Mike Lange and I got up at O dark thirty and drove to
I packed the truck with everything except the perishables on Monday. Tuesday was easy, Dawn and I loaded the coolers and were on our way by noon. We took old Highway 6 instead of I-70 to enjoy the fall colors and avoid the heavy traffic leaving Denver and arrived in Glenwood Springs around twilight. It was abnormally quiet, there was very little traffic and hardly anyone on the streets. I thought that there might be a big event that had emptied the town, but it turned out that it was just the slack time between summer tourist season and hunting season.
Slack is good because I had no trouble finding a parking place right in front of The Historic Colorado Hotel and they kindly gave us a room overlooking the truck. Perfect because I had the paramotor locked but it wouldn’t be hard for someone to help themselves to our gear.
The Colorado is a special place with memories going back 4 generations. I remember photos of my great grandfather standing outside in the garden with my then, teenage grandfather, on one of their piano business trips. The hotel has seen good times and bad. At the turn of the Century it was the choice of wealthy Europeans who would take the train up from Denver to soak in the hot springs and enjoy the clear dry air. It was the favorite of presidents Teddy Roosevelt and William Taft and for awhile became known as the White House of the West. During WWII it was commissioned by the United States Navy as a convalescent home and served over 6500 patients.
Not wanting to leave the dog alone we decided to order room service and hope for the best. Wow! It was the same meal we would have had in the main dining room, beautiful presentation and excellent food. The new owners are working hard to bring the old place back to it’s glory and I wish them success, because the Hotel Colorado deserves to be preserved for future generations.
The next morning we bathed in the famous Glennwood Hot Springs. Usually there are crowds of laughing children but in October the hot springs are populated mostly by visiting octogenarians, many from Europe. I’m approaching 60 and changing into my swimming suit, I felt like the young buck hanging out with the grown-ups.
After a good hot soak we went for breakfast at a favorite hangout, the 19th St Diner. In the 80’s when I was selling bicycle parts it was a great place to have breakfast with friends before heading up to Aspen or sometimes I just stopped to load up on caffeine before the long drive to Salt Lake City.
After breakfast, we took the dog for a walk and loaded up for the long haul to Monument Valley. The weather was beautiful but predicted to turn bad and… right on schedule, it started to blow. By the time we hit Moab, dark clouds were developing, the barometer was dropping and the wind was gusting past 30 mph. Hoping to keep the gear dry, I powered on and we arrived at Gouldings Trading Post at 9:00 pm. I hurried to unload the truck and just missed getting drenched.
Thursday it was cold and rainy. Dawn lounged in the condo while I made the rounds and checked with the campground, restaurant and lodge making sure everybody was ready for us. The big disappointment of the day was that the restaurant had double booked our banquet with a wedding. There was nothing to do, there were no other restaurants within 20 miles so the plan was changed to have a pot luck up at the campground.
Late in the afternoon, we were treated to a tremendous hail storm. It came down hard and heavy for about 20 minutes and for about the same time afterward the mesas were coated with a sheen of ice. I was on the IPad checking the weather forecast every 20 minutes. The low pressure cold front was suppose to pass through that evening, with high pressure and light breezes for the next 5 days. I hoped so, because looking across the flats at Sentinel Mesa all I could see was a huge ice covered rock. The last 5 years had been lucky, occasionally the wind came up and spoiled a session, but for the most part, every gathering had been warm and flyable.
|Rain and Hail the day before The Gathering|
This year the, “Officers Quarters” were in a different condo. It wasn’t as easy to see from the road so I put out the wind sock out at the turn off and by 6:30 guys started showing up for the Kick-off spaghetti dinner. Dawn was great, she made 8 batches of Pasta and sauce and served it up cheerfully as the different groups arrived. First came the Salt Lake contingent with Russ Bateman and his family, then Paul Anthem showed up with the Indy Airhogs followed by Bob Hannah and the Seattle gang. About 8 o’clock Jeff Goin showed up to claim his room and Chad and Lee Anne arrived in time for a special plate of gluten Free pasta. By 9 the place was full of pilots swapping stories and sharing food and drink. We broke up at 11:00 to prepare for the next morning flights.
|Kick off Dinner|
Friday….Beautiful morning. A bit chilly….
