Paragliding Day 49, or… One Of Our Darkest Days

“Think you brought the wrong flag, bro…” #irony

The wind appeared ideal when I woke but commenced cratering lamentably in short order. I thought about just making a work day of it but felt an itch to get out strong enough to accept a kiting-only day and arrived at FPS shortly after nine. I inflated ~0915 to weak and variable wind but within ten minutes found myself just barely able to keep my toes on the ground and so spun around and fought my way off the hill. Taking no chances I swung right immediately and found myself rewarded with some most excellent lift that had me above launch altitude like it ain’t no thang. I performed several circuits, ranging all the way to the far west end of the hill which was quite a treat, and eventually top-landed with a bit more lateral motion than I would have preferred but fairly smoothly nonetheless. The wind proved a bit spicy and so I rapidly reeled in brake and Cs on the right side and then the left to show the wing who was boss. I checked my phone and found the time to be 0945, so a ~20 minute flight and ample time for another one despite an 1100 meeting on the horizon.

With the wind amping up I felt mildly uncomfortable with the prospect of immediately re-inflating so I balled up my wing and headed down a little ways for a side-hill launch. Somehow, though, presumably between my e-brake execution and subsequent wind-whipping my wing appeared to be a bit of a mess. I fiddled with it for a while and, struggling mightily, found Ariel landing next to me to help me sort things out. He posited that I had at some point stepped through a line, which I could not remember or fathom doing, but damned if it did not seem a plausible explanation given the mess on hand. He sat on my wing while I unclipped from my harness, worked the lines to resolve the puzzle, then got back in. Ariel checked his phone and saw 14G15, an intensity that would have been excessive for me atop the hill, but which felt non-crazy when benefiting from the shelter of being maybe 20′ downhill. When he released my wing I got tugged somewhat abruptly uphill, blipped the brakes to prevent a premature launch, then to my horror found Ariel inside my wing and lines. I fought to find the balance between keeping the wing inflated enough to prevent the lines from ensnaring him but not so inflated that it would launch. Happily I succeeded at this task, Ariel rolled out to the side, the wing came up, I got tugged a bit uphill but not all the way to the lip, I spun around to a forward facing position and quickly checked for clean brake lines, heard Ariel confirm that my overhead kit looked clean, and then heaved myself forward into a launch.

As I surged away from the hill I heard Ariel shout “it’s 1027!”. Moments earlier I had pondered aloud whether going for a second flight was wise as a sink-out and subsequent return hike would most assuredly make me late for my 1100 call. Ariel remarked that a sink-out seemed pretty unlikely given the present circumstances and he was right. After a couple of full-length circuits I attempted a top-landing, found the wind uncomfortably strong, and faced downhill to abort and try again later. On my second attempt the wind was having nothing of it and declined even to let my feet near the ground. I realized that letting the sink-out happen was what counted for wisdom and began vectoring myself accordingly, finally touching down at 1053. Thankfully the friend with whom I had scheduled a Zoom catch-up had a sense of humor about it.

As fortunate would have it, Chad happened to pull into the lower lot just as I was packing up my wing, and he offered me the opportunity to teleport back to the top. I took it then drove back down to grab my wing and savor the moment.

I hung out briefly and watched Ariel doing a tandem flight on the possibility that he would sink out and himself need a return ride to the top. Gotta keep that karma balance topped up but in fact he found a way to top-land and so this proved unnecessary.

As I drove away from the flight park I felt pumped full of endorphin from an amazing experience. Even the frustrating parts proved valuable and wonderful in their own way, partly from the learning opportunity and partly from the appreciation for a fellow pilot sacrificing some soaring time to help me get back in the game. When I arrived home, however, the Internet would find me, and the weight of national events would prove crushing.

I am deeply saddened by how far our nation has sunk. As someone who spent over a decade as a civil servant the present goings on cut me especially deeply. I wonder if I may need before too long to step back into that fray.

One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors. — Plato

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