The Obligatory New Year’s Post

Happy New Year 2020!

Wow, 2020.  Seems so futuristic.

Sealab 2020 (1972)

When I was a kid in the 1970’s 2020 seemed so far away with it’s underwater cities and moon bases.  Here it is and we don’t live underwater or on the moon.  Instead we’ve expanded to living in tents on sidewalks or under freeway overpasses.

But I’m not going to turn this into social commentary.  I am, however, going to take a look at the past 10 years and how much things have changed for my family.  Way back in 2010 I was building my second airplane with the help of my kids.  I did the majority of the work but they did help on many components.

We were attending church at Central Valley Presbyterian where I was a deacon.  Also, Cristy had to make an emergency trip back home to the Philippines because her father passed away. That’s how the decade began.

In 2011 I sold our pop-up tent trailer in which I had taken the family on several camping trips.  The most memorable of which was Zion Canyon National Park.  I also flew the Rans S6 to Oshkosh, WI for EAA Airventure.  My oldest graduated high school.

In 2012 we took a family trip to Maui.  Yep, all of us, mother-in-law included.  However, my daughter had broken her ankle just prior to the trip… and then came down with a cold!  She didn’t get to have much fun in Hawaii, poor thing.  But she made up for that later.

In 2013 life was pretty much on auto-pilot.  Going to work, going home.  Home-schooling our daughter was coming to an as we put her in a private school so she could get some socialization and a real-live high school diploma.  Two kittens named Jovie and Truffles showed up in my son’s pockets one day when he came home.  Truffles still lives with us.  Jovie moved on shortly after he came to live with us.  Cristy and I also took a trip to Oregon to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary.

   

In 2014 I was beginning to explore full-time RV living.  I started coming up with a plan to travel from property to property for my employer to do network work.  However 2015 would put an end to those dreams, temporarily.

2015 was a harbinger of change for our lives.  Our daughter graduated from high school and we changed churches.

2015 was also when I had an accident in my airplane.  I landed up in the Sierra Nevada foothills and took the landing gear off.  Hey, it could happen to anybody!  Unfortunately, it happened to me.  We got a big insurance settlement and everything was good.  I was putting the airplane up for sale anyway.  It was at this point Cristy and I were seriously looking at RV’s so I was looking for a more portable form of aviation.  I found it in the form of powered paragliding.

2016 was a gut punch.  I was told that my entire department would be laid off that year.  Also my son was going through some extreme behaviors.  It seemed like my life was about to hit rock bottom.  SEEMED.  We started putting my son in group homes which he kept getting kicked out of due to his behaviors.  But 2016 was the year God truly moved in our lives.  He found a home that was able to really work with my son.  And He found me a job.  This is when I started working at San Joaquin General Hospital.  To celebrate my getting a job we took a family road trip to SoCal.  I also got a Ham radio license so I could legally use a Ham radio on my powered-paraglider.

 

In 2017 life started getting somewhat better for us.  My son was living in a home only 5 miles from where I worked.  My daughter was getting very involved in church and starting college.  Cristy and I also celebrated our 30th anniversary in Hawaii.

 

 

 

 

 

Also, Angela finished the Spartan Race

By 2017 I had sold my powered paraglider and had bought my powered parachute.  Cristy and I had also started walking more, trying to get in shape.

2018 was another year that brought a lot of change.  Mostly in me.  Through walking and intermittent fasting I was able to lose about 50 lbs.

This is me just prior to losing weight…

And this is what I looked like post weight loss…

2019 was a sad year.  We lost my sister Sheila to cancer.  We lost my wife’s cousin Jaime to kidney disease.  I was diagnosed with invasive malignant melanoma.

2019 was a happy year because we became part of a small group at our new church.  We received a lot of support from them and they came along side us in prayer many times.  The doctors were able to remove all of the melanoma.  I also sold my powered parachute and began flying rental airplanes.  I got back into regular airplanes after a young man from my old church took me for a ride to pay me back for all those times I took him for rides when he was learning to fly.  Now we fly together whenever we can.

