Stars

Me and Scout are sprawled out on the Astroturf . I took his cone off,  so I could pet his head while we look at the stars. I can see the big dipper.. and I’m looking for Orion, but I can’t see his three-star belt yet.

 

The camper is parked in Golden, Colorado. Right next to the river… I can roll over and throw a penny in it, I’m so close.

 

I made two grilled pizzas earlier. Both with the last of the heirloom tomatoes, basil and fresh mozzarella I got at the farmers market Saturday. On one, I threw some roasted garlic and nicoise olives too.

 

I’m ruminating a bit about the last few weeks… Scout is hopping around on three legs because he broke out of the camper panicking over a thunderstorm and badly sprained his wrist.. he keeps licking it to death, so he’s got The Cone.

 

I’m starting to work out again.. today I ran two miles and  hammered out some pull-ups and push-ups. Yesterday, an hour bike ride. My body is creaking and groaning in protest, my legs are like two mushy logs. Thursday I will ride up lookout (if it’s not flyable)

 

I’m obsessed with flying… I almost got in two wrecks while driving home from work because I was watching paragliders taking off and coming in to land… I live at the bottom of the hill. Less than five minutes from the LZ. Two, if I could make a straight shot at it. It is difficult to do non-flying things at the camper on weekends… if there are pilots in the air. I make myself not go up the mountain… so I can do errands and fix the camper but… I see someone soaring, and I’m in a trance… I study the air they are flying in.. Watch the movement of the wing… how high are they, how quickly are they going up? Down?  Who is it? Should I say F-it and just go?

 

I have made four flights from Mt. Zion now. I am learning how to judge the conditions here… So far, two sled rides, one epic glass off, one buttery, boaty, evening flight. The last one, there were three women. If I had Amy’s number, there would have been four… I love women pilots. All of them. They are kindred and instantly beautiful to me. That night, I kept thinking about them… and my friend who had broken his hip in a bad landing earlier in the day… I will go visit him in the hospital this week.

 

It’s a perfect summer evening.. a gentle breeze is cooling my face and arms, Scout is breathing slowly and evenly, every once in a while a big dog sigh. I am happy with my obsession, my sweet broken dog and this spectacular twinkling sky tonight.

 

 

 

Down the road

 

I’m at the club. It’s the big lesbian night  hosted once a month at Traxx in Denver. My friends have just left and I’m holding a spot just off the dance floor where I can see the fun, young Go-Go dancers and do some serious people watching…  It’s crowded. Everyone has to bump and brush against you as they move around the club. There’s a few very attractive women.. One in particular.. Trim, tall, straight white teeth, long, thick, curly black hair halfway down her back.. She passes me and comes back.. Says “Wow! You’re hot!”

and she wants my number.    But I’m on my way out. I can’t find paper. The bar napkins are black. I fish out a five dollar bill I had in my pocket and scribble my number on it. Before I give it to her, I have a few questions.. One of them.. “What do you like to do for fun?”

Her: “Uhhhh… Hike?”

Uh oh…. Strike one.  Maybe she’s just shy.

She texts me a couple times and we meet for Sushi downtown.

She looks delicious when I see her waiting outside the restaurant. She’s wearing tight jeans, she’s tall in her high heels and a tight fitting vest with collared blouse. Long sleeves. The weather is pleasant.. Low 70’s… the windows are rolled down in my enormous white diesel truck.  I wave and smile as I rumble by her. I have to find parking for this beast somewhere.. and I’m starving.

We sit at the bar, she tells me she likes tuna and California rolls… And that I should order.

The sushi chef sets down our fabulously prepared plates over the counter.. I am already suspicious that she’s never had sushi before… We are having painful small talk and not really connecting, but she is touching my leg quite a lot. I can see she is very attractive, but somehow I’m not feeling anything exciting.. As well, I can see her eyes scanning the table… Futilely, I think, for a fork.
I’ve ordered enough food for two people, but she only takes tiny bites of each item. She says she doesn’t eat much… I believe her because she’s not very big… also, I know she’s in a jam.

I have a mean streak.

She’s still telling me she likes tuna, so I think… We’re on a date, right?

It is on the outside edge of appropriateness, given she’s been touching my leg and thigh so much, I decide its ok to feed her a piece of fish.

I chopstick up a beautiful piece of carefully prepared maguro tuna and put it in her very hesitant mouth..

I pick up another piece for myself and pop it in.. As I savor my slice, I watch her face go from apprehension to dismay.. As she forces herself to chew and swallow the tuna she has professed to like…

“Delicious…no?” I cruelly ask…. smiling.

