2015 – My Amazing Year of Hang Gliding

Finally, a look back at my wondrous 2015.

It’s hard to believe how far I’ve come. It seems like yesterday I was a mere fledgling slowly peering out of the nest—from a naive student to a slightly less naive experienced pilot, from a mere inches above the ground to thousands of feet, from sled runs to miles and miles.

Sure, I could quantify much of the year: 125 hours, 308 flights, 13 new sites, 250 tandems, 20,000 miles on the road, but one could walk a thousand miles without smelling a single rose…not me. The experiences, the people I met, the new friends I made, the lessons I learned…immeasurable and yet significant, these are the events that truly matter.

Though I took a break from competitions (can it be considered a break after two competitions?) 2015 was a year of continued discovery, learning, progress, and sharing a passion.

Here’s a review of some of my milestones of 2015:

Quest Air Tandem Clinic

There are some people who don’t know about Quest Air. And then there are hang glider pilots. In March I made the trek to Quest as an aspiring tandem pilot. My trip was a whirlwind visit. A red eye flight to arrive early, and then leaving late after only four days. Despite the brevity, the weather cooperated and the trip proved successful, earning me a tandem rating.

This is the Disney World of hang gliding, with a cast of characters to match and nonstop fun. While they may not have Space Mountain or tea cups or Cinderella’s castle, pilots are entertained with great flying, a Swiss Family Robinson like hangout, an alligator in the pond, and tug pilots who I swear forgot how to frown. Who needs a monorail? Who needs a rail at all?

Sure wish I could have stayed longer. I will be back (and since I began writing this post I have).

The tandem clinic family

An awesome time with some awesome folk

Celebrating tandem flying

Cheers after some successful tandeming









A Final Flight in San Diego (for a while)

My last flight in San Diego could not have given me better memories of the place I love, and love to fly. Flying from our most routine site, Horse, it was not long before we realized the day would be magical. Though it was still only March, conditions were beginning to turn on. The handful of San Diego pilots came out to fly, plus even some Crestline friends made the trip down. Super wonderful to have more pilots than usual.

With our wings aloft in the cool spring air, the wind became our co-pilot. We gently climbed. We climbed some more. And then some more. Having left my vario at home, I had no idea how high we were. A pilot with radio issues made it difficult to communicate. I think I could make out someone say 11,000. More than enough! I and two of the Crestline pilots committed to going over the back. In triangle formation the three of us, wing to wing, with noticeable smiles on each of our faces, drifted downwind toward Laguna Mountain.

Running into a headwind slowed our progress, but not until we had each traveled 20 miles or more. Some of us had firsts and personal bests. Touching down on the desert valley floor, I soaked up my surroundings, my flight, and in a way said my goodbyes.


Non-Blue Highways

Dunlap, Fort Funston, Ed Levin, Mt. Tam, Inspo, Lookout Mountain (CO), Raven’s Roost, Tobacco Row.

Eight more sites added to my collection. North through California, a stopover in Boise, down through Utah and Colorado, then east to Virginia and up to Massachusetts. You can read more about my road trip on my earlier posts. Part 1. Part 2. Part 3. Part 4.

Such an incredible trip.

The return trip included much less flying, but much more family. And for that I’m thankful.


Hang Glide New England — New Braintree, Massachusetts

Miles away, on the opposite corner of the United States, my old life was far behind. I was a tandem pilot now.

Traffic Before Hang Gliding Instructor After

Winding my way through the lush forests and rolling hills, after a month of driving I pull up to the hangars at the small airport in central Massachusetts. A couple Cessnas and other small aircraft line the runway, however it’s the Dragonfly toward the end of the runway that gets my attention.

“Set up your glider!” I’m told after less than a minute of arriving. I’m tired and need to relax, but pilot peer pressure can be fierce and the soaring pilots overhead beckon me skyward.

