Saturday, June 25, 2016


It's been a while since I've written anything here.  Not that there hasn't been plenty happening, I just haven't felt overly inspired to write about it.  Sitting watching a James Taylor concert on TV the other night, I was reminded of the two things that never fail to bring a smile to my face and sense of excitement inside.  The first is listening to James Taylor sing anything.  The second is traveling to a new place - or an old place - a warm place - or a cold place...any place apparently.  

James Taylor sings a song called My Traveling Star.  The lyrics are me, through and through.

They hunger for home but they cannot stay,
they wait by the door, they stand and they stare.
They're already out of there, they're already out of there.  

Never mind the wind, never mind the rain, never mind the road leading home again. 

Never asking why, never knowing when, every now and then, there she goes again.  

The wind blew me to Colombia earlier this year.  My dear friend Mike Glennon has been trying to get me to come visit for ages.  I decided to take a break from the usual January in Australia and hang with Mikey and Raul.  Pippo and I flew down to take part in the annual Hombres Pajaro competition. There are no hosts like Mike & Raul.  Just like my many trips to Ecuador, they started by retrieving us at the airport and then taking care of absolutely everything along the way (including holding my hand in the hospital on the last day).  

Colombia is very typical of south/central America - full of the warmest, friendliest, happiest people I've ever met.  The schedule and pace of things takes some getting used to and for the first two days or so, I thought I wouldn't survive the frustration of having no phone or internet access.  After a few days though, communication sped up and I slowed down.

Flying in this area (Rodanillo/Santa Elena) is super mellow and totally low stress.  Although there are heaps of sugar cane fields throughout the valley, everywhere between them is friendly and landable. The air is very damp and heavy, but absolutely amazingly lifty despite some days being downright rainy.  Cloudbase was never super high for us, but it didn't seem to matter as lift was never too far away.  It's just the most happy kind of flying for me.

On the last day of the comp, after having taken the previous day off because of tendonitis pain in my elbow, I went to goal early - without getting the last turnpoint - to land.  The elbow pain was too much and I realized I just didn't get enough of a break the previous day.  The sea breeze may have kicked in because it was a bit breezy, so I stayed up over the goal field for a half hour or so in kind of bumpy air waiting for things to calm a bit.  I eventually got impatient and decide to just land it in, despite it being a bit rough (not terrible, but not ideal either).  That may have been a mistake, or maybe I would have just screwed up the landing no matter what.  But, I came in with a lot of speed, leveled off in ground effect, went to the uprights and just a millisecond before it was flare time, the left wing lifted - a lot - and I piled in.  Oops.  I hit face first and my first thought was "oh god, please let all my teeth be intact."  Well, they were, but my arm was broken.  I knew it instantly and waved for help carrying the glider.  As evidence of how benign the bad landing actually was, I couldn't get any pilots to come over and help me - they thought I was just being lazy wanting someone to carry the glider ;-).  When a gentlemanly pilot came over to help, he realized I was hurt and Mikey came running out to help.  He was awesome and quickly got me in the car and headed to the hotel to get nurse Alaina to come with us to the hospital.

All ended well.  They casted the broken arm, I flew home the next day as planned and had surgery two days later to put a plate and 7 screws in.  I was in a cast for a total of just four days.  Within two months of the break - aside from the nice little scar on my wrist - you would never know I had broken it.  I guess if you have to break something, I did it with the least impact possible.

Although the end of the trip to Colombia was not what I would have asked for, the time there was so lovely and I came home with a smile and three albums full of new Colombian music on my iPod.

I can't wait to go back next year!


Anonymous said...

I'm sooooo sorry to hear about your arm Jamie. With a little more James Taylor, all
should heal just fine. Be careful out there and we'll see you at SCFR. Walt

Hadewych said...

I'm so glad you wrote a blog again, the world is not the same without your stories. Well the hanggliding world at least.

Jamie Shelden said...

Thanks Hadewych. I have a million summer plans starting in less than a week, so I'll try to do a better job of keeping up ;-) Miss flying with you :-(.

Jamie Shelden said...

Thanks Walt....looking forward to seeing you in Arizona! Hope all is well.

Anonymous said...

Finally mother and daughter can tell the same story. :) Glad you're all good.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Hadewych. I've missed your blog posts. Keep 'em coming. Glad you're on the mend! Peter Kelley