The briefing was well attended and the message was short. Respect the Terran … Respect the Residents … Use your head and know where the wind is coming from.
Once again Dawn was a trooper overseeing omelets in a bag. We went through 90 eggs and thanks to Donna at the restaurant, buckets of coffee, while the guys flew and wandered up and down the flight line. The Moment was saved by Byron who flew his quad copter all over the flight line.
About 10 o’clock, Scott Laws, the new manager of Gouldings came down to welcome us. He started at Gouldings shortly after last years event and has done a great job upgrading the property, they have remodeled the lodge and shops and upgraded the campground. The whole attitude of the place has improved along with the accommodations. This year we were welcomed rather than tolerated and it made a huge difference.
When it was time to fly the wind was nil from the South. I set up at the very top of the runway and did a down wind launch taking advantage of the smooth asphalt and the downhill grade. It was smooth but chilly. It felt good to be heading east across the flats. I stayed up for about 40 minutes and only landed to visit with my friends. Later that morning, Tom Spears, an instructor from from Glenwood Springs, took me up in his delta wst. It was a little bumpy and without a flight suit, damn cold but it was a great flight and I enjoyed every minute. Thanks Tom!
|The View Hotel at Navajo Tribal Park|
That afternoon while Dawn was sleeping, Jeff and I hung in the officers quarters and chatted about the USPPA, Obama Care and his new Air Space Video. He and Tim are moving away from the cold of Chicago and relocating somewhere in Florida. They have made an offer on a house in an air-park with room for the business and all the toys. It’s an exciting time and I wish him well. Around 4:00pm we headed down to the airstrip for the afternoon flights.
It was my best flight of the trip. 90 minutes with great sunset colors. Here is the video…
Late in the day Ryan Southwell and his friend Scot launched to camp on the top of Eagle Rock. As far as I know, this was a first. Several years ago John Fetz did a top landing but he only stayed a few minutes. These guys landed and camped out. I await the video and photos from Shane and the Team Halo crew.
Dinner was in the condo followed by a session of paramotor troubleshooting with Jeff, Chad and Lance Marzec, who was rousted out of bed someplace many time zones away.Before it was over we had a brand new mini plane apart and Jeff was polishing a piston with a pot scrubber, nail file and toothbrush.
|Jeremy Langejans right side down|
Saturday … The winds were blowing steadily from the direction of the Tribal Park . It was a little too strong to attempt flying close to the monuments, so we stayed close to the patch and were treated to an air show out in the flats, East of the airstrip. The highlight for me was when Ryan Shaw, fresh from the international Slalom competition in Europe, flew his new comp wing the Dudek snake. Going at least 40 mph he caught and passed a Cessna as it rolled in from landing.
By 11:00 it was getting cold and windy so a bunch of us retreated to the condo for a pot luck lunch. Spirits were high and it was hard to get a word in edgewise while everybody shared the mornings events. John and Mary invited several of us to go up in their Cessna after lunch.. Dawn and I were on the second flight with Jeff Goin. It was wonderful to be back in the park and it was the first time Dawn and I had flown it together. I expect that one of these days we will own a PPC and fly together all the time but until that day it was a rare treat.
When we landed the French group were packing for the next leg of their tour. The group leader, Dieter Debaque, had discovered us a few years earlier and put The Gathering into this years tour. They added 17 pilots and an international touch that was fun. It looked like the altitude was a bit higher than they were accustomed to. There were a lot of aborted launches and some extremely long runs, but the did just fine and since they bought a lot of t-shirts I think a good time was had by all.
|Paul Anthem joins the “Order of the Desert Turtle”|
Sunday is was blowing 5 and gusting to 10. Those foot launching were reporting steady winds with moderate bumps. It was chilly and less than perfect but it was also the last opportunity to fly for perhaps several months so I decided to go for it.
