Thursday, August 6, 2009


Besides riding my Harley Road King, I'm also a paraglider pilot. We are lucky here in the Northwest to have many places in the mountains where we can launch and soar on pockets of rising air, which is what you see soaring birds do.

Paragliding is the closest thing to flying like a bird, and I can't believe everyone doesn't do it. There is nothing as magical as sharing a thermal with an eagle, and many other raptors as well. They seem to recognize us as kindred spirits. At least they aren't bothered by us, unless you happen to accidentally fly too close to a nest, which I have never done. I have seen another pilot being attacked by a hawk, probably for that reason.

I fly regularly with about a dozen other pilots who are all great friends. I've been flying paragliders for eleven years, safely, with no injuries. The longest I've flown at one time is over five hours, but usually it's more like an hour. The highest I've flown is 9500', almost two miles up.

Ordinarily we launch from mountains, but we can soar along a ridge, like an ocean bluff, where laminer winds, say off the ocean, strike a ridge and are deflected upwards. With rige-soaring you can usually only get a few hundred feet above the ridge before the wind flattens out again or begins to sink, so you have to stay forward, within the lift ban. But you can fly horizontally for as far as the ridge goes.

If you're interested in the sport, you can find all the info you need to get started, on the internet. You will need some instruction from a certified instructor, but you will be flying the first day under the radio control of your instructor. Like anything, practice is needed to become proficient and to fly safely.

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