Episode 154- Going Big against the Odds with Thad Spencer

Thad Spencer sending the flats of Minnesota on his way to flying 228 miles

This spring when Bill Belcourt and I were recording the show with Mitch McAleer out in California I got a chance to fly (or more accurately- be OUTflown) in the desert with my X-Alps supporter Reavis Sutphin-Gray and Thad Spencer, who I’d met originally in Colombia and have come across in various parts of the world chasing the sky crack. Every time we’ve gotten together I quickly devolve into a puddle of tears from laughing. Thad hails from Minnesota, just sold a successful musical production company and is addicted to flying. The holy grail in the US has been the 200 mile mark, and Thad has chased it hard for years. His chase has taken him through the full arc of what you have to learn to send, an arc that of course never ends. This spring he pulled it off in the flats of the MidWest with a 228 mile (very cold) beauty. A little while after he pulled it off he sent me an email that I’ve posted here nearly in full because…well because we all need a good laugh now and then and it’s what lead to this show. Thad tells the “and there I was…” story better than most. Grab a whiskey and tuck in, you’re in for a treat.

From Thad Spencer:
How an Addle Brained Idiot from Minnesota Flew 228 Miles
Learning to fly a paraglider in Minnesota is certainly not ideal. It’s really flat here. I mean glacially scraped within an inch of its life flat. Years back, when I had decided to take up the sport, there was a complete lack of paragliding culture in the state, a profound absence of hills or mountains, and no available training. All of my early years of training and flying required traveling on a jet to somewhere more suitable for paragliding. This made my learning progression kind of stunted and staggered. I would get these concentrated bursts of flying experience followed by months of inactivity. If I was going to progress more quickly I decided that I needed to figure out how I could fly where I lived. 
Around this time, while on a flying trip with friends in Washington and Oregon, I had the opportunity to tow behind a truck using a payout winch. Up to this point I had only launched my paraglider from hills and mountains. The idea of launching via tow was revelatory! So I got busy trying to put together some method of towing back in Minnesota.
My first attempt was to make a homemade scooter tow. I found a vintage Honda Elite 150CC scooter. I removed the front wheel and took the tire off the back wheel and welded two plates on the hub to turn it into a receptacle for tow line. I then mounted the entire rig onto an old boat trailer so I could move it around. I found a small grass strip ultralight field outside the city. The guy who ran it, Dan Mattson, said he would be willing to help tow me up on the thing. I knew absolutely fuck-all about pay-in towing. So Dan and I just kind of figured it out through trail and error. Pay-in towing on a 1700 foot grass runway is no easy task. Given the length of the field and the physical limitations of pay-in towing, I was unable to get more than 300 to 400 feet per tow. This made every flight a full on seat of your pants low-ass save. It did climb out to base a few times, but more often than not each tow was a sledder.
The next evolution towards my goal of towing in Minnesota happened while I was looking to purchase a pay-out winch. During my search I found someone on the internet who was making a winch that used an electric particle brake to apply precise tension on the line drum. His name was Steve Serine and he lived in Minnesota. I couldn’t believe it!
Meeting Steve changed everything for me. He had this amazing tow winch, he was retired and therefore available to go out flying any time, and he was a proficient paragliding pilot. We became fast friends and began towing and flying all over the state. We used google earth as well as driving around to various parts of the state to find suitable tow roads. We found that two mile roads without wires and trees are optimal.
Things I’ve Picked Up Over the Years
Let me start by saying I’m an idiot. I’m not being humble, It’s a fact, I am a complete idiot. When I came into this sport you could have filled the library of congress with what I didn’t know about flying paragliders. After all of these years flying there remains mountains of knowledge I have yet to obtain. But thankfully I survived the early years in the sport when I thought I knew plenty but really knew jack. I have had the opportunity to fly my paraglider in many beautiful places around the world, and I have had the pleasure of achieving a couple distance goals.
Flying distance, good distance, involves mastering so many more skills then I had ever expected. I had to learn weather, wind, best time of the year to fly, learning to fly fast, knowing when it’s time to fly slow, climbing efficiently and quickly, learning to identify the best part of every climb, reading the clouds, reading the land, knowing when it’s time to launch, and most importantly I had to become a competent enough pilot to fly with grace and confidence during the riggers of a long XC flight. This last bit was obviously the hardest for me, and required the most time and effort. 
So here are a few of the things, (in not particular order) that I’ve learned trying to fly distance in the flats of Minnesota:
-On good days I launch as early as possible. Every season I experiment with earlier launch times. The trick of course is that if you launch too early you dirt and loose the day. Launch too late and you miss that time in the air making distance. I know I’ve hit it just right when the first hour of the flight takes every ounce of my concentration and skill to stay in the air. But during that first hour of scratching and struggling I’m flying down wind making distance, and I’m putting myself in the strongest possible position when the day begins to turn on. 
-Flying the flats has two important perspectives: Micro & Macro. When I’m high I’m looking at the macro view-When I’m low smaller details become relevant. The micro view. When I’m high I can afford to look well into the distance and plan the line I would like to fly. When I’m lower getting the next climb and getting back to base is all that matters. Obviously the tools we use when we are low are very different than the skills and mind-set we employ when we are more established and enjoying a wider perspective. When I’m low 100% of my focus goes into finding a good climb and staying in it. I’m not thinking about the next big move I’m going to make, or how much altitude I’ll need to to glide to the next thermal. All I’m thinking about is getting back to base as fast and efficiently as possible. I get into trouble when my little raccoon sized brain starts to think about too many things at once. When I’m climbing 100% percent of my attention is focused on that. When I’m gliding all of my attention is on gliding efficiently and fast. 
-Confidence in the day is critical. After I launch if I find a good climb I know there are many more good climbs waiting for me down wind. Too often pilots flying the flats become hesitant about finding the next climb. This hesitancy causes them to fly more conservatively as they look for a sure signs of the next climb. Some days are blue days with no indication of the next climb. But if I’ve already found a good climb or two the next one is waiting for you. This idea also helps me to stay more relaxed when I’m low. I remind myself “I’m low, but the day is on, there is a climb out here and I’m going to find it”. 
-Know that you’re good enough to stay in the air. So much of this sport is confidence. Confidence allows us to hang from string under a nylon sack 11 thousand feet in the sky. It can also help quiet our mind when it’s time to focus. As a newer pilot, finding a good climb and staying in it often felt like a game of chance. I can remember countless times climbing in good lift only to loose it a minute later. Because I was new to the sport I hadn’t experienced many hours under the paraglider feeling all of the nuance and shape shifting of thermal flight. It was easy for me to settle into a climb that I thought I had mastered only to have it disappear moments later. Maturing past that point was hugely important to me. Now, when I fly, I know that if there is suitable lift out there I will find it and I will use it for everything it’s worth. It’s no longer a question or a mystery, it’s fact. I can climb well under a paraglider. That confidence frees my mind to do so many other things during a flight. It also helps me to feel less stress when I’m getting low. We fly poorly when we’re gripped. We make bad decisions and our physical reaction time slows under stress. Feeling confident and sure of our abilities is a huge advantage.
 
-Find a mentor. I’ve had amazing people in my life giving me guidance and advice. Without their help and experienced wisdom my progression would’ve taken twice as long and been half as successful. 
-Only climb to the altitude you need to get to the next climb. I have flown in the flats with experienced pilots who waist time topping out each climb. It’s important to top out climbs in the early part of the day as we are learning the day’s potential and feeling out the strength of the climbs. It’s also good to top out climbs in the latter parter of the day when everything is slowing down. But as the day builds. and the climbs become more consistent, it’s time to fly faster. If base is 9K and I only need 7K to safely glide to the next booming cloud a few miles down wind, I’m going to leave at 7K. I know this sounds elemental, but many pilots loose site of this and end up waisting precious time topping climbs they don’t need.
-When there are clouds flying the flats is obviously easier. Clouds give great insight into what line to take, but they are not the only thing to consider. I’m constantly looking at the land and the sky in equal parts as I’m making course decision. The look of the cloud, it’s shape and whether it has a dark bottom gives me insight into whether that cloud could be pulling, but I confirm my decision by looking at it’s shadow on the ground bellow me. If the shadow is solid, game on. If it’s starting to show holes, it may be dying. At base It’s much easier to see the trajectory and health of clouds street by looking at the ground shadows rather then looking out horizontally at the clouds in the sky. Looking at the ground I’m also able to easily see if the clouds are developing into a streets.
-People who spend more time in the mountains often become frustrated with the strength of the climbs often found in the flats. Without large topographical features like mountains coalescing lift into larger more powerful thermals, the flats may provide lift to the inexperienced flat land pilot that feels less stout, less proper. Knowing that lift of 600 ft a minute can be a good climb in the flats may help to stave off frustration and keep a pilot from getting inpatient and leaving a climb early.
-Towns are great sources of lift. Here in the midwest the land we are flying over is mostly farms, fields, lakes, and small towns dotted about every 10 miles in any direction. These towns can be a lifesaver when low. The buildings, cement parking lots, and roads are great heat collectors and can produce consistently good climbs.
-Tow rigs are like mobile mountains. We can move our mountain launch site to the part of our state, or neighboring state, that has the best weather potential.
-The windward edges of lakes are fairly reliable triggers. The trick is that you may need enough altitude to push out over the water a bit to catch the climb that is triggering from the windward edge of the water. If you’re low this may not be a great option.
-I’m not an engineer. I’m as dumb as a post, and barely passed 7 grade algebra, so focusing more on my innate senses and gut feelings have served me well in this sport. I rarely look at my instruments, and I couldn’t tell you the first thing about MacCready theory, but years of spending time under a paraglider have helped me develop insights into flying that may not always be apparent to the conscious mind. For me this comes into play when I use something I call “auto pilot”. If I’m having a difficult time in a climb, maybe I’m falling in and out of the lift, or I’m just not able to find the best core, often it’s because I’m thinking too hard. When I think too hard I often manhandle the glider and fly poorly. When I notice this happening I tell myself to turn on the auto pilot. I relax, slow everything down, and let my body control the glider, not my mind. We know so much instinctively about the invisible climbs we are mapping. The glider and harness are giving us so much valuable information. If we just quiet our minds and listen to this subtle information we often do better.
Misshaps
There have been many. One that stands out is tossing in France.
 
Early in my progression I made a serious miss judgment of wind direction and ended up tossing in a box canyon in the Alps between Saint Vincent and San Andres. I came down in bad spot, uninjured, which was a miracle. After hiking up to the top of the mountain I was able to call a friend in France and request a helicopter rescue. (it’s actually a pretty good story with a fair bit of laughs) This experience changed the way I looked at the sport. I realized how little I knew, and how quickly things can change from a fun day in the sky to a dangerous disaster. I slowed down after this event and made careful decisions about what gliders to buy moving forward, and what conditions to fly in as a developed my skills.

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Transcript

Speaker 1 (0s): Hello, everybody. Welcome to another episode of Cloudbase Mayhem. My guest today is friend of mine, Dan Spencer, who I met through bill Belcourt. He lives out in Minnesota and this year he started flying in 2004, I believe. And this year realized a dream he'd been chasing for a long time and flying 200 miles. One of the few that have gone down here in the states, and he's just an absolutely fantastic storyteller. This will make you laugh a lot. I promise you're going, gonna have a lot of fun with this, but in this journey of his, which is kind of unusual, he said some mishaps and he's had some pretty fun adventures figuring out how to toe out there and in the flatlands and a lot of travel, some great mentoring from good people and just having a lot of fun on the way.

So without further delay, please enjoy this really fun talk. That's Spencer That welcome to Mayhem, buddy. And you sent me this wicked email the week ago. That took me a lot of process. Cause I thought it came in and I thought, okay, this is, this is beyond my add just to read this. And I know we're susceptible that they same thing there, but the title of it is how an adult brain idiot for Minnesota flew 228 miles.

Let's start right there and you say, I'm not being humble. I am just being an, I am an idiot. And that's not just a reality. I don't think so, but I've, I've hung out with you enough to know that you're not completely addle brain idiot, but that's a funny title. It start right there.

Speaker 2 (1m 51s): Well, I feel thank you. And it's good to be here. Seriously. Love the podcast in terms of, yeah, my, my own self-worth, it's pretty close to how I feel about things that are tactical. I'm really good at the emotional stuff. Like I write music for a living and, and I can sort of feel things, but man, I get together with a group of pilots and they start talking about, I don't know what the fuck, you know, all the different things that are in your instruments. And I just, I don't know any of it. I literally don't know any of it. I can see that I'm going up because it makes that great little sound and the little fucking bars go up.

