Torrey


I love Torrey Pines Gliderport. It is one of the most special places of my life. I never feel lonely when I am on the hill…  Never when I am flying the buttery smooth air.

I’m here for the next few days.IMG_3974IMG_3685

It is incredible that such a place should exist. It’s proximity to such a developed urban area and its financial value make it an unseemly place to put a hangliding or paragliding launch. But it is here in beautiful La Jolla, CA and it is busy… and almost always full of pilots and bystanders.IMG_2835                                                  It is a place to experience for yourself. To see with your own eyes the sparkling Pacific meeting the Black beach three hundred and twenty-seven feet below. To feel a gentle West wind full of salt. To see the rainbow of paragliding wings in the sky when the airspeed and direction are perfect. To stand in a sunset filled with sometimes Peregrine Falcons, Brown Pelicans, Harris Hawks, Black Crows or Seagulls, flying friends and an enormous expanse of calm seashore.
IMG_2854

Screen Shot 2013-01-17 at 9.41.47 PMIt is magic to me and the memory burns a pattern in my mind. I feel whole and good…. I feel like I have a super power. It is the power of Flight…. Whenever I land, my smile is as big as the beach. It is hard to stop laughing. It is better than the best drug. Ever. It is pure love.IMG_3971IMG_3753

 

Minesweeper

I have Duty.. I took some regular Navy work onboard a ship.. It is a Minesweeper…. Tiny. I have never been on a ship this size.. And it has been almost ten years since I was on a ship at all..IMG_3630

Never spending much time around ships or anyone other than EOD guys, I dropped quite a bit of Navy professional knowledge. What acronyms were for the different rates (jobs) when, what and where to salute, names of different shipboard spaces. Normally I wouldn’t do any of this but with reserve EOD potentially headed for extinction in the near future, I am jumping on anything I can find to do to see what I might like.

I check in with the admin department across the bay and head to my ship.  I find the USS Chief and meet the commander that accepted my application. He’s handsome and polite. I like him right away… We talk for a while and discuss further plans for my career. Honestly, I don’t have further plans, I’m just trying to fill in some time gaps left open by the hole in my commitment. I haven’t shown up for duty in more than a year. The Navy will kick me out pretty soon if I don’t start completing necessary tasks to staying an active part of the reserve component. Physical readiness tests, general military training and regular duty hours.IMG_3642IMG_3657

IMG_3654I’m left alone after an hour or so to figure out my time for myself. I forget where exactly I was supposed to go (there are a lot of doors and stairs) and have to ask a couple sailors that seem more than a little pissed that there is a lost woman aboard their all male ship. I can’t really take them that seriously… One of them was a guy they call “Too Tall”. it’s an apt name. He’s scowling at me, but he can’t stand up straight in the low overhead.. His head is cranked over at a steep angle everywhere he goes. It’s no wonder he’s grumpy.

What is patently embarrassing daily for me, is the PA announcement they have to make each time I board their vessel. They ding a bell, then..  “Rig The Ship For Female Visitors”  Loud.

I can barely suppress the urge to run down the ladder and yell into the berthing.. “Pillow fight’s over, boys!!”

The vessel has no accommodations for women, they have to tape a sign to one of the heads.. “Female Only” (singular)IMG_3006


The duty, unfortunately, falls during the holiday stand down period.. Which means that the sailors are geared for the holidays. There is a crew there to keep the ship alive and ready, but otherwise, meaningful work has come to a halt. It is festive though, and the Christmas lights have been wound into the rigging… There is a team of reindeer riding our forecastle. It is quite beautiful at night to walk the pier and see all the decorated ships.IMG_3008

I am frustrated by this duty though. I am used to a furious pace generated by the training department… or the Chief… or the LT… or anyone who might be bored. Which in the EOD community is anyone not otherwise engaged. I miss our crazy, sometimes unbalanced but always interesting crowd. I don’t want to have another job in the Navy. I love mine.

Two weeks later, I am free and have scheduled two weeks of vacation. I want to fly and relax before I have to go to Omaha.IMG_3795

Oatman

 

It is just after daybreak and I am musing quietly in my camp chair parked just outside my trailer door. I can hear a plane. A bird trilling in a nearby bush… One farther away…a different call. Nothing else except the ringing silence in my ears. The steady hum of highway traffic is totally absent.

I am ecstatic to have awakened in this silent desert wonderland. It is an escape from time. There is a small farmstead about a half mile behind us. Only Dakotah and I are here at the foot of the mountain.

I debated going to Phoenix for the weekend, I’m really happy I didn’t. I decided to camp here in the LZ at Oatman instead.
I found him here last Saturday. He is a sweet, gentle personality. He wouldn’t hurt a fly. No, really. He wouldn’t hurt it. He captures each errant creature in a plastic bag designed specifically for such a task and releases them at the end of the day.

He drinks spring water (he got it from a spring himself) and is a vegetarian, he only eats organic food and works out on a homemade  gym. It consists of a wooden weight lifting bench, a small set of weights and pull-up bar welded to the top of his van. The bench doubles as a serving platform for any meal.

He’s a hippie… And a paraglider pilot.

We meet in the morning, he shares some of his coffee and I pet his old dog… Little Brother. We make a plan to hike up the mountain around two thirty.

I’m a bit late cause I’m hungry. I heat up and scarf down some potatoes and ribs my neighbor Jim gave me back in Gila Bend. They are ridiculously good.

I swing my pack onto my back and head to Dakotas house.

We both have hiking poles. They are almost a requirement for the hike. It is a very steep, rocky trek up. Dakotah instructs me how to place the pole carefully prior to taking each step and to hike up the areas where there is vegetation growing. The boulders are not stacked on top of each other quite so thickly and are cemented into the earth. The chances of having a major rock slide is less…. Even a minor one would be catastrophic. They are quite evenly sized, between as big as your head and about the size of a beach ball..some a bit larger…about the size of a coffin, I think darkly.

It is a sharp, wobbly staircase. Eight hundred feet up. Every ten minutes or so I turn around to look at the unfolding landscape. My camper shrinks on the desert floor. I take several breaks with my mouth dry and heart pounding…finally I  reach the top. Dakotah is waiting. He stopped a couple times to make sure I was doing ok, but has still made it way ahead of me. It has taken me a little over an hour. It takes him about thirty-six minutes. He is in spectacular shape.. and almost twenty years my senior.

We stand at the top and admire the landscape. It is getting close to sundown and the wind is pulsing up the hill in regular cycles, fairly gentle at around eight to ten mph. I lay out my wing and take the first launch. My wing comes straight up, I give it a quick check, turn on my heel and run forward.

I holler “Ka – Kaw!” and it echoes in the big bowl as I fly away from the hill. Airborne!!

