection is based upon the call of the judge. According to Dave there was a least one national/international champion flying and many other well-known fighter experts – including Victor Heredia, the creator of the famous “Vic’s Fighter Kite”(who also owns Kite Country in San Diego.” I was particularly interested in watching Vic fly as he is legendary in the kite world. Naturally, he was specular and so were the other competitors (sorry, but I don’t remember their names). While the wind was almost non-existent, fighters are extremely light and can fly in almost anything. Following the competition and award ceremony (where winners were presented with incredible paper sculpture trophies made by Dave), Vic gave my boy and I a few tips on how to fly the Hoopty fighter I had bought from him a few months ago. My boy then spent some time flying it and, within a short period of time became quite good at it (fighters, while small, require a bit of training to get them up). It was a real joy to watch him. Of course, my job was to pick up the kite and help him launch it.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get any pictures of the fighter kite competition or the trophies (I used my cell phone camera and I suspect I hit the shutter button too soon – that erases the picture instead of saving it). Dave was kind enough; however, tell me where to find the pattern for the incredible awards he made; those are located on the Canon Paper Craft web site. The awards that Dave made for the event contained the “Chinese Dragon” mounted on wood and were exceptionally beautiful.

Following the fighter kite competition at Mission Bay Park (Tecolate Shores), my boy and I thought we would see if we could find something to do. Surprisingly, everything we went to was either closed or was about to close. We ended up going to the hotel for the evening in order to wait for the New Year. We spent a couple of hours playing various Nintendo DS Lite games (we got a matched set a year ago – I figured it would be a good way to “bond” with him as his nose is usually buried in an electronic game of some sort). While he nearly always beats me (especially at action type games), I can usually beat him at slower strategy ones. After shooting off cheap (plastic!) cap guns to make some noise at midnight (we couldn’t find anything else), we called it a night. Interestingly, we ended up with the same room (207) as the one we stayed in last year.

Banners and trilobitesAs soon as we woke up in the morning, we grabbed a bite to eat and took off for the kite festival, located at Mariners Point. While the weather was gorgeous, the was almost no wind of any kind – only the very largest kites were able to get aloft and, even then, had problems staying up. Just the same, there were a lot of banners and other goodies that could still flutter in the wind. As the day wore on, the wind picked up a bit so a few kites did get up. No matter how hard I tried, I could not get my 30 sq. ft. Sutton Flow Form up – and that’s usually one of the easiest to fly.

Shortly after noon, we dined on goodies provided by the San Diego Kite Club (lunch was catered this year) – carne asade and other yummy goodies. That was almost immediately followed by some of the terrific Rev fliers who launched their kites and practiced synchronized flying. Even with the light breeze (it really was nothing more than that) most of these folks are so experienced that they were still able to get their extremely lightweight Revs up. Looking at the photo on the right, it’s easy to see that not too much was flying – again, only the huge trilobites and a few Revs. Getting back to the synchronized fliers, some of the most experienced (and expert) folks were still able to do some amazing things – watching them is always one of the most fun event’s to watch. I’m always amazed at how much they are able to control their kites. The following video shows some of the incredible things they did.

I was also able to get a shot of the group as they were making their kites dance across the sky (in other words, I was almost underneath the kites and looking back at them as I took this photo). These consisted of the four (expert) members of “Team Too Much Fun” (a rather appropriate name) and four others. While I’m not sure if the video picked it up, I did hear one or two of the fliers comment on how difficult it was to keep the kites up. Even so, they were still great to watch.

Synchronized kite team

Later in the afternoon my boy tried making a sled kite assisted by Dave. The following video, taken with my cell phone (hence the poor quality), shows him hard at work. The one good thing about a kite festival where there isn’t much wind – you can always make more kites (one can never have enough)!

While my boy was working in his kite, I took some time to look at some of the other flying things that I either have already made or hope to make. Of particular interest was another Catherine’s Wheel. Other than the two I’ve made (one of which didn’t spin because of a mistake I made), I had only seen them in photos. Interestingly, it was about the same size as mine but each cell was sewn individually – mine used fewer pieces but accomplished the same thing. Something else I notice – when I first put mine up for the day, the bridles wanted to twist so I had to adjust the swivel.

Catherine’s WheelI noticed that the other Catherine’s wheel also seemed to have the same problem but, interestingly, it didn’t spin in a full circle – instead, it usually looked like an upside-down “U”. While I can’t tell what caused it, my guess is that it either had a problem with the bridles (which I doubt) or could have been caused by the swivel it was attached to. Regardless, it was still fun to watch. The next time I take my boy to the science museum, I’ll have to look at the exhibit that can reproduce the problem but with a bicycle chain instead. Eventually, I plan on making more Catherine’s Wheels, although bigger than the one I currently have.

 Well, it’s getting late and there’s still more to post so I’ll save that for tomorrow.