And I don't know what I'm going down because I don't have sink alarms, but I know the purpose of going down

Speaker 1 (2m 33s): And says you shouldn't so we should know

Speaker 2 (2m 35s): What we should do. It's funny. You mentioned Kriegel I don't compare myself on any even remote level to that amazing pile. But in listening to his podcast, his, with you that it was the most edifying thing for me was how much he talked about. I feel it in my stomach that feels like the right thing to do. It's like, fuck you half the first time. It's not an engineering kind of perspective. It's a, it's an emotional perspective.

Speaker 1 (3m 1s): I think it's really interesting too. How there's so many engineers in the sport. So I, you know, there's, there's definitely that side of it. There's the really analytical side, but I'm always, I always feel a little bit better too, about my weaknesses when I hear something like that from Kriegel. Cause I can't process any of that stuff, you know, Revis and my team member and the ex ops, he, he just, he's a tech guy. He has all that stuff wired and I'm totally on feel. I just can't do it. I can't make that happen.

Speaker 2 (3m 28s): Well, that's good to know you're you, you were like me, then I fly with Revis as well. And he is a he's he's like flying with Google, you know, he's got everything at his disposal. He knows when the planes are coming through, he knows the weather. He knows all the wind down wind where we're going, he's already got the anemometers they're coming up on his screens. It's unbelievable. And he's still fly as well.

Speaker 1 (3m 49s): Yeah. Yeah. I just can't process that much stuff, you know?

Speaker 2 (3m 53s): No, you put two things in front of me. I'm going to screw both of them up. You put one thing I can kind of get through it. And I, and I feel that that's my biggest strength in paragliding is that I've whittled down, you know, kind of what I've needed and what's important to me doing well. And then I've just kind of rung that out as best as possible to get as far as I can. And everybody comes at that differently.

Speaker 1 (4m 18s): I'm always curious how someone gets into it, but especially, you know, we come from a place that there's not, you know, we don't, we're not flying locations where there's, you know, with very few exceptions in north America, do you rock up to a place and see people paragliding? You know, it's not the Alps where you just see people, but you're a Minnesota. You don't see anybody.

Speaker 2 (4m 39s): No, I'll tell you, I have an interesting start to this sport. So I was actually spending a summer with my family in New Jersey of all places on the Jersey shore. It's a place called Avalon. And I saw a guy flying over in a, in a hang glider, trike, do you know what that is? It's a big ass hang glider road techs, motor three wheels. And I thought, boy, that looks cool. What's that? And I asked a couple of buddies of mine and they said, oh, that guy teaches you should go. I said, great. So I go and I took like, I don't know, three weeks or two weeks worth of lessons on learning how to fly handler to Trek.

Now, if you know me at all, that's going to go badly because there's a lot of rules to flying. Like they fly it out of an airport, which is funny. It's like, oh fuck, I'm not going to do all of those airport rules and learn them. But you know, so you're flying off this tar strip and, and the thing takes off. It feels like you're going a thousand miles an hour. Cause you know, you're like your ass is like four inches off the ground and it's just you holding this bar and you get the thing up into the air and he would, he would have our lessons this because you're flying a 10 and he's right behind you.

And you're sort of holding the bar on front-end and he'd do a midday. So it's like July just fucking noon. And it's just thumping out there. And so the thing's just rattling around like, like I can't have babies and you're out of this floor and it's like, and I'm like, so this sucks first off, like if this is what flying is, maybe I don't ever want to fly, but I kept at it for long enough that I could take the thing off and I could land it. And when it was all such a pretty important things.

Right, right. And I got, I wouldn't say I got it by any means proficient data, but I got strong enough at it that I realized, yeah, I'm done with this thing is loud. It's the airstrip, the hanger, just a whole, like, I don't want to be around all of that. I'm not that guy. I'm never going to say kilos nine or J stroke five taking off from runway. Right. Like I'm never going to be that guy. And I knew that about myself. Cause I had a couple of friends that were pilots. They go go, let's go fly.

Like, okay, well let's go fly. And it was just so much chatter the whole time. They're just talking to somebody the whole fucking time. It's like, what about this is fun. You're just communicating with somebody you're looking around the whole time. There's just a lot of drama and technical speak, I guess that turned me off. So, so the handler track thing didn't work and that's all I knew. Gavin. I knew nothing else. I didn't know about any other conveyances. It's a couple of years later, we're in California. And again, my family and we're, I have an office at that time.

I had an office in Venice for my business. And so we were spending the winters in, in Malibu, we'd get a house and I'd commute to Venice. And somebody came over in a, in a powered paraglider and I'm like, okay, what's this, that guy's legs are hanging out of that. That looks a little more free. It's still loud. But what's that. And I followed where this guy land and I said, what do you call that? And he said, it's called a power Paraguard. I'm like, okay, sweet. And I looked it up and I got some lessons. I was taking lessons on that conveyance probably I dunno, three days after I'd seen it.

And this guy, Bob Armand, he taught me in, in Ventura and very funny training. You basically do ground hailing and apart for a couple of days. And then he literally puts a radio on your head and chucks you into the air and flies you around like an RC plane. And you're just gripped, just gripped beyond your so puckered the whole time. And he would, you would launch on the beach and go right out over the ocean. So I'm three days into this thing. Yeah. And you're just over the ocean. And then he, you know, you hook a left and then fly up the beach and then hook on another lap and he'd have you do these rectangle patterns and really be passport to be dyslectic dyslexic.

Right dude. And I am, I'm F I'm all of those things, I'm dyslexic idiotic. But, but the, the day that I was, I was doing my flight, you know, cause it's goofing around in the park and you're learning how the Collider works. And then, you know, you've just chucked into the air. And the day that I was doing that flight, I met this guy named Rossman and he showed up with a video camera. Things like the size of a, you know, it was back in the day when video cameras were big things. Cause this is like 2003 and he's videotaping like, oh perfect.

Yeah. Let's videotape me. Cause this isn't stressful. This is, this is awesome already. So yeah, let's videotape me too. Let's add that to the whole equation. And so they do, and luckily everything went fine, but afterwards he said, Phil kind of approach me on the side. And he goes, Hey, by the way, if you like this, you'd really like just paragliding. And I'm like, what is that? What do you mean? Just Paragon? And he's like, well, you can do this without the motor. I'm like, well, fuck really cool. And so I, I, but I'm from the Midwest and you know, flying a thing off with, off of the flats.

Perfect. Right. You know, you fire the motor up and you go Wang around. Well, as you've aptly pointed out with my add, I, I, I'm soon a little bored and you know, somebody with my personality forward, I'm just going to get into trouble, which I, I started to sort of do. I started to kind of find things that were more mischievous to do with the power paraglider. And I would buzz suburban neighborhoods, you know, like I do foot drags on people's houses. Like I'd come down here a little cause these, I am not a big fan of the suburbs.

I live in the city, but I would fly this thing out in the kind of in the suburbs. And I, I would take off from this little ultralight field and I found this guy, let me do that. And he's great. And then I just kind of look around for things to do. And one of the things I like to do is there's a drive in movie theater about two miles away. And the movie theater, I mean movie theater, screens, they're huge. They're just these huge things. And around dusk, would I be up goofing around? People would start to gather to see the film, right. And their cars.

And there'd be this big semi-circle of cars parked in front of the screen. Well, amongst the big semi-circle is all the different roads that they have to, you know, to bring the cars in. And so this is big playground for a guy like me and every, and there's a captive audience. They're just waiting for the fucking sun to go down so they can watch the movie. So I would come, I would come low behind the screen. So I would approach from Burton. So I'm coming in behind the screen breaking and just when I'd get up to the screen, I just gave it a little throttle, go over the screen and then stall it and dive down with everybody and just Mayhem.

I would foot drag around the circle roads, just kicking up dust and making sound. And they're like eating hot dogs and, you know, waiting to watch some fucking Disney movies. And I got addicted to it, but like I would, I couldn't go up in the thing without going over there. Yeah. And it got so bad. Well, not so bad. It was probably my fifth time doing it. And people would be out laughing and waving and it wasn't like I was, you know, terrorizing anybody.

It was just fun and probably illegal and well, like the fifth time there was police there when I made my diving approach from behind the screen and the police started to change, well, they kind of waved at first and they were kind of pointing me to land and I'm like, I would just wave back at them like, so they tried to chase me and I'm like, well, this is interesting.

They can never catch me. Cause I would just kind of go one direction and then yeah. And then I'd get like behind a treeline or something, get lower. And then they wouldn't know which way I would go. And then I would go back towards where the hanger was and you know, it was like, it was so easy to evade them cars and golf too. I'd love to fly that thing around golf courses and all of that be brilliant you right? Because you again have bombed the golfers. Yeah. And you dive bomb. The thing is put it at idle. It doesn't make much sound. Right.

So get yourself set up idle in and you see some poor bastard just about to tee off. And you do see coming from behind though, quiet, that's the tricky, gotta be quiet coming, quiet, just idle. And then you get you right over his head. So you go out in front of them, the golfers love that kind of thing. Scary noises. Oh my God. And I just, I had to, I, you know, I had to stop basically if I would've kept flying a powered paraglider I'd have been arrested or dad, you know, so luckily my, you know, Phil who started to become a good friend of mine had encouraged me.

He sent me an issue of cross country magazine and he said, dude, you know, check this out. You, you you'd be into this. And so I, I went to San Diego and trained with a guy named Alan he's unfortunately, no longer with us, just a fantastic human being and an amazing pilot. And he just trained me all by himself. Just, just he and I, Tori, no, you couldn't even fly toward who you were a P something or other like a P two or a P three, I think, I guess P two.

And no, we would go to like, oh, tie and little black and big black and Marshall places like that. And yeah. Oh, it's just fantastic because what year was this? About 2004, 2005 a while ago. Yeah. And so that, and you know, he was one of these guys it's like, listen, before we're even going to go back to the hill. I want to see you Kaytra glider with no hands, do a figure rate and then, you know, bring it down again and don't touch you.

Can't touch the risers and stuff like that. And so he gave me these just deep, very profound ground skills. And not that I have any skills, but he certainly, he certainly wasn't hugging me off the hill on unprepared. And that was great. Yeah.

Speaker 1 (14m 53s): Awesome. And, and so how did that turn into chasing it where you're not normally chasing it in? What did you call it? Relationally?

Speaker 2 (15m 3s): Yeah. Glacially flat, Minnesota. So flat. It's almost downhill. I like to say it is really flat. And so it's like Holland flat, but, but, but it's it's okay. So yeah, I've living here and I'm trying to learn how to be a paragliding pilot. Cause yeah, I'm just super into it. Just like you, it fell in

Speaker 1 (15m 24s): Taking trips, you're going to San Diego, you're going places to learn.

Speaker 2 (15m 28s): I'm going everywhere. I'm going to Utah, you know, going back to California because that's where I, you know, of course you go to where you learn, isn't that funny? You get this kind of migratory kind of connection, sort of magnetic connection to wherever you've learned. That's kind of your home turf. And so I'd go back to California and I felt like I learned a lot about, you know, so Cal is a very, it's a very unique flying environment. That's, that's not common. You know, like for instance, when you go to Europe, it's like, oh my God, what's this a third wheel. That's big and round and I can make, yeah, you can make these giant turns and just, you know, all of that.

So yeah, I started to go to Europe and south America and a couple of years into doing that. I realized, well, this really sucks that I can't fly where I live and it's not really helping my marriage and my ability to raise a family either because you know, it's so addictive. You just want to do it all day every day. And I have a job that lets me take off. So that's what I started to try to figure out how to fly Minnesota. And that, that also is a, just a clown show of errors making that happen.

But I had been with some friends in Washington state and Oregon, we were on a little trip and we ran into this guy that was towing. We were just hanging out. I can't remember where we were specifically, but I remember we just happened to run into somebody towing. Paragliders out of pop with a pickup truck. And he had this kind of nice tow system. And he had the little, the little tower that comes off, the tow system was poking out of the top of the pickup truck. So it really slick. And so we of course like, dude, how does this work? Will you tow us? And he said, well, can you guys fly?