I timed the cycles and launched when the breeze had dropped. Once up, I enjoyed the clear cold air and when I’d had enough of the bumps, I turned back and approached the LZ from the North West for landing. About 200 yards out I flew into sinking air and dropped 100 feet quickly. I stayed on the power to maintain my glide so that I would clear the trailers. and spectators. The wind started picking up but I adjusted and knew that I would still able land safely. The approach was a little bumpy but the landing was going fine, right up until I tried to killl the engine. Stupidly, my gloves were too thick to reach the recessed kill switch and I had to let go of one of the the toggles to shut down the motor. I Iost control of the wing and the trike was pulled and threatened to roll. By the time I was back in control, the trike had been spun180 degrees back toward the direction of the landing. By putting down a boot and sliding while turning the nose wheel against the direction of the tip I kept the trike from rolling but it was very close. The wing fell in front of the trike and I slid right up to it’s tip, wrapping lines in the front wheel. Facing the spectators, I made the cross hands sweep signal that baseball umps use to signify, “runner is safe”. I don’t know if anybody else got it,…. but, … I enjoyed the moment. Kurt Mozer got the whole thing on video and I can’t wait to combine it with the video from my helmet cam to see exactly what happened.. No harm no foul.
The wind continued to rise and everybody began packing up for the ride home. No injuries … plenty of airtime and good company. I can hardly wait for next year.
The 2013 Steamboat Balloon Festival
right place right time
|Steamboat 2013 LZ|
It wasn’t great, there was a narrow runway of hard pack that ended abruptly into a field of tall weeds. There were some trees to avoid and of course the pond that separated us from the rest of the festival. It looked possible but I was going to have to get the inflation right immediately and make the go- no go decision within 30 feet of the start.
Steamboat is a beautiful place to fly and I look forward to coming back. The valley air was calm and the ski mountain looked like a great climb 3000 feet to the top. There was a freight train rolling down the valley and lots to see. I could have stayed up all morning and would have, except that it was starting to sprinkle and I was worried that it was only going to get worse. After flying around the smaller balloon I turned back to check out my landing options. I used the radio to ask Dawn to clear the field and by the time I had circled once it was free of spectators.
The landing was much like the take off,. narrow with obstructions to avoid. There was no clearing turn before final, I just set up over the Yampa and followed it in. As soon as I cleared the trees I went to idle and touched down exactly right. It felt good,
|Time for showers and breakfast|
We were given the luxurious “Board Room” to have our clinic and spent all day Wednesday, Thursday and Friday morning doing class work. Chad was great keeping us on track and covering the entire syllabus.
Wednesday and Thursday we broke up at 6:00 and went out to the field. Wednesday was great! I got in two flights and way over 2 hours of flight time. I even turned on the strobes and stayed up well into nautical twilight. Thursday was at the event site and equally good. Friday afternoon I picked up Dawn and we returned to the field where the event was starting to ramp up. Vendor booths were being assembled and pilots were arriving. I was tickled to see so many old friends from Fly Ins past.
Just as Dawn and I were getting ready to walk the field and show off Beau, Britton came over and informed us that dogs were not allowed on the field. The landowner was concerned because of a dog bite to a child the previous year. What a drag. We set up the spare tent to keep Beau in but he would have none of it, jumping at the door and biting the fabric. Dawn eventually sat in the tent and stayed with Beau while Chad walked us through some radio training. It was too windy for any but the most skilled pilots so we watched until dark.
The next morning I got up early and was able to get in a short flight in strong and ratty air. Kurt later told me the wind was 9 mph gusting to 17 when I landed. It wouldn’t have been fair to leave Dawn to sit in the hotel with the dog for the rest of the weekend so I packed up the rig and said my goodbyes.
So I didn’t really get to enjoy the Famous Endless footdrag but I did get my Instructor Certification. Perhaps we could have put Beau in Doggie Day Care but thats water under the bridge now.