Pulling out my Sport 2 from my quiver, I’m soon aloft enjoying the great view from my new office. A corner windowed office has nothing on this view. A gracefully wandering river borders the airport. To the west is a large reservoir providing a great water scene and incredible sunsets. North is Mt. Monadnock one of the higher peaks nearby, and northeast is Mt. Wachusett. To the east sits Boston. On a clear day we can easily see the entire state and much of the surrounding ones. No matter how many flights I took, each one felt as if I was dreaming a spectacular dream.

The summer was one of cherished memories of great fun full of rewarding tandem flights, introducing many people to the sport, correcting the many misconceptions people have—basically being an ambassador for hang gliding—and teaching already experienced pilots to aerotow. I lived and breathed hang gliding. I lived.

A short selection of my wonderful experiences:

  • Camping and bonfiring alongside the runway—sometimes with lots of folks, sometimes alone with the coyotes, turkeys, and bears (oh my!)
  • Afternoon yummy milkshakes (aka frappes in Massachusetts) thanks to the Clover Hill Country Store
  • Fun dinners after long days, and dare I mention the occasional Scorpion Bowl? 😛
  • Spotting bears hunting pic-i-nic baskets around the airport
  • Watching meteor showers, laying on the runway staring upwards at the clear, dark, void of light-polution sky (it’s a non-lighted runway so no planes)
  • Playing and teaching at a friend’s training hill while the Blue Angels practiced overhead
  • Completing a biennial flight review to fly powered aircraft again after 10 years
  • Presenting hang waiting weak link tying classes. I know this doesn’t seem interesting, but we had fun
  • Sharing all these experiences with my new friends

And of course I had many memorable tandems, including:

  • A 9 year old girl that may very well be a future hang gliding world champion. Not only did she fly the huge tandem glider better than all the adults I took up, after enjoying her first flight so much we took her on a flight later in thermic air. She was confidently telling me where to find the next thermal!!!
  • Teaching long-time instructor Robert Stewart of Eco-flight Hang Gliding (and Chris Arai’s instructor back in the day) to aerotow.
You could call us Hang Glide New Greenland

You could call us Hang Glide New Greenland

Sure, at times we may have seemed more like a flying circus, but it was my summer circus family.

Then, all too quickly, the month was October and the season was winding down. One of the last mornings saw 23 degrees on the thermometer, a sure sign it was time for this bird to migrate south for the winter. I departed the first week of November, seeking both warmer climes and climbs (groan).

I can honestly say I will always look fondly at this summer experience. Absolutely no regrets. Many thanks to Rhett for taking a chance with me and teaching me the ins and outs of being a tandem pilot.

Home Sweet Home

Finally after eight and a half months, mile signs to San Diego decreased to 0. Other than a short stopover in San Francisco to fly Funston, the return trip saw little flying, but included Thanksgiving with family. In April, I left San Diego with a slight fear of the unknown, and returned with great memories, new friends, a new glider, and a new harness too. What an incredible trip! And yet it felt so nice to be home once again. Until the next adventure…

Night falls after a long day of flying



A bear, oh my!

Life on the Road, Part 4 – Midnight Oddities, Floods, and Virginia Flying

[This is the fourth and final installment on my month long trip from San Diego to Massachusetts. It took place in April 2015]

The exciting finale of my coast-to-coast road trip. I departed San Diego on April 4th, flew 8 new sites, logged 12 hours of flight time, had amazing, unforgettable flights, met cool new friends, flew with cool friends I already knew, and arrived in Massachusetts on May 2nd. I’m so looking forward to the return.

My New Wills Wing T2C 136

My New Wills Wing T2C 136

First though, I must say, or rather yell, I BOUGHT A NEW GLIDER, I BOUGHT A NEW GLIDER, I BOUGHT A NEW GLIDER!!! But I think it’s missing parts, or at least I can’t seem to find the king post 😉

Yep, an impeccably cared for Wills Wing T2C 136, at a price I couldn’t resist, that’s slowly becoming known as Speedybird, or the glider formerly known as Tom’s. This glider ushers in a new era of my flying, and as much as I have enjoyed the Sport 2, I look forward to the many hours, and miles criss-crossing the country, me and Speedybird will spend together.