We're like, yeah, we're really good. You know, idiots. But he did. He told us we did fine. And I'm like, okay, this exists. I need one of these. Well, you can't drag yourself behind a car. Right. So I did a little more research on the interwebs and, and found a scooter toads. If you ever seen a scooter tow before,

Speaker 1 (17m 29s): I've seen them in magazines and stuff, I've never seen a lot on,

Speaker 2 (17m 33s): Well, you shouldn't and don't ever get behind why they're in front of water. However, the hell it worked. But, but I got all into that. And at the time that I was reading about it, the PR the, the absolute stellar scooter to own was a Honda elite, one 50, by the way, a bad ass look. And eighties, scooter really, really retro and beautiful. And I found one for 1500 bucks. I found one on Craigslist when I bought it. I even wrote it around for a couple of days. Cause it was so bad ass. I almost didn't want to destroy it. It was so gray.

Right. But then what you do is you take off the front wheel and then you take off the back wheel and you throw the front wheel wheel away. You don't need that anymore. And you take the back wheel, you take the tire off and you build, you take two Big saucer plates of steel and you weld them onto the back wheel, as big as it'll fit, put back onto the scooter. And that's how much line you get a hold. You know what I mean? Cause there's only so much clearance. And then I bought from that, from that that guy that owns Tomi up.com who's spectacular. And, and he, when he found out what I was doing, he's like, oh, you're making a scooter till he goes, okay, hold on.

Before I sell you anything, there's some rules to this buddy. And I'm like, really? He goes, yeah. Do you know what step towing is? And I said, no, well, good don't ever do it. I said, well, now I have to know what it is right before I can not do it. And he said, well, what people will try to do is they'll cause you know, a scooter toe is pulling you towards it. So you have this very narrow bandwidth of when you're going up. And then when you get to an angle such that it's actually pulling you down. Right? So what people do is they'll, they'll, they'll go up, up, up, and then the scooter toe will release the throttle.

And the pilot turns around and flies away from the scooter toe dragging the line. Now, you know, you're pulling lines, which by the way, just the slightest problem while that's happening a little tangle, something, you know, the, the fairlead in the front that's, that's guiding the line out, you know, has, has an issue and there's tension your, your glider's just going under you in a heartbeat. Right? Right. Yeah. So anyway, what they do is then they go back down to the end of the field and then they turn around and the guy hits the throttle again.

And then they step up another level and then they do the same thing. And then they step up.

Speaker 1 (19m 46s): Yeah. We used to do the same thing behind a Dany on the boat with net never successfully, ever not once

Speaker 2 (19m 53s): We

Speaker 1 (19m 54s): Would try to do it. You know, when we didn't have a really long, you know, a lagoon or something, we would try and do the step thing with the boat and it never worked.

Speaker 2 (20m 1s): Yeah. Well, I never got to that point thing. Thank God. But we built the thing. I had this, this guy, Dan, who was, who was working, he owned a little field that I told you about earlier. The little ultra light fields was a little grass fields, about 1700 feet. And Dan, Dan goes, what do you got there? I said, oh, well, it's, it's gonna, it's gonna tow me up and told you up, what are you talking about? They said, it's going to, it's going to tell me up in my paraglider. He goes, don't you got a motor for that. And I said, well, yeah, I do. But that's on board with that.

And it's fucking loud.

Speaker 1 (20m 32s): You reminded me of my favorite movie of all time Fargo.

Speaker 2 (20m 37s): Yeah. And from that part of the world. So I said, Dan, what do you think about helping me? You know, run this thing. He goes home again. Dad was a pilot. He flies ultra light. So he knew about ultra lights. He didn't know paragliders and you certainly didn't know about towing or paying towing, but we nonetheless put this thing together. We put on a little trailer, we dragged it to the end of the field. And the first thing we had to figure out is, well, how much do you twist the throttle? Because you know, it's 150 goddamn CCS. It's incredibly overpowered for what it needed to do.

And we didn't know that of course at first. So my, my adult brain said, well, how about we do this? Let's just pull a bunch of line out and I'll get as you know, like a couple of football fields away. And I'm just going to hold onto this drove shoot. And then you put some on a lawn, let's see how, and he literally pulled me on my face and I got dragged like a cartoon, like going down the field. Cause I wouldn't fucking let go of the drove. I was so hell bent on figuring this thing out.

And so I like grass stained. My whole front, you know, is grass stained. And I'm like, okay, damn, that's too much throttle. So let's do half that. And we, we, we, we, we basically bracketed back until we got to, and then I, I put this little post, I, I clamped like a little stick on the throttle. So as he pulled it up the stick when it got vertical, that was as far as he was to, to, to use the throttle. Gotcha. Okay. Because you know, I'm, I'm 1700 feet away. I'm a speck basically from him.

And we were so far away that no, he can't really see me. So we would radio and I would say, okay, Dan, I'm going to get ready. So in 30 seconds, start the tow. And then I would grab my risers. And I would either, if it was a reverse, get my glider up and get ready and then I'd just stand there. Like I did it in reverse, but you know, waiting and I mean, you'd slowly see the tow line kind of start to vibrate and then birds start to come up off the ground and then you get pulled. And then when you're in the air and the first time he told me, I swear to Christ, he almost pulled me to the ground.

He just, he went way past, he got excited. He went double throttle and I luckily was able to pick up, but there was so much downward force as I was trying to pin off that I couldn't, I could barely pull the pin because you know, it was just being a yard at on, by, by all the pressure and long story short, I couldn't get more than 300 feet off toe and you know, 300 feet, it's just a horrible low say. Yes. And on a couple of days I actually got up and got out and it was amazing. And, but most of the days it was just a nightmare.

And I would tell like 15 times watching the clouds build, you know, and be just perfect. Yeah, you couldn't get there. So that's when I started to abandon the, the, that tow system. And I started looking to pay out, which you know, is a different deal. What I thought I would do is buy a winch via truck. Cause at the time I drove like a car and then find somebody to tell me, cause you know, there's like, I can do that. There's some retired guy or, you know, some ex Navy pilot, I don't know, but I'll find somebody.

And so I start looking on the internet and I'm about to buy one of those cloud streets from Santa Croce and that's all looking good. And then a friend of mine who knows that I'm looking for. One of these systems goes, dude, there's a guy in Minnesota that makes one. And he sends me a link and this is still kind of early days of the internet. But you know, it was enough internet and sure enough, this guy named Steve serene is selling this beautiful little tow winch. And he's, he's like a half an hour from me where I live.

Yeah. And I had no idea. And so I bought, I'm sorry, I didn't buy his toast system. I went and saw it and met him. And we got along he's he was retired at the time. I was just obsessed. So we fit together like a hand in a glove and we just started totally. And a lot of times we'd go out and I would tell him, and then he would tell me and, and vice versa. And as, as things progressed, we started to that's, you know, I'm, I'm answering your first question, which is how did you get to start chasing it? That's when the idea came to me that, Hey, what's the longest flight in our state.

And maybe there could be,

Speaker 1 (24m 59s): You're doing some XC at this point, you're traveling, you're going to south America going to have rolled an EO. Where are you going? You're, you're piecing it together in terms of like, what, what are you flying at this point? What weighing and what kind of distance are you doing?

Speaker 2 (25m 11s): I think back then when we were getting that too, I might've even been still on like a, a C cause I remember getting the Delta and then, and I was towing on that. Boy. I wish I wish I had a better brain for those kinds of I've listened to your podcasts and guides of all back in 97, I was flying the adult bop, bop, bop, bop was six cells. And it's like, God damn, I can't remember what I did yesterday, but I probably, I'm not flying the hottest glider by any means.

Speaker 1 (25m 42s): And you find a mid range glider and your, what are your distances back then? What are you doing? 50 K a hundred K.

Speaker 2 (25m 48s): Well, I was always in miles because even though I would fly in Europe, I was still just mild. So back then I remember the first good flight was like 70 miles. I remember putting that and that took me like all day, you know, cause I'm just so stupid and slow and I'm not leaving Lyft early and I'm making all the, all the classic mistakes, but, but, but realizing holy shit, there's a potential here, you know? And, and previous to that, our historic, oh gee pilot of, of Minnesota, his name is Paul Lunquist and we have to put a big shout out to Paul Lunquist because he got it going way back in the day, he's an ex hang glider, pilot, and he's, you know, been around and he had his, his record flight at that time was, was 52 miles.

And probably on just one of the, you know, you can imagine the gliders, they were flying back in the day, probably have four sales. And you know, they're probably tugged up with twine binder twine, you know, but, but getting it done. And so Paul was also a resource of, you know, I learned a lot from him just about sort of what kind of weather he found to be the best, you know, sort of days and what time of year that, that might be. And at the time I was thinking, oh, Midsummer is really what it's going to be. And so I was chasing it a lot at frankly, when the season's almost over our season is really about early spring.

And that might be similar to you. I've heard you talk about sun valley booming in, in the early spring. And that's when it's really great here because the fields are black. There's cool air giving you a great lapse rate, you know, lots of sun with really cool air.

Speaker 1 (27m 26s): You talk about how cold it is. I didn't appreciate that. You're you're, you're waiting for those listening who aren't as familiar with the states is, is those of us in the states you way up north it's cold.

Speaker 2 (27m 38s): Yeah. Canada isn't that far away. Right. You know, it's funny though. I mean, yes, it's cold here and I have, I can impart some wisdom about keeping, keeping warm in those flights, but you know, what the coldest flight I've ever had in my life was a couple years ago with Robinson and Gavin was at Marshall, Southern California. I froze just beyond. It was one of those tall days where maybe you're getting to 10, 10 grand and I, my hands became frozen Claus. I remember they w they were unrecognizable as hands to my body.

I would look at them and see that they were hands, but could not recognize them as such and be connected to my body in any way. And it was just pain and hurts

Speaker 1 (28m 19s): So bad. It hurts so bad. I had one last spring training here where I get pretty tall and I had my electric gloves and all that, which don't do much. And I mean, I, I lost the feeling in three of my fingers for over three months. And I've talked to doctors about that. It's not good for you. I mean, that's tissue damage.

Speaker 2 (28m 41s): So that's frostbite that, yeah, it

Speaker 1 (28m 43s): Didn't look like frostbite, it didn't get black or anything, but I just had a guy on the show, Justin Grisham, an ER doc. And he, he kind of laughed when he heard, he said, and he said, yeah, you shouldn't be doing that to yourself. You got to take care of ourselves a little better when we're applying. Cause you just keep going. Cause you're having one, you know, but God, it hurts. Oh

Speaker 2 (29m 1s): And well, when you and I flew black Hawk this year, I was, I went down from my hand. Same thing. I was just like, that's it. I can't take this anymore. My hands hurt so bad. It was

Speaker 1 (29m 10s): The same way that was

Speaker 2 (29m 10s): Freezing. But I do, I do have a tip and you, and you probably know this as well. And Revis actually I think gave this one to me. So I've got the best electric gloves that I can find. And I've literally, I've, I've every pair that you can buy. And you know, they're all about the same as you know, but they do offer some level of heat, but you have to have chemical warmers inside the electric gloves. And I have learned to put chemical warmer on top of my hand and at the inside of my Palm. So I have two chemical warmers plus the electric glove.

And then I carry two more backup chemical warmers in my harness because mid-flight regardless of how much heat they all, these will last seven hours. It's bullshit. They last about four, right? I mean, they'll still this, they're still warm, but they don't have that hot warm.

Speaker 1 (29m 57s): We manage the transition though. I mean, the days that are really cold like that, I just, the thought of taking my hand out love for a moment is just terrifying because you know how you get that where you can't get the hand back in and you're just like, fuck, I'm hosed here.

Speaker 2 (30m 12s): Well, okay. So, eh, you just have to bite that bullet because you know, I, I tell myself, yeah, my hands are going to get super cold for a minute, but then I've got to warm them up because, so what I do is while I'm, you know, you have to do this on glide, of course, you know, you're in your Hawkin, huge bar. So you're like, you're paranoid already, you know? And, and so, you know, kind of keeping an eye on the glider and you, you, you know, you're not holding the risers. And I Grab a, my, my spare ones and I opened them up and get them out and using my gloves, you know, biting them with my teeth or whatever.

And then when it's time, I've got those kinds of sitting in my lap or whatever. And you know, you're going to mess that up too. And so it's careful not to drop them into the hardest. And then I just take one glove off, take out the chemical warmers. Now, by the way, I don't know if Revis has shown you this too, but do you have those little risks they're written by cold

Speaker 1 (31m 4s): Cozies. Yeah.