It is buoyant and mostly smooth. There are still little bubbles from the days more powerful thermals. I find a few of them on my way out, but I don’t take advantage of much lift so close to the rocks. It Isn’t enough to carry me far from the sharp danger.

I land about fifteen minutes later walking on the desert pavement not far from my camper. Dakotah has not launched yet and I face the hill to wait and watch his flight.

He finally  takes off near sunset into the deep almost navy blue sky… I follow his flight into the spectacular sunset building.. cerulean/red/orange/yellow swash of color that streaks the sky low to the West.

Dakotah finally lands forty minutes later nearly in front of his van right before all the color has left the sky. It is spectacular to watch him fly. He has no fear.

An hour later I return with some organic grilled romaine I just fixed and he spoons me a bowl of the veggie stew he has made. Its good.. He’s thrown a couple jalapeños in the pot and surprised me with its spicyness. I’ve had dinner with only a very few vegetarians and I have to look in his bowl because i’m curious to see all the things he’s put in it.. The one thing I couldn’t identify were some flower shaped disks he told me were broccoli hearts.. The rest was kale, cauliflower, beans, carrots, and broccoli tops.

The next day is mellow. I fix a few things on my truck, explore some of the countryside, check out the road to the top.  It’s skinny and steep.

I’m not wanting to hike up to the top today. I’d go up if we could drive, but I’m just not feeling it. I’ll watch him fly and take pics if he can launch.

The last campers left some wood. I think it’s mesquite.. There is a ton of it dead around the corner by the alfalfa fields. It would be nice to have some company by a fire tonight, I’ll ask Dakota over when he lands.

I finally see him launch in the orange light, it’s a bit buoyant but not too lifty and he soars the ridge getting little pops that take him just feet over the top of the ridge.. as the last of the sun dips below the horizon, he punches out and sets up his landing…

I greet him as he folds his wing. His smile is giant and I can see that he is thrilled with his sunset ride. I show him some of the pictures I took and invite him to my campfire later. He is delighted with both and says he will bring some tea.

The fire is just the right size… Just big enough to throw off some good warmth when I scoot in close with my blue campchair…. I enjoy the quiet crackling of my creation for fifteen minutes before I hear crunching footsteps on the rocky desert floor… And the wheezing, limpy pawsteps of Little Brother, exhausted with his long walk.

 Dakota has some warm, fragrant peppermint tea in a cup for me, he is always smiling.. It is a joy to have the company of such good energy. He sits next to me in the flickering light and tells me stories. He tells me about his medicine wheel and how he builds each one very carefully, aligns it to the cardinal directions and how he makes a prayer for every rock he chooses…   IF it has the correct energy. It can take days if not weeks to build one. Sometimes he will choose rocks that he only gathers in the moonlight.

He tells me of panning for gold, of living on a reservation, and his life as a saturation diver. He is endlessly interesting to me, but my eyes are beginning to close.

I am grateful for meeting such a free man, such an incredible spirit that is so open and willing to share. I love his sweetness to all living things (he doesn’t have fires because it kills the creatures that live in the wood) but he doesn’t chide me and in fact, says he enjoys the warmth and company.

He gives me a giant hug and parting tells me, “Goodnight Dear One, sleep well.”

I smile with a lump in my throat. He has become dear to me too.

Gila Bend

 

I am sitting outside my new Toyhauler in Gila Bend, Arizona. It should be quiet here in the desert, but really its not. The rubber from every vehicle that passes is a rip in the perfectly still air.. I can follow each sound across the highway… every once in awhile someone peels out in a muscle car. The campers nearby play music, crumple potato chip bags. There is a child or a woman screaming thinly from someones TV. It is impossible to tell which camper it is coming from.. Sound carries far in the desert.

 

Gila Bend is one of those places I’ve always dreaded going. I’m a city girl.. and kind of a foodie. I like meeting people with ideas and dreams. Gila Bend doesn’t have a lot of dreams. Its got a lot of Meth though. It seems to always be the blight of a small town. Even with the blight here, it seems small and safe.

 

I don’t really go into town much.. there are a couple small restaurants, fast food, a tire repair, hardware, and about four gas stations. No grocery store… actually, there was one, but it closed last year. Most of the locals like the Italian place. They’ve got good pizza.. it is New York style, pretty authentic too. Mostly I’ve just been cooking in the camper. I made a roast duck and chicken, bean soup, some nice grilled steaks and salads.

I’m saving the fat from the duck… you need six to eight cups in order to confit a duck… if I make two more, I’ll have enough. It seems worth the effort since the Phoenix grocer is charging eight bucks a cup for the fat…

 

When I’m not cooking, I always like to check whatever area I’m in to see if there is a good flying site nearby.. I’ve been moderately put off by some online guidance I found with my phone here. It said that you shouldn’t fly during the week because there are military jets that use the airspace.

 

Two days ago, my coworker and I were coming back in from the range and I saw a truck parked at the gas station. It had at least five hang gliders on top and what looked like some kind of motor. I emergency asked my co-worker to stop our truck so I could jump out and meet the pilots. They had just come from the local site.. Oatman. They are a middle aged fit fellow and a gorgeous black haired Mexican gal with a thick Spanish accent. They tell me there is no jet hazard.. the military stopped buzzing that mountain years ago and that there are a couple hippies camped out for a couple weeks. The couple is on their way to Mexico to fly. It is what they do full time. For money, he teaches people how to fly ultralights and does art. My chest burns with jealousy.

 

That evening, the minute we arrive home from work, I set out to find the site. I don’t bring my wing because A. it is still unpacked because its nice to kite in the evenings when the wind is right, and B. Because there is no way I’ll make it for even a glass off. I’ll be driving home in the dark for sure.

 

I head out on I-8 then Painted Rock Road and follow the instructions… but I’m lost in some gloriously green alfalfa fields almost immediately. Finally, I get turned around and feel like I’ve got the right spot. I’m headed down a washboard dirt lane. There is the big hill with radio towers directly ahead of me That’s what I’m supposed to be looking for. I don’t see what looks like a good LZ yet, and I wonder what is on the back side of the tower mountain… The sun is setting hotly and it is a banner evening, but I’m worried if I’ll be able to find the hippies in this fading light. There is a LOT of empty country here.

 

As I round the last corner to the right, the back side of the mountain takes my breath away…. OF COURSE!! It is a classic ridge. A big beautiful, sweeping bowl with a few acres of flat desert pavement* with sparsely dotted saguaro and creosote for an LZ. It would be easy to land right next to your car.

There are two campers here. One is a white van that looks a little trashed and the other is a tidy hanglider strapped to a newer model truck with a nice tent setup. There are two guys by the van and one of them is folding up a wing. I zero in. An old yellow dog wheezes and limps toward me as fast as he can. (not fast) He makes a large effort of greeting the new visitor. I quicken my step to make his painful journey a little shorter.

