Friday, October 1, 2010

Hey, Slacker, Whatcha Been Up To?


Oh, you mean me?  Yeah, okay, that's fair.  I've published a whopping eleven posts over the last four months, which, let's face it, is slacker-rate at best.

So, let me tell you about my summer!

Some of you may remember this picture from a previous post:

Good heavens!  Where was I?  Siberia?  The South Pole?  Running from the law?  No.  I was in Oregon.  Granted, I was on top of a mountain in this particular picture, but still.  It wasn't a big mountain, just windy as all get out and freakin' cold.  

Why was I on top of a mountain?  Because my husband is a paraglider and our mainland vacation happened to coincide with Rat Race, the paragliding competition which is held annually at Woodrat Mountain.  Hubby didn't compete, but he wanted to check it out and see what flying on the mainland is like and how competition flying works.  Turns out, it's freakin' crazy!  At least, from my point of view.  There were over 100 registered competitors, and they all had to be off the mountain by a specified time each day.  The day that I sat and watched everyone launch, it took about an hour; I'm told they did it all in about 20 minutes one day!  To give you an idea how this works, here is a series of pictures I took of one pilot launching.

First, the pilots lay out their wings and make sure all their lines are straight and not all tangled in knots or wrapped around twigs or anything.  Once they are ready, they wait for a good cycle of wind.  Don't ask me to define "good", but you can look at the windsock in the background to see what's going on in this particular scenario.  (Click on any of the photos to enlarge.)

As the wind catches the wing it lifts it up in the air and over the pilot's head.

If everything still looks good (no twisted lines, no folded up wing tips, etc.) the pilot, in a slight fit of insanity, runs off the side of the mountain... the wind lifts him gently into the air.

Now imagine that happening 100 times in 20 minutes, or even 60 minutes.  Crazy, I tell ya!  But a pretty cool sight, none the less.


Did you notice how the pilot started off facing his wing and then had to turn around to run off the hill?  That's called a reverse launch, and that's how they do it in higher winds.  Basically, there's enough wind that by the time they have turned around and started running toward the side of the mountain, they are already starting to lift off the ground.  On days when the wind is not blowing as hard, they do forward launches.  This means they face away from their wings and have to start running in order to catch the wind to bring their wing up.  This is more nerve-wracking to watch because they essentially just keep running until they are off the hill.  Eeee!    

Anyway, it was mostly reverse launches this day because of the high winds, hence my bundled appearance in the middle of June. 

So, that was the middle part of our mainland vacation.  I'll tell you more about the beginning, the rest of the middle, and the end later!   


Mike said...

Cool! How domthe keep from flying into each other? That would be my big problem. That and my fear of heights.

We saw paragliders when we were in San Diego last year. It is really cool to see them flying around. They always look so relaxed. :)

Glad to hear didn't rob a bank. :)

Jeanne said...

I'm with Mike--it looks like the whole apparatus would get tangled when they run into each other, but I guess they have a way to steer?

Dreamybee said...

A mid-air collision could definitely end badly, but the pilots actually have a surprising ability to steer up there, so, even in crowds like these, it is pretty safe to fly.

Heather J. said...

I'd be scared to death to DO that but would probably really enjoy WATCHING it!

Dreamybee said...

It is pretty zen to just sit and watch them fly for a while.

I'm not sure if the fear of heights plays into it the way people think it will. I've had friends who are afraid of heights go on tandem flights, and they've enjoyed it. It's not like you're standing on the edge of a tall building or on top of a ladder where you could just fall off.

Often you are on a mountain or hill for take-off, but you are standing with two feet on the ground, no different than if you had done a mountain hike. Once you are in the air, you are just floating along above everything under a big, floaty wing.

The worst part is the moment when you have to run off the solid ground and put your faith in the wing, but if you can do that, I think the rest of it is much less stressful!

Wendy said...

yay - no more scary pop up!

This post was so cool - They look great up in the air. Human kites. Well, with their lines cut!

Dreamybee said...

LOL-They are a lot like human kites. See my next post for a human ktie with the line still a boat.