Sunday, July 19, 2015

The Highlight of my Roadtrip

I never dreamed I would find one of the coolest places on my summer roadtrip in South Dakota. Who even knew there was anything in South Dakota?  

I left my new favorite northern city of Minneapolis around midday for the 7 or so hour drive to the eastern edge of the Badlands National Park.  I had my new little Volvo all set up for car camping, with a super cool portable shower, tea kettle and mini blender for morning shakes and comfy memory foam mattress in the back.  It's definitely not outback roughing it or anything, but it was fun not being in a hotel.  I arrived at the park entrance just in time for a gorgeous sunset and a ranger talk. This place is cool...not like Yosemite chock full of tourists, busses, and a fancy lodge and shops.  Really there wasn't much of anything other than a campground and a mini amphitheater where they have several nice telescopes to view the night sky.  With almost zero light pollution, the sky was amazing!

Car camping in the little campground was an adventure thanks to sizeable storm that blew through around 2am the first night.  In the talk that the rangers gave that evening, they told about the storms that came through on Friday (this was Monday night) that produced 2 tornados.  So, when I was awoken by freight train-like wind noise in the middle of the night, it scared the crap out of me.  I jumped up and out of the car to find all of the other campers also out of their tents just watching the spectacular light show and half wondering (as I was) if we should worry.  Turns out, we only got hit by the edge of the giant cell, so nothing all that severe.  But, it did produce the coolest horizontal lightning I've ever seen, nonstop for a solid half hour. 

The hiking in the Badlands is like everything else there, pretty deserted, in the best possible way.  On my first full day there, I went for a 8 mile loop through and around all the rock formations.  I counted exactly 7 other hikers on my trail.  Gotta love that!  I wish I had a good photographer with me to capture the scenery.  My pictures just don't do it justice.

I want to go back...soon!

Friday, July 10, 2015

The Land of Prince & Aveda

If you ignore the eight months of winter, I'm quite certain I could live in Minneapolis.  After leaving Niagara Falls so disappointed, I got to spend a weekend in Minneapolis under the most beautiful blue skies.  This city has now moved up on my list as one of the best cities in the US (along with San Francisco and Boston).  It has gorgeous weather in the summertime and is chock full of fit, active, outdoorsy people cycling, running and swimming around the many picturesque lakes.  I guess all that exercise is necessary as they boast the best donut shop in the country.  I had to check for myself, of course.   And, I loved the Minneapolis Institute of Arts - it rivals the Met (in my opinion).  

Now I think I need a summer house there ;-).

As Long as Niagara Falls

For some strange reason, I have always wanted to see Niagara Falls.  It was right on the route from Pippo's house heading west to BC, so I couldn't resist.  Well...I suppose I'm glad I got that out of the way and I won't likely ever do it again.  It was not at all what I expected.  Although the falls themselves were cool, they've turned the area into a mini Vegas.  Rather disappointing, but at least that one is checked off my list.  

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Next Italian

No way to have a roadtrip without stopping in New England to hang out with my Italian for a few days. Good cooking, great wine and my favorite company.  Filippo's house is slightly out of the way when one is driving from Florida to British Columbia, but I couldn't help myself (and I wanted an excuse to see Niagara Falls).  Massachusetts is great in the summer time - both weeks of it.  Uncle Rhettski's new flight park is under an hour away.  We stopped in to see Rhett and his tandem pilot Anna (who I hope will be on our US girl team very soon).   Also hung out at Pippo's drop zone and watched old men jump out of airplanes all day.  Happy times.

On my last day there, I took a whale watching tour out off of Plymouth.  Didn't get as close to any whales as I would have liked (although this boat did), but we got to see Humpbacks, Minke whales and Finbacks...and heaps of tails.

Kitty Hawk

After my family time back in California I flew back to my car in Raleigh, North Carolina to resume the cross country drive.  Next stop, Kitty Hawk where my good friends Jim, Mitch, Jonny and my teammate Linda are spending the summer doing tandems for the many tourists.  Kitty Hawk is a special place.  In addition to be the birthplace of flight, where the Wright Brothers first took to the air, there is so much outdoor stuff to do there and so many cool people to do it with.  Jonny and Jim have a tandem towing operation and Mitch and Linda were there as the summer help.  

Linda and I had this bright idea to do a tandem together.  I've had a tandem rating for years, but let it lapse a few years back because I just didn't use it.  But Linda keeps her's current and we thought it would be fun to have the entire US women's team in one glider.  It was fun indeed and exciting for sure, thanks to my screwing things up.  I hadn't realized how hard it would be to be completely passive and behave as a passenger, particularly when the tow was getting a big sketchy.  We rolled out and the glider immediately yawed into a sudden cross wind (fairly strong one).  The yawing was ok, but when we started to roll pretty close to the ground, I just couldn't help correcting from the upper harness.  Linda was most definitely the pilot in command, in theory that is.  We specifically discussed it before taking off.  But, I just could not help joining in the piloting and me doing that caused us to overcorrect, banking rather steeply the other directly then.  Well, now that I had us really out of whack, I couldn't just leave well enough alone and "helped" correct back the other direction.  Aside from being a bit sketchy, it really was hilarious to see two girls completely over controlling this docile tandem glider.  We eventually got it together and laughed our asses off, but not before the GoPro snapped a pretty funny shot of our reaction.  

(I helped out a bit on the landing too ;-)

In addition to the tandem fun, I got my new glider test flown and we enjoyed gorgeous beach weather the whole time.  It was hard to leave (as usual).

Monday, June 29, 2015

Home for a bit....

I broke up the driving portion of my summer roadtrip by hopping a quick flight out to California for a bunch of family events (Amber's baptism, Ally's birthday and Dillon's graduation).  Sometimes- I don't know how- I forget what a cool family I have and how much I love spending time with them, even if I don't care much for California these days.  

