Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Bridge Day 2014

Landing on a small LZ
Small landing zone

Bridge Day is always the third Saturday of October.  Don’t let that fixation on date fool you.  Every Bridge Day is unique in its own way.

Start with the river.  The New River is one of the oldest rivers in the world.  Yeah, it’s up there with the Finke and Rhine. The Nile is a youngster compared to the New.  It also runs south to north, so you should expect a few idiosyncrasies.  The water level is affected largely by the weather conditions in North Carolina and release rates at the Bluestone dam at the bottom of the state.

The weather has a big part of any Bridge Day.  Winds at the bridge are often different than at the landing zone.  The boundary between the wind conditions creates a zone of shear at tug the jumper one way and the chute another.  Sometimes this problem  is hardly noticeable, but other times it wrenches the jumpers sideways and threatens the stability of their chute.  Bridge days have been rainy, cold, sunny, as well as blue skies with white cottony clouds.

This year it was cloudy, cool, and misty with gusts of wind.  Yuck!  The river was high and fast running.  The high water made the landing zone tiny.  

Landing Zone (LZ)

The wind gusts made landings interesting, at least to the observers.  I’m sure it makes the jumpers very nervous, if not frightened.  None of which makes for a good Bridge Day.

How high was the water?  Here’s a photo of a Rock I often climb out onto to take pictures of water landings.  It’s a little island by itself.

normally a walk to rock
High Water
During the briefing we were told that the water rescue people were anticipating difficulty in retrieving all the water landings because of the fast current and this may slow the jumping down.

Early morning getting set to put out into the New river
Water rescue boats
I happened to notice the rescue knives carried by the water rescue teams.
Spyderco rescue knives
Older Spydercos
That’s right; they are orange-handled Spyderco rescue knives.  That’s what the professionals use, but I’ve got tell you, most jumpers would rather lose an arm then have their rig cut up.  

water landing
Nothing like an early morning dip to wake up, or jumping off a bridge!

The water rescue guys did a great job, most of the time.  Rushing to get to a jumper still selecting his landing point, one boat got too close and a gust of wind, a spin of the boat’s steering wheel and a collusion of man and machine occurred.  It sounded like someone hit a bowling ball with an axe.  He went to the hospital.  I’m not sure if the aluminum hulled boat needed to have a dent pounded out or not.

Early morning ambulances arrive
Ambulances arrive, good thing, they are going to get used.
If events like Bridge Day could have themes, some would be “Drifting on Clouds” and “Splendor of the Leaves.”  This one would be “Wood.” 

There is a chute under those tree branches

The small landing zone also affected the support people at the LZ.  The ambulances were moved to a new location to make room, but not everyone picked up on that lesson.  At least not right away.

Jumper bounces off roof of  rescue vehicle parked in secondary handing zone

Help on the way

Learning:  Let's move the golf cart out of the landing zone!

The National Park Service is charged with preserving the uniqueness of each of our National Parks.  It’s not an easy job.  Ham-fisted clods, like myself want to walk off trail, climb down river beds, and in general disturb the pristine wonderfulness they preserve.  They aren’t entirely wrong about it.  But I’ve got to say, I can’t see any problem with chopping down one tree at the landing zone.  

That particular tree was quickly decorated by parachutes which still there when I left at the end of the day.  Several jumpers made attempts to tear that tree down limb by limb by landing on it.  Most got their chutes back, but other jumpers made a more permanent donation to its winter ornamentation.  It wasn’t the only tree catching jumpers.

First decoration --More to come!

Same tree as above but with a second decoration!

Not having enough soaring time, one jumper rented a plane and jumped with an American flag.  Very Cool!  It brought cheers from the crowd in the landing zone which quickly turned to a gasp when he got snagged by a tree.  The tree dropped him like a fashionista with last year’s shoes. Fortunately he was all right and we treated him to a free ride to the hospital.

Flying the flag, Bridge Day style

Rough landing, caught in a tree and dropped like a rock.

The trick was to land low on the beach and avoid the trees.  
Like this guy

Or just short of the beach

Some missed the beach by accident or design.  Others chose the softer and safer water landing.  In front of the landing zone an area or relatively calm water allowed jumpers to land and safely wait for boat pick-up.  But considering the air temp, I was wondering about hypothermia.  You can get hypothermia standing wet in the cold windy air after being pulled from the river.  There isn’t a shelter where wet jumpers can warm up or get out of wet clothes.  

Still quite a few people had nice rides and made the local birds jealous.  
Gliding in
It was a bad Bridge Day.  No sun, cold, high water, tricky winds, but still wonderful to watch.  Even a bad Bridge Day is better than day at home.

Sail On!

Post script:
I get asked about security.

It’s a complex subject.  The jumpers are profiled by police as are staff.  No question about it.  We all need picture IDs which we have to wear, jumpers get background checks, they and their packs are checked with sniffing dogs.  It’s never been explained what the police and dogs are looking for. While missing this year, in the last two previous years the FBI placed a 360 degree camera at the landing zone.  Beats the hell out of me what they were looking for.  The WV state police want to run fingerprints next year.  

None of these conditions apply to the vendors or visitors.

In the landing zone I saw WV state troopers, Park Service Police, US Marshals, local police and TSA and it was rumored the FBI had undercover agents present.  I’m not exactly sure who or what they expect to find.  I will say a police presence is welcome. One never knows what can happen in crowds and with over stimulated people.  I’m just not sure we need so many in the landing zone.