Now back to your irregularly scheduled journey already in progress. I warn you, it’s longer than previous chapters, but I hope a less dry read with ghosts, UFOs, floods, and exciting new flying sites…or at least some of those things.

Act 1 — The Ghost Truck & The Sea of Red

So there I was, on the long, straight, flat road after having left Lookout Mountain, Colorado. Acre after acre of farm fields. The only elevation changes were overpasses. The sun setting behind me and a dark sky rising ahead. This would be my only night not having a hang-friend hook me up with a place to stay. Wanting to get to another flying site, my motivation was to plow ahead past the farmlands from one Lookout Mountain to another. My mind prepared itself for the long, isolating drive. I, however, was not prepared for the oddities of that night.

By now that night has blurred together. Somewhere in the time frame of before midnight and after 10pm I was in my road trip induced trance rolling over Kansas—occasionally passing someone and occasionally getting passed—when a truck, white like a ghost, came speeding by. The unmistakable image of a grey bag with red tips on top shook me from the trance. The sight of gliders atop my car apparently shook the driver of the truck too. Although he was flying past, I soon saw brake lights shoot on and the truck slow until we were side-by-side. For a few seconds, as if I was looking at a UFO descending upon me, and ET looking down at me, we eyed each other confused, attempting to place who the other was. And then, after we had in some way acknowledged each other, the truck sped away. I can only hope whoever it was had enjoyed a great day of flying. It’s a strange bond that we hang glider pilots share. Sometimes all it takes is a chance meeting in the middle of the night, in the middle of the country, to remind us that what we do is special and links us by some indescribable bond.

Still on I-70, even later in the night, or likely morning, came another unusual surprise. In the distance appeared a vast sea of red lights blinking synchronously. Marching toward me like soldiers until finally I was amidst towering fields of red, it was such an eerie and disorienting sight. *Blink* *Blink* *Blink* Just when I thought I had left the lights behind, I topped another rolling hill and more appeared. The experience induced in me another weird mental state and once comfortably miles behind me I decided it was time to call it a night. Later I determined that it was a wind farm, likely one near Ellsworth, Kansas. Someone on a forum I found probably described the experience best (though a different wind farm):

“Last fall I was driving late at night through eastern Colorado. Suddenly I was surrounded by strange red flashing lights and thought I was either too tired to drive, having a life changing UFO experience, or somebody slipped me some LSD…It turned out it was a huge wind farm.” ABryant

And so, there I was, miles away from any flying site that I knew and hoping morning would come soon.

Act II — Nashville and the Relentless Rain

Another day of driving and I was beginning to feel I was making progress. Au revoir Kansas. Goodbye Missouri. Illinois, Kentucky, sorry we only barely got to know each other. Nashville was coming up soon.

It seems that Nashville and I have a one-sided rainy relationship. I pass through. Nashville rains on me. When I first passed through in 2011 heading to California, I encountered downpours. I splish splashed a bit at the Parthenon—one of my favorite Nashville attractions—and then swam on out of there. This trip proved no different. As I arrived the rainy weather was threatening, and the forecast for Lookout Mountain did not excite me. Rather than drive further into gloom, I’d skip the flight park and hurry on to surprise my parents in Virginia. A few days later I find out flooding plagued Chattanooga and areas surrounding Lookout Mountain Flight Park (Read All About It!).

On a brighter, sunnier side, I met up with rising star Cory Barnwell for dinner and had a great time reminiscing about the 2014 competitions and discussing future flying fun.

So sadly, Lookout Mountain was, literally, and figuratively, a wash. Next time LMFP!

Act III — Virginia, Sweet Virginia

The day after spending the night in Nashville, I hurried on to my hometown in Virginia. So great to be home, and spend a few weeks with my parents. I could almost not care if I did not get to fly Virginia sites. It didn’t take long for an opportunity to fly came up.