Speaker 2 (31m 7s): And I pull those up. Right. And so that's where I've tucked in the ones that are on the top of my hand. And I have one tucked in the bottom. So they're holding the chemical warmers onto my hand. So I go pop up, throw those in the harness, pop, pop, put the new ones in, put the glove on. And then I do the other

Speaker 1 (31m 20s): Hand, you do one on the Palm and one on the back. Yeah.

Speaker 2 (31m 24s): Because that's where your blood comes in. It comes in the top of your hand, I guess. And then it goes to your finger. So those two things have helped me a great deal. And then the other thing you can do, it's much more difficult with a two liner, as you know, is mittens are the, are the, you know, I've got the giant, giant Arctic Explorer. They're just the hugest down mittens you've ever seen. And I can grab the tall, you know, on the Xeno. I can, what I'll do is I'll, I'll, I'll hold with on top of the toggles with those mittens. And so you kind of hang like an ape in a way, instead of using your fingers, you have to use your whole Palm.

And that works. I get used to it. And by the end of the flight, it feels natural.

Speaker 1 (32m 1s): I'm having some pretty good luck with, I mean, I think this is an important part of the discussion. It's you kind of keep your hands warm, but I'm having some pretty good luck with, with over myths, you know? So just take down sleeves, cut them off, you know, you see these guys in Pakistan flying like that all the time. Yeah.

Speaker 2 (32m 18s): But does it work? Cause it always looks like a handful of trouble to me. Like, wait, that's,

Speaker 1 (32m 23s): It's another thing that is problematic. Yeah. For sure. What I'm doing now is because if you properly take it all the way up over the hand and do some kind of scent , then I'm freaked out. What ha what if something happens, get into my reserve. Can I get it all out of there, all that type of stuff? I really don't like, you know, a lot of people will have them cinched off above the toggles. And, and so your, your, those are on your glider, but I don't like that because you're launching with those and, you know, and I don't like stuff.

And I usually don't like launching with even gloves on I just habit. I don't, I don't like having anything in the way. I wanna be able to feel everything when I'm launching. So, so that's problematic. So now what I'm doing is I just, I haven't rolled up on my wrist. Like you're talking about, you know, they're pretty loose. They don't have any cinch straps, and they just rolled up over my wrist. So they're totally out of the way when I'm launching in them and just thinner gloves and then just normal gloves. And then when I fly, I pull them up over and I kinda just hold them like that with my fingertips. So the fingertips can still get a little bit cold, but you can kind of do it in a way where you can think, and then still hold everything.

And then there's your cell phones in the way. Yeah.

Speaker 2 (33m 31s): Okay. So instead of them being above the, the, your, your, your toggle hand is inside it, but you're holding the Downy thing together over the handle with your face.

Speaker 1 (33m 41s): Yeah, exactly. So, cause I just, there, they can be cinched down on the forearm, so you don't lose them. I'm not worried about that, but I just don't like have any cinching up by the hands. Cause if you, you know, if you suddenly got to get out, then I like to have a nice clean to go to the reserve and that's working pretty well. Again, it's, there's some fumbling around, it's not awesome on the bees. It's, you know, like you said, it's, but you get used to it.

Speaker 2 (34m 6s): I also had a real hard time with keeping my torso warm. Well, my torso, I can keep warm in my legs. So, you know, even though you're in the pod and you and I find the same pod and it is the Cadillac of warmth in terms of, it's pretty good about keeping the wind out and it's pretty thick neoprene, but it is still, I S you know, you're, you're at those kinds of, you know, I think this year on my big flight, I think it was 11 degrees at base. And, you know, you got that wind and it's just really hard to keep your body. And I'm 150 pounds. So I don't have a lot of extra anything down pants.

Bill hit me to down pants, even send me a link to those, buy these, and you look like a complete, you look like you're going to a German discotheque when you're wearing them. They're like, they're black. And they've got these little squares and you've talked about dad singing them. And they're really kind of, they're a little tight fitting, but what's amazing is they fold into a little tiny pack. You can Chuck it in the back of your kit. And then just before you launch, you pull them on over your jeans or whatever pants you're wearing. And those changed everything. I at least a 50% upgrade in warmth, but the down pants,

Speaker 1 (35m 12s): I mean, they always say that don't you, I mean, it'd be warmed. Keep your feet and hands warm skin. You got to keep your core warm. So it makes sense that we, I mean, the first, my big upgrade this year was the 800 fill, massive Patagonia jacket. I got a big down, ah, so cozy I'll sleep on it.

Speaker 2 (35m 30s): But I put that, I put, I put more down under that thing. Like, that's my total wrap. Yeah. But I have, I have like a multiple layer, one layer two, and then we'll, and then I use that I have one of those smaller Patagonia down sweater things. And then I put that bad boy on, and then I wear goggles, balaclava, goggles, goggles, maybe they were, that was a huge thing. And I have battery wise. Do you have, do you have glasses?

Speaker 1 (35m 56s): Yeah, just a couple of years ago. My eyes started going bad really quick. And so now I'm, you know, in the X ups, I've got my goggles with the corrective on the inside. That's

Speaker 2 (36m 5s): What I got. I just got those. They're amazing.

Speaker 1 (36m 7s): They're great. And I, I just, I realized I, I can't see birds and stuff anymore. You know, it was my I'm the distance one I can't see in the distance. And so

Speaker 2 (36m 15s): That's me too.

Speaker 1 (36m 16s): Yeah. And that made a world of difference. Well, how do you see your instruments? That's my, well, now, as I can see my instruments without them, but with, with them, I can't see my instruments anymore.

Speaker 2 (36m 27s): Well, I guess I got to get exactly. I got a great tip for you. Fuck the instrument by that. I mean, dude, I'm flying down wind straight as I can. I don't need anything. I mean, the only time the instruments become an issue is when they start telling me I'm an airspace, which, you know, at some points they do. And then I'm like, fuck. And then I have to lift up my goggles and look at like, oh fuck. It's airport, shut the fuck up. And let me fly. And then I just keep going. Other than that, no, I don't have to look at the incidents. Now, if I'm flying in a competition, which I don't do, I've done them in the past, but I've just really not, I'm not well-suited for competition either.

Cause again, it has rules and it, they want you to do a certain thing and I may not want to do it that day. So competitions are great for me. So I don't really have to see my instruments that much, but it is an issue you're right. But boy, to see birds and to see the, the topography and everything in real clarity, I started I'm 58. So I made a good what, 10 years older than you

Speaker 1 (37m 22s): Imagine.

Speaker 2 (37m 23s): Okay. Well your eyes start. Once they start going, it really progressed. It's a downward slope and having those. So anyway, I didn't fly with goggles for many, many years because of this, because I was flying with prescription sunglasses and tons of air was getting in and I put the goggles on and it's just, it's almost like a cockpit, you know? Okay.

Speaker 1 (37m 41s): And is a lot more, more, I also, I don't really like full-face helmets. I went through a period where I didn't, but I don't, I don't like that. I like just a light norm. So you have to have the goggles again, just for warmth. And I mean, you know, people ask, what's your favorite bit of gear. I got to say it's maybe the buff of everything.

Speaker 2 (37m 59s): No, ma'am I got those covered. I've got them everywhere. They're coming. They're coming.

Speaker 1 (38m 3s): Yes, everywhere. But I had a day in Shaylin at the nationals where suddenly my 15 buffs didn't make an ad one day without a bump. And I just, I was so stressed out about the sun. Oh my God, I'm going to get fried. You're going to have a buff. It wasn't cold there. I don't have to worry about it for that. But I like them for everything above something.

Speaker 2 (38m 19s): Yeah. Because your nose gets, my nose just gets roached. And I, I wear the nose tape, dude. I'm the, I'm the clown on launch with the, I literally make my own nose tapes. I buy this, I do. I buy this bandage. It's just like white tape bandage comes in a roll to about three across. And I had bought a little nose tape on, on online and it fit pretty well, but I made some adjustments. And then I made a little cardboard template of that. I put that down on the little tape and I draw around it with a Sharpie and I caught him out.

Cause I mean, you only have so many launches a year. So, you know, it's like, okay, well I'll make 50 of these. And they're amazing. You do look like an ass clown with the thing on, especially like, you know, in south America, they're like, you're already the whitest thing on the mountain. And then you add white tape to your nose, like some sort of idiot, but God that changed everything. Cause then I put a buff up to it and I don't have that burned. Cause there's no amount of sunscreen that will ever protect your nose from being in the air of six hours of whatever.

Speaker 1 (39m 18s): Yeah, no, that's true. Well, Hey, you didn't, you didn't put this in your write-up, but because we both have this mutual friend Belcourt bill Belcourt, who was the first guest on the show way, way, way back when I, I wanted to talk about that because, and I might be completely wrong here, but I believe you and I met in Columbia the first time and it seemed like, you know, there was this, obviously there's this desire to fly. You're traveling a bunch. You're, you're trying to get hours kind of hard to get hours, Minnesota.

You figure out the tow thing that helps. But then you also, and I don't know where the timing of this was, but you decided, okay, I need a proper mentor and you looped bill in and you guys have been taking these trips. And the last time I flew with you, you totally out flew me. You feel like, I feel like you're this, there was some connection here where you started really putting things together. And I'd love for you to just talk because you've got access to one of these brilliant minds in our sport, more so than most people do.

And I B J I'd love to know what, cause you have really started. It's things are clicking. You're figuring it out. You just had this, you know, you've had this 200 mile dream, which you pulled off the spring. We'll talk about that with the Big flight, but I'd love to know some of that chronology and what you've learned from bill bell.

Speaker 2 (40m 41s): Oh, well there's a lot to learn first off. He's probably one of the most decent human beings we've produced on this planet in a long time. My relationship with bill goes way back. Oddly enough, I think it was my first trip to provide a Bravo one winter and previous to that, I had done some training with Ken who Don Jorgensen. I don't know if you know, Ken, just a stellar human being and also a really good fit for me because he's also a very intuitive person.

He's not all about this sort of, you know, math, mathematic reasons why it's going to be a good day. He, he has more. So we, we connected really well and can happen to be invited Bravo. And I'm not kidding you. I'm just going, looking for a cup of coffee and I walk into this cafe and there's cat and Ken's with this guy with like these white Oakley glasses on. And I'm like, Hey sport. Oh, nice glasses. Like, I don't know. I made some comment about his fucking sport glasses and he laughs and we just got along right away.

And, and I just, you know, just giving him shit about his bald head or whatever. And every day we would meet at the same coffee shop and we'd go flying. And, and bill was there with Ken that year guiding. Yeah. And so they had a little group of people and we would see them throughout the course of our time there. But we were just there, you know, solo goofing around. And then I just would run into bill and other places. And we were always friendly because he's just such a decent guy and he likes to goof off and he likes to talk smack and laugh.

And I also would almost rather do that than anything on the planet. So we had that connection. And then when bill left BD, after they merged and things got a little less fun to be a black diamond, I encouraged him to come to Columbia with a group of guys that I had together. And I'm like, dude, you should just be, full-time just helping people be better. Paragliders and I don't care will anybody that knows anything about you will pay dearly to do that.

And why couldn't that be your career? And you know, that's kind of a pretty bad idea, frankly, because there's no cheaper group of people on the fucking planet than paragliding pilots. But, but I said, I would love to, you know, I would love to take this to another level because I felt my flying was getting to a certain point and I was having a hard time. It's really hard when you're by yourself. I fly by myself. I don't have a big flying community around me. I don't have people that I'm chasing, you know, and that's a big, that's a big way to get better at anything.

When I got better at music is because in this local music scene of Minneapolis, I just wanted to be the best I could possibly be. And there were so many amazing people and you chase so much harder when there's somebody showing you the bar, right. But when you're flying towing here and, and having a few, you know, long flights or whatever, it's all built on my own sort of motivations and my own kind of skill set. And it's like a bad feedback loop when you're not very good. And you're feeding off of your own fear.

Not very goodness. You don't get much better, fast. Right? So long story short bill Bill's was like, yeah, let's do that. So we all went to Columbia together and, and bill was a little worried. He said, you know, what do I need to prepare? I feel like I need to prepare a lesson plan or I'm like, dude, just fly with us. It's going to be edifying, no matter what we do, let's just fly. And then we can talk about how we flew that day. And then we've talked about how we can fly better. And it was just great.