“n-no.. no. I um.. don’t think so.” with a small, but vigorous shake of her head.

Strike two.

I am curious about this gal… She still wants to hang out with me… Why?

We make another attempt. We will ride my motorcycle together at gay pride. Dykes on bikes.. Right before the event, my friend texts me.

“Is her name—— ?”

Yes, I say.

“Well, so far, all her ex-girlfriends have restraining orders on her… And another lost her job because of her. I’d be careful.”

Strike three. She’s a tornado.  I know if there is that much rubble behind someone, it’s not going to be any better because of me.

I actually feel a little shitty now, but I have to bail out on our next date.. I’ve been in the tornado before.. I can’t do this to myself again…. Not even if it’s exciting. Not even if I might be making a mistake.

I shut her down.

She’s hurt, I’m free, and my life gets down the road. Literally.

I’m heading to Omaha, Nebraska now. I’m in my RV. It’s a giant toyhauler. I load up my motorcycle and the rest of my life. I don’t go quickly in it… I had a tire blowout in Nevada a couple weeks ago, I think the other ones are ready to go… I haven’t protected them from the sun like I should.

The only vehicle I pass in nine hours of driving is an ancient blue and rust Toyota pickup precariously overfilled with a giant pile of hay…spitting and  blowing straws along the highway. Two Mexican cowboys at the helm, plodding stoically down interstate 80.

Flying here is completely out of the question. It’s flat. No tows, no mountains, not even a decent hill to be seen… This cannot be my home.

I am here because I’m starting a new career that allows me to continue to work in my field while taking better care of my body and having some financial security… I will be better able to manage my retirement plans. I am on the safety/ regulatory side of the house now. As well, it is my understanding that the ability to take time off is generous.

I have to dig out some clothes from the camper that may be suitable to wear in an office.

It’s more like an exploratory excavation.

Lookout

Fear.

Sequoia National Forest, California:

I am standing with my friends on launch. We are watching the conditions carefully. We see the swallows dive bombing invisible insects, there is a cloud halfway to the next peak growing and shrinking. We see other pilots in the air a couple miles away. They’ve just launched from the far side of the valley. They’re getting a lot of altitude. Three… No… four of them.

My friend Dave is an amazing pilot. He loves flying passengers on his tandem wing. He is perennially confident and smiling. Today is no exception. The weather is good. Better than yesterday. It was a little strong and gusty yesterday but it’s looking really nice now.

Three of five of us launch. Another guy and myself stayed on the ground. We are both recently recovered from serious accidents. My ankle is still bothering me from my wreck in Colombia.. He flew yesterday in the marginal conditions and I suspect was looking for an ideal moment to fly today… which never came.

I watched them launch, but couldn’t tame my fear…. Is it even fear? I can’t tell… It’s fear-ish… But not totally fear… Could I just be overexcited??

I hate flying with too much adrenaline… It blocks out rational thought… I feel that my skills are adequate for the conditions, I have the ability and knowledge but this moment just isn’t mine…

This is much different than my job in the military…. I think it is easy to make an assumption based on that past experience… After all, I am a Bomb Tech, Navy diver, Naval parachutist, HRST/CAST Master, ATV instructor, motorcycle rider… What fears could I possibly have?

Maybe it was peer pressure… Maybe it was the knowledge that I would be medically and financially covered if I did something terrible to myself back then… Maybe I found a way to shut the door on fear in my former career…

Here, now, today, at the top of the mountain, staring down into this epically beautiful bucolic, rolling green Southern California valley, I can not find a way to control the wild surges of adrenaline filling my veins. I will not take off with this excess.

Fear.

It is a wild horse. One that must be battled, broken, and ridden under control. It can propel me into productive and driven action or cause a poor decision….decisions. If it is extreme,  then clumsiness and a complete blank-out can sometimes occur.

I have had many fears. Some were realistic, some made up, a few necessary, appropriate and timely.

In flying, we all battle fear. We all have our own methods of dealing with it. One trick that usually works for me… a friend told me.. Chew gum.

 Really. It works. For me… Usually. Some people listen to music.. Some people need quiet.

Since that non-launch in California, I’ve had 7 or 8 flights… easy Utah ridge flights and a couple of tows over the water. Some maneuvers. Some thermals.

Golden, Colorado. Lookout Mountain:

I’m on launch again, and again, and again. Almost a week Parawaiting. The conditions change here very quickly…

My last day at the top, conditions are perfect, the swallows are high up chasing the small floating insects, cloudbase is rising, I see two crows soaring the ridge.. my wing is laid out, my lines are clear… wind is 6-8 mph.. E-NE.. my adrenaline is in check, half a dozen people said they would be here, but I am alone. For two and a half hours… I get in and out of my harness. I put my helmet on… take it off. I have one eye on the trail up… Hoping for one winged friend to come. I watch as the conditions begin to deteriorate… should I just fly??

