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These pages document my time spent flying balloons in Kapadokya . . .
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Chapter 22
Between Snow Storms
So now you're pretty much caught up through the middle of February. It snowed for a couple of days and I didn't really do anything or go anywhere. Without a computer, I just tried to pass the time. I was starting to have some trouble coping with being here, actually. I talked with Joanne only once every other day or so, because we were trying to keep the phone bill as low as possible. I have mentioned how the boss always had something negative to say about my flying, and the fact that I hadn't been paid since I arrived. With the weather keeping me inside, Sancho gone and basically no one to talk to, Turkey was beginning to be not as much fun anymore.

I did fly on the 18th and 19th (Oh boy! 2 days in a row!) and here are the Google Earth images and the link to the Google Earth files :
Flight path on 2/18/09
Flight path on 2/19/09
It started snowing again on the 20th and didn't quit until the 23rd. I could have stayed in Driggs for this kind of weather. It cleared enough late on the 23rd that we actually flew on the 24th.
It was foggy, early on the 24th, but cleared in the direction we were going early enough to get the flight in. I only flew for 45 minutes (which is fine for the boss) . If I would have been a little more on my game I could have gotten an hour in by dipping down into Love Valley. It was my intention to do so (dipping into the valleys is pretty much always the game plane here) but my first attempt was a little short of the valley and we started to head back the other way to the east. I jumped back up into the higher altitude wind that was going west, but I didn't get back down quick enough and this time, the wind right at the top of the valley was still going west instead of to the east like it was 5 minutes earlier. Just one of those days where I was off only by a few feet, but it meant the difference between getting into the valley or not. In some ways, flying here can be quite tricky. There are so many valleys and different rock formations that the wind will eddy and curl and do some funny stuff. The valleys are also small and narrow and a bit tricky to get into, especially with such large balloons. Take a look at some of the pictures, the balloons are as tall and nearly as wide as a lot of the valleys we try to get into. On the other hand, the winds are generally light most of the time, so there is really good flying here. When the weather is good for flying it is really good, and stays that way. In that sense, it's pretty easy, especially when compared to Teton Valley and other mountain flying.
Google Earth image of flight path on 2/24
So I missed the valley, but still had a decent 45 minute flight and landed in a great spot right next to the road on the plateau just west of Love Valley (where we land all the time) . But of course it had been snowing for two days prior, so the road was still very snowy, wet and muddy. Which meant that the van (the crew call it the micro bus, it's a Sprinter type thing) couldn't get to us and the passengers (all 22 of them) had to be ferried out using the two smaller vehicles (that carry 4 people at a time) . So while 6 to 8 passengers take the ride out to the van, the rest of us stand out in the snow and wait. Keep in mind no one speaks English, not the passengers, the crew, or anyone. Of course this was a tour group, so that meant that the passengers all had to be somewhere in Göreme to catch their tour bus that was leaving. Stressed out about that, the boss was of course not happy with where I landed. Didn't really seem like my fault, but oh well, I'm getting used to the fact that there is always something wrong with the way I fly. Have I mentioned that I haven't been paid yet?
So the passengers finally all get ferried out to the van and it's time for the balloon, crew and me to go. I hop and away we go. Finally. I don't know, but if I had to guess, everyone in Turkey learns to drive at the "Skip Barber School For Racing". Now, the driver isn't the same crewman that drove me to Adana and Ankara, but he's got his foot in it none the less. In his defense, I will say that because of the snow and mud, he kind of had to keep his foot in it or we would have gotten stuck. Still, we're swerving and sliding and bouncing along this road at a pretty good clip. Well, wouldn't you know. . . about halfway out the transmission breaks. Now we are stuck. Once the crew and vehicle that are bringing the balloon get to us, we get a ride back to the office. The routine is to go back to the office after the flight and the company has someone fix the pilots breakfast (according to the contract, breakfast is included as part of the pilot compensation) . By the time we get back to the office, it's past lunch time. So I'm hanging around the office while some food is prepared and Banu (Alper's wife, who is charge while he's in Amerika) says she needs to talk to me. She evidently has a bill for the cell phone they gave me (also included according to contract, is a company issued cell phone. The pilot is responsible for paying for any non-company related calls) . I tell her that I haven't made any calls. Then I realize I have made a few.... like 5. She is adamant that I made all these calls and wants to know what calls I made and to who. Have I mentioned that I haven't been paid yet? So I tell her that I have only called Cenk once (the really nice guy at the military base) and Çetin (pronounced "Chettin") maybe 3 times. Çetin is the assistant to the owner of the hotel where we are living now. We had some internet issues and other general questions that we needed to talk to Çetin about so I called him) . Well she goes off... raising her voice, being all indignant and wanting to know who Cenk is and who Çetin is. My take on this situation is : It's none of her business. I'll pay for all the non company related calls I've made. It's only like 5 calls and even in Turkey can't be that expensive. So finally, I've had it. I tell her "If you pay me, I'll be glad to pay for the calls!". I left the office that day incredulous at the fact that they owe me like $1500 (and in 5 days will owe me $4000 more) and she has the gall to bring up a cell phone bill that at the most is probably $20. I knew that I had made a few calls and was expecting to pay for them, but I can't pay for them until I get paid. Sheeesh! I told her I would give her the two numbers I had called so she could cross check them against the bill. It's always something.
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