I wave at the two pilots and they start walking toward me as well.

 

One guy just landed. I first introduce my self to Paul and shake his hand. Dakota (guy that landed)will have no part of hand shaking and gives me a giant sweaty hug. I love his enthusiasm! He’s thin, in his mid-fifties, and is sporting a messy sun- bleached blond ponytail, a permanent tan and smile, powerful looking arms. It is obvious this fellow is thrilled to be alive. Paul is about the same age with salt and pepper whiskers but a little more sober and has to be back to work the day after tomorrow.

Dakota will be flying and camping for another week or two. We talk for a half an hour about wings and sites and people we know.. I get a jury site checkout, some local lore and finally excuse myself to return home in the deepening twilight. The desert pavement is just forgiving enough to see some faint tracks but with any less light, I will be hard pressed to find my way out.

 

I am delighted with this epic place, it is exactly the type of site I have always imagined I would love to find. I can barely wait to fly it this weekend even if I only get a sled ride or two!!

 

*What is desert pavement? It is a naturally occurring, closely patterned arrangement of rocks on the surface of desert soil that is very flat and might seem to be man-made. Many times it has a varnished appearance from clay and other deposits.. it is unknown the exact reason how it is formed but there are several theories.

 

 

Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving

I was debating writing this piece.. Until I read the NPR article and then I thought it might be fine, it’s a touchy subject.
Growing up, my family always celebrated this holiday either at our house or Grandma’s. She lived a half hour North, in New Brunswick, NJ. My family isn’t huggy or warm, but they are honest and hardworking… To a fault.

My brother and I would giggle about grandmas cooking. She is shrewd and successful, almost five feet tall, with a heavy Spanish accent..

She planned ahead with her busy schedule, and made the ham and potatoes a few days before… Then froze it.

Inevitably, my father would cut into her culinary creation and the knife would come to a grinding halt on the frozen center. Mom (also a very short Colombian) would suck in her lips and look away.

Being in the military, I made very little money as a brand new recruit.. Even the couple first years after I enlisted, money was scarce. The pay is fine for an 18 year old with no car, credit card or medical debt. But a 27 year old with ten years of adult life and a flattened business behind her, there is no room to move.

There were, of course the obligatory Thanksgiving meals the khaki club would host, but they seemed significantly more depressing to me than just having a quiet day to yourself. I often heard stories from the (mostly men) sadness over estranged or deceased families, divorce. This is an anniversary to give thanks in the face of lonliness  and loss.

I’ve excused myself from this mandatory fun in the past lying to peers about having family obligations (couldn’t afford to get home) or didn’t have the time off to go so far away and just disappear. I would go for a hike, down to the beach, up the mountain… Wherever. Wait for the bars to open.

Recently, (my favorite) alone Turkey Day, I drove myself to Tecopa Hot Srings in my camper. I stay at the North end of town in a small RV park. Delite Hot Spring resort. It seemed like there was a fair mix of singles and families, mostly older folks gathered for the occasion.

It was simple and very relaxing. I had both my sweet Aussies at the time, Scout and Bogey. This desert is still largely undeveloped and absent many of the strict rules necessitated by higher populations. The dogs run free when I open the door, it is quiet.. Almost silent out. There are no highways and the purpose of coming here is to relax. Parties are low key and small, the tubs are kept immaculately clean… They are about three feet deep and filled with crystal clear steadily running mineral water. Between 101 and 104. It feels delightful on my skin and soaks deep into my muscles,  bones…  my thoughts.

The dogs are in heaven here and so am I.
This year, I had other plans until yesterday…. alone. I had no one to watch my dog.  I finally found a home for Scout. He has been a good and faithful companion for eight years now, but traveling full time has been a great strain on the both of us. He’s now living in Gila Bend, Arizona with the husband and wife team that are taking care of Auggies Quail Trail RV park. He’s a  perfect fit… an energetic and welcome greeting machine for the friendly campers.

I am intensely grateful to the families that have hosted Thanksgivings past, dear friends and new, a Mexican Thanksgiving in San Diego with a beautiful, close family, (a very memorable favorite). My chosen family in Denver, successful, creative, driven. They are the warmth of my life. It is where I am headed now.

SIV

(continued from the last post)

I roll in on Friday afternoon and see that there are already a bunch of pilots there.

I meet Chris Santacroce, he is conducting the clinic. Glenn Tupper http://www.paratupper.com/ who is not only in the military, but an incredible paramotor pilot, Darcy, a Canadian and amazing photographer, a friend’s brother Mark (amazing pilot who is along with Kari Castle, climbing Mt Kilimanjaro and then flying down!!!) come here to hone their skills. I haven’t even told the whole story about these folks, they are extraordinary. They are walking legends. I am a fortunate person to have met with such giant souls.

Saturday is fair, there is no wind for most of the morning but it turns the right direction and is a good enough strength to pull up a body. Chris gives a pilot brief and hands out a few tow harnesses. They clip in to our existing equipment. It is important to connect them properly, because they don’t allow the wing to “lock out”.. a condition that normally results in a high speed head plant into the ground or water.. usually, ground. Our window is small. Only about half of us get a tow. I watch everyone carefully for lessons learned that hopefully I don’t have to do the hard way.

 

Sunday, the weather is unfortunately, not fantastic. The wind is weak and blowing the wrong direction. I have my motorcycle though and take it out for a ride around the lake. It is really a gorgeous ride. Part of it you are in Utah and the other part, Idaho, The road around is a slow, two-lane roll.

I wind my way through half a dozen little towns to the northern part of the lake and find a Hot Springs resort. I wonder where I can check in or where the tubs might be. I stand up on my pegs and look around for someone to ask.. I spy a tall, stooped gray haired fellow making some last minute preparations to his camper. It’s a small cab-over loaded on a little old brown truck.

I make a tight turn and meet him at his camp spot.

I smile and ask him how it’s going.

“Goot.” He says.

Oh! He’s German.. or something.

I ask him how the hot springs are but he doesn’t know what the heck I’m talking about. Maybe he doesn’t speak too good English?

 

I tell him, “You know, there are some hot springs here, right?”

“I am…   not sure.” he stares at me.

Strikeout.

It seems a little weird, so I decide to keep rolling. The wind might get good pretty soon, I should start heading back anyway.

 

I am passing the East side of the lake where there is another launching area that I heard might work if the wind wasn’t blowing the right way at our little beach.

There is no traffic. It is a beautiful day but it has been a little cool because of some high clouds but they are blowing out and the sun is making a big effort to break through.. there are small patches of blue everywhere. As I’m contemplating the new warmth on my back and the patches of sun rolling on to the farmers fields, out of the corner of my eye I see a brown blur about the size of my fist wreck into the spokes of my front wheel. I bring the bike to a quick stop and circle it around back to where the little brown thing is. It’s a bird.