Never fly alone. never fly alone. never fly alone….   My old instructors voice echoes in my head.

Grumpy, I pack my wing and head down the steep rocky, slippery trail.
I’m getting fat. All I do is sit on launch and drink beer…. I guess that’s not all bad.

still grumpy.

I need to fly. Soon.

 

 

Salt Lake City

I have returned from my big adventure and gotten on with a company I have wanted to work with for a long time… They have a fabulous name in the industry. Rare.

Today, we are just outside of Salt Lake City. We are privileged to be working every day inside a windswept, high desert valley. The floor of the valley is perfectly flat, it is covered with sagebrush and grease wood. The rest of the vegetation aside from the dirt are short, dry grasses that are crushed instantly dead when you roll over them with any kind of tire. It creates quick dusty roads in this fragile ecology. The desert floor is wide. About two miles in between two short mountain ranges that still have a dusting of snow on their jagged shoulders. Only one narrow, gravelly road cuts through the midline of this sweeping blue and brown vista. It belongs to the BLM.

Just out of sight is a plant that is recycling and disposing of radioactive materials.. I originally thought it was a Dump with it’s open dirt hill covered with brightly colored mystery bits but only recently discovered that it is likely the outer garments of low level nuclear waste workers and other articles that are swimming through the dirt mound. Several miles another direction is Dugway. The nations premier military chemical, and biological weapons testing and training site.
The winds are very strong here occasionally. They often cause brownouts from the dirt and dust swirling around everything making it difficult to breathe and see, even with our protective sunglasses.

The crew is fabulous. One of the very best. They come from everywhere… Ex- military and civilians. People with advanced degrees and guys with GED’s. They are all here for the same reason. To make money. Few are here because they love the business. The work is unrewarding, and uses very little imagination. Each person must walk forward and maintain focus on a small, changing patch of dirt all day long. Every once in a while, you will find a live piece of unexploded ordnance.. Most times, just bits of rusted steel…Occasionally a snake, horny toad or a scorpion.. or sometimes a tiny birds nest. We are careful and respectful of all the living creatures. I am deeply grateful this crew is not a destructive one.

I break the monotony up in the afternoons with a trip to a beautiful warm small desert lake that is a short 20 miles away. It is a fantastic blue, hundred  by two hundred meter, sixty foot deep pool. It is fed by an underground spring that maintains a constant eighty degree temp all year ’round. I swim laps in this mini-oasis. It is refreshing and restores my Chi.

On the weekends, the crew that doesn’t escape to the city hangs out at either the casino or our local favorite, the Black and White bar. I love meeting the guys there. They are fantastic fun to learn about and I enjoy the community (when I’m not in Salt Lake flying.) I have made no secret of my sexuality… No one seems to mind.

I’ve seen one of the fellows here a couple times. I love his wide friendly smile and his easy chuckle. He’s nice to everyone and always pleasant to be around.. His name is Mack. I never miss a chance to say hi.

It’s Friday, we are wrapping up the week, giving the trucks a bath. I’m wiping the windows down and my big bald friend runs over to tell me what he just heard.

Mack: I think I might go to Blue Lake this afternoon

Cathy: Yeah, Wendy might be there.. She swims almost every afternoon.

Mack: Oh. I shouldn’t go. I think she likes me…. She’s been giving me googley eyes.

Cathy: Uhhhh, I don’t think so.

Everyone looks uncomfortably at each other.

I went back to cleaning the truck. I keep having crazy bubbles of laughter… a guy from the next car over asks me if I’m laughing about Mack. I giggled.. Yeah! They were laughing too and begging me to tease him. “Please just wink at him tonight? Please?”

Now I just can’t stop laughing..

 

Dang

Dang.

So, there were a couple burps and blunders that in no way diminished the awesomeness of my trip but I thought would be worth reporting because on screen,  it seems relatively blunder-free aside from the wreck..

I left my credit card in Chile… In the airport. I was on the way to Rio and that was how I was supposed to pay for my hotel. I called my bank and they sent me a card. Three days it took. and $8.  Not too bad, considering.

The awesome bicycle I bought in Colombia only lasted a week and a half.. I made the mistake of leaving it locked up outside one night..  It was gone when I went for it in the morning… I had been warned.

All but one of the pants I brought on my trip was ripped, horribly stained or missing. You must inventory all laundry. Every time. You must be proactive about getting it back. And returning all things that do not belong to you.