Everybody on the trip, you know, first off you get to know him better and it's just, it's just a fabulous onion. You peel off layers and it's just deeper and deeper. He's not just an amazing pilot. He's just a really thoughtful human being that understands a lot about a lot of things engineering he understands about. I mean, he understands about my business. He's given me fantastic advice about my business. And he could tell you about cars. I mean, there isn't anything he doesn't know about, but maybe I've learned more than anything is watching him climb like his ferocity in a climate.

His just razor sharp focus is, is a joy to be around and it lifts you up and that's not a pun, but it really does because there's this great quote from Bruce Goldsmith's book. And I hope that I'm quoting this correctly, but you should never be out climbed by anyone or anything. A paraglider is no less capable in a thermal than a bird. And a bird is no more capable than we are. You're all on the same lifting air. You should all be going up equally. And so if you're being out climbed, you're a dumb ass.

And man, when I read that, that made a lot of sense. Cause I have been out climbed my whole fucking life and you know what I mean? Like it's, it's so easy to be out climbed if, if you have the kind of brain that I do, because it's hard to, to, to have that laser focus. And if you don't have the laser focus, then you better have thousands of hours of climbing. So that it's bone marrow deep in you. Which again, I had neither I'm, you know, my, my brain's like a, like a two Dipesh cam with a BB rolling around in it.

And then I've got like, not enough hours under the glider. So climbing was everything to me because let's face it. If you climb faster, you go further, everything gets better when you can climb. Well. And so just spending time with him and, and being just out climbed by him repeatedly to the point where it's like, wait a minute, now I'm starting to hang on, you know, and then just fighting it out, you know? And that was, that was absolutely seminal for me. And then to be able to, you know, in the van on the way back to say, Hey, you know, today when we got to this point, it was interesting decision when we all decided to such and such and then to be able to debrief with someone with his encyclopedic memory of a, the flight, but also this deep knowledge about paragliding and Free flight in general, it's you put those two things together and yeah, you're with, it's a masterclass.

And so over the years we've just gotten to be very good friends and, and I, I, it's just, it's an amazing gift to, to have him in my life and in terms of my flying. Yeah. I mean, seriously, Gavin, I'd be, I'd be still chasing that 76 mile flight in Minnesota and being thrilled to do it. Had I not made that connection and, and really decided to, to get out this harder. And most of the things that bill talks about is just, you already have this skill and he just brings it out of you.

Like there's so many things we innately already have if we just listened to them and we shut, shut up some of the fear, some of the anxiety, you know, bill enough to know doesn't have a lot of fear and anxiety in his life. He just, he just goes at it really hard. He knows that he can do it and therefore it shall be done. Right. And there's no question in it. And you got a guy like me up there with my knees rattling around. I've been a little bit, a little bit, a little bit, but, but, but, but you know, and, and you around him enough through osmosis, you start to realize, well, wait, I do have, I've got this.

And yeah, this launch is a little goofy and maybe the conditions today don't look as prime as they could. And maybe it's a little windy, but that's okay because I have the skills to, to make, make my way through this. And that was a huge, a huge step in my progression was knowing that I have it. Now I know how to climb. I know where to get the climb. And if it's there, I show do as best as anyone can do in this climb.

Speaker 1 (48m 21s): That was that a product of removing doubt or increasing confidence or the,

Speaker 2 (48m 26s): I think it's, I think it's two things. Cause I said, in my note to you that it felt like climbing felt like in the early days, like magic, so like coincidence or luck. Wow. I went all the way up because it didn't happen all the time. You you'd find a similar climb and you'd fall out and you couldn't get back into it. Or you didn't understand that. Well, actually that wasn't a full climb. That was a bubble you jackass and there is no more to it or whatever it is that you've learned as you, as you progressed. But in the early days of climbing you, you first start thinking, okay, I can turn circles and lifts.

Look at me, I'm a paraglider pilot. So watch out fuckers. And, and then you realize, oh wait. But those guys are doing so much better. They Clyde right through us and are already on glide while we're still piddle paddling around, you know, mincing around in this climb. There's always another, there's always another level. And I think that for me, realizing that now I think that I can carry every climb to a Ty's potential. I can not only get to, to the, to the top of it, but I'll get there as quickly as possible.

I will find the best core and I will stay in it because I've just been banging my head against this for long enough that I know what it feels like. And I don't, it doesn't consume my brain like it used to because it used to just, it was everything. How does this work? Why is he going? What pop, pop, pop. And now it's just shipped. Here it is. And now I can get on the radio and go guys, there's a better core over here. Check it out, you know, and, and flying with people, you know, and learning, learning how to see and another glider, the potential of their climb versus yours.

And if they're in a better place and you know, all of that stuff just comes from time and you can't, you can't get it right off the bat. So to answer your question horribly, was it confidence or less doubt? I think it was the confidence gave me last out.

Speaker 1 (50m 20s): Hmm. Chicken and the egg thing a little bit. How I've been hearing this lately from folks that paragliding has made them a better person. That's this is something I've always, when I'm around bill, I always feel like a better person. Well,

Speaker 2 (50m 36s): He's a good influence. He makes you want to be. No, I think that he has such a mentor Oriel. If that's a word, mentor presence, you want to impress him. And more importantly, you just want to be a better, a better person around him because he's such a good person. He doesn't take anything lightly. He thinks through everything. It's not just nothing is Willy nilly, you know, and as you've already perceived with me, most of it's Willy nilly and just kind of falling out of my ass.

Whereas with him, if he's going to speak, it's going to have meeting and it's going to have message. And so perk up your ears. I don't know if I'm a better person being, I know I'm a better person being around him, but he's, he sets a high bar. And I know you've been through the rescues with Kiwi and such it really scene. He'll just he'll drop everything to help somebody else out.

Speaker 1 (51m 29s): Do you, do you think flying has made you a better person just going through it? Cause it's kind of, it's kind of brutal. It is kind of a kick kicks your ass, the whole metaphor of being high and low and

Speaker 2 (51m 43s): Yeah. Yeah. I come from a, I come from a business. That's not really great on you in terms of, you know, if, if you want to Excel in the, in the, in the music business, you're going to deal with a lot of rejection and you're going to deal with it early on and you're gonna deal with it later. And so feeling the highs and lows of my career in that regard is definitely influenced me. But coming into this sport, you know, it's one of the reasons I guess I didn't really Excel in competition because I felt like man, my whole life is competition.

I'm constantly trying to get the best gig and you know, propel my business into the best possible situation. And I live all of that for my recreation. I think I want to just really enjoy the love of this and the beauty of it. So I don't know if I've been at, I don't even know if I'd be a very nice person to be perfectly honest, Gavin. So you're making it a huge assumption. But I, I think that, I think that it definitely teaches you humility because if you don't look at it from that perspective, you will never grow.

And, and for me, I think I knew, I thought I knew so much in the early days of this sport guys, look at me, not launching great. I'm climbing out. So come on, you know, and Jesus, what I didn't know and what I don't know right now would fill volumes. So I think that that humility and that respect for what a deep sport this is and what it really takes to be excellent. That's something that I definitely possess, whether that makes me good or bad, it at the very least makes me at least humble in one aspect of my life.

Speaker 1 (53m 24s): What do you think has contributed the most to your pulling off this big flight this spring? What was the, or maybe give me three things. W what, how did the stars,

Speaker 2 (53m 37s): I probably couldn't come up with one, but, but I'll say this. And I think that, again, that onion analogy has been used in this conversation by me already wants, but it's, it's apropos here in that you see this goal and you think, oh, well, I mean, you know, you just get good and yeah, once you're good, how to poop. You're down when baby it's going. And so you start with that, which you need to have just like when you're starting a business, or if you're chasing a girl, that's way prettier than you, you have to have that blind ambition, right?

Because otherwise you won't do it. And so a lot of blind ambition was what drove me early on and not, not seeing a lot of people around me doing it, other than what I would be on trips was also maybe beneficial to keeping me still inspired and not know how bad I was. And then failure is this amazing lesson, because you see this amazing day, you see the cloud streets, you know, that those are cloud streets that carry people across country, you know, but you end up on the ground in 52 miles.

Like that is a wonderful instructor of fuck, what am I doing wrong? And I remember there were a couple of really long flights like bill and I would have, we had this relationship where I could call him and debrief. This was before we started to go on trips. I just knew him well enough that I could say, okay, this happened to me. Like the first time I spawned my glider. For instance, I remember calling bill and go, God, this weird thing happened today. I was going along and you know, and he's like wealth that you spun your glider. Did you have a lot of break on one side?

I was like, yeah, of course I did. I was in a steep turn and he would take me through very, very kindly. And the same thing happened on flights that I felt like I had it. And all of a sudden I was on the ground and we would sort of debrief. And, you know, he gave me a little tips along the way. Some things were like, well, listen, you were under a cloud, but it wasn't pulling, but it looked like it was pulling. Do you think that if you would have stuck around that cloud could have rebooted because it was a cloud you would seen for say, you know, three miles, you know, I might've been watching this cloud for 15 minutes before I got to it, and then it wasn't pulling.

And often what I would do in that case, it's, I'd go buck and I I'd push, I push low down wind to try to get to something else. And then eventually dirt, like, like the fool I was and bill helped remind me, sometimes that's not the play it's to wait. This is going to reboot because clouds come in cycles. And have you, you had been watching that one long enough that it probably was cycling because you know, it'd be one of these. I remember the day I remember this cloud. I remember this conversation with bill because it was a big cloud that you should have been yanking me up.

And it wasn't, and I'm sure he was right, because I've used that in, in, in subsequent flights that sometimes a cloud that looks like it's really gonna work might just be a neutral or even, you know, no pulling whatsoever and I'll stick around. I'll just wait. And even though I may be losing a little altitude, I don't get frustrated. And I, I sit with it and sure enough, it all up, up, up, up, up, up in it. And it released, it starts to Repole it's a reboot because whatever triggered it, the first time will probably trigger it again.

Right? So it's a lot of little things, but again, I'm answering your question poorly, but what I learned, if anything is how much I had to learn and how much better I had to get at flying a paraglider before I was allowed to be in this rarefied air. I mean, you know, a 200 mile flight in the United States, there's like 10 of them. I don't even know if there are 10, you know, in terms of records in the United States, you have to find the weather pattern. You have to be ready for it. You have to be available.

You got to launch as early as humanly possible. You have to survive that horrible part of the day in the morning where you really shouldn't be flying, but you have to be because that's, what's going to give you the extra kilometers to get. You have to climb super fast. You have to know when to leave the lift and to know that you don't need all of the base. You don't need to get to base state. You just take it to five grand and go, cause look at poom. There's another one, poom. There's another one.

Speaker 1 (57m 49s): Yeah. I like that in your writeup. I think about that with my, my big one here all those years back, that it just, you know, at the end of the day I felt, I just thought God, I was in sync today. And really what it was was just that, you know, every time I was leaving a climb, something was popping in front of me. And so it was so much better to leave, but that was dictated because I was always trying to stay below 18,000. You know, it was a massive day here and often that can be, I hate the really high days. Cause they're, you're, you're, you can't take advantage of it if you're trying to stay legal.

And it's hard to, you know, when it's new, you start getting up tall and it's just sucking harder. And her heart it's hard to stay low enough, but that was the kind of day where it was just go because you could see it. And then there would be another one. And it's, I think it's important when you're really trying to fly distance, too. You got to stay in sync because when you're, when you fall out of sync with that cycle that you're talking about, it can be a long struggle to hold on and wait. And you know, it can be 45 minutes or whatever, and you gotta, you gotta stay in the game. So you gotta do what you gotta do, but it's you don't, you want to stay in sync and you, and I liked how you said you don't need to top it out on those days.

You gotta keep moving

Speaker 2 (59m 1s): Well, and even, even push, push on the low side, like if you can get there. Well, the formula that I like to use is if I've had three climbs and every time I went on glide, I watched, I do look at my instrument occasionally, but I look like, okay, how much altitude did I lose before I got to that next Clive? And by the way, this could be on a blue day or a cloud day. It doesn't matter. Yeah. And I went from, let's say base is 7,000 feet. And when I got the next climb, it was 4,000 feet. Okay. So there's now I know.

And then by the way, I confirm that because the next glide yep. It's about the same 38, 4200 feet. Whatever. Now I know now I've got this little clock that tells me there's a climb. I'm at 4,000. Now there should be a climb around here because I've been going down, wind straight, just like I've been doing because as you know, the patterns do line up. Yep. And so that was hugely helpful for me to know that, listen, if I'm at six grand all, and I, if I could see the cloud, I know how much altitude I need. I've learned that over the years that that's only two miles away and I can get there in such and such amount of time and how much bar I need to push.