Junction Kite Makers Retreat 2007

As I’ve noted before, I’ve got a new addiction – kites. Yeah, it’s rather amazing to think that I’m hooked on this wonderful sport (my mother doesn’t quite know how to tell her friends that her son, a grown man, is now playing with kites) but I’m having a blast with them. As this wonderful hobby can get quite expensive, I took a challenge made of me on one of the Kite Aerial Photography forums and decided to try and make my own. Some of my earliest attempts are already outlined on this blog. Anyway, I lucked out and found a very cheap flight to San Antonio, Texas, so that I could attend this year’s Kite Makers Retreat held at the Texas Tech University Extention Center in Junction.

While I’ve already ranted about my lost luggage (so I’ll spare those details here), I’ve just finished looking at the (few) photos I was able to take – my cameras didn’t arrive until Sunday afternoon, along with the rest of my luggage. Some (most) of them are posted below. As I’ve already mentioned, I arrived very late (early) after driving approximately 120 miles to Junction. I was so tired (it was 4 AM) that I checked into a local motel for a few hours so that I could get a bit of sleep before driving the last few miles to the retreat. I arrived sometime around noon on Friday (May 25th). At that point, I only had one kite (my Rev 1.5), and a few other items. Fortunately, there were already several people around as they were sitting on the kite field watching a few fliers. It was at that time that I met Bob, one of the esteemed instructors, who introduced me to “fighter kites” for the first time – small, highly maneauverable single-line kites. While they are very small and rather delicate, they can do rather amazing things (in the hands of an experienced fighter, that is). Bob gave me a few lessons on fighters and I had a great time.

The kite retreat didn’t officially begin until dinner that night so I spent the time looking around at some of the fighters on display and chatting with various people as they arrived. I also got a chance to fly my Rev but the wind conditions weren’t too favorable – as always, the winds died down the moment I began to fly. (So, what else is new?) That; however, lead to another great moment, another guy, Sid, had also brought one of his Revs but it was different than mine – it was even lighter. As a result, he gave me a few lessons and I spent quite a bit of time flying his Rev (I just bought a set of lighter spars yesterday so that my kite will now be able to fly in similar low-wind conditions too).

360 Degree View of Junction Kite Field

Click to see 360° view of the kite field

Friday night was devoted to making drums with Bob (oh, what fun) and just hanging out. There were so many different courses to choose from, on Saturday, that it was difficult to pick which one I wanted to attend. I ended up going to the crap [sic] making class (we really made “carp” windsocks but, due to a typo prior to the retreat, the class was inadvertently renamed). I spent the entire day (eight hours) making my carp – I learned how to applique, along with other fun kite making techniques. Fortunately, I was able to use someone else’s equipment as I didn’t have mine with me (it was lost with my luggage).

Late Saturday night featured “bait night” – as a Junction tenderfoot, I hadn’t a clue as to what that meant but quickly learned it was an outdoor gathering where everyone sits around and eats gross stuff (i.e., “bait”) like smoked oysters (yum), eel (yum), and God only knows what else ! Of course, we had a great time!

Banners at Junction Kite Makers RetreatSunday afternoon offered another set of classes – this time I took the banner class with Eddie – my finished 15 foot banner (the solid blue one) is pictured at the left. Of course, there were others who were far more experienced and made rather elaborate ones too – Eddie’s is the black one with the sun and Janet (one of our “crap” instructors) put one of her “craps” on her banner. As I am still a beginner – I just made a solid colored one. I plan on adding stars to mine, along with two other banners – solid red and solid white. How patriotic!

After my luggage arrived (Sunday afternoon), I finally had my equipment. I immediately startedField of deer at Junction sewing my banner with my own machine and worked until dinner. One of the things I hadn’t yet experienced were the deer that were allegedly hiding just outside our view at all times. As I was whining about that, some of the kind folks at the retreat pointed out that a few million (or so) of them had decided to come out from the trees and had parked themselves on the kite field. As to be expected, I grabbed my camera and SLOWLY walked out onto the field (which is far bigger than it looks). The deer, of course, were extremely aware of me too and had no intention of letting me get too close. Just the same, I did manage to get a few pictures of them – if you look closely at the photo to the right (double click on it for a larger view), there appear to be about two dozen of them resting on the ground.

Junction Flying FieldThe time went by too quickly and Monday morning was our last class. I spent the time finishing my banner and puting it up on display (how fun). It actually turned out okay and I’m rather proud of it!

The retreat ended after lunch and we had to pack up. I returned to San Antonio that afternoon but was too tired to do much – I ended up taking a nap (until 8 PM, no less) and caught a late night movie. I knew I would have some free time the next day so I wasn’t rushed. One of the thingsFaçade of the Alamo I had planned to do while in San Antonio was to “remember the Alamo!” Obvioiusly, I remembered as attested by the following photo.

While the Alamo is rather small, it was quite scenic and I’m glad I went. The following is a photo of a veranda that I managed to get without any tourists walking through it (I was lucky).

Veranda at the Alamo

So, after all of the wonderful experiences I had (except for the lost luggage), will I go again? I sure hope so! I met all kinds of wonderful people and had a terrific time. Can’t wait until next year!