Dawn and I pulled out of Fort Smith at 1:00 pm and power drove back to Colorado. We were in bed by 1:15 am
Thanks Britton …. You have a great Fly In … I look forward to flying with you in the future.
|Flying the single surface glider|
PAL Palm Bay Fly In
Breezy but flyable…. The inland waterway is not too far ( 1 Mile)and the ocean is obtainable (2 miles). It would be a great place for the Falcon. I dont know how high I would have to climb to cross the inland waterway but looking at Martin Hathaway’s photos … It would have been Epic.
Photography by Martin Hathaway
|Michelle Danielle…Joe Onofrio…Jorden Danielle
BOB ARMOND in SPIRIT
|Rich Kennedy “The Lost Pilot”|
|Jeff Goin…Joe Onofrio…Chad Bastian…Mo Shelton|
|John Fetz John Sieb Dawn McLane|
|Walking the Big Wheel|
The weather was terrible.
A huge storm , sweeping north and east from San Diego to the Great Lakes was shutting down the middle of the country. Denver was snow packed and frigid with snow showers and high winds. Driving to California without new rubber on the Ford was not an option. This was the first time in 6 years that the weather was an issue. The storm came in 24 hours early and I missed the window that would have insured dry roads. Mike Miller was a huge help when he cancelled his service calls to free me up to buy snows and get out of town a few hours quicker. The plan was to head south to Albuquerque and try to get under the storm instead of punching through the backside somewhere West of the Rockies.
Loading the truck was slapstick, all exposed surfaces were covered in ice and the blizzard was blowing into every nook and cranny. Every time I tried to pull the trike up into the pick-up the ramps would slip under the back wheels Finally after 5 failed attempts I figured a way to secure the ramp and loaded the Falcon. Wasting no time I just threw the tent, wings, gas, big wheel and everything else on top. The only silver lining was that 15 mph winds helped me kite the big tarp over the pile. Using my best frozen dock lines I lashed the tarp and said a prayer…
It wasn’t pretty but at 1:00pm I was southbound on I-25. The roads were packed with snow and visibility was horrible but I was feeling good driving a loaded truck with new tires. It was a tough drive, the average speed was 40mph with long spells of 10 mph when the visibility fell to 50 feet. I was happy to hit 50 miles per hour after passing Glorieta. Finally I arrived at the Route 66 Casino outside Paramotor City at 12:30pm. In Albuquerque the roads were wet with intermittent small storm showers.
The storm had caught up but the highways were plowed headed west. I had not noticed it yesterday because I never got up to speed but now the truck was bogging down and unable to get over 70 mph. I stopped in Gallop and wasted $300 bucks at the Goodyear store where they diagnosed the problem as a clogged fuel filter.
But… I thought it was fixed and headed out into the storm. It wasn’t until was 30 miles out of town and hit clear roads that I realized that the truck was still having problems. In Holbrook I bit the bullet and went to the Ford dealership. Even though it was 4pm they took the truck and thanks to a veteran Ford Tech the problem was diagnosed as a bad igniter coil. At 6:30 they cut me loose. I was at the very southern edge of the storm going in and out of blizzard conditions about every 30 minutes. It was amazing how the roads would be clear one minute and almost instantly turn to packed snow and ice. I’m guessing that the fast moving edge of the storm was being focused by the terrain with fingers of blizzard crossing the highway. The winds were gusting 50+ with only the big rigs and I braving the weather. I finally made Blythe and stopped for the night. So much for power driving all the way to the Sea.
Finally, I was out of the storm, the winds were still strong but the skies were clear. I had hoped to hook up with Jeff Goin and the Australian contingent at Glamis. The idea was to fly the dunes Wednesday night, camp there and head to the Salton Sea Thursday morning but after talking with Jeff and hearing that it was a blow out; I stayed on Hwy 10 and headed to the North Shore to visit Salvation Mountain.