And if you do it right, you don't even have to circle. You just, you just come out of the cloud and then you just get the altitude. You need flying straight. Maybe I come off the bar a little bit, just slow it down a little bit, but get that altitude and then continue to fly straight back on the bar. And at the meat of the day, that's all you should be doing on those big days. You shouldn't even have to turn. You should just be going under these beautiful clouds with just slowing down, by getting off the bar, getting tons, you know, you get the altitude, you need to get to the next one. And I believe they call it dull fitting when you're, when you're flying like that.

And any big flight I've had, that's the meat of the day has been that, but like anything like music or anything else, it has a tempo. The day has a tempo, but the tempo changes. And if you don't understand that, the beginning of the day is slow. Middle of the day is boom and fast. And the end of the day is slow. Again. You will also fail every goddamn time, which I did over and over because I would get into that. Heart-pounding awesome middle day mentality. And when I would get to the end of the day, when the day was saying, Hey, dipshit, slow down because you're about to fly through something.

You need to make some turns in because your next client is even further away and it's going to be less strong than this one. And until I really started to feel that bone marrow deep, I would fuck up every time at the end of the climbs or at the end of the day, how I was, how I was appraising the climbs and the speed that I needed to fly.

Speaker 1 (1h 1m 30s): Yeah. Tell me, tell me more about changing gears. We talk about that a lot and that's a big thing in cops and racing. You know, if you, if you just stay in that mode, that middle day mode and you don't recognize, boom, something's changed. You get a little bit of Cirrus, a little bit of wind, whatever you've got to slow down, but I think especially lower hour pilots really struggle with that is recognizing it, you know, being in sync, understanding it. How can guys like us who are less strategic and maybe observant than someone like bill?

How do you, how have you learned how to figure that out?

Speaker 2 (1h 2m 5s): Well, the, the climbs tell you don't they? So at the middle of the day, you know, now, by the way, in the flat, we have very different climb strength than we have in the mountains. So when you're in the mountains, you've got mountains, coalescing, several thermals that might make one large thermal. So, you know, you're getting those sort of robust stout climbs that we just don't get in the Midwest in the spring. They're pretty stout, but you know, so let's say the day is, is giving me 800 foot a minute climbs. Like those are the, those are the good climbs of the day. If you're not aware enough to see that later on in the day, the best you're finding is 600 or 500.

You've really missed something important. The climbs are telling you the solar gain, the solar energy has slowed down. So it takes you longer to get up. So by virtue of that, make sure maybe this time I'm not going to be as aggressive about when I leave, I'm going to top this out. Right? Cause the climb told me I should. And I guess I started to be more, more, I opened my ears a little bit more in my, my perception to the climb. Just telling me how fast to fly when they're booming. And the clouds are really, you know, that they have those dark bottoms and the sharp edges.

And you know, it's just like that thing's pulling, I'm going boom. But all of a sudden two things actually happen. The clouds start to have that softer kind of look to them at ladder in the day. They don't have maybe the same height. They might kind of spread out a little more. They're not as sort of quick and tight and kind of hamburger bunny. They might be a little bit more windblown or just a little less. You see that and you feel them. And now it's time to slow the hell down. And now don't go too slow because you don't want to blow that. But man, being more conservative at the end of the flight has saved me so much pain of, of dirty, you know, I mean last year or the year before, I think I dirtied 180 9 or 1 92 or something like that, it's just like, oh God damn it.

Cause it was more, there was more flying to be done.

Speaker 1 (1h 4m 3s): Tell me about your concept of micro and macro.

Speaker 2 (1h 4m 7s): Well, again, this is also one of those simple things that I think is very obvious, but, but it's easy to overlook and I just was giving a pilot advice the other day and he said, so when we had, it was obvious, we were going to have a nice cloud day. And he said, how do you know what cloud to go for? And I said, well, depends where you're looking at it from what, what altitude I said, when you're lower, it's easier to see what cloud to go for, but when you're hire the best way to see what cloud to go for is to look at the ground because it's shadow will tell you, you know, whether it's solid and strong or if it's starting to break apart and it blew his mind, he was like, oh my God, I've never thought of that.

And I don't, I don't know if someone taught me that or I taught it myself. I don't, I don't know. But that was a pretty big revelation that it's not always where you think you need to look to get information about what to do next in terms of macro and micro, but not thinking what the most important thing for me is to not think micro when I'm in a macro setting and to not think macro when I'm in a micro setting. So what I mean by that is that when I'm high and at base and in tweaking my, or I might be changing cloud streets or making some sort of a, an adjustment that's macro thinking.

And all I want to do is look at the, the, the, the landscape, the clouds and the topography. Now we don't have much typography, but I call towns typography because sometimes I like to fly in a line that might align me with certain small towns because they're like little triggers and they can be very beneficial when you're low to fly over a town that has cement and structures that are breaking, that might be triggering and such. I only want to think about big macro thoughts. So, okay, this, this street is definitely forming and it has more like than the street to my left or to my right.

I also think about in, in, in the United States, we have very beautiful checkerboard like grid patterns when you get really high, you know, because things are Def usually a mile square, the roads are all set up to be that. So you have this like checkerboard that you can run. And if you're trying to make distance, the straighter line, you can run, the more efficient your flight will be. The more distance you'll get. So I try to stay within at least a three mile radius of the line that I started with at the beginning of the flight. And that's also around too much.

I don't want to move around too much. Cause you see those flights where you do that and you see how much you've wasted bowing around a line. So I really try to stay. If I've got a nice, you know, a tailwind that's allowing me to do that, I want to stay as straight as possible. So that's one macro thing I'm looking at. I'm looking at the cloud streets, I'm looking at the streets on the shadowed on the ground to make sure that I'm continuing on this street or it looks like in one more cloud, I need to make another decision about a different street when I'm down low.

So now I'm sucking wind. You know, I've gotten to, maybe I went for a climb that didn't happen. Or I hit a blue hole, which happens all the time on Big flights. You're going to run into different meteorological settings. You're never gonna have the same weather from beginning to end, at least in my experience. So when that happens, you, you might find yourself low. And I think we had this conversation in the van going up to Blackhawk that day is that I get that fear in me when I know I'm going to have a big flight. I know I'm going to be scuttling around somewhere scratching low.

And I know that if I can keep my mental state positive, it'll be fine. But I still know I have to go through that. It's sort of like going to a colonoscopy, you know that that's happening. You have to do it cause you don't want to have as cancer, but at the same time, that's going to suck. Right. And, and get low can kind of feel like that. Like damn I'm low. And this could be the whole day. And I've got maybe a few people like bill might be following me and Chris galley. And the couple of people that know I've been going after. So you, you want to, you don't want to let everybody down.

Not that you would be, but you know what I mean? So when I'm in that setting now I've switched my brain. I'm not thinking macro. I'm thinking very, very, very micro. Where is this next climate? Where's just a piece I can hold onto while I'm kind of, you know, cause on any day that's good. You've got a lot of wind. And when you have a lot of wind to be in low socks and your Frisbee, you know, your frizz being into these, like I'm in half the climb falling out of half the climate and half the class falling out of half the climb. And then you finally, maybe you're in three quarters of a, of a, of a circle in lift.

And then finally you can make that full 360 and then you've saved yourself. But if I'm not thinking just every little nuance of me is thinking about this tiny picture that I'm enjoying at that time. And that might be a treeline that's up ahead or the field that I'm over, had some green on it, but the field just adjacent to me has more black on it. Maybe I'm going to go there and hedge my bet. You know, you, you have the old, the old it's kind of a paraglide and Wisetail so, oh my God, look for tractors. If you see a guy out there and a tracker, that's a great trigger.

I've never really found that to be the case. I mean, maybe it is, but I think you'd need to be pretty high for that to have impact. But I am looking for tree lines, lakes, lakes can be good, you know, the edge of a lake because it's cold and the, and something can trigger against that. But I'm really thinking,

Speaker 1 (1h 9m 23s): I found that down in the SureTel if you got low, which you often do, there's a real lull on the day there, you know, it can often be really hard to start and then it starts going. And then it almost always my experience blues out for a couple hours and you've got to really tweak it back and it can be frustrating because you're going for these huge distances. But you forget that you've got this huge long day. So you're just, you're going into survival mode, but the, the lakes would save you over and over and over again. Just go to go to a little bit of water blowing, like, hell you just think how in the world is going to work and you just park yourself at the end of the lake and that wait, and then boom.

You know, if you've got, if you've got enough bar, you can hang on. You can just sit there and wait for some ripper to come through.

Speaker 2 (1h 10m 5s): If I don't know if you know this, but Minnesota is the land of 10,000 lakes. That's our, that's our state credo. And it's well earned. There's just bodies of water everywhere. And it's funny, you can go to Illinois and fly and you won't see a lake. All, you can fly 150 miles. You won't see any water. You might go over a river, but they just don't have it. So somehow the glaciers, the way they came across or they deposited a lot of water. So yeah, there, and not only do they produce. And another thing to think about when you're micro and macro, not only do they produce lakes, but the lakes produce birds and there's particular soaring, birds prevalent in the spring here, they're lake gold, they're giant.

They look like fighter jets in the air that these giant goals, pelicans, I'm sorry, they're pelicans. And they will always be around a body of water because they tend to soar from one body of water to another cause they want to go fish in another lake. So they'll soar up and go fishing. And what's interesting is when they fly, they fly in a lie. They don't all like, like EBU and Turkey, buzzard and stuff. When you see them, they're kind of in a big mass, these things line up like they're cued up like Englishman. They, they, they line up perfectly. And so they'll, they'll, you'll see a corkscrew of them showing you the entire climb.

If there's like 30 birds, there'll be this beautiful little serpentine pattern going up and they're giant. So, and for whatever reason, when they make a turn, they flash white and gray, white and gray as they make three sixties, because some part of them is more white than another. And so they, they're almost like a beacon. And if you're lucky enough to be low and see that you're you're saved. But my point is that when I'm thinking macro, so now I'm low and I'm pissed. I'm worried about the day, oh, I've lost the deal, Bob.

I got a lot today. And, and plus I need to get to pumped up by such and such. If I start thinking about all those things, I'm on the ground in seconds. But if I can kind of clear the mechanism and let my brain just focus on the small things at hand I win. And so that's what I literally sometimes have to tell myself, micro think micro. Now you switch, I switch and quit thinking about the day, quit thinking about what's next. Because right now the only thing that's important is getting back to base.

And I certainly with my add and kind of personality, the, the least amount of focus, the better, you know, just focus on the one thing. And just,

Speaker 1 (1h 12m 28s): You talked about that in your up that, you know, when you're climbing, that's all you're doing. Kriegel talked about that. Didn't he? I mean, he's got, he's got three, there's three things he's doing, he's climbing, he's planning or he's gliding that side. And so when you, when you're, when he finds that his mind's wandering or, you know, it's this weird thing we're trying to be in flow state, let subconscious take over. But at the same time, we're trying to be focus, focus, you know, stay focused. How does someone who you talk about having add, how does someone who has a hard time focusing go 10 hours and stay in these modes?

What does that, is that been training? Is that just been, just banging your head against making mistakes?

Speaker 2 (1h 13m 10s): Oh, it's funny because there's so many people on your podcasts that do all kinds of reading and they study or they think, and I look, I listened to that and just like, man, I wish I was that guy. I wish I could do that. I I'm not. I like to learn from doing so, everything that I have has been more, more or less learned because I've screwed up doing it prior to this. And then I figure out, oh, and I change it a little bit and I change it a little bit. So climbing, if my brain wanders, I've realized I lose the climb, everybody will out climb me and I've lost the day.

Right? So it became this strong desire to increase my ability to climb. And the thing that I learned is for instance, if you want to find out about focus, ask bill a question, while he flying in a climb, he will fucking answer you. And it could be a really important question. You know, bill, I think I've severed by a femoral artery is that life-threatening, he will not answer because he's in a climb.

Speaker 1 (1h 14m 10s): You know, that's funny. I remember when I flew with we'll get on the Rocky shores, you know, I had never, I had never met him. He'd been a hero of mine forever. But the first, the day before that thing started was the day I met him. And when the filming helicopter that, you know, when we were, when he was low and someone would get on the radio, whether that was me or anybody else, he would just lose it.

Speaker 2 (1h 14m 33s): Just

Speaker 1 (1h 14m 34s): Shut the fuck up, save, you know, exactly didn't want to lose his focus.