You see, the glider I was buying (the awesome T2C) had traveled from Massachusetts to Florida for one last hurrah with it’s prior captain. But he was scheduled to stay in Florida another few weeks, and impatient as I am, he sent the glider back with a couple friends. These friends just happened to know a pilot near me and were planning to stop a few days to fly with him. Long story short, the following day we were meeting at a local site and I received my glider.

Flying Ravens Roost along the Blue Ridge Parkway

Flying Ravens Roost along the Blue Ridge Parkway

That site was Ravens Roost, an overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway with one hell-of-a cliff launch and trees. Oh my gosh trees. First, I could not believe that for my entire childhood I had this site practically in my backyard. Second, trees! Tall, intimidating trees. This Californian, used to mostly open land with some bushes and perhaps a few cacti, did not expect the shock of flying over forests. It didn’t help that the LZ was borderline reachable on my Sport 2 (I decided it was not a great idea to fly a new glider at a new site).

Ravens Roost Launch

Ravens Roost Launch

The launch is a boulder field with no good clear area to run, requiring a hop, skip, and jump practically before leaping off the sheer cliff lined by—this time of year—mostly leafless trees. Or at least this was my first impression, and first impressions are everything right? Nothing like I had ever seen in California. The LZ however was one of beauty; green grass, mooing cows (safely fenced away), and a babbling brook. Once in the air the view of the Blue Ridge Mountains was astonishing: the valleys on both sides, a local ski area, more green than in all of California. A nice flight and great no-wind landing later, I was giddy with having flown in Virginia…finally.

A couple days later the forecast looked good for a site near Amherst Virginia called Tobacco Row. Given the launch at Ravens’, I had no idea what to expect. Told it was a ramp launch, visions of beautifully crafted ramps like Lookout Mountain’s danced through my head. Sure, I can’t expect it to be that great, but… We investigate the LZ first, hearing that houses had been built around it. The wind was switchy and the every landing direction required a thoughtful approach, including the large bowl among the fields, endearingly called the Soup Bowl and historically the primary landing spot (down one side and up the other).

Staring down the ramp at Tobacco Row Virginia

Staring down the ramp at Tobacco Row Virginia

Arriving to the road to launch, we immediately realized the site had not been flown for years (a decade?). A tree blocked the road, and after clearing it, we found launch over grown with trees perfectly in front of our launch path. Of course they were no match for determined hang glider pilots, with ropes and, well, ropes. With a little ingenuity we (mostly the guys) were able to bend the trees enough for us to launch cleanly.

The ramp you ask? Well, though it had a solid enough structure, was basically a three foot wide plank giving a pilot just enough height above the trees to glide out to clear air. Light winds allowed me to be comfortable and balanced as I stared the trees down and ran off.

And once in the air, yet again this trip, the sky was magical. For an hour I boated around 2,000 feet above launch enjoying another site so different from California, so familiarly unfamiliar.

First flight on my Wills Wing T2C 136

First flight on my Wills Wing T2C 136

The last treat Virginia gave me was a first flight on my new glider. Feeling mostly comfortable with Ravens Roost, we headed there for another flight. Conditions looked great, with puffy cumulus clouds splattered across the sky. Winds were light and supposed to get lighter. For over an hour I played among the clouds, climbing to base and then finding sink when I became too cold. It was a perfect first flight and I felt very comfortable on the glider.


During the flight I felt the winds increasing. Oh contrarian you are Mother Nature! You read the forecast and play with our puppet strings! When I finally decided to journey out to the LZ, I found even Speedybird had difficulty. Near to the ground I found conditions even worse. Vicious gusts rattled my nerves, but I was not going to let the wind beat me. After a wild ride down, terra firma approached, and though not the most graceful landing, my feet were once again on solid ground nonetheless, and my glider and I happy with the flight.

Act IV — Onward to Massachusetts

A couple weeks with my parents, friends, my hometown, and three fantastic flights later, and it was time to complete the journey eastward. Repacking my car and tying down my gliders—all three of them now—I departed, next stop Massachusetts and Hang Glide New England!