A little brown bird. But it is not dead. Its little yellow beak is opening and closing soundlessly and only about half its body is working. I am horrified as I stare at its agony. I can’t stand to watch this pain and determine to put it out of its misery. I circle the bike around and aim for its head. I roll over it with my front tire. Surely 600 lbs is enough to squish it to death.

I hear an ominous crunch and circle around to check my gruesome handiwork.

Egads! It’s still alive! I swing the big bike clumsily around, desperate now to obliterate my mistake and again aim for the tiny brown ball of misery. I hear another nasty crunch and crane my neck around to see if I’ve finished the deed. I see no movement. I park the bike in the small strip of gravel on the side of the road.  As I walk over to the fluffy bird pancake, two other little brown birds land in front of me and stare at their fallen comrade. Oh MY GOD. I am a bird killer! I stop and watch the two hop around the bird-cake I’ve made. They cock their heads from side to side. I feel wretched and walk the final few steps to inspect it closely. It is dead. Very.

Job done, I plop my heavy heart back onto my bike and motor back around the bright green, now sunny lakeside. I hope this is not some kind of foreshadowing.

When I arrive, the crew is getting ready to go to the other side. I get my gear together and hop in Darcy’s car. We meet Chris in his boat but aren’t happy with any of the beaches for various reasons.

I am really anxious to get a flight. We drive up and down the little rocky, bushy beach and finally settle on one place. It is generally free of debris and rocks.

This is my first tow ever and I am thrilled with my commitment to this event.

It is a team effort. I hook up the tow harness… I know how to do it because the day before I had helped hook 4 people until the wind got too strong.

I’m hooked in and prepared for my launch.

We check in with the boat on the radio. I hear the engine roar to life and the boat surges forward. I feel a gentle pull on my chest. I raise my hands. The wing comes up full and straight. I begin walking and then quickly start running to keep up with the pull I feel on my chest strap.

I feel confident and focused as my feet leave the beach. I’m getting towed!! I’m going up but it takes much more input than I was expecting to use to turn with the shrinking boat below. I am HIGH. He tows us to an average of 3000’ ! That’s better than a half mile up.

The boat is tiny now. I see it make a tight turn… my signal to cut away.

I pull the bridle connecting me to the long line….. I’m free!! I have time to look around.

It is a spectacular scene. The water is a peculiar blue. The large lake is surrounded by mountains, but I can see beyond even those.

My reverie is interrupted by Chris. He’s hauled in the line and giving me instructions. The radio tells me to pull on right side A’s. The wing slowly spins to the right.

HOLD IT! LET IT WIND UP. the wing dives to the right and I feel the pressure begin to change in my seat………… OK, RELEASE. HANDS UP. LEAN LEFT.

The wing recovers quickly.

 

I do it again.

I recover.

 

OK. GRAB BOTH A’s. PULL……….. HARDER.

The entire leading edge of my wing collapses. I feel myself falling.

 

HANDS UP.

 

The wing pops open and stabilizes.

 

OK. LOOK FOR YOUR B’s. FIND THEM AND PULL.

 

I do an in-air pull-up. The wing tacos in the middle and I begin descending quickly.

 

HANDS UP.

 

I let the B’s up. My beautiful, reliable wing pops open obediently and flies forward smoothly. I am breathing heavily and this smile is starting to hurt my jaw.

OK, PULL BIG EARS. FULL SPEED BAR.

HOLD THAT.

 

This is a descending technique. You can come down pretty fast if it becomes very windy and you are having trouble making headway. It is effective. I loose several hundred feet and release speed, then Big Ears. I do it again on my own.

I’m a little light on my wing and haven’t lost all my altitude… the wind is picking up and I take advantage of the giant ridge to get more altitude and fly a little more. I go down to a huge grassy field and land in a stiff breeze. I think my face will crack. This smile is really starting to hurt. I can’t help it though, and the great huge warm feeling in my chest offsets the aching in my cheeks.

I rosette my wing and head to the road.

 

My new friend Darcy launched a little while ago. He is a better pilot than me and is having a great flight. I can see him swooping giant wingovers WITH BIG EARS!

He’s playing around with some acro… something in my future but not quite yet. It is ridiculously fun to watch him fly.

 

The wind gets too strong and we have to bail for the afternoon.

We meet at the campground later. Chris brings beer, lights a fire in the pit and does a debrief of our flights. The owner of the campground has a cannon and fires off a couple loud shots over the lake.

It’s a perfect way to wrap up this day… we say goodbye to our new friends, everyone is leaving tomorrow early.

I am making coffee and packing up the camper… I see someones wing on the beach..

I wander over casually. Darcy is laid out and looking like he’s towing! My eyes get big.

Darcy: “Get your wing!”

If I was a vampire, it would explain how I returned to the beach so quickly with my wing. The owner has a tow boat. He wanted his kids to fly, but they are being lazy on Sunday morning.

I help him hook up and get pulled up. He’s fun to watch again, swooping and collapsing. I love the color of his wing against the sky.

He lands and I begin hooking up.

I’m planning my practice session. I wanted to do some asymmetric spirals but didn’t have time yesterday… I’ll try some of those and some more collapses.

I’m pulled way up high again, cut away and immediately look right, lean right and pull my right brake waaaaaay down. The wing enters a spiral. I can feel my butt squish down into the seat. I release pressure and stabilize.

Those are FUN.

 

I spend ten minutes swooping and swirling then come in to land.

I want to fly again. No more tows are available but there is a ridge site me and Darcy want to check out later in Randolph. It blows out a lot and our chances of flying are meager, but we try anyway.

 

It is the Crawford range. It’s a 45 minute ride, but it is an amazing tour of this American countryside. It is a lush emerald green and smells like hay and dampness. The Crawford range explodes straight up from this flat productive farmland. We’re not entirely sure which road takes us up, so we just make a best guess… we luck out and make a dusty trail around the back of the mountain up to launch, but it is booming. Gusts 20 mph+.

The view is worth every moment. It is the most peaceful, verdant, riparian valley I have ever feasted my eyes on. I finally see what an oxbow looks like.. I wonder if I will be moving here soon.

There are four hangies in the air. Even they are moving slowly on this strong air. I am jealous of their flight,  but elated to be on this spectacular ridge.

Darcy and I are snapping a zillion pictures. We both are swimming in this moment.

We wander down to the edge of the spine we are on and find the hang gliders van. it looks like they are camping out tonight. There is a big pile of wood and a fire pit. I can’t imagine a better place to light a campfire.. they will be having a time.

It’s getting late and we both should return to camp, I need to get down the road to my next job… Darcy? That guy. I think he’s in next weeks clinic too! Stud.

Thanks to Darcy Gillis for the First, and third through eighth pics… and your support.

