Saturday, 15 July 2017

Paragliding Tow Operator's Course

Last week, Andrew and I, along with other Saskatoon pilots Kegan and Steph, headed to Drayton Valley, Alberta, to take a paragliding tow operator's course at Air Adventure Flight School. Kegan had purchased a Quantum payout winch and we all wanted to learn how to use it safely and properly. The instructor, Claudio Mota, came highly recommended.

We started out by learning how to use Air Adventure's Cloud Street winch on a short stretch of runway for quick turnarounds. It also gave Claudio an opportunity to see what our skills were before we moved on to learning Kegan's winch.
Andrew operating the winch.
Setting up for quick release. This loop goes through here and then this loop goes . . . and then this other loop . . .
Andrew took this series of photos of Steph launching, releasing and landing. 
Ready to launch?
On the move . . . 
Off the ground . . .
Getting higher . . . 
Getting ready to land.
Once we got the hang of that, we moved on to figuring out the best way to use Kegan's winch. There was some trial and error involved as we became more familiar with it and made some adjustments. Huge thanks to Gerry (owner of Air Adventure) who, in the space of a morning, welded together a hitch extension to raise up the winch, even adding a step to make it easier to get into the box of the truck!  

Getting ready to go. Kegan checking the wind sock to ensure wind direction is still okay.
Video of me being towed by Steph (operator) and Kegan (driver). Filmed by Claudio. 

Then we moved out to the road for more practice and higher tows, using the Cloud Street winch.

And when it was too windy to paraglide, Claudio's 8-year-old son, Noah, taught us how to fly the Ozone Imp. He was a good instructor, just like his dad!  :-)

Unfortunately, I didn't take any photos of the facilities at the Flight Park . . . which were great!! A small classroom/office; a "clubhouse" with outdoor/covered kitchen facilities; bathroom and shower; and camping area. Very nice!! We'll most certainly be back! 

Sunday, 9 July 2017

How I Tried to #BeLikeBruce

Yesterday, the CrossFit community in Saskatoon came together to recognize and honour a good friend and colleague of mine, Bruce Gordon, by inviting people to come and do a Crossfit WOD (workout of the day for those, like me, who aren't CrossFitters!) at a park near Bruce's home. There were hundreds of people there. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to be one of them.

But in the spirit of the day, I wore the t-shirt and tried my best, under the circumstances and location, to #BeLikeBruce.  (Yes, that's a bicep muscle in the below photo. Not quite as big as Bruce's but . . . )

I went for a swim! (Not! I probably would have drowned. It's the thought that counts, right??)

I went for a bike ride. Ok, so it might have been a borrowed bike. . . . 

I looked up some case law on the website. Isn't that something a lawyer would do??

I used my cop voice on a radio and said 10-4 a couple times.  ;-) 

And I was taking a paragliding tow operator's course in Drayton Valley. Continuous learning and adventure. That's definitely how I could #BeLikeBruce! 

 Bruce, my friend, I hope you get a laugh out of this!!

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Pulling Strings

I often find it difficult to figure out what to get people for their birthdays. I don't like getting "things" that aren't needed. This time, all the stars aligned (the timing of Andrew and I being in BC, weather, wind, and availability of all the other required parties) and my niece, Julie, and her boyfriend, Kurt, were able to get tandem paragliding flights! Or, as Julie says, "My aunt pulled some strings (pun intended) to get us flights." :-) 

Thanks to Jim and Colleen at FlyBC Paragliding for helping to make this happen! 

At launch, looking over the Fraser Valley.
Contemplating what's to come. Big family crowds waiting to watch relatives take tandem flights.
It's not always this busy at launch!
And . . . they're off!
Jim and Julie in the air.

Doing a little spiral downwards.
Kurt looking relaxed!
Kurt and Colleen above my wing.
Kurt and Colleen coming in to land.
Whew! Safe back on the ground! 

Saturday, 27 May 2017

A Wascally Wabbit

We had a bit of time in the morning before going flying so we stopped at the Great Blue Heron Nature Reserve in Chilliwack. It's a beautiful place and we will definitely stop there again when we have more time to explore. By far the most humorous residents we saw were the baby rabbits -- which according to some signage, are frequently seen this time of year.