Hard to believe at the beginning of the month I still worked a typical 8 to 5 job, loathed rush hour traffic, and only flew weekends and holidays.

This may be the end of the drive, but the journey is barely beginning.

An Rx for an RX: My First Flight on a Topless

A week ago I was given the unbelievable opportunity of Jonny Durand Jr. driving pour moi as I fly a topless glider for the first time, a Moyes Litespeed RX 3. It just so happened that Jonny was in town and Kraig Coomber, our Moyes USA representative who I’ve been in contact with about flying the demo (Thanks Butch for connecting us!), set Jonny up to show me the wing.

Post-RX Flight

Post-RX Flight

I’ve had my Sport 2 for a year and have about 100 hours on it, but I’ve been hesitant to make the jump straight to the topless wing. Despite some very trustworthy pilots and mentors reassuring me that I have the skills, the opinions I’ve received from a larger sample pool are all over the board (as one can imagine). Moreover, access to a more advanced intermediate glider for my weight has proved difficult. That opportunity will come, but this one was here and now.

When Kraig contacted me the day before to see if I could fly, and that Jonny would be there, seriously, how could I pass up on that opportunity? Sure he’s a legend, but more importantly if you could choose anyone to coach you on your first high performance glider flight, he’d be a top choice.

We arrive at launch and the wind is blowing in smoothly about 15-18 mph. A little strong Jonny thought, but the forecast was for the wind to back off, which it seemed to as we took our time evaluating the conditions. Also with us was my instructor, and another legend of the sport, John Heiney. I think I had to pinch myself to make sure I wasn’t dreaming.

Standing at launch I’m nervous. Not only am I making the leap to a much higher performance wing, but I’m also flying Crestline which can prove challenging on approach—at least I’ve heard and read about enough topless gliders overflying the field. Crestline (i.e. Andy Jackson Airpark) requires a low turn to final and I knew I’d likely have little to no wind at the LZ, a combination setting people up for failure. I’ve flown there a lot, but I’m stepping into the unknown. I knew all this though and prepared mentally. Still, I’m nervous. Did I mention that I had two legends watching me?

Finally, after what seemed like 30 minutes, I took the leap. In a few seconds I am in the air, the smooth, dreamlike air. No turning back. I make my first turn. I do not feel much lift, likely because I’m giving the mountain a wide berth in case the glider chooses to surprise me. I love how smooth the glider seems to turn. Yes, it takes more control bar movement to bank the glider, but it feels effortless. A few passes later I’m a few hundred feet below launch and ready to head across the gap toward the landing field. Time to feel what the glider can do with full VG. Pull, pull, pull, pull….pull. I think it’s all on. Never before have I felt more comfortable gliding over the gap. I’m really going somewhere.

Out in front of the Marshall launch I cruise back and forth on the ridge hoping to find something going up. But it’s 7:30pm and only very light puffs could be felt. I circle in whatever I think might help me resist gravity. Being a test flight, I took time to simulate approaches on the down tubes, and also pull full VG on and try adding speed. In all the aspects of flight I felt comfortable. Before too long I’m ready to set up my approach—forced may be a more appropriate word than ready.

Circling over the field to lose altitude, I enjoy the sunset and take a moment to soak in what I am doing. Never can I forget what it is just to fly, whatever the glider. A higher performance glider is just icing on the cake.

My approach went well. Although at one point on my base leg I felt a little high, I pulled in and cautiously checked my glidepath as I descended toward the field. I could have circled again, but found that unnecessary. With a smooth turn onto final I was setup to nearly hit the cone. “Focus on the flare timing” I thought to myself. I chose wrong. Just a hair late in the light wind conditions I tried to run it out. The glider charged ahead of me leading to a light whack (but oh so close to the cone). Oh well. Good launch, good flight, good approach. I’m happy with that.

I can’t wait to get time in soarable conditions.