 

POTM, UT. (Point of the Mountain, Utah)

I would like to tell you about a story that happened some time ago. I don’t know why I didn’t post it before… In May, I was working in Wendover, UT. I told you a little story about the lake I swam in but flying…. I somehow missed

I wanted to have an SIV clinic… sometimes called a maneuvers clinic. It is a training event that you learn to react properly to an adverse event in the air…. Collapses, frontal deflations, spins etc.. My confidence had been somewhat damaged by the wreck in Colombia. I have flown a few times at the Point of the Mountain Utah. It’s a fairly easy, ridge soaring and thermal flying site.. one of the reasons it is so awesome a place to learn.. Beautiful, laminar air blows in the afternoon from the Great Salt Lake or from the South, which also produces strong, smooth reliable ridge lift in the early morning.

I bring Scout with me today.. actually, every time here. He loves it and nearly all the pilots love him back. He is thrilled to be free to roam the windy ridge while I play. Its blowing pretty hard right now.. maybe around eighteen mph or more. Seems like a good time to practice my high wind kiting skills.
I notice a lot of people are having a tough time and worry a little but feel determined to at least get the wing laid out.

I pull my helmet on, buckle into my harness and grab the reigns. I lean into my seat and pull up on my A’s… the wing comes up fast. I pull my brakes and bring it back down but have to run full speed toward the wing because there is a great deal of energy in it.
WHAM! It slams down into the ground. My heart is pounding…. I hurt myself badly a few years ago doing the same thing. I have to gather myself.

I focus and practice in my mind twice. I have to have A’s, C’s and brakes. I need to get it up, over my head and under it as fast as possible.

I lay my wing back out, position my hands, take a half step back, and lift. Whoosh! The wing snaps up, I again put my weight into my seat, I let my feet scrape forward, and pendulum swing under my wing.
I balance it over my head and turn.
I am on my toes like an astronaut… I am held in the air… all except the maybe twenty pounds in my tip toes. I shove my chest forward and put my hands up behind me. I moonwalk bounce toward the edge of the ridge…. And I’m flying… sort of…. I’m parked about five feet up in the air.

A little right brake and I’m crabbing right, still facing forward.
This is fun! There is only one other person flying with me. The ridge is ours. We do a few slow laps and I practice touching down and taking off again in this robust wind. A few more people show up and I land. I’m happy for the early morning I’ve had. It has satisfied the deep need I have now for flight.

I watch some tiny speed wings playing in the strong air for a while.. I love watching. I love the colors and seeing them swoop the ridge. It is hypnotic.

My stomach growls and suddenly I remember that I haven’t had breakfast yet. Or coffee. I fold up my wing and as I head back to the parking lot I see the Superfly van. I stop a tall skinny fellow that looks like a pilot and ask about getting an SIV and he recommends a guy, Chris Santacroce…The owner of Superfly. . I’m warned not to call it an SIV though. “just ask him for a throwdown.” he says.

OK! I don’t care what the hell he calls it.

I’ve heard his name a few times before but don’t know much else. I also learn that it is $100 a tow. WOW! That’s expensive!

I screw down my reluctance to spend that kind of money and decide to phone him later in the afternoon.

Starbucks in hand, bagel with cream cheese and lox tracked down, I’m settled and decide to make the call.

He’s friendly, but sounds busy. We connect and come up with an idea he thinks is going to work. He’s mostly booked for clinics but if I come down, I might be able to get a shot if the weather is good. Count me in!

It is at Bear Lake, UT.. hm. Never heard of it, but I’m happy to give anything a chance..

Ladyfriend

Genie is a new friend. A fabulous new friend. She rides the same kind of motorcycle I do, and rides the same way I do.

I love her face. It is thin and square and strong. Her eyes are a blazing blue, sometimes green blue.  She’s got a thousand watt smile, wild, shaggy blonde hair, sometimes there’s a shock of pink in the front.
I think when they were pouring souls into bodies, an angel got distracted and spilled an extra two into hers.

Like me, she’s led a couple lives… She’s bright and driven.
She’ s the life of the party.

I’m invited to cocktails with her friends… At Lola’s. They have great drinks and an open, breezy patio that used to have a clear view of downtown which is now being obstructed by an big boxy apartment  building across the street. There are sweaty men swinging around huge framed pieces of lumber and pounding them into place. I like to watch them and wonder what they do after work.

There are half a dozen gals. Cute. Smart. One of them is tall, fit, tousled curly, shoulder length hair. Very professional looking.

I only stop by for a minute. I didn’t really feel like coming out but I wanted to see Genie. I miss her.

She’s late, she shows up as I’m leaving. I smile and hug her goodbye.

I see the tall girl again in Moab a couple weeks later, and then one more time  at Genies birthday. We finally talk.

 She is an Architect. She’s a little bit shy.. and nervous.

We discover we both love bicycles though and plan a morning.. We ride the Lariat Loop. My favorite.. a forty five mile scenic roll through the front range of Colorado. Starting with a steep, twisty climb up Lookout Mountain. it’s the kind of ride that says.. I’m serious about riding, but I like more than just the challenge. After Lookout, you get to pedal through Bergen Park, Kittridge, Morrisson, and just before Golden, Red Rocks… If you haven’t been to Red Rocks for a workout or a concert, you’ve seriously missed on the Denver experience. It is a large, deep, natural, open amphitheater set high in the foothills of the front range of the Rockies. Its defining feature is the colossal bright red sandstone rock that forms an acoustically perfect bowl around the stage. From the top rows you can see the whole valley and even Denver is visible.. Even when the smog is thick, it never feels like you are close to a major city.

I want to BBQ.  I haven’t done one in awhile so I invite some friends. Genie, my new riding friend, Linda, and also Jeff and Barbi, my favorite neighbors.

Genie can’t make it but Linda can. I’m pretty excited to be grilling for friends.. It’s one of my favorite things to do.

Dinner is great, Grilled pork chops, homemade applesauce and roasted squash.. I grilled some small paddy pans and zucchini with oil, salt,  pepper, and a couple shakes of a fantastic Balsamic that I picked up in San Diego.

After dinner, Barb and Jeff thank me and say goodbye, but Linda stays to help me clean up.

She seems nervous and I quickly find out why. She’s on a mission. Her friends said she has to kiss me. It’s our third date… I didn’t know we were out on dates but here we were in the kitchen… looking funny at each other.

Ten minutes later, I tell her she had better go home.. we plan another date and say goodnight.

I’ve  forgotten how fun that is. It’s been missing in my camper life for a long time now. I’m super looking forward to our next date… However, I am already moderately suspicious that she may be too delicate a flower for my uhhhh.. type of soil.