Thursday, October 16, 2014


Few industries are rumor free.  The knife industry isn’t even close.  Here's a few I've picked up that have some credibility. 

Rick Hinderer is breaking ground for an improved, expanded facility.  A grinding company I know reports they see a multitude of Hinderer blades for grinding after heat treatment.  Perhaps Rick wants to keep it all in house.  I have seen at least one potential misfire.  But in all honesty, the question remains, was that a real ZT Hinderer or did a Chinese knock-off get picked up by the distributor?

Starting now and finished by January 2015 Zero Tolerance will drop their distributors in favor of factory direct to brick and mortar stores.  I hope I’m wrong.  Some people claim that this generates exclusivity and protects their stocking dealers from Internet sales.  Benchmade went this route several years ago and there are plenty of new Benchmade on EBay.  I think this causes them to just lose market shares.

Shadow Tech is working on a folder and hopes to have it ready by the 2015 SHOT show in January.  If not SHOT certainly by the Blade Show!  It almost seems a natural progression to start with a simpler fixed blade and then progress to the more complicated folder.  I suspect the market for folders is larger than that of fixed blades.  Most of us carry a folder every day, but the fixed blade makes our co-workers nervous.

Stag prices have increased and custom knife makers are already increasing prices.  It seems unfair, but they have to replace a consumable with a pricier version.  

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Neither Here or There

I’m getting ready for another weekend of knife sales.  The Medina gun show doesn’t run over the summer months, chiefly, I suspect, because attendance in nice weather is too slim to be profitable.  Since I’m not attempting to make a living with it, that’s okay with me.  I like having my summer weekends. 

But the return of crappy weather signals a return to knife sales.  I ordered a few replacement items for things that have sold.  It’s very hard to stock inexpensive quality knives.  Knife prices are zooming upward and the influx of counterfeit knives is ruining the market.  But it isn’t always the counterfeit that’s hurting everyone.

I use to carry Kershaw’s Leek.  It’s a great knife, thin and sleek with an attractive blade.  They always sold too, but for the last couple of years Wal-Mart has been selling them.  Selling them cheap too, perhaps too cheap.  Wal-Mart has a reputation of shaving quality out of products to lower their price point.  Maybe they turned over a new leaf.  Maybe Kershaw only cares about profits today and well, tomorrow might be someone else’s problem.  In any case you can find the Leek at Wal-Mart.

So I don’t carry Leeks anymore.  Between online shoppers and Wal-Mart there is no market I can tap.

I read a number of blogs and people send me links and I’m amazed at what I must call stupid money items.  An everyday carry knife for thousand bucks?  An improved flash hider for an AR in the hundreds?  Flashlights that will light up a stadium for 90 minutes on high for 200 bucks?  Even my beloved Spydercos and Benchmades are beginning to come with a loan application.   It’s no surprise.  Costs are going up faster than disposable income.

The question I, and perhaps you, have is answer is, do I really need those items?  I’m not sure a $400 knife will serve me better than an $85 knife.  I know the wristwatch with build-in calculation for drop correction will not make me a better shooter and I seldom have the need to light up a stadium for even a minute.  I suspect  the answer will be found in careful use if a need/want/anticipated use table.

Last weekend was pretty nice so I escaped to the West Side Market in Cleveland.  That area is known as Ohio City and it’s beginning to thrive.  There are quite a few interesting store and activities there.

I’m a sucker for new and unusual vegetables or fruit so I bought a Pitaya or Dragon Fruit.  They are actually cactus fruit originally native to Mexico but also grown in East Asian and Southeast Asian countries such as Cambodia, Thailand, Taiwan, Malaysia, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, the Philippines, Indonesia as well as Okinawa, Hawaii, Israel, northern Australia, southern China and in Cyprus.

I noticed too late that none of the vendors had prices listed.  I normally don’t pay silly money for fruit, but ….

Half a Dragon Fruit. It cuts easy.

It’s a strikingly good looking fruit, reddish rind with green tipped fleshy ends.  You eat it like a kiwi, cut it in half and scoop it out.  The flesh is white with little black seeds.  Again very impressive.  Taste is another matter.

Inside Dragon Fruit.  Just use a spoon to scoop it out.
Totally bland.  Well, there was a little resemblance, maybe a hint of something suggestive of kiwi.  But I’d skip it completely if I were you. 

I took my wife to see “Gone Girl.”  The audience was mostly women, but I wasn’t the only man there.  It’s a story about two sociopaths who marry.  The wife, Amy, is a much better sociopath.  Better doesn’t always equate to good.  I found it frightening as Amy exploits the tragic flaws in all of us.

What was more frightening was the responses of the women in the audience to Amy.  Amy’s plots resonated with many them and I found myself scrunching farther and farther down in my seat.  I never heard so many women give out a throaty, deep, almost subvocal “yeah” every time Amy’s well planned scheme digs the hole a little deeper under her husband and his sister.

the hole Amy dug for her husband
This is the best image of the hole Amy dug for her husband, but I got to say, he jumped in.

I will say, it’s just coincidence that I’m trying out cold weather sleep gear in the garage this week or maybe for the rest of the year.  I have mentioned my unattached garage locks from the inside, haven’t I?