Setting up amongst two legends

Setting up amongst two legends


Setting a Personal Best: 51.4 Miles

Goal reached! Two weeks ago I set out to fly to Coachella hoping to fly over the festival and land nearby. Two days straight I tried but two issues: 1. the lift did not flow that way and, 2. I’d be the lone hawk to try.

Last weekend another opportunity arose, but I was not even thinking of heading that way. Of course, if conditions allowed and my buddies were willing, I wouldn’t say no.

That’s just what happened.

A happy me in the Coachella Valley

A happy me in the Coachella Valley

Soon after launching from Laguna Mountian we climbed to nearly 10,000 feet. One by one we began to head north. A few pilots in front of me chose a more northerly route toward our first cross-country LZ. Watching my friends climb in good lift along the route, I, choosing to head a little more easterly, began to regret my decision. I aimed for a mountain known for being a thermal trigger, and by all accounts it worked its magic earlier.

As I approached the mountain from the south, I ran into a stiff headwind–and some accompanying turbulence. Fighting my way to the peak I finally arrived only to find few signs of lift. Off to the west my friends continued north thousands of feet above. Another fine mess I found myself in.

But then our driver began reporting the wind directions on the ground. Just to the west of me the wind had already switched to westerly. The convergence had passed, at least on the ground. Then a friend out front on the more northerly track reported sinking like a rock. He would soon be the first to succumb to gravity.

Taking the diminishing altitude I did have, I decided to turn east. If nothing else, there is a landing area in that direction with a store across the street. “I can land there if I have to and get a refreshing cold drink,” I thought. On the glide there I found neither lift nor sink. hmmmm.

Arriving with about 1,000 feet to work with, I found a few burbles of lift. For a few minutes I patrolled the air, a shark in the sky, for anything to feed on. Slowly I sank.

Within 500 feet of the ground I was able to milk more thermals and maintain altitude. Knowing the convergence could potentially begin to pass through I was hoping to either stay aloft until it passed—and pulled me up with it—or gain enough altitude to head further east where a ridge began.

Our driver came on the radio, “low level military jet heading into earthquake valley.” I may have cursed hearing that. There are low level VFR military training routes where jets hug the ground within a few hundred feet. I was still scratching right in that “uh oh” range. I began to pull in to get on the ground and pulled my feet out of the boot. A few seconds later our driver announced that the jet took a different route.

“Phew!” Letting the bar out I slowed down again to thermal milking speed. “It’s not over ’til my feet hit the ground” I kept telling myself. The heat on the ground was likely over 100, further encouraging me to stay aloft.

In a few more minutes a flock of birds—hawks, crows, ravens, perhaps multiple species—in a tight circle approached from the west. “They’re climbing! They’re climbing!” Whipping the glider around I aimed for them. The vario soon began chirping its happy song.

An RV at the landing field began to shrink. Smaller and smaller, I climbed. A friend who had joined me, and thought he may too be forced to land, began climbing well also. Together we followed the lift to over 11,000. “Let’s head east,” he said on the radio. “Ok, let’s go.”

A long, smooth glide over Borrego Springs finally gave me the gift of a few moments to take in the extraordinary view. The Salton Sea to the east, and an unfamiliar desert below me. If I squinted I could barely make out my goal, Coachella.

At Coyote Mountain, our next waypoint on the flight, we found lift plentiful. Before long we were back to over 9,000 feet. Following my friend we went on glide for the Santa Rosas. Perhaps the most unfriendly area of the entire flight, should we have to land between Coyote Mountain and the Santa Rosas it could be a long hike out. We flew a path that minimized risk and gave us ways out, but as I learned a few weeks ago, sometimes sink has other plans.

Celebratory pizzas at our post-flight Italian restaurant

Celebratory pizzas at our post-flight Italian restaurant

Luckily once we arrived on the Santa Rosas lift rocketed us to the summit. Not satisfied with the altitude for glide I hung around a little while longer hoping to climb higher. Nope. A lighter lift cycle passed through and I found myself ridge soaring my way north to Rabbit Peak just barely above the ridge.