Women With Wings

I haven’t been flying much and am starting to feel antsy. I was surfing online and visited Kari Castle’s page. http://karicastle.com/. She’s a hangliding world champion. She competed in the X-Alps.. I have three of these videos…. if I won the lottery, I would train full time for this adventure…

She’s been my hero for a couple years now. She is hosting an all women’s Paragliding trip in the Owens Valley… An epic venue that I’ve avoided due to the massive air that typifies the site. It’s in mid October, so the intense heat of the summer is gone, and along with that, the giant, ripper thermals that keep most of the beginner and casual pilots away. I book it.

Oct 17. I arrive in Reno. It’s almost too late to go anywhere. I thought I might stay at a hotel. I really want to curl up in a soft bed. My bones are tired. I have been up since 4AM for work.. I even went into the Atlantis casino. The front desk clerk told me he only had two rooms left. It would be $100.

I have only  four hours before I have to be on the road again, so this sounds like a pretty bad deal. I turn around and go back through the ringing, dinging, beeping, flashing, smoky casino. Relieved, I sit back in the rental and pull onto 395 south. I drive for about an hour on empty two lane highway before my eyes are too heavy to stay on the road. I pull into the post office parking lot in Gardnerville, Nevada. It is a strip mall. One seedy bar with a neon beer sign in the window looks open, but there are only a couple cars in front.

I pull out my sleeping bag. It’s in the low 40’s out. I push the seat back and flat, burrow under my fluffy down bag.. before my eyes are closed, I am gone.

I wake to my alarm three hours later. My eyes are gritty and puffy with sleep. I sit for a few minutes before I feel alert enough to roll back onto the highway. I wish I had a Starbucks right now…. I am supposed to be in Bishop, California at 8:30.

I drive through the night with only one more short nap. I am happy when I see the slight glow on the horizon.The Eastern Sierra is stunning. Every time I drive this corridor, I am shocked to tears by its raw beauty.. Especially the sunrises. they are a prayer…  a promise to me that no matter what we do, what wars we might wage, what ugliness happens in the world, the sun on this high, eternal range will always rise and bring the warmth of a fresh new day, a beautiful, serene beginning.     I am in love with this landscape.

I am peaceful as I roll into town and make my last few preparations. I have to get coffee. This is first order of business. Next, batteries, water, toothbrush, snacks for the day, try to find a SPOT locator.. No way.. Not at 8am in a small town. It will have to go on my list of wants…

Find our meeting spot in the city park. Unload glider and kit bag.

The first of the girls shows up.. There are two of them. They are a little older than me.. And brushing their teeth in the parking lot. I am comfortable with  them immediately.

The rest arrive in twos and threes. Kari Castle is late. Some of the girls know her. She’s always late… For some sick reason, this makes me happy. Maybe I’m glad she’s not a whip cracking taskmaster. I don’t really know..

Kari is a big personality. And she’s tall. And blonde. And tan. She’s clearly an outdoorswoman. She has a huge smile. I like her immediately.

As our female crowd gathers, we introduce ourselves. Many of these pilots are relatively new.. Which surprises me.. This is the Owens.. Even in light conditions, I’ve heard this valley can crank off some serious rippers.

Kari is giving pointers on cross country flying, what we are generally doing here and makes us pick a buddy… Mostly so someone doesn’t get left in a crapper somewhere (has happened).

I pick Patricia. She is self deprecating about her ability, but I feel a calm confidence about her. I suspect she is far better than she reports she is. This is the perfect pilot to me… Always striving to be better, listening, watching, and never pretending (or trying) to be a superstar.

We head up the hill (Flynns) right away and launch. Our first flight is little better than a sled ride. Only about twenty or thirty minutes. I watch Patricia fly. She’s good. She can find and ride a thermal. She stays up a little while in the light condition.

Our next flight is great. There is some very nice lifting air. It’s a little punchier, but it’s desert flying. I feel good and am staying up for as long as I like..

We all soar about a thousand feet above launch, one girl goes a bit higher.

She’s tiny, she’s a leaf in the air…. And she’s a good pilot.

I am so comfortable with this group that it doesn’t dawn on me until later that this is more women pilots in one place than I have ever flown with… In total. Maybe six or seven others. And I can name them all. Except for the Norwegian in Brazil. I forget her name, but not her face.

There are fewer lesbians in this group than I would have thought.  Only three others that are out. Two of them are happily married. I had wondered how many there would be prior to coming here. Nobody cares. It’s not special, not even an item for discussion.

I love that. I can focus on flying.. and meeting these brilliant personalities.

The third day, we drive up to a very high launch. It is at eight thousand feet. It’s name is Paiute. It is a gorgeous drive up. Myself and one other girl want to hike for a while. We jump out of the truck about a thousand feet below launch and hike straight up the mountain. I can tell the air is thin as soon as I take my first steps. It’s a fun scramble up the sharp slippery shale.. a little more work navigating around the smallish scree fields My ankle gets whacked a couple times (I’ve got my tennies on) and I get to meet Julie as we crank up the hill.

I didn’t admit that I had just been working in Denver, I was already acclimated to the higher altitude. She had just rolled in from Washington state and was working much harder than me.

We make it to the top just in time for the site checkout. Kari reminds us of the sink in canyons, the venturi and of being careful not to land in the rotor behind any peak.

We want to let the less experienced pilots launch in the early light conditions. Three pilots launch and land. The fourth is struggling with her launch. She is all heart, but clearly hasn’t practiced her kiting skills. Forty minutes and several launch attempts pass when I spy a hawk circling lazily over a nearby knob

An unknown force controls my mouth and I hear myself say I’m going to launch. I butt in front of the hapless pilot and spread my wing out. My radio check is bad. I landed a little violently in a bush yesterday at a ridge we visited which yanked the mic cord  out of it’s plug in connection.  

I was able to hear talking though, so took the launch anyway.

I waited a minute for a cycle to come up the hill. I see the flags flutter, I feel the wind on my cheek. I lean back into my harness. I feel the pull of my risers. The wing flies above my head. I check it’s surge, turn and RUN. The air is thin. I have to put some energy into this launch.

It’s a perfect takeoff. I steer to the place I saw the bird soaring… I find the thermal she was using. I crank around to the right. I’m going up! I’m almost immediately above launch. I’m so happy, focused and am hoping my new friend will launch right after me.

Three others launch, but it’s not the blue green and white wing I was hoping to see. None of the three gets as high as me… I am enjoying my flight in this desert wonderland and try to find a bigger thermal but they are small and broken in front of the mountain. I decide not to try to push out cross county. I land safely in the Landing zone. My hiking friend was there too. I love her enthusiasm for free flight. She’s all smiles and energy.

There is a support truck to greet us, and someone has had the good sense to pack a few Negro Modelos. It was a fantastic way to wrap up a flying weekend. The weather for the following day is unfavorable and I’m planning my return already.