2019 ended with my son being removed from a bad living situation in the group home he was in.  He now lives back in town with us, which, he has been asking for quite some time.  My daughter also bought a poodle this year.

It’s been a tumultuous decade.  We’ve covered a lot of territory in the last 10 years.  Who knows where we’ll be 10 years from now.  Not sure but I sure like where we are now.  I wouldn’t trade a second of the last 10 years for anything.  I’ve seen God’s faithfulness and Providence countless times.  I see God’s love in those around me every day.  I don’t expect that to change much.  I’ll keep doing what I can to reflect God’s love to those around me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Airborne Again

I’ve been feeling grumpy all day.  Not sure why.  Just moody.  I was so happy to see the wind forecasts were very favorable for this afternoon.  Sure enough, when I got out to New Jerusalem (where the earth meets the sky) there was only a hint of thermal activity and very little wind.  I laid out my wing, warmed up the motor on my trike, strapped in, and had one of the best launches I’ve had in a while.  Slowly advancing the throttle, flying the wing first, then squeezing in the throttle more and more until the wing lifted me into the sky.

I flew over to the Tuolumne River to see how high it was running.  It’s still well within it’s banks but still running much higher than normal.  It’s a reminder of it’s former glory before the dams and irrigation canals were built.

There was one house that was completely surrounded by the rising waters.  Their barn and equipment were under water.  Hopefully the waters will recede before the snow starts melting in the mountains.

I flew along the river until I started getting cold.  I turned back toward the airport and decided to do a few touch and goes.  All four touch and goes were really good so I decided to call it quits.  My hands were starting to cramp so I was just done.    I rolled to a stop in front of my truck.  I sat a listened to the birds and felt so much lighter than I did when I took off.  There’s just something about flying that frees me.

Broken Hip and Finally Flying

It’s been an exciting few days.  I got home from work yesterday to find my mother-in-law sitting on the floor.  She had “fallen and couldn’t get up”.  Poor thing had been there for an hour or more.  I felt so bad for her.  We had to call an ambulance to take her to the hospital because she couldn’t walk to the car.  Turns out she had broken her hip.  She got a partial hip replacement today.  Now she’s on the road to recovery.

Since we had been at the hospital most of the night, I decided to call in sick.  Cristy would need help and support while she was helping and supporting her mother.  Later in the day after things had calmed down I decided to head out to New Jerusalem (where the earth meets the sky) and see if I could finally get a good flight in before the next storm comes in.  The winds looked very favorable on the ground as I was preparing to launch but the atmosphere was still pretty thermally. I took off and immediately found out how thermally.  It was controllable but not comfortable.  I landed and kited a while then decided to stop and wait for calmer air.

img_20170125_171352Finally as the sun dipped behind the Diablo Range the already light winds stopped and all thermal action ceased.  I launched into the air again and found some nice silky atmosphere to play in.  However, the sun was going down and it was CHILLY.  I came back and made a great landing and sat and just enjoyed the airport noise as is my custom after a flight.  It was a wonderful end to a crazy two days.

img_20170125_171340img_20170125_171808img_20170125_172411

 

More Flying

There is something about Sunday afternoons that makes them just perfect for flying.  This past Sunday I finally got to hitch the trailer up to my new truck and see how it tows.  Not surprisingly I couldn’t even feel the trailer back there.  I drove out to New Jerusalem and set up my powered paraglider.  This was the second day in a row I drove out to the airport but unlike the day before, I would be able to fly this day.  The day before, there was a student doing pattern work (practicing take offs and landings) with his instructor.  I didn’t want to get involved with that so I elected not to fly.

The weather was near perfect.  Winds were light but the air was cold.  No matter, I wanted to fly!  I spent about 30 minutes patrolling the local farms and a short stretch of the Stanislaus River.  I was too cold to stay up much longer than that but it was a very enjoyable flight. Even the late Autumn haze was somewhat enjoyable. Great takeoff, no turbulence, and a picture perfect landing.  Here’s a quick video of the flight.