“Be patient,” I told myself. Minutes later I was happily climbing well above the ridge and ready to glide into my personal record book. Coachella was set in my flight instrument and I could arrive with over 1,000 feet to spare. Let’s go!

My friends landed in a field a few miles short of the the actual Coachella festival field, at just over 50 miles. I continued another mile or so. Knowing that my goal was confidently attainable I turned around to land with my friends. More than just friends they have mentored and guided me since my early solo flights. To celebrate with them would mean a lot.

On nothing more than the wondrous air that we breath, my feet touched down 51.4 miles from where we launched, 3 and a half hours later. My smile could be seen from launch. What an amazing flight.

Watch my Track: Doarama

Prepping for Cross-Country Season

This is it. The first year where I am ready to cross-country from the very beginning. In 2012, my first year flying, every flight was a new first. First flight above launch. First hour flight. First two hour flight. First landing in what we call the postage stamp. Later in the year came first flight above 10,000 feet. What more could a fledgling want in her first year? Well, San Diego kept giving.

XC Season in San Diego @ Mt. Laguna

Late September back in 2012, my power purple Northwing EZY and I went on a trip. On an amazing climb to 11,500+ feet, with a friend and his T2C on my wing, we went on glide for new territories. Correction. He went on glide. I mainly just sank like a somewhat aerodynamic rock. I pulled in for best glide–or what I guessed was best glide–and aimed for the next LZ. Now from the highest I had ever been, I felt like I could go anywhere. I could smell the salty air from the coast, see Catalina island, and peer far east into the desert–Arizona must be out there somewhere. But my single-surface glider had other plans. Seeing the T2C pulling away and nearly disappear above me I immediately gained appreciation for double-surface wings (oh I can’t wait for the triple surface wing!). Having passed the point of no return, I watched intently as the LZ seemed to move up in front of me.

Pushing onward I had no choice. Certainly on a big air day there must be another thermal around here. But where? The moments slowed. Wondering if I would ever near the LZ I began to look for alternatives. Not that I was super low, but on my first flight away from the local pattern I wanted a full report on my options. Now, Butch Peachy tells me, there are more thermals than LZs. Too bad I had not yet met him. He was right though (don’t tell him I said that). Just as I seriously began to wonder whether I could make the LZ, my vario began to chirp. Up. Up. Up until I knew the LZ was mine. As if to add an exclamation point, over the field another thermal rocketed me back up to 9,000! For a few moments I considered whether I could continue on. Tired, and unsure where exactly to go I found sink and floated down. 11 miles from launch, my first cross-country was complete.

Of course, what is a cross-country flight without a long retrieve, packed between gear and guys in a dusty old SUV? Perhaps it was midnight before I half-asleep/half-reliving every circle of my flight opened the door to my home and flared into my bed.

2014 – The Year of the XC
Skipping ahead to today, with an upgraded glider (Sport 2, check), instruments that rival a Cessna 150’s cockpit (Flytec 6030 and Garmin 76S in a cool pod, check), an amateur radio license (call sign, check), and hopefully a slick new harness on order soon (my current harness has so many lines it might as well be called the Flying Spaghetti Monster), I cannot wait for San Diego to once again breath life into the air. This year is the year to hone my skills and soar beyond new horizons.

Butch also tells me he counts Super Bowl Sunday as the kickoff to cross-country season. And he would know. So let me be the first to say, screw football, let’s go fly!

The Ranchita Yeti says, “Y’all fly back soon!”

Two Happy Years

December 30, 2013 marked two years since my first high altitude mountain flight. Since that short, but oh so memorable flight I have flown over 100 hours, nearly 150 flights from 15 different sites, flown as high as 14,000 feet, as far as 35 miles, and continue to cherish each and every moment slipping the surly bonds of earth. I have met and become friends with amazing pilots. What a wonderful community we have!

And so I begin this site to detail my future years of flying enjoyment. I look forward to every moment, making new friends, new firsts, breaking personal records, meeting personal goals. Follow me on my journey in the sky.

What will 2014 bring? Let’s see.