We startled this one and it took off down the trail a short distance before stopping and looking back at us.

We thought it strange that it kept creeping back towards us rather than away. He definitely wanted to get back to where he started from. 

Once I moved over to the same side of the path as Andrew, he snuck by us.

And there's the bum shot!

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Windy Washington

Wind, wind, go away.
Come again another day.

On our way back up the coast we wanted to check out a couple paragliding sites in Washington State. We took the ferry across from Port Townsend to Coupeville on Whidbey Island. 

An absolutely gorgeous soaring site, views of the Olympic Mountains across on the Peninsula. As you can see from the hood on Andrew's jacket in the photo below and the string from the wind meter straight out to the side . . . it was a tad windy! (We checked back the next day and it was lighter winds but the direction was completely wrong.) 
Winds . . . a little strong at the Whidbey Island soaring site.
Sailboat at Port Townsend.
Mt. Baker in clear skies -- on the ferry from Port Townsend to Coupeville.
It was fun to see Mt. Baker so clearly. Andrew and I climbed it with his friend, Ian, many years ago.
Sail boat near Coupeville; Mt. Baker in the background.
Since the Whidbey Island site wasn't working, we headed another hour north to Mt. Blanchard. Not surprisingly, it was windy there as well. And the direction was wrong. There were several hang glider pilots hanging around hoping for the wind direction to change. (It eventually did.) They can launch in much higher wind conditions than paraglider pilots can.

The nice thing about this site is that the road to launch can be driven in a car with low clearance like ours has! And, if push comes to shove and we weren't able to find a retrieve driver, there is also a hiking trail that we could take to get the vehicle back.
Checking the winds at Mt. Blanchard. Sadly too strong and across the launch.
Looking out from Mt. Blanchard west launch.
A hang glider after taking off from west launch on Mt. Blanchard.
From west launch, Mt. Blanchard.
The day after this was very cloudy and sprinkling rain so we headed back up to Chilliwack area and hope to get some more flights in around there. We'll definitely come back to these Washington sites though. They look amazing! 

Sunday, 21 May 2017

Flying Pine (Bend, Oregon)

We had an amazing introduction to flying Pine Mountain near Bend, Oregon. Thanks to Jeff Gray (who we met on our European paragliding tour) for taking us to his local site!

Honestly, the site doesn't look like much. From the parking lot, you walk 10 minutes up the hill and you're at launch. It's a bare hill with a few odd trees and some sage brush. We arrived late afternoon, once the rowdy conditions of mid day in the high desert had worn off.

We were some of the first ones there and as we hiked up the hill we could see a couple pilots a short distance away kiting up the hill, taking off, staying close to the hillside, landing, taking off, repeat. I figured there was no way I was going to stay in the air for long if they weren't and was a little nervous about trying to fly that close to the terrain. Turns out, they were doing that on purpose for practice.

As we got to the main launch, a couple more pilots took off before us and they were getting more height. It boosted my confidence.

I had a good launch, made one pass close to the hillside and then I was up, up and away! Beautiful, smooth, glass off conditions. More and more people arrived and, at peak, there were probably 20-30 wings in the air. While it didn't seem crowded, I definitely had my head on a swivel making sure I didn't get in anyone's way. At the same time, I was enjoying the view out across to the mountains in the distance and the changing light as evening progressed.

I'm not one for long flights and usually after 30-40 minutes I'm happy to head out to the landing zone. Which I tried to do this time and which usually isn't a problem. But the air was so thermic that it was difficult getting down! Even while doing big ears (a method of losing altitude) there were times that I was still going up. I did many 360s also trying to lose altitude. By the time I landed after 1:15 I was feeling a bit nauseous!

Jeff came down at 1:40 and Andrew at 2 hours. We all had fantastic flights! We will be back!

Mt. Bachelor and the Three Sisters

The trail to launch, and the launch area, are visible on the right side of the photo.