I’m struggling. My flying vacation is over. I am in Costa Rica “relaxing” but I’m not very good at that. I am anxious to get back and find work.
Also, I am sorting out my love life. Which is to say, a bit confusing right now…

I’ve spent almost three years chasing around the same woman. She’s a short, chapstik femme, super buff firecracker with an appetite for the ocean, exercise, and travel.  We both live for fresh air and laughter. I love her family.

She is more of a people person, I’m a little more reserved initially. That’s the short story.

We met up here in Costa Rica.. I’m a puppy when I see her. I love the way she looks in her sporty little getups. She’s got laugh lines and freckles on her face.. And loves to point out anything she sees beautiful… Or funny. I love that she thinks it’s fair game to stop any conversation to show each other a strange looking bird, cloud, tree or piece of shell…. anything, really. She’s an elite athlete… And a scary good skier.
It makes her crazy if she can’t get up in the morning and go outside right away… Even better if she can sleep with a cool breeze. We both wake up early.. We  like our coffee dark and strong.. But lighten each cup of rocket fuel with a splash of cream and swirl in some sweet… Just to make it friendly.

We talk pretty often. She told me she was coming to Costa Rica and asked that I join her.  Really, I had planned to go to Peru instead. I had already purchased the ticket there. I was asking if some friends would like to go with me and my new friend Paul rogered up for nine days.

At that moment, I felt responsible for someone other than myself, so I checked out what I was planning and discovered that I had purchased tickets for the rainy season… The trail to Maccu Pichu wasn’t even going to be open. Flying is no good in the rain and I felt an emergency push to make a better decision.. Switched flight to Costa Rica and told  Paul about the plan change.  We would meet in Playa Hermosa and all three of us split lodging.
I spent my first week in Jaco. Alone. It was very nice, actually. I met some personalities.. My favorite… Celine. She has a charming French accent (shes very French) with an adequate but not firm command of English. Which makes everything she says either more interesting or just funny. She was the person who convinced us to go to Manuel Antonio… Because the “slowth” was there. I would have been mildly interested in the sloth, but for whatever reason, I wanted desperately to see the “slowth”… and then tell her about it.
Paul and I went… If you haven’t already seen the video on my FB page, this is a great time to watch this crazy booger in close up action. He comes down once a week from the canopy to poop…

Paul and I pick her up at the Liberia airport after her week in Tamarindo at surf camp. I love to see her. She brightens my day, but this time when I saw her standing outside the sliding glass doors playing her ukelele, there was a semi-sweet sadness too.
We drove down skinny, bumpy roads, made a wrong turn and went in the back entrance to the resort hotel she had booked for us. We laughed when we were scolded about going into the poorly marked entrance and again when we found that this was more of a retirement community than a vacation casita. No matter, it was close to a fun time, was clean, well staffed and we were going to be diving during the day anyhow.

Paul got in four dives and proved to be a superior beginning diver. (he got certified for this trip back in December)
I was surprised at his natural ability and grace in the water.. I am curious if he will pursue this sport.
She was equally as quick and adept in the water.. I hope she gets to continue her diving hobby in some other tropical paradise. While we had fun, Costa  Rica is not known for it’s amazing dives.

We returned home early in the eves to listen to music and unwind at the casa, watched episodes of “Little Britan” and get ready for our next days adventures. Vicki Pollard in the boot camp scene.. Or the hospital.. Not sure which one is worse for a broken rib.. They are both worth at least a dozen views. We  kept the neighbors up laughing our asses off.

We heaped Paul onto a bus in Puntarenas rather than spending the four or more hours traveling to the San Jose airport. This may have been the biggest adventure of the trip. It was with much difficulty that we found the right place to board the correct bus… and then the ferry for our small econo-car.

Mal Pais:
We arrived and got the tour of our new living arrangements… Wendy had booked them with solely herself in mind and reasoned she would tough out any circumstance because she would be surfing her buns off during the day and sleeping like a rock at night… She’s a tough bird..
Community kitchen ground floor. Refrigerator is locked at dusk. Bathrooms, restaurant and showers ground floor. Our room and yoga studio on the second floor. No AC.  It is blazing hot. and humid. The air is still.
We are, however, quite relieved that our accommodations are set back from the horribly dusty dirt street.. Many people wear masks or scarves when they walk or ride down it. The dust has settled on everything within fifty or more feet of it’s edge.
Some of the shops and restaurants spray molasses on to the street. It’s very cheap here because of all the sugar cane production. It works well to keep the dust down, but surprised us when we first smelled it.
The waves and beaches are beautiful…palm trees and monkeys everywhere. A surfers paradise.. Locals and ex-pats that came down for vacation and never left are working many of the restaurants and shops. I love meeting these travelers.. The people that have checked out of the race… or are running. or are just wandering. They have fabulous stories. If you met five of them in one night you could write a book.