|Pligramage to Salvation Mountain|
Salvation Mountain ( http://www.salvationmountain.us/ ) is located in the lower desert of Southern California in Imperial County just east of the Salton Sea and about a hour and a half from Palm Springs. Salvation Mountain is Leonard Knights’ tribute to God and his gift to the world with its simple yet powerful message: “God Is Love.” Leonard’s passion has lovingly created this brilliant “outsider art ” masterpiece resplendent with not only biblical and religious scripture such as the Lord’s Prayer, John 3:16, and the Sinner’s Prayer, but also including flowers, trees, waterfalls, suns, bluebirds, and many other fascinating and colorful objects. Salvation Mountain must be seen to be fully appreciated as those who have made the journey will attest. Its 50 foot height and 150 foot breadth is made totally of local adobe clay and donated paint and is truly unique in the United States and probably the world. From its Sea of Galilee at the bottom, to the big red heart in the middle, to the cross at the very top, the reoccurring theme of “Love” is everywhere at Salvation Mountain.
My daughter Olivia had seen Salvation Mountain in the movie INTO THE WILD and very much wanted to go there so I thought it might be fun to visit and send her a few pictures.
|Dinner at the Mexican Resturant|
Chad Bastian, Bob Peloquin John Fetz and I went to the local Mexican place which was packed with tables of pilots from around the country. It was great to catch up with the guys. Bob was enjoying his retirement; Chad was officially healthy and gaining weight. Greg and I were just plain glad to be out of town. After dinner Bob graciously offered me a berth in his RV. It was plenty cold out and I grateful to have a warm place to sleep.
Was a blowout. I spent the day catching up with friends. A few of the Professionals were flying and Jeff put on a display of reverse launching with a Paratoys quad.
|Jeff Going doing Quad Reverse|
Sometime when I was wandering around Leon Wacker put the complete set of charts for the Tom Bigbee and TVA and Mississippi River into the truck. He remembered talking to me at Bubbas about maybe taking the inland waterway down to New Oleans. What a Guy!
The big event of the day was Perry Molter’s amazing double riser twist. There were plenty of witnesses when he launched into 10 mph wind with a powerful and unfamiliar motor. Almost immediately he torque into a riser twist and started to spin into the ground. At 20 feet, he reapplied power and avoided impact but twisted again, at the last possible moment he regained control and flew off to enjoy a 15 minute flight. I wasn’t sure if it was a display of extraordinary skill or a very lucky newbie … Perry has amassed an amazing number of flights in just a few years and is a good pilot on his way to becoming a great one. He was awarded the Bonehead Award at the banquet for the double riser twist and accepted it with good humor.
|Mike Robinson presenting the Bonehead Award to Perry Molter|
That night we had dinner again at the Mex Place which was still struggling to handle the unexpected rush in business. Later at Bob’s RV after a shower and hot tub I watched the movie Danny Deckchair, about halfway through I fell asleep.
Was a good day, I got in two long flights. The first was an hour and a half spent mostly skimming the beach to the north. I visited the old dome site and practiced the low and slow. After lunch and a visit to the vendor booths I went up again and did the same thing to the south. The sea has receded a bit from last year and there were several areas where you could see a recent fish kill. The beach was loaded with dead fish and there were patches of carcasses visible just off shore. I would have liked to spent some time inland but the thermals were popping all over and it was really only nice on the beach. On thing caught my eye was a good size boat abandoned on the beach, it looked like it had been there a long time. But the best eye candy of the show was Jeff Hamman flying his Manta Ray complete with a remora fish hitching a ride.
|by Elisabeth Dufour|
As I was packing up the Nirvana team launched and did a night show. LEDs embedded into their props projected graphics linked to a computer. I don’t understand it but they were able to program lettering and graphic onto the spinning props.
View it here… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tJWs-p0xefk
That night the Mex place was ready for us, we were greeted by Jose like long lost cousins. The food came quick and the portions were large. Lots of pilots having a good time, Later, back at the ranch I hit the hot tub with Marek and Robert we were entertained by a precocious little boy who so wanted to fly like his daddy.
Was the best!
