Posts Tagged ‘paragliding’

If nothing had gone wrong with my Layla plan, the first phase of it would’ve ended back around late July.

I mean, it’s embarrassingly obvious that I’m running late on this plan, isn’t it?  Just look on the right hand side of this page, and what do you see?  “This blog is the record of my one year plan to become like Layla Daltry.”

ONE YEAR, people!

And that year started in late July of 2009, when I enrolled in a crazy-ass, tough-as-nails parkour course to start getting my body into serious shape. Then I stepped up my efforts in fencing, started to teach myself lock picking, TRIED to study French and Arabic (NOT ENOUGH TIME for them, damn it!), and did paragliding and skydiving and lots of other stuff.

These are details I plan to examine and grade myself on at the literal end of this year and the start of 2011. And yes, I’ve got some spiffy, cool ideas for my second-year plan of Becoming Layla.  Stuff that entails less learning and much more DOING.  Or as my sister says, I have to seriously up my game to make my blog interesting. (This is the excuse she uses for never bothering to read my blog, but am I bitter?  Certainly not.)

Anyway, there are two reasons why I’ve been stretching out the first year of my plan. 

Reason #1: As you may recall, all my physical workouts and training had to be put on hold for two to three months because last spring I was seriously injured by a moron in an Aikido class.  Injured as in a partially collapsed lung and fractured ribs.  And reason #2:  I’m so busy with the final rewrite and copy editing of The Compass Master that I haven’t been doing enough Layla activities to give the end of my one-year plan a bang-up, exciting finish. (shame on me).

So there you have it.  Come January 1 I’ll be seriously upping my Layla game plan.  What exactly I’ll be doing in the coming year I’m not too sure, which makes me open to suggestions.  Some of you had great ideas this last year that I never followed through on.  I apologize and promise to act out all the way this next year. 

1. acting out – a (usually irritating) impulsive and uncontrollable outburst by a problem child or a neurotic adult.

2. acting out – (psychiatry) the display of previously inhibited emotions (often in actions rather than words) considered to be healthy and therapeutic.


This morning, I finally, FINALLY did it.


Yes I know, this shouldn’t be a big whup.  But you’ve gotta remember that I signed up and paid for a paragliding session LAST OCTOBER!   Trouble is, paragliding is dependent upon the whims of the wind gods, and whenever I tried to schedule my session with Kay (of Peak to Peak Paragliding), they threw a hissy fit.   Then a long, crappy winter set in.   Then I was the recipient of that nasty lung/ribs injury and had to take time out to heal.

But today the weather was gorgeous and I got to fly.

Here are the basic facts about paragliding:

1)  It ain’t a cheap sport.

2)  Getting to the launch site can be a real bitch.

3)  Once you’re take flight, it can be a remarkably serene experience.

4)  When you land, it’s a good idea not to come down on a cactus.

There were a few of us in the paragliding group this morning.  We met beside a highway at the base of some foothills west of Denver; and that’s where we left most of the vehicles and took only two in a drive up a winding road along sheer drops (a couple family members of other flyers had come along only to watch and would drive back down).  


It seems that before the guard rails were installed along that road cars would regularly tumble over the edges and crash in the ravines; only a major effort involving helicopters lifting out those wrecks cleaned up the landscape.

We parked near the top of a hill and went the rest of the way on foot to an unmarked slope that serves as a launch site.  That’s when I got to find out what it’s like to hike up a long, very steep trail with a 45-pound paragliding pack on my back.  I paid $175 for his experience, I kept reminding myself as I panted and strained and my calves turned to jelly.

It took the three pilots only about 15 minutes to set out their three chutes.  I was going on one of the two tandem flights.  Before I knew it, I was strapped into the gear, Kay was strapped in behind me, and we were trying to run hard and fast down the slope.  Trying is the key word, because in seconds I was throwing my weight against the dragging power of the rising chute. 


And then we lifted up on the wind.

I felt weightless.  Once we were airborne and I was sitting in the harness’s soft padded seat, I seemed to be as heavy as a dandelion seed.  The hill and houses and roads spun lazily below us as Kay steered right and left and away from the hill, and had me moving right and left with her.  “Throw your butt cheek into it!” she commanded when I didn’t go in either direction far enough.  It’s not often you hear those words shouted at you.

A couple times I could see far below what looked like the partial debris of a wrecked car in a ravine, or maybe it was a smashed paraglider.  That made me a little nervous.  But most of the time I felt serene and almost, in a fleeting way, powerful.  After all, I was up there hanging on the wind and having a blast while below me earth-bound cars and people were scurrying about, oblivious to the fact that I was silently and literally looking down on them.