I didn’t see many sedans in Mal Pais. It is a much better idea to have a four wheel drive.. If you can afford it. My little car did the job but with a little less driving experience, it would have been easy to wind up high centered or stuck in a bad piece of road…not bragging, just saying, you might consider something a little more robust…
Which is why I believe it is such a nice area to still visit. I’d recommend coming here now before the road is paved and it becomes saturated with touristas, and big hotels..

We boogie boarded, walked, drove around, found shells, surfed…
I got a nasty gash on some rocks when we weren’t paying attention to our drift in the surf.. It wasn’t bad, but the foot with a slice on the bottom did need to stay out of the sand a while.

We left a day ahead because of the heat.. and no AC. Went to check the ferry schedule online but the Internet was out, so we asked our host. Three O’clock the ferry leaves for Puntarenas she says. That last one is at five but I don’t want to try to look for a hotel in the dark.. I would have made reservations… but the Internet… We stopped on the way to the ferry in Montezuma and hiked to some waterfalls where she  took a refreshing dip and then to a delightful lunch at a small Soda.. (that’s what they call the  local restaurants)
We had casada…rice and beans with fish… I had with chicken and a beer.
We arrived early at the ferry… But alas, it had already departed at two o’clock.  We could see it sailing away.
There was another one that left at three from a terminal north of us.. I thought we could make it.. If we hurried and left immediately, But I had underestimated the time it would take to get there on the little  unpaved road.

A couple miles in of chunky, choppy, dusty, rocky dirt, we bagged the idea in favor of an easy afternoon at our original ferry. She played her ukelele and I drank a beer. A local Costa Rican sat beside us and enjoyed her playing. He said it was joyous and peaceful.

We chatted with the Costa Rican guy for most of the trip. He tells us… Like everyone else does,  beware. Watch your bag, pockets and don’t go anywhere alone in the dark by yourself. Don’t carry more than you need, and don’t be out after nine at night on side streets. It was dark when we rolled off. The nearest town I knew anything about was Jaco… An hour from the ferry. I figure we could roll in and try to get a room at the great place I stayed before.

This plan works fantastically and we are delighted to be settled into a safe, friendly haven on the outside edge of the busy surf city. We share cocktails and dinner at a quiet, salty beach bar I know. It is outside, you can see the waves, white foam and palm trees in the dark.
We finished a fantastic dinner of giant fresh fish tacos and meet an American fellow that shares a  story about the volunteer work he does with the local transvestite/transgender HIV+ clinic and the football games they play in lovely white dresses and sun hats.. Apparently, when the football comes out, boys will be boys no matter what kind of accessories, high heels or hairstyle they may choose. Game on!

At breakfast the next day in Jaco, it became more and more clear to me that the dynamic of our old/new relationship was out of whack.
Maybe it was me. Maybe we’re just not right for each other.
This I know….It was our last chance. We parted that morning with an honest promise that we would be friends.
I feel like someone has simultaneously kicked me in the guts and took a backpack of stones from me.. I am floating neutrally in the hum of tires on smooth pavement and warm wind buffeting me with half open windows for three hours through tropical paradise to San Jose.

Costa Rica Video

Here’s what i put together here up ’till now… i think this is going to be the last flying video I will have for a while. I’m not sure what is going to happen now, I’m at the end of my very first big trip and have loved this adventure. There is always something to tell you about, so I will post, but less frequently now, as my very greatest interest is flying. I hope you will stay with me until my next adventure.

Costa Rica

The hot grill girl wrote me back. Like, a week ago. I would have written a reply right away, but she addressed the letter, “Hola linda ” so,  I had a melt down and couldn’t think of what to say next… No one has called me “linda” in many years. I really don’t even care if she’s just being nice… It’s nice to hear.
I finally replied tonight.  It sounded really sophomoric. 

 San Jose has a big city feel. It was very crowded, noisy.. Not that fun or friendly….I keep comparing every city to Medellin…  

I spent an extra night at the B&B catching up on sleep, planning the next week in Costa rica, writing e-mails and paying bills. 
I was online trying to find out where there might be some flying in Costa Rica, I found a spot near Puntarenas. It’s a ridge called Caldera. I will try to head that way and find more information about it. There is a paragliding B&B there, it seems to be reasonably priced.