After I landed I just sat in my seat and listened to the sounds of the airport.  The birds, the wind, the traffic in the distance, and the “tinking” sounds of my engine cooling down.  This is something I used to do in my airplane too.  I just like to sit and reflect on the flight before I get out and pack up.  It’s one of life’s most peaceful moments.  Here is video so you can enjoy the peace and quiet of the airport as well.  Ignore my commentary. 🙂

Here are a few pictures of the amazing sunset and one of my “portable airport”.

 

Another Pleasant Valley Sunday

What a beautiful Sunday today was.  It started with a wonderful church service, then grocery shopping with my wife.  After that we had lunch and took a nap.  After a quick check of the wind I packed up the powered paraglider and headed out to New Jerusalem Airport.

There was a gentle breeze just barely causing the windsock to move as I pulled up to the gate.  I pulled up and parked between the taxiway and the runway.  As I got out I enjoyed the warm autumn breeze and listened to the redwing blackbirds call to each other.   I retrieved my wing from it’s stuff sack and laid it out near the end of the runway.  A family pulled up on the other side of the fence and watched me setting up.  I walked back to the trailer and offloaded my trike.  I did an engine runup and then drove the trike over to my waiting wing.  Trike centered between the risers, clip on the risers, check to make sure the clips are locked shut.  Leg straps, shoulder harness, chest strap, anti-torque strap, radio clipped on and secure.  I called on 122.9 Mhz announcing “New Jerusalem traffic, powered paraglider departing runway 30.”

I gently squeeze the throttle and guide the wing up with my thumbs, as it starts to come overhead I pull on the brake lines to keep the wing behind me.  Wing looks stable so I squeeze in full throttle and my wing gently swings me into the air.  At 50 feet off the ground I begin a right 180 degree turn.  I fly over the family parked on the other side of the fence, I wave, they wave back.

I only climb to about 150 feet this evening.  The sun was just sinking behind the tops of the Diablo Range on the west side of the valley.  Over the Sierras I could see the super moon starting to rise.

I didn’t really want to fly anywhere in particular, just fly around, enjoy the feeling of being up in the air.  Sometimes I just want to be up, it’s my happy place.

I flew around the orchards for a while and then took a couple of turns around the airport.  Then it was time to land.  (I didn’t want to get home too late, after all, Sunday is Columbo night at our house.)

I slowly circled back to the other end of the airport where I took off.  The family was now out on the runway flying a model airplane.  Not a good idea guys, this is an active airport.  No matter, I decide to land between the taxi way and runway where I am parked.  When I am sure I will hit my landing spot I shut my engine off.  There is small child with them.  I don’t want my engine running anywhere near them.  They are about 100 feet from me when I set down.  As my trike rolls to a stop I pull my brake lines all the way down and my wing gently rustles to the ground behind me.  I sit and listen to the the evening for a moment.  The sounds of the family talking, the birds,  the buzzing of a late bee trying to make it back to the hive before it gets dark.  A wonderful end to a wonderful weekend.

Airborne Checkin On HAM Radio Net

On my morning drive in to work I usually tune in and listen to the SARA (Stanaslaus Amateur Radio Association) Morning Traffic and Information Net on my HAM radio.  A net is when a group of HAMs get together on the radio and take turns speaking to each other.  This net is used to talk about the weather we can expect that day and any traffic information for the commuters.  Otherwise people just talk about what they are going to do for the day, their Aunt Edna, or whatever.  I check in every now and then but mostly just listen.

This week I decided to check in from my powered paraglider.  HAM radio operators get a thrill out of new or unusual contacts (contact with someone via radio).   So here is a short video of that flight.  I added my usual artistic flair by adding some music to make it less boring.  Enjoy!

High Sierra Fly-In 2016

This past weekend I traveled to the High Sierra Fly-In as I have for the past several years.  These last two years I have travelled by ground as I don’t have my airplane any more.  This year I brought my airplane with me in the car.  That the beauty of having a powered paraglider, you can take your aviation with you anywhere.