My niece and nephew Emma and Dillon took me for a hike in a new National Park near my hometown.  The park isn't new, my parents used to take us hiking there when I was a kid, but it's been newly named as a national park.  We wanted to find rattlesnakes.  The adults warned us that there were heaps of them there and that we should be very careful.  They weren't joking.  Emma and I stepped right over the top on one sunning itself in the middle of the narrow trail.  We would never have seen it had Dillon and his keen eye not spotted it.  We also saw California condors, an amazing huge lizard (some variety I had never seen in California) and many other birds of cool varieties.  

Back on the road, I'm missing my family. 

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Road Trip

I feel like I'm on summer vacation - I suppose because I am, but also because it feels like the kind of trip my family used to take on summer break when I was a kid - loading up the car and getting out on the road driving across the country.  I blame my parents for my overdeveloped sense of adventure....and for that, I am also eternally grateful.

There is this constant tension between longing for home and the tug of the open road.  So, after a month at home, I set off from Florida about two weeks ago, bound (ultimately) for the Canadian Nationals at Lumby, BC.

I've been called a beach girl more than a few times in recent months, so I started the trip off with a tour up the east coast from Satellite Beach with a plan to check out every nice looking beach between Satellite  and Kitty Hawk.  Although the beaches are not even a tiny bit similar, it reminded me of my drive up the east coast of Australia last November.  There are so many more cool beaches than I ever realized between Florida and Virginia.  I spent several days sleeping next to the beach and waking up in the morning going for an early run then a swim in the ocean.  I even had a lovely swim in the water off Oak Island, South Carolina where the sharks were thankfully not as hungry as they have become in the last few days.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

The Rhythm of Flight

I met Wolfi Siess about ten years ago at the French Nationals in Laragne.  I was there with Gerolf Heinrichs who was flying the competition and coaching a few new young Austrian pilots.  One of those guys was Wolfi.  To this day, I carry such fond memories of photographing their launches and landings.  For the entire week, Wolfi was one pilot that brought a giant smile to my face every time he came in to land - and it was all because of the giant smile on his face.  Still now, I can't recall ever seeing someone that enjoys flight the way Wolfi does.  I love these pics of Wolfi nearly 10 years ago!

Wolfi and his good buddy Jonas from New Zealand are embarking on a super fun project this summer in the US (I'm so envious!).  They'll be traveling around the country and promoting our sport from a young pilot's perspective.
Anyone who is paying attention to hang gliding is well aware that we are a quickly aging group. I would be curious to see the statistics, but from my experience organizing competitions for the last eight years, I can say that we're seeing the same group of pilots that have been on the competition scene for the last 15+ years.  Not that I don't love them all, each and every one, but there is no question we cannot sustain the sport without an infusion of new, young pilots.  

The boys' plan is to start at the Flytec Race & Rally in May and the travel from there across the US filming their adventures and meeting up with some world famous guys in the process (world record holder Dustin Martin, Australian champion Jonny Durand, top US pilot Zac Majors and many others I'm sure).  Their video description of the project details their plans better than I can here, so give it a watch.

If you're as excited about their project as I am, take a look at their website at and help the boys out a bit with a donation to their Indigogo project HERE.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Yep, it's Over :-(

...and it's that time - short packing time.

New World Champion

It was a slight bummer to end on a cancelled day, but everyone is tickled to have Christian Ciech as our new world champion.  Congratulations Christian on a strong and consistent performance.  He really was on fire throughout the entire competition.  If not for one day with a broken VG rope, he would have had a sizable lead over Antoine in second place.  

Another big congratulations to Antoine in second place and Christian Voiblet in third.  All three pilots are very deserving. 

We had an impromptu "crowning" up at launch.  Christian Voiblet is still in the hospital, so couldn't be there, of course.  But someone had the fantastic idea to call him in his hospital room while everyone cheered and chanted "Christian, Christian, Christian!"  Very sweet...there were plenty of tears. 

Italy won the team competition...again...with France and second and Australia in third.  There was no champagne on launch, so Miguel, the organizer, sprayed the teams with RedBull ;-).

Sunday, March 08, 2015


Italian sweetie Valentino came into goal few days ago and failed to see a set of difficult to see power lines and hit them at very high speed.  He scared the crap out of everyone sending up a giant spark , folding the glider in half and then falling to the ground.  Luckily, he escaped with relatively minor injuries - a broken wrist that required surgery and a plate.  We're all so happy he's fine.  His brand new Icaro glider didn't fare so well - the lines melted the sail, wires and various carbon parts.  Last I heard from the Italian team, only the base bar, crossbars and one leading edge were salvageable.  All that really matters though, is that he is alive and well.  

Saturday, March 07, 2015

Many Happy Faces

 Joergi (Germany)

Glen (Oz)

 Corinna (Germany)

Gordo (UK)

Christian (Italy)

Gerd (Germany)

Roland (Germany)

Blenky (Oz)

Seppi (Austria)

Nils (Oz)


I had the very unfortunate responsibility of delivering a multitude of kisses to Laurent from all the well-wishers abroad after his tumble on Day 1.  It was torture, but I'm always willing to take one for the team ;-).  He is doing well.  He had a sprained ankle, broken leading edge and some relatively minor sail damage.  But he repaired it all and is flying again today. 


In the midst of Christian and Antoine battling it out for the gold, I so enjoy seeing their attitude toward one another.  The fierce competitiveness alongside the obvious camaraderie make me smile and make me happy to be part of this community.   We have two true champions at the top right and it will be a pleasure to see either of them with the gold.

I know it sounds corny, but we really are a big (mostly) happy family.