I say some goodbyes on the ride back to camp, but right before I go, Patricia and Kari ask me to join them for one last flight in the morning. I can’t resist these two and agree.

Patricia and I wake up early and snap some amazing pictures of the desert sunrise. It is the perfect morning.

We enjoy coffee and breakfast from the Great Basin Bakery.. And of course, Schats (Bishop’s legendary  lunch spot and bakery) Soon, we are meeting the group and riding up the bumpy mountain trail.

 

 

 

I have some serious concern for the weather. I make a decision not to fly. I would watch the others. There are lenticular clouds in the valley and over some of the ridges. This is a bad sign. High winds aloft. I don’t need to check the weather report to know this.

The newer pilots are going to launch. They are to get the first sled ride down before the weather turns…. It is blowing over Mammoth lakes. Supposed to snow tomorrow.

The same girl with the tough launch the day before sets up her wing.

She has a couple attempts and on the third one, gets airborne but doesn’t control the glider off launch. She whacks into the sharp shale on the left side of the canyon and seconds later again  into the right. Finally, she’s airborne. She makes some giant, lazy turns. Finally, with some coaching, ten minutes later, she makes it to the landing zone.

She reports a nasty scratch and then admits her leg may be broken..

One other pilot launches and meets our injured girl on the ground. Conditions are poor at best and I ride the truck down the hill.

When I arrive, she is in good spirits but her leg looks horrible, its badly scratched and is swelling quickly. I decide to splint and transport. The hospital is pretty close.

We carry her a few hundred feet to the waiting truck and haul her off to the hospital..

I have to drive back to Reno to catch my flight. Now. Or I will be late. I hug the few other people at the emergency room and smile goodbye. I don’t have time for much more.

On the way back to Reno, I get a text. No broken bones.
Thank goodness for an easy lesson on this last day. I am peaceful again, my soul is full, I am ready to tackle anything.

Motorcycle

I am angry. Everything makes me anxious. I am mad at the lady at the campground. She doesn’t know how much I am paying in tax for my accommodation and she can’t write me a proper receipt. She has written my reservation down wrong three different ways. I wanted to load my bike and leave by ten but I am getting Shanghaied by dozens of little things.

Everything is a source of irritation. It is three o’clock in the afternoon. Way too late to leave. The afternoon wind and thunderstorms are already threatening. Finally, Scout is picked up, my motorcycle is loaded and I am dressed much too warmly for this hot Colorado summer afternoon, but I am about to ride my bike into the mountains for several hours. I should be dressed for success…. Or at least, to minimize a high speed crash.

I can feel the tension of my shoulders and my jaw as I roll away from the dirt lot my camper is parked in.

I am fighting with Friday afternoon traffic out of town and I’ve taken a wrong turn onto I-70. I have to jog back into Morrison to get back on the state road I want to ride.

It takes me 45 minutes. I pass dozens of cars. I pass on the double yellow line sometimes, but I know my BMW is fast. Fast enough to go by in only a couple hundred feet.

The city is fading quickly from my memory. The road becomes less crowded and finally I come to the top of the pass. It is a spectacular transition. I love this stretch of road. It opens up onto a high, wide misty plain… bright green, bucolic, perfectly flat grazing land.. Little black dots of Angus and Hereford cattle grazing peacefully. It is a transition in my heart. It is the moment from when I leave the city that I feel like I can breathe freely. Like the air finally reaches the bottom of my lungs.. For the first time in weeks.

I feel the expanse of freedom.  The relaxing of my body into the seat of my motorcycle, I can feel the surface of the road, the wind beating my shoulders and head, I can smell the moist dirt, the cows bodies, and mint…. I keep smelling mint.

I am headed in no particular direction…. Well, I’m pointing the moto towards Telluride, Colorado. I have heard how pretty it is for years now and think that this might be a great opportunity to check it out. The other thing I want to do there is fly. I’m hoping to meet up with an old friend I think might be there. I’ll call him when I get into town.

Each mile brings me closer to myself. I watch for wildlife on the sides of the road. I am aware of everything around me. My senses are focused and alive. My chest and lungs are  filled with the Collegiate peaks in the soaring Sawatch range.. Mt. Antero, Mt. Princeton, Mt Harvard, silent giants sliding by.

I am speeding through a postcard.       I pass through the Black Canyon of the Gunnison…  tiny towns with three digit populations. No gas station.  Tilted barns.  I ride for hours with little traffic and a half smile under my black helmet. I am whole again.

It is dark now and there are bright fingers of lightning reaching out of a nearby cloud to my right. I can’t hear the thunder, but it still seems like a good time to stop. I am in Montrose, Colorado. I can’t tell you anything about it except that the hotel is very friendly and there are some bars and restaurants in town. It is bigger than I thought it would be.

I check in and ride to a steak house about a quarter mile down the street.

I feel awkward here. It is very white-Republican. I am sure most of the trucks outside have guns in them and a few of the young cow-fellows inside too. Everyone is wearing either a cowboy hat or ball cap. Except for one blonde gal at the bar. She’s cute, except she is busy being bored to death by a hat-wearing older cowboy who is failing miserably at holding her interest. He is talking about Elk hunting and what time he goes to bed.. She is yawning but valiantly trying not to be rude to her unamusing suitor.

I am almost finished with my fish and chips when a Harley couple walk in, order loudly and sit down next to me and the boring cowboy. Ruth is her name. She’s a lively, young-looking 50 something. she has a brilliant white, toothy smile… She’s got all her teeth, so this is must be a well-off Harley-image couple out enjoying the countryside, looking for a good time. He’s handsome, shabby-sheik in his Harley leather and well groomed, short cropped,  graying beard and mustache, mussed salt and pepper hair, straight white teeth.

They peg me within a few minutes and waste no time in letting me know they are looking for a third party for the evening… He says she’s never been with a woman, she says I’m cute, I say “I don’t do taste tests”,  put on a smile and  my jacket. He’s trying to buy shots for the bar but I have to get my moto back to the hotel and this trip is not about that. This time.

I wake at 5:50. Whether I like it or not. It is still dark but I get up and start loading the bike. Clip on the bags, strap down the wing, zip my jacket on and with the turn of a key and press of a button, my magic ride roars to life. I love to feel this energy under my feet, butt, hands. I like the clicks the shifter makes and the growl of the motor as I make a left turn out of the parking lot. I roll on the throttle and tell the sleeping Harleys that this ride has started.

The sun is starting to rise brilliantly behind the mountains… I don’t want to miss a moment of this spectacular dawn, I decide to wait for coffee and breakfast in Telluride. It is only 45 minutes from here.

About halfway there in Ridgeway… As I lean into a left turn, there is a hot air balloon rising against the green mountain directly in front of me. The sun catches the white, orange and yellow spiral pattern of this brilliant morning surprise. I stop the bike on the shoulder and only have time for a phone camera photo.  I am disappointed with the picture but am thrilled with the memory of this unexpected joy.