Unfortunately, there were no strong thermals for Kay to steer us into, which meant we couldn’t get enough sustaining lift and the flight would last no more than ten or fifteen minutes. 

We landed in a field just beyond our original parking area and near the highway.  In what seems to be my natural inclination, I landed on my butt instead of my feet, yet it was still a remarkably gentle landing.  I also managed to avoid the many little cacti sticking up out of the weeds and brush.

tresspassing signs

Would I paraglide again?  In a heartbeat.  But between lessons and the equipment, we’re talking about $4,000 to $5,000, and I absolutely don’t have that kind of money.  Not for fun stuff. 

More relevant to this blog is the question, Would Layla paraglide?  Absolutely, both for fun and because it’s a brilliant way to get into a sealed-off forbidden area.  Of course, she could do the same with skydiving, but there’s a tradeoff:  she wouldn’t need thermals, but the plane she jumps from can be heard from the ground.  So the circumstances would dictate which type of flying she must use.

As for me, I can finally say I’ve done both skydiving and paragliding.  And that feels really good.

Back on Track

on June 11, 2010 in Misc 6 Comments »

June is shaping up to be a busy Layla month.  That’s good, since I feel like I’ve been in a rut ever since my non-self-inflicted injury. 

Currently on the schedule is skydiving with friends and paragliding – FINALLY paragliding. 


Remember how I paid for a session last autumn, but then the weather turned too cool and windy?  Well, between the bad weather (WAY too much wind around here, even on warm days) and my fractured ribs, there was no way I could get into a harness.  But now we are go for launch, Houston.  Or at least we are after this weekend, which is supposed to be soggy and cold.

I’m also back in fencing.  My two months away from it is showing in my game, and besides that my cardio went to hell in a hand basket, so I’ve got to build that back up.

Then there’s my (regressed) upper body strength.  I had thought that by now I’d be climbing buildings and rappelling off walls.  Now I figure that I won’t be ready for this until late July or August.

Funny thing is, urban climbing/rappelling looks so exotic and forbidden in the movies, and of course Layla gets a thrill doing it in secret.   But at work this last Monday I looked out the seventh-floor windows during a company meeting and what do I see?  A guy in a harness calmly washing those windows.  He had to keep maneuvering himself on and off ledges by manipulating ropes, and he did this masterfully.  Also fearlessly.  Yet we don’t look on skyscraper window washers as exotic people, more like just low-paid grunts doing a thankless job. 


Personally, I now really admire these guys.  

Also on my June schedule:  trying out stuff I’ll learn from reading Idiot’s Guide to Private Investigating, which I just bought.  Some of the stuff in it like how to do surveillance (both in person and electronic), “bypassing and spoofing caller ID,” and “anticipating your subject’s next move” are more relevant to the bad guys in The Compass Master since they’re following Layla.  But to make sure I’ve written them with realistic details I’ve got to learn their skills too.  Besides, Layla knows how to watch her back and at times she realizes she’s under surveillance and ditches her stalkers.

Of course you know what this means:  In the coming days I’ll practice “surveillance” by stalking perfect strangers, and maybe I can convince a friend to let me try following him/her without him/her ever spotting me.  And that’s just for starters.  I can also figure out my way around “proprietary data suppliers” and public records and tracking down people. 

Odds are, the biggest risk I’ll run is making a complete ass of myself.  But I’m used to that.

Failure to Launch

on October 26, 2009 in Misc Comments Off on Failure to Launch

I was supposed to go paragliding today, but because the wind gods were feeling surly it was a no-go.


My virgin tandem paragliding experience was first scheduled for last Friday. But Thursday night my instructor Kay called and said that the weather wasn’t very promising, so let’s try Monday morning.

On Monday morning she called again and said, Too chilly; let’s try for this afternoon. And that’s why at 1:30 I drove out to the foothills west of Denver and Golden and parked near the designated open field. I met Kay, but no sooner had she shook my hand when she gave a scowl at the nearby windsock. It was drifting in the wrong direction, she declared. For about ten minutes we waited, examined the hills above us from which we would launch, and turned this way and that to feel the wind. Then she pulled out her cell phone and called the Wind Whisperer. I had no idea there was such a service. Anyway, the recording she heard made up her mind. “Winds are from the north,” she announced. And unless we wanted to slam into a mountain or land on the highway, cold north winds weren’t what we wanted.

So once again, my first paragliding experience had to be postponed. Now I’m really pissed that the weather in Colorado this year has been so crappy. First too much rain this last June, then two measly months of a shabby remaining summer, now a cold autumn that’s already turning into snow and an early winter.

I want warm thermals so that I can fly away, but right now it looks like they won’t blow around before late next week.