HSF 2016 was held in the same place as last year, Flanigan Playa a.k.a. Dead Cow Lake.  It can be a challenge to drive there.  The shortest ground route takes you over some majorly washboarded roads.  There is however a much smoother route that can be driven at freeway speeds almost all the way to the lake’s edge but it is also much longer.  I took the bumpy route going in, and the smooth route when I left.  Actually getting there was quite an adventure this year.  We entered the lakebed from the north side this year rather than the south side and the directions were a little terse causing me to make a wrong turn.  I ended up on a two-wheel track that was deeply rutted and was surely not the kind of road my mini-van was designed for.   As the road deteriorated I decided I must have made a wrong turn.  I found a place to turn around and headed back, making sure to keep my speed up so I wouldn’t bog down in the soft playa dust.  I finally found the road I should have turned on and all was well.

I found where my friends Rich and Hawk were camped and set up camp in the lee of their motorhome.  The first order of business was to unpack and assemble my PPG.  This took about 15 minutes.  Then I set about rigging my mini-van for motorhome mode.  I had already taken the seats out, I just needed to rearrange things to give me a place to sleep.  It was too late in the day to fly so I just drove my PPG trike around enjoy the amused and slightly jealous looks of the other pilots.

 

img_20161022_094127As evening rolled around some fellow PPG’ers wanted to go fly and invited me along.  I was not certain I wanted to go with all the air traffic flying around.  So after they took off and I was certain wake turbulence was not going to collapse their wings, I decided to set up and fly.  I got to enjoy a very nice sunset flight around camp and out over the sagebrush.  I didn’t take any pictures.  Some moments were meant to just enjoy.  Besides, all I had with me was a brand new cell phone and I wasn’t interested in dropping it.  This was my first time taking off at this density altitude (about 4500 feet).  It took more speed and time to get the wing to fly, and for the trike to leave the ground.  In my head as a pilot I knew to expect this, but when it happened I was still somewhat surprised.  At any rate I enjoyed my flight and landed just before sunset.

14641978_10155309357674409_7527734900193184185_n

14915455_10209920900072645_620158619692172530_n

img_20161022_181547

 

After sunset I headed over to the the nightly bonfire to catch up with old friends.  I’ve noticed that the type of pilots showing up is slowly changing.  The guys that have been around for years are their same friendly selves.  But there are new pilots showing up who gather in clusters and aren’t really there to make new friends but only to impress each other.  I guess HSF is what you make of it.

img_20161022_184729

The next morning some of the PPC and PPG guys went flying but it was just too cold for me.  I would not enjoy flying in 30 degree temperatures so I stayed on the ground.  It was fun to watch the intrepid souls who did fly.  Including this helmet cam footage of my friend Edward Ang who almost flew through a tent!

Later in the day we gathered for the STOL Drag Race.  The idea is two place line up side by side at the start line.  At the start signal they fly 3/4 mile and land just beyond a line and try to stop as quick as they can.  Once stopped they are allowed to turn around take off and fly back to the starting line.  The winner is the first to land and stop beyond the start line.

After the STOL drag I learned I was coming down with the flu.  Dang.  I relaxed as much as I could the rest of the day and waited for the evening bonfire, dinner, and fireworks. I busied myself with breaking down my Cruise Carbon Trike to get ready to pack it in the van in the morning.  I had planned to enjoy the fireworks that evening, however all I could manage was dinner.  I started getting the chills and headed back to my minivan to crawl into my sleeping bag to warm up.  I tossed and turned fitfully as the fireworks and tannerite were set off.  So, sadly I couldn’t enjoy this portion of the fly-in this year.

The next morning I packed my trike into the van and caravanned out with my buddy Joey.  We took a different way out than we had come in and the roads were much smoother.  But longer.  It added an hour to the trip for me but that was fine.  I wasn’t feeling up to washboard roads that morning.  The rest of the trip home was uneventful.

If you are a pilot or just love airplanes and things aviation, this is a great event to attend.  Just make sure you are set up for desert camping AND cold weather camping.  Bring an RV if you can.  Makes life much more bearable there.  And THANK YOU Kevin Quinn for coming up with this event and moving mountains to make it happen.