As I roll into Telluride, I have to stop five or six times to take pictures. I know this is futile… This place is a feeling. Not a picture. There is something.. Aside from its unearthly beauty.

The compact, bustling valley is sheltered in the gaze of immense gray, misty stone mountains. There are waterfalls winding down their hulking faces.. Like tears of joy for something still beautiful and unspoiled. Freckles of juniper and scrub brush.
There is real magic here.

I soon discover that the valley is not normally bustling like this, I have arrived in time for the Telluride Film Festival. This explains the lines of people winding around the block… With otherwise no street or sidewalk traffic. The coffe shops however, are jammed. Twenty or more people waiting in line for a cup of specialty java.

The women here are spectacular. They all have gym memberships and throw up after every other meal… That last part I made up. I know it’s really not very nice to say.. It is however, difficult to understand how so many women from a certain demographic can attain such a perfect level of physical aestheticism.
They are very bright. This is not made up or forced. I love meeting them.. even casually. It is enormously refreshing to be surrounded with minds that are turned on and acutely active.
The men are equally alive. I haven’t encountered a one that is not driven in some way.. Not a man without a goal. Not someone who is in limbo, waiting for life to Judy-chop their lights out while they buy Lotto tickets, watch re-runs and eat chicken- fried steaks…. (I’ve had a chicken fried steak.. I even liked it until I discovered it might stop my heart and make my ass enormous after a few more)
I meet my old friend… He should be the mayor. He knows every third person that walks by him. He is always gracious and stops to talk. He takes me on a tour of the city… Its more of a whose who person tour.. We go to the park, shows me camping areas, and the LZ for most of the launches. He tells me how Telluride was when he was growing up. I am fascinated by his personal history here and  am feeling lucky to be hearing it when my little friend calls me from Moab.
“Where you at?”
“Telluride”
“how far is that from Moab?”
“couple hours”
“get on your bike and get here now!”
“ok”

I might have stayed for the night here otherwise, but I am excited to see my friend, I pack my moto and head toward the La Salle Mountains. It is a beautiful day to be on the bike.

It is in the high sixties when I leave. There are dark clouds gathering, but not yet threatening. I spend a couple hours carving turns and zipping through high desert valleys letting the peaceful countryside seep into my bones.

Winding up the La Salles from the East, I note a large overdevelopment near the top of the hill and see another one blowing away in the opposite direction.. It has already soaked some of the mountain roads, I still can smell the ozone and see little pools of water collected in the rumble strips. I have no way of protecting my wing from the rain.

My fears are fully realized as I reach the summit and the damp and drying roads turn into wet, and threatening turns to drizzle, then a hard rain, then a sleety, sloppy freezing mess… I am about to pull over to make shelter when I see two other motos come over the crest toward me. Ugh. I can’t stop. They are racers, not out for a long haul, I assume the other side of the storm is close, so, I drive through the mess. I pop out a few short minutes later, but I’m soaked.

Coming down the mountain, I’m thrilled as the temperature climbs slowly and as I reach the desert floor, I dry quickly in the 95+ degree desert heat.

I can’t get ahold of my friends right away, so I find a little hotel..the  Kokopelli. Room number five… and discover there is some reportedly excellent music playing down by the river. I check in, buy a ticket online and wind my way down the canyon to hear some of the most fantastic cello, piano and violin I have ever heard… Including recorded music. The cello is my all time favorite.

It’s not just because the river sluicing through the canyon is beautiful and peaceful, or because the setting sun is showing off the brilliant red rock of this steep and tall desert canyon, it is because of all this and they have somehow encouraged amazing talent to travel to this tiny venue and perform for an audience of less than one hundred and fifty people gathered on lawn chairs in the grassy bank of the Colorado river.

The cello and violin to me are like clean, fresh laundry… I don’t know why this is to me. It seems somehow fresh. Like breathing super-purified air.. Clean and cool and good.

I stay for two hours and ride back into town. The wind has really picked up and I have to lean into the gale that has developed during my stay. The dust blowing across the street is sometimes blinding. It is very strong and I have to fight to stay in my own lane.

I find the girls at the bar. They are super fun. Thirteen of them. They are 40-50 something, most of them childless, attractive and successful. All women. All lesbians. A couple I haven’t met. We have a casual, fun, late dinner and I finally hug my friends and excuse myself to get some sleep.

I wake early, at first light. I carefully load my wing and bags. Before the rest of the town is up, I roll out and point the motorcycle toward Salt Lake.

I hit a bird with my right side blinker. A flock of them swarmed me when I was speeding through Price, UT. I saw it smash against the lamp and tumble.

I feel awful for the life I’ve taken, but I don’t slow down a bit.

When I get to launch at the Point of the Mountain, there is no one there.. Just a big, black cloud about five miles away. I’m very tired and find a patch of shade under a bench. I lay on my back on the concrete and immediately fall fast asleep.

Light raindrops wake me and I take a couple minutes to let the sleep drain out of my head. I decide this isn’t the day to fly and hop back on the bike.

I make it as far as Vernal, UT. Right at the bottom of the Flaming Gorge. It is an hour past sunset when I arrive in town and I’m tired. I almost hit a deer on the way in.  I really want to sit at a local bar and have a scotch but am too tired to figure out the driving situation. The KOA I pull into is full but manage to convince the attendant to spare me a patch of grass next to her parking lot for the night.

I crawl in my sleeping bag and fall asleep right away, but I wake shivering. I think I’ve been cold for awhile now. I hope it is five or later. I swish my hand around my shoulder where I left my phone last night. I find it in the dark.. it lights up my face with the awful truth… It is only two.

I wiggle out of my too-cold sleeping bag and untie my paraglider from my bike, unfold it and spread it out over my sleeping bag, crawl back in and snuggle under my wings layered warmth.. It’s like someone turned the heater on. I smile big and doze off comfortably until morning.

I wake up, fold my wing, pack my moto and find a $5 Lions Club pancake breakfast and a cup of weak coffee a half mile down.

I feel like this is the end of the trip, I still have several hundred miles to go but the whimsy of choosing my next destination is no longer a realistic option. I have to head home. I wind my way East on two lane roads, there are unconcerned cattle plodding along the shoulders and packs of wild turkeys making beady eyes at me as I pass close by.
The Flaming gorge is spectacular in this early morning light.

I soak my bones for a couple hours in Steamboat while I wait out another black cloud and some violent wind over Rabbit Ears pass.

My planning couldn’t have been better, the afternoon is filled with puffy white clouds and blue sky. It is a perfect temperature, I am at peace, the roads are slowly drying as I roll through Kremmling, Hot Sulphur Springs, Granby, Winter Park, Empire, Idaho Springs, finally, back into Golden, Colorado.