Speaker 2 (1h 14m 40s): No. So I think that necessity breeds focus for me. If I'm out goofing around, I don't tend to do a lot of goof around flights, unfortunately. And maybe as I retire out, I'll, I'll have more time for that. The times that I want to chase, it tend to be there. They're good days. And I want to, you know, I want to do well. And so it's easy for me to just rein it in and, and, and, and do that well. And it also helps to be with other people if I'm flying with you and Revis and bill and we're, we're gonna, we're going to go somewhere.

I don't want to be the guy dragging it down. I want to be the guy finding the next CLI cause that's super fun. I think that wanting to do well has gives me the kind of, you know, hyper-focus about doing that. And then secondly, doing it a lot has given me the ability to not have to focus as much as I used to. So now I'm allowed, I'm afforded. Yeah. I guarantee you Kriegel is not Kriegel is two steps ahead. He's climbing that thing and the glider is doing it. He's doing it all. It's autopilot.

He's just crushing it because it's bone marrow, deep, everything he's listening to in the glider is, is, is, is telling him what to do and how to stay in this climb. So he can think about, I like the way that rich looks over that that's nice, you know, and he can get to it faster than the rest of, of, of us

Speaker 1 (1h 15m 58s): That you had this. Yeah, you, you had this paragraph that is, it's quite simple, but I want to hit on it confidence in the day being really critical. Can you talk about that?

Speaker 2 (1h 16m 10s): Yeah. And you know, that's something that I got, I met jockey Sanderson years ago in Brazil. I was there on a trip back when, remember when we would go to Google, her valid Torres.

Speaker 1 (1h 16m 21s): I've never been, but I've heard. It's awesome.

Speaker 2 (1h 16m 24s): Yeah. Kind of awesome. Kind of also like if you get that in a bad weather, it's not so awesome. You're just in the small towns, you know, waiting. Yeah. And the time that I was there for a couple of weeks, I met jockey and we were talking and had, had the, had the, he would, he had a group, of course that's that's his profession. And, but there was a couple of times where we would just be on the same flight together and sort of ask them a few questions. And I got from him. His philosophy is very simple.

If you've had the climb, there's another one. So get out and get it. And that's that, if you were able to do it once you're able to do it again, why are you out? Why are you overthinking this? You know, just really simple that you are already are the pilot that find that and, and, and Excel in that climb. So go get it. And I think that the confidence in the day is, is paramount because if you've launched and you've got to base it's over the days in front of you, and if you own that in your heart and just dive in, I think so many people are like, do I have enough to leave lodge?

Well, I don't know, where's my car. And you know, just all of those fucking things that are getting in the way of charging and going for it. And, and, and I think that confidence of the day is a huge one. It's very easy to start thinking negatively, right? In our sport. It's easy to, to, to let fear seep in and alter you. It's, it's easy to let input about, oh, well that guy on launch, he didn't, he didn't think the day was so good. I don't, I don't know is that it was he right? It's like shut up. What do you think? And what is the day I already told you, you rocketed debates.

So that tells me there's another climb right out front. Let's go. And I think that I didn't make that transition for a long time. I would have that same kind of disbelief and I would need several climbs to tell me that the day is valid and now I just, Hey man, if I, if I found it, it's going to be found all across this day until it isn't right until something else happens. But I think that that also takes a lot of things. It takes a lot of things off the table because to me, there's this great movie.

I'm going to sound like a Kevin Costner fan, but he has this Kevin Costner is this movie where he's a pitcher. He's a, and he's throwing like a perfect game or something. And all the fans are yelling at him, he's on the mound. And he says to himself clear the mechanism. And then the, all the audio in the film goes, and it's just silence, like his heart beating. And he's looking the guy down and he fucking strikes him out because he's, he's, hyper-focused on the task at hand. And I think that paragliding is very similar to that.

I think that people like Kriegel Mauer clear the mechanism really well and their minds are quiet and they're just using the part of their mind that gets them to where they have to be. And all those other parts of the mind that should, you know, just like meditation when you meditate. Well, you don't, you know, thinking about a hundred things, you're thinking about one thing and hopefully thinking about nothing. I think that flying affords many of those same skills. And so the less we can worry and the less we can think, the more we, the better we fly.

And I think confidence in the day has to be paramount if you don't have that fundamental thing, what the fuck are you doing out here today? Then if you're, if you're not confident that this is an awesome day. So I don't know. Sure. Some days are weird. Some days are like, it was good and then it got bad, but until it gets bad and proves that to me, I'm going to have confidence that this is an awesome day. And you know what? I got this from a guy he's a songwriter friend of mine that I worked with when I was a young musician. And I said, dude, you so confident about the way you write music, you do it so quickly and effortlessly.

And he said, well, I got a trick. He says, I believe that everything I'm doing is amazing. And he says, I have a thing. I call red light green light when I'm in green light, everything I'm doing is just magical and fantastic. And I don't judge it. It's great. And I get a little chord progression or a little riff or whatever it is that, and then there's a time for me to look at that more objectively. And that's what you would call red light, where I would look at it and say, all right, is this valid? Or is this kind of a piece of shit?

No, this is nice. I like this. It's got a little hook. And I got a bass part idea and you know what? I've got some lyric ideas. And so, but if he says that if we always have the red light on, we never go anywhere. And it's so hard to get that creative impetus that that sort of to be innocently enthusiastic is difficult. And I think innocence and enthusiasm are great things to have in flying because it gets you out there, right? Otherwise, you know, once you're at a certain skill, there'll be, you shouldn't be innocent and talking off a mountain, if you don't know how to do it, but once you get to a certain point and you're trying to make larger strides in this sport, I think believing in yourself and believing in the day are two things that better be with you at launch right away.

Or you're already kind of two strikes down.

Speaker 1 (1h 21m 28s): Yeah. Good advice. You touched on clouds earlier. Did you want to say any more about that? You talk about your in your write-up that it's, it's really important when the day is on to not necessarily top things out. And then also the, that, that was new to me, that looking at the ground, I've looked at the ground to see how clouds travel, but not to see how thick they are. And if they're kind of broken up and stuff is you've got a lot more flatland experience. I'd like to,

Speaker 2 (1h 21m 55s): I remember the day when we were flying Blackhawk and we left the mountains and we got out into the flats, that's, that's what I was doing. I was, I was checking the shadows and yes, you get to see wind trajectory and you get to see, cause you know, we were kind of splayed out and, and there were, there were lots of little clouds. Okay, well, which one has the darkest shadow because that's going to be the, probably the most energetic cloud. And if the darkest shadow cloud is online, then I'm heading that way. The problem is if you're having a, okay. So when we're at the meat of the day, the, the, the, the, the, the real booming part of the day, we're spending most of it at base, we're only losing a couple thousand feet, right?

Yeah. Well, at that perspective, your judgment of a cloud's verocity or strength is skewed because you're seeing it horizontally. And so everything kind of looks the same. Everything has a gray bottom when you're, when you're looking at it horizontally, if you're 3000 feet down, now you can see, oh, that clouds a piece of shit, but that one looks strong. This one's breaking apart. Well, when I'm high. And also it doesn't matter how I'm looking at shadows all the time, looking at the cloud. And then I verify with the shadow, because you can't see holes in clouds as well, even when you're well below them.

So if I didn't, I don't know where I picked that one up a band that is a lifesaver, that ability, because you get to see streets, oh, I just hit my mic. Sorry. You get to see the streets in beautiful form. If you're at 8,000 feet, you can just say, they're outlining themselves. Okay. What's the best street. Cause you know what? That's like, you get to the end of a street. You're like, oh shit, this one just ended. I should've saw that comment. Well, you can see it coming. If you're looking at the shadows a lot easier than if you're just looking at the sky, right.

It's not that I'm focused on the ground. It's just another bit of information you can get, because I don't have mountains. You guys fly to the mountains. You're like, there, it's going to be right there, sun on a hill into when for Christ sake. If it's not there, where is it? I don't have sun on a hill. You know, I've just got wind on.

Speaker 1 (1h 23m 53s): So this is something I really tapped into flying and delinquent in Australia. He'd probably love it down there. I don't know if you've been down there, but it's, it's so featureless, it's flying on the moon without the craters, you know? And, and so the triggers are the tiniest things. There'll be a little water trough for the kangaroos because they die out there all the time. If there's no water or, or obviously they're not building for kangaroos, a real one from the cows and stuff, but there's you just go to the tiniest little dimple and hang out and you know, and it works the cool.

When you talk about lakes or features, when we're for lured,

Speaker 2 (1h 24m 32s): Oh, I'm always going to be on the upwind side for lakes. And the tricky part about them is that you got to have enough altitude sometimes to go out over the water until you will catch that climb. Because again, on big days, we're usually pretty stout when, and so the climbs are all bent over pretty good. And so what might be triggering at the, at the leading or the Windward edge of the lake is might not. Yeah. And so in your altitude, you might have to get over and I'm always playing with that. It's a little Russian roulette.

Like, can I go over the water safely? Because is this like big enough that at my altitude, I won't be able to get to the other end of it and not lay into the water. And that's, you have to see that sometimes I can play around. So I'm, I'm, I'm I'm going out, but I could duck out and go to the left or right in, in five land when you're higher, there they're a, they're a much easier thing to, it's just even rivers. We have the Minnesota river, which often I have to cross, or the Mississippi, I have to cross on certain flights and always on the, on the Windward edge of one of those.

It's like, boom, there it is. And I get right up to it. And it's just, it's like clockwork.

Speaker 1 (1h 25m 40s): Have you learned anything about how cloud streets form and flying over all this terrain? Is, is it, you know, is it, are they often more lined up? I mean, obviously the lineup with the wind, but are they more lined up with where there's more water where there's more roads where there's more towns?

Speaker 2 (1h 25m 58s): Oh, I wish I had the memory to figure that out. No, I just, I just went, it's a good day. They're lined up, you know, what's weird is you'll see them, you'll see like three streets to your ride in three streets to your left. You know, you're just like on a super highway, like an LA highway of pod streets and you just pick your lane and, and, and go when it's booming. You know, when it's like that, sometimes it's not, sometimes you have maybe just four streets, cause you're in this nice little pocket of weather that's producing the clouds. But you know, you can see not that far over it's blue.

And in fact, you'll see sometimes you'll see a ahead. I'm coming up on a big blue patch. And sometimes that's the day rebooting. Like I've gone in, I've dove into blue patches and this is important to this. This was big for me that when you get to a blue patch, just keep going. It's just going to be the same. It's just our clouds. I don't know why I'm not a meteorologist thank God I know Chris galley. Cause he gives me so much great advice about that stuff. But if I flew on my own weather advice, I'd probably never fly, but I've dove into blue holes.

And sure enough, like for instance, if, as I told you that formula where I was climbing to seven grand and catching it four, same thing will happen. I'm in the blue and it's doing the exact same thing. It's just not forming a cloud. Why? I don't know, I don't have enough weather knowledge, but then often as I continue in that blue hole, clouds will start again. You know, and then I'm, I'm back in cloud. So I think a lot of people would get hung up and be like, I don't know, maybe I should really talk this one out. It's like, no dive in. It's going to be the same experience.

Speaker 1 (1h 27m 28s): Wow. That's interesting. I haven't experienced that as much. Maybe that should be, so I'm just going in with more trepidation. But I remember I asked Hauns about blue blue holes and he said that it just, like you said that the same thing is happening, but the thermals probably aren't as strong because they're not getting up high enough to hit the dewpoint if you've got clouds in other places. So he said, it's, it's more of a coin toss. You know, it, it, it's probably, there's some reason it's not working as good.

Speaker 2 (1h 27m 56s): Yeah. But you ought to think about it. You on a big flight and let's say you're, you know, 80 miles in and you've come up to that blue hole. Any, any lack of confidence there, it's kind of unwarranted. It's like, whatever, just go in and dive in and fly with that same kind of tempo because it's probably there. And at least my experience has been that generally. That's what I, maybe I have to climb a little bit more. Maybe I'm a little bit more cautious, but if I get too cautious, then I've, I've blown. Why I'm out there that day, which is to go as far as possible.

So I don't know. I'm certainly not an expert on it, but, and, and to your first question, no, I don't really know why they form better. You know, if, if there's a topographical reason on the ground, that's, that's making them, I don't know. There's so little topography where we are that I think that they could, they could maybe form with abandoned. You know, when they do form, they can really form because there's really nothing dissuading them from that on the ground.