I got in 6 flights including the X-country race to the Knob. The air was good all day. There was an inversion at 1800 feet that had to be powered through but the air at altitude was as nice as it could be. I climbed to 7000 feet and took in the sights. It wasn’t crystal clear but I was able to see from one end of the Sea to the other. Unfortunately my camera’s battery failed and there are no pictures.
|ParaToys new field Photo bt Para-Flyers of Florida|
The Falcon performed like a champ. It’s climbing at better than 500 feet/min from the beach and was still over 400ft/min at 7000ft ASL. Below the Japanese Slalom was taking place it was safer than the cloverleaf but not as interesting to watch. I caught three or four runs with Robert Jerry Alex and Marek and decided I’m better at participating than spectating. It’s just much better to be in the air!
|Michelle and CC Our …”First Ladies of PPG”|
|Elisabeth Dufour … Eric’s “First Lady of PPG”|
After the morning flights Jim Doyle gave me a set of Pulstar iridium pulse plugs that he installed on the falcon. It made a nice change, the idle came down slightly and top speed increased 250 RPM. It seemed to run smoother at idle and run up a little faster. Jim is representing the company for love of the sport and they are well worth the money!
On the way back to the LZ Bob Peloquin caught and trotted passed me . He was flying a Viper2 26 with the Simonini Trike Buggy. There may be a controversy as to the stability of the reflex wing but there is no doubt as to it’s speed. He should have won the class except for a misunderstanding as to how to finish. ….Seems he needed to overfly Brian before landing and did not. I was not aware of the rule either but by pure dumb luck did the right thing. Pierre and Greg were also flying in my class and got off a little later than I. The Eden III was loaded heaver than their wings and unless I made a real mistake I should have been plenty faster.
Later I spoke with Brian and offered to help with next years race. I’m sure using some of the techniques from yacht racing we can make it more competitive and fun to watch. I shudder to think of the variables involved in PHRF ing different wings and weights but …At the very least a NOR ( Notice of Race can make it more competitive and fun to watch. I’m sure it’s done in the European Comps.
After the race I had some Empanadas and wandered the vendor booths. Alex Varv came with his modified Kangook paramotor. He has helped me out over the years with parts and advice and I was looking forward to finaly meeting him. It was too bad that his motor was getting so much attention because the booth was full and we didn’t really have an opportunity to chat. Next Time. The paramotor looked great and if his claim of low torque is correct it will be a great boon to the sport. The harness was by far the nicest I have ever seen.
That evening was the Banquet Hosted by Paul Anthem and Michelle Danielle. They get better every year. This year Paul showed his skill as a vocalist NOT! … but it was better than last years outhouse skit. Michael Purdy and Eric Dufour announced the winners of the first comp of the season and Jeff announced Dean Elderedge’s World Speed Record.
I received the trophy for Classic Wing Quad X-country Race and Michell gave away lots and lots of swag. Mike Robinson said a few emotional words and a new Memorial Airfield was dedicated by the owner who pledged the land to us. Later The Pilot Project Band entertained us with classic rock. It was a great party followed up by the hot tub and bed.
|My first PPG trophy !|
Up early and into the sky. Beautiful morning to go high and say goodbye. Everyone was packing up when I walked the flight line one last time to say my farewells. I hooked up with Pierre and Greg and we made plans to convoy to Glamis together. When we got there the wind was blowing 8 mph gusting to 12 or 13. I set up but aborted after seeing Greg parked at 50 feet. Watching him fly the trike buggy made me remember just how great the combination of Simonini and a Trike Buggy is. Very nimble machine. We made a wolf camp and sat around the fire until well after dark telling stories and enjoying the moment. I used Roberts Pop-out tent since my was broken and slept like a baby.
The next morning we all flew. There was a good breeze but the surface winds were low enough for an easy launch. I stayed up for a little over an hour the winds were against me on the way back but I was in no rush. The non event of the flight was when I lifted off I realized that I’d forgotten ear protection. No problem I looked around and saw the answer in the closed cell Styrofoam I was using to mount the tiny tack. I pulled off a couple of pieces and stuffed them in my ears… Worked like a champ.
The trip home was a bitch. The snow was back with a vengeance. I drove straight through except for two 20 minute naps in the cab of the truck. Lots of vehicles had run off the road including one little jerk who had honked at me earlier for going too slowly. Good trip… Lots of good memories … Thanks Guys