On the bus to Puntarenas, I realized I had no idea where Grandpa Ninjas was. Usually, I have good forethought as to where I might be heading but on this occasion, I completely forgot to take a screen shot or write down an address..
The gal next to me on the bus is my age, attractive and conservatively dressed. She’s very busy texting on her phone and I think she might be local. 
Twenty minutes pass, and I’m trying to think of how I’m going to find this place… and I thought I better break the ice with my neighbor to see if she might know something….
She speaks perfect English and is delightful to talk to. I show her some paragliging video which she’s crazy about and she tells me she’s a diver.. She tells me some good spots here.  She is a native, met her American husband ten years ago on Match.com and now lives in Austin, Texas. She’s here in Costa Rica for two months visiting relatives and doing tourist things with her husband. This is her first time on the bus… She feels uncomfortable riding it… she is worried for her safety.

She asks where I am going and I have to admit my little problem.
Graciously, she calls her friend, has them look up Grandpa Ninjas on the computer, gets a number, calls and arranges for me to be picked up at the bus station…. I am to be retrieved in a white Toyota Yaris driven by a long haired lady. 

She gave me her phone number… She told me to call if I need anything else… Or if I just want to hang out. We might be in Montezuma at the same time… I’d love to meet her family.

Kathy is late. Almost forty-five minutes.. but when she gets out of the car, I forget how blazing hot it is outside because she has a knockout figure… Her legs are exquisite.. She’s got a tiny pair of white shorts, high sandals, tight top and dyed blonde long curly hair. Sassy, big stylish sunglasses. She looks crisp and fresh, like she has just walked out of a magazine ad. She walks like she’s on a runway…. 
She opens the trunk, smiles.. big, sparkling smile.. “sorry I’m late.” 

We drive around, can’t find the guys we’re supposed to hook up with. It doesn’t really matter. She’s refreshing to spend time with…  we stop for ceviche and cerveza. I find out she is raising four children by herself. She’s my age and single. 
We finally make it back to the house. It is a giant house on a hill with a beautiful, if small pool. Deep though. It was designed so that you can jump off the second story balcony into the cool,  crystal water! 

I discover a few things. First, that I have to purchase a tour to go flying. It is normally $120/day. The ridge I so wanted to soar is not open to the public during the week, but for $60 US, I can enjoy a weekday flight there.
Second, that my hostel is in Jaco…. An hour away.. not Puntarenas. I am dismayed by my mistake, but Kathy tells me that I scored. She loves Jaco. I can’t stop looking at her legs.

I didn’t want to pay for a tour. I’m all toured out. I just want to fly an easy site.. Let my feet leave the Earth and fly like a bird for a couple hours… But this does not seem possible here with the information I’ve been given. I’m a little grumpy until I learn that there is a site right in Jaco. The cab ride there is exactly $60. The wheels make a couple turns and I throw out the idea… I’ll pay $60 for a flight at Jaco… And a ride to my new hostel.

The deal is made and we drive out to the site. It’s a little windy and the thermals are getting blown apart but there is still plenty of lifting air. I fly only for about fifteen minutes, have a great time and  a tippy-toe landing. Banner. Also, as it turns out, the two handsome, huggy Fenchmen that were staying at the house are also here flying…well only one is flying it’s a little too rowdy for the other guy.
I love them. they are hilariously irreverent about everything. And nice.

 We joined forces and had lunch in Jaco…. a busy, small surfing town, lots of little local and boutique restaurants, with a giant beach and good waves. 

Last thoughts in Brazil

Brazilians have a robust constitution. They are strong, smart and proud…. and batshit crazy.

The whole world comes to Brazil to fly XC. The Brazilians will not be shown up… They have a large contingent of local pilots.

 I have heard stories…. 
The GV site is a strong cross country venue. During the blistering heat of the day, you need to be attentive and confident with an appropriately rated wing that you can manage in the air. Having an advanced paraglider might make us faster, but if we do not have the muscle memory, intuition and lightning fast reflexes needed to safely pilot a competition wing, the danger is very great.  Advancing too quickly to a higher rated wing often leads to unfortunate moments.
From what I’ve been told,  a number of their young, bold pilots have paid the price of this lesson with their lives. 
……This is not to say there are not fabulous Brazilian pilots. There are champions here for sure.

Pe (pronounced “pay”) is in his seventies. He’s tall, has a wide beautiful smile.. And he always wears it. He loves to fly. I think he has been flying for a really long time.

My first flight in GV was late in the day. We took off in front of a large cloud overdevelopment that was pouring rain a few short miles away. I think I told you this part already…  what I didn’t tell you about was the guy that launched after me.

I had partially folded up my wing, when I looked back at the rock. There was one solitary wing high, high up directly under the enormous black cloud that had filled  in behind me. As a crowd of us watched, the tiny wing began to speed south west…. It took a series of huge deflations and appeared to spiral out of control toward the ground.
The local pilots send a recovery vehicle hurrying toward the location we think the pilot has crash landed.

We didn’t hear anything more until the next day.

It was Pe. He realized his mistake too late.
He had a series of major events in the air until the wing recovered low. It was too turbulent to land safely…  he screamed back up to cloud base in a stormy blast of rising air, and rode the wild frontal wave downwind seventy kilometers in an hour and a half. 
He landed safely in a field barely ahead of the 40mph+ winds and rain.

Pe was laughing as he told us his story.  
Heading up to launch this morning, he was excited because the new day looked so promising.
He might have old balls, but they are made of shiny, polished brass.

Every one of the motorbike riders in Brazil could be Indy car drivers. I thought Southern California bikers were nuts, but the riding here is unmatched. In the cities, it is like watching a very realistic video game. I am mesmerized by this dance with traffic. Stop lights and signs are only guidelines. They weave through the tiniest gaps in traffic, yell at the cars they have cut off, and have not a second thought about jumping a sidewalk or two to get around gridlock. They do this with high heeled, unconcerned passengers texting or talking on the phone.

If you were wondering, I did see quite a few people with casts and road rash. 

Saturday depart GV 14:00 – train to Vitoria, Brazil. I wanted to see the countryside.
Arrive Vitoria  21:00. 
Taxi to bus terminal,  
Bus to Rio De Janiero. Depart 21:30.  
Sunday Arrive Rio 05:30. Hotel early check in 1300. 
Monday Depart hotel 0600 for airport.

I am at the airport, checking in with my airline. I need to produce my immunization record showing that I have a yellow fever shot. I do not have this. The attendant will not book me all the way through to Costa Rica because she says that they will send me back if I don’t have it. 
She tells me the office down the hall will have a record of my immunizations??
I have had.. at a minimum, three yellow fever shots within the last ten years. God knows, maybe there is something.

I walk across the airport to the tiny office. One guy speaks English. He offers me a coffee. It’s a strong, sweet  Italian coffee in a little plastic water cup. He says he has no record of my immunizations. I  scoop up my bag and stand up to go.
But he gives me a look and says waitch. He asks me what I was doing in Brazil and all the places I visited there. He was very excited when I told him I was in GV paragliding. 
He asks me to fill out a form and within minutes, he has found my shot record. He stamps it firmly. He smiles, “Only in Brazil.” shakes my hand and wishes me safe travel.

I missed my connecting flight in Colombia, air traffic is still jacked from when the FARC blew up the tower a couple weeks ago.
It is six hours till the next one. 

I tried to reschedule my flight again because after three vodka tonics, I thought it was a good idea to catch a bus tonight to Bucaramanga to fly for a few days. 
It began to be increasingly confusing and expensive to change last minute tickets and  hotel… and coupled with dread of another nine or more hours of seated travel, I bailed on what still seems like an appetizing idea… 
I wish I could just magic myself there.

I will try to fly in Costa Rica… if the plane leaves on time tonight, I should be there by 23:00-ish.

24:03 San Jose. Checked in, tucked in bed.
 It’s too quiet. No firecrackers, no motos,  no thumping music, no garbage collector, no sweeping, beeping or whistling. 
It feels like Amegeddon.

Rodrigo

Rodrigo is an energetic guy. Brazilian, light skinned, heavy accent. He’s about 5’7″, fit, has short, curly graying hair and a big crush on me. He’s been very friendly for about a week, he always asks me if I would like to have a juice with him. I think he’s not a drinker.
………………….

When I landed in the tree, it was a pretty long way from town, but I heard there was a bar nearby, so I checked it out. I almost walked by it. It looked like someone’s house except that it had a lot of tables outside. It had taken me an hour and a half to pick the lines out of the thorns and branches and it was terribly hot.  I was soaked with sweat.
I walked through an open gate and was warmly greeted by the owner and his wife. They helped me in with my bags and offered me a cold drink. 

There is something about a frosty can of beer after flying that is better than any beer at any other time. It is glorious. 

I saw a guy had landed across the street and went out to see if he would like a beer too. He looked as happy as me to know there was a cold one close by and joined me for several. and a plate of meat, potatoes and fried pork rinds. 
I was feeling much better and began to unpack my wing (I just stuffed it in the bag to get it away from the thorns) My new friend and I folded it back up properly.. Just as we were unhappily talking about walking the mile or so to the bus stop in the raging heat, a couple of sassy looking forty-something gals rolled up in a little silver car. The black haired firecracker (Claudia) saw our paragliding wings and asked if we wanted a ride back into town.. Her English is perfect.
Banner moment! 
Of course we do! We stuffed our packs into the tiny trunk and got going.  As we rolled down the dirt road toward town, we started talking..
I find out Claudia is the cousin of Rodrigo. She says he’s totally crazy. Not bad crazy, but definitely coo-coo for cocopuffs… We agreed we like crazy. 
The two gals drop us off in front of our hotel and with warm hugs and kisses, send us off. We love Claudia!!

A couple days later I see Rodrigo in front of the hotel. He greets me with a giant smile and hug. “Hello! hello! How was your day?”  I had to tell him the bad news, I had decided to leave.
“Where are you going?”
Costa Rica I tell him.
“I will go with you!”
I bust out laughing.. “Claudia was right! You are crazy!” 
He makes a funny face..but smiles. “Would you like to see my house?”
He lives right in the hotel so I say sure.
 We go into the hotel room. It looks like every other one. Bland. White sheets, folded neatly. white, undecorated walls. One fluorescent bulb. I’m feeling a little funny.
He walks to the other side of the room, opens the closet door.. Except that it’s not a closet door. It is a secret door that goes in to a spotless, giant room elegantly appointed all around with antique furniture.. Armoire, couches, art… Kitchen with granite island against the wall in front of me.  A lush garden is planted against another to my left.  It is wide open to the afternoon breeze and bright.
 We walk across the handsome wood floor to a woman working at a computer desk. I think I am introduced to his mother. She is very pleasant, short, round, has a wandering eye and doesn’t speak a word of English. 
He smiles, gives me a kiss, says something to her in Portuguese and tells me to enjoy my stay. He has to go do something..  I think my mouth is really, actually hanging open as he hurries out the closet door. As it shuts behind him, I turn and face mom with a smile. “Hi!”

She is very nice. She grabs my elbow and starts speaking in completely unintelligible Portuguese.. We are walking toward the kitchen. She holds up her glass and says “Agua?” 

Oh. Yes. I will have a glass of water. I would prefer scotch, or bourbon or a gin and tonic would be nice, but I have no idea how to say anything like that and am suspicious  none of the family drinks at all. 

There is another gal in the kitchen. Short. Plump. dark hair. She walks toward us with a broken gait. She also has a wandering eye and one leg is too big.  as she looks at me with a large round moon face and enormous, guileless smile, I realize she has down syndrome. She is darling. She greets me warmly, repeatedly and shakes my hand way too long. Mom has to tell her to stop shaking my hand.. She looks down. Then up.. 
Mom introduces me. “This is Weeeeeeennnndyyyy.” she makes the d sound with her tongue sticking out, between her teeth.
Sister: “Aaahhhhweeeeeeeeeennnnnnjjjeeeeee”
Mom: “Wwwwwweeeeeeeeennnnnnndyyyyy”
Sister: “AWwwwwweeeeeeeeennnnnnnjjjyyyyy”
Their faces are now inches apart, making the sounds of my impossible name.
It takes another couple rounds.

I am holding back an uproarious laugh..  I can’t keep from smiling.

Finally, mom is satisfied and as sister turns to pour the water, mom looks at me, makes her eyes big and points to her head, then sister….. 
and I tell her “Entiendo.” I understand.

We go to the couch and sip our waters. I look around the single huge room. It is no less than two thousand square feet. On opposite ends of the room, there are two queen sized, four poster beds with white mosquito netting. It is fancy, kind of lacy but the whole thing is bizarre. It is like a giant studio apartment. They explain to me about the Mosquitos. Sister picks at her skin and makes a face ” ooooooooooh. Aaaah”
She does it again.. And one more time. Mom stops her. 
I’m actually having a fun time. I wished I had my gopro though.
Finally, I explain that I have to leave. Mom walks me to the closet door, sister follows. I say good by to sister, I give her a hug and a kiss on the cheek, then shake her hand… For way too long, but I’m just grinning ’cause she’s sweet.
I say goodbye to mom and pop back into the hotel. 

I feel like I’ve just been down a rabbit hole.

I see Rodrigo later. “Hi!”
He doesn’t waste a second. “Hello! I would like to take you out tonight!”  He grabs my hand.

I have to tell him. “Rodrigo. Yo soy una Lesbica.”

He is not put off a bit. “Oh, that’s ok! We can fix anything that is broken!”

But nothing is broken. I just laugh.