Speaker 1 (1h 28m 55s): Do you think you fly better by yourself or with others?

Speaker 2 (1h 28m 60s): I love to fly with people. Luckily I seem to have kind of a Robocop ability to see if, if I'm flying with you Gavin, I will, I will know. And I'm not bragging. It's just, I seem to have this skill that I can tell that you're in a better climate. I'll come stomp right on top of your ass. You know, if I have more altitude to do, for instance, I love when you're with other pilots, how much information you can gather from their flights as well as your own. And it, it makes it like when you're, when you, mostly you fly by yourself to fly with other pilots is almost like effortless.

It's just so much more simple. You, you know, when we're in Colombia, we're, we're, we have a discipline. You know, we all launched together within 30 seconds of each other. We all climb out. And as soon as we go on glide food, we fan into a perfect formation that allows us to sniff as much air as possible. And then as soon as somebody has the climb, we don't have to say it on the radio. We're all looking and you can just see, okay, Chris has got it, let's go and get in and get up and then continue that. And so when I'm with people, my biggest problem is shutting up because I just want to fuck around and talk and like, Hey, make jokes, whatever.

And, and that's really distracting. And I'm awful in that regard. People have turned their radios off on flights with me. So, but no, I love it, but I do tend to fly probably more by myself than anything. Unfortunately, that's just the nature of, it's really hard to tow and fly with somebody. We, we, if I, with a good pilot who has a good goal, but we have a method it's pretty simple. We just call it a double or a triple toe where if you've got two systems, you've got a pilot, this is, you know, similar skill level to yours in a similar glider.

That's really important. Cause it's hard to wait. If somebody has got a slower glider, one truck is just, you know, a few 50, 20 yards ahead of the other. And you have both of them, both of the lines coming back. And the guy that's in the first truck pulls up launches 30 seconds later, the next guy launches. And you're both just going down the road, going up together. It's fantastic.

Speaker 1 (1h 30m 59s): Yeah. We, we twit around with this a lot in Texas, Cody and Dodge at an hour, kind of a team. And we played around with this a lot. And what we found the best was is we had, we had three tow rigs and we had two runways. And so the first two would tow pretty close to one another, like you said, boom, boom. And then the, the often we didn't have enough drivers or whatever to have the, for the third person to go that fast. And then, you know, obviously you're going to wind those rigs in, so you don't want to have the third person to close off.

And the third person was quite a bit later, you know, minutes later and it's really windy. So they're going to be way off, off the back. Right. But we found, we played with, okay, one person goes and then they fly slow. And two people try to run them down. The best was definitely two people to go. They don't fly fast. The third, person's got two people to track, you know, to look at and catch up to and that, and then once then you're together and then you can then you're off. And it usually you'd be together pretty quick. That works. That worked pretty well.

Speaker 2 (1h 31m 59s): Yeah. And there's a pilot, a local pilot here named Alex Peterson. He and his brother are kind of OJI Paragon guys from back in the day. And I didn't know them back in the day, Alex talks about, they would put, I would call it a Y cord where basically you've got one line coming off the Tilburg and then they'd put a two lines off of that. So they would basically be side by side. Oh, wow. Yeah. And so you got this white cord. I don't know how much length we should talk to Alex about how, how, how much line that they ran out.

So that if you're on a dirt road, for instance, you know, one guy, one guy, one side, one guy on the other and you both pull up and then you're basically, you just have to keep apart. You know, it's

Speaker 1 (1h 32m 38s): Sort of like two dogs on one leash kind of a thing. And he said, because it was his brother and he knew his brother's skillset. And they were like, you know, tied at the hip. It was a piece of cake for them. You certainly want to, wouldn't want to be tethered to some donkey, you know, going up that you know is going to be banging into you or whatever. But if you know the pilot and you know, their skills, that's something, we, I haven't experimented with it because quite frankly it happens. So seldom that I'm flying with there's this very few people flying here. I'm not saying that I'm an amazing pilot by any means.

It's just there aren't many of us. And so it's, it, it, it tends to be something that it's not a problem. Nick and Alex, Alex is one of the first people I've ever flew with way back in the day. At 2006, he was living out underneath Mount hood and he was doing some radical stuff back then. And yeah, I mean, legend and I haven't seen that much since they've been sick. Nick was around for a bit. I did some tow stuff over the water with him and Santa's way, way, way back when, but I haven't seen those guys in ages.

He actually just sent me a Facebook message recently. That was really fun. But I didn't know. That's where they were. I didn't know they're out there.

Speaker 2 (1h 33m 47s): Well, Nick has passed away.

Speaker 1 (1h 33m 49s): Right? That's right. I forgot about,

Speaker 2 (1h 33m 51s): Yeah. And Alex is just a fantastic guy. Alex actually told me on my flight this year. Yeah. He, I bought my, I have my own tow rig. And my biggest challenge is finding people that can at the drop of a hat. Cause you know, you get a day, you get 24 hour notice on a big day that it's going to be, you might see it three days out, but you can't call somebody three days out and go, can you drop everything? And told me possibly on Friday, you know, usually it's a 24 hour notice thing and, and Alex was able to do it.

And it was so great to have a pilot towing you because it was a burly day. It's hard to pull up in high winds tone, you know, you're tied to the damn line and you gliders yard up and you know, it's two liners, so it's fussy. And it was great to have a guy that understood that. And then chasing me, it was fun because he'd be, he'd actually say, Hey, what do you think of that cloud to your right? And I'd be like, goddamn. I was just looking at that. I think you're right. It's time to move streets or whatever. It was super fun. Yeah.

Speaker 1 (1h 34m 49s): Cool. Tell him, I said, hi, Hey, we're going to get to a mishaps here. I know you got to weigh more than one funny story, but I know you're going to tell, tell one, before we do the great thing about goals and also the worst thing about goals is you hit them. You know, so they gave him something to drive towards and they also, you know, just experiencing this and in deep right now with the X Alps. So you went 228 miles. You were shooting for this, the vaunted 200. Congratulations. We did it now.

What?

Speaker 2 (1h 35m 21s): Well it's funny. Cause Chris, Chris galley is, is, you know, you know, like with the X Alps, you have all this help. You're not just running around by yourself. You've got support and I've definitely had amazing support of mating, amazing mentorship and, and guidance. Chris has been somebody I've known for many years and on a good day that I will at least a day that I feel is going to be good. I get confirmation from him and I'll call him up and say, what do you think? And he quickly looks at it and he's gotten pretty good at the, the weather systems in the MidWest, which is great.

And his wife is from here. So Sarah's from the Midwest. So it's not completely foreign. Right. And he gives me advice. Well, at the end, when I had got it, of course, one of the first calls I make is thank him for, you know, helping me see the day. And then he's like, so cause you know, he's had the 200 for a long time and when I would fall short on flights, you know, I'd be again calling to thank him for weather advice. And he said, that's okay, buddy. Just so you know, I think he said he was at 1 96 for six years trying to break two.

And I, and that always made me feel good. It's like, okay. Okay, good. So somebody else has also failed as miserably and for as long as I have, because it isn't just, it isn't just being good enough to stay in that for the day. It isn't just enough to, to quiet your mind, to stay in the saddle for eight or nine or six hours, whatever it's, you have to find the day. And the day is rare. You know, it's, it's so rare to find a meteorological setting that you can enjoy for that amount of distance, you know, that will stay consistent.

It's just a really rare thing. So anyway, I'm talking to him after the flight and I, and he said, so just like you he's like, so what do you think? And I said, well, dude, I'm stoked. He goes, I know what's next. And I go, well, two 50 for fuck's sake. He goes, yeah, good man. He's like, yeah, yeah, you've got the best. Yeah. It's two 50. Yeah.

Speaker 1 (1h 37m 20s): And that's when you do it there. Yeah.

Speaker 2 (1h 37m 23s): I like doing it here. I could have gotten, I don't, I'm not, I, I, maybe I couldn't do it, but I think I could've gone to Brazil and got a 200 mile flight there's places you can go and almost be assured of a 200 mile. For me. It wasn't about flying 200 miles. It was about flying 200 miles in my state from this place. And, and, and it's hard. It is really hard to find the day. And so it had value. It gave it a lot more value and by the way, chasing it, I didn't have to leave my family. And I didn't have to, you know, post up in some cruddy hotel in some small town, you know, chasing it's right here and it's convenience and fun and reward and all kind of, so yeah, I want to do two 50 here and I think it's probably quite possible again, finding the right day.

Speaker 1 (1h 38m 10s): You, you tossed the laundry in, in the, I think they call that the battleground between St. Vincent and St. Andre. That's very deep Maritimes France. It's that? That's one of the, one of the first places I did a big XC and I got in deep trouble in there too. I didn't toss, but man should have a way, way, way back when I was doing a trip with Toby cologne, you know, he does those little niece to Annecy kind of

Speaker 2 (1h 38m 41s): Far he kinda

Speaker 1 (1h 38m 42s): Safari thing. Yeah. I did a couple of those with him two years in a row. And, and we flew that to battleground. It's a hundred K and it's radical. So what happened to you?

Speaker 2 (1h 38m 52s): Well, okay, first off you had guidance, which, you know, if I had half a brain, I would have had to, but my buddy, Phil and I were just in France, the two of us banging around chasing weather, you know, finding, finding good places to fly. And for whatever reason, we ended up in St. Vincent St. Vincent and, and enjoyed that one day, we enjoyed just kind of, you know, you'd look at the mater, go across and you go to that other mountain and you can go down that valley and whatever. And that was fun.

And then another day we ended up going from launch hooking to the, to the left bench up that mountain. And then you've got that valley to Ron and, and we got pretty far and we thought, huh, maybe this is something. And then Phil, he's an engineer type. And he's smart as a whip and a great pilot and a fantastic human being, by the way, that needs to be said. And he figures out, oh, well, there's, this is kind of a milk run, going to sauna Andre from here. I'm like, okay, milk run.

I liked the sound of that. How do you do a milk run? Fuck. Yeah. And the next day it's windier first big bone head mistake. And, and we know we know one person, cause we've been hanging around here for a couple of days and we're staying at a sheet that isn't too far away. And there was a pilot there who's training and his instructor is somebody we met and it's just very kind intelligent French man. And we're about to launch. And he says, what is your plan? What's your plan today? And I'm like, well, I think we're going to, we're going to go to St.

Andre buddy.

Speaker 1 (1h 40m 24s): You know, what's your plan

Speaker 2 (1h 40m 26s): With blind fucking stupidity and competence. And he's like, he pats me on the back. And he says that windy today. You know, he doesn't, he doesn't say stop for you to, I don't know, but he's be advised it's it's windy today. And I was like, not too windy to lodge, bitch, look at this, you know, and go and we start going and I'm so bad. I mean, you can't imagine there's nobody that can tell you less about anything that I can in terms of wind direction and like I've well into the flight.

Not that far into it. I have lost track of where the wind is. Cause you know, you get in the mountains and it can, and I think it's one direction and Phil clearly much smarter than me knows that it's, it's another and he approaches this I'm a little bit behind him. And he approaches this mountain from what I think is in the li and I'm like, dude, what are you doing? And we're sort of squabbling on the radio about which way the wind is. He goes, what do you mean what I'm doing? I'm, I'm, I'm getting a climb here and I'm like, fuck, dude, it looks like you're going to be in the lead there. I think you need to come a little bit more to the, you know, and he's like, you're an idiot.

No, no. And I follow my instincts and I, I get first off, I get deep and low and I'm in wind and long story short, I ended up in this like box canyon, low starting to get just on the precipice of getting below the Ridge level. And it's high, you know, it's like 10,000 feet. So the road is just going to be magnificent and Phil's like, oh shit, oh shit, shit. You know, cause he's climbed up already. He's up, he's up maybe 800 feet above me or whatever.

And, and I'm getting low and I've started to realize how bad this is because I'm going backwards going against this rock face. And I'm so scared that tears are coming out of my eyes. I'm crying. Like I call it a dry cry. Cause I'm crying with fear, but I'm not crying. I'm just, I know I'm fucking right. And he filled try, he actually spirals down to try and sort of help me find maybe I can find, yeah, I know by the way.

Yes. And he pays a high price for his kindness. Okay. As you well know when you're gripped, you don't climb well. Right. And I'm just beyond gripped and we do find this little piece and we're starting to get above and it looks like we're going to get out, but I screw it up and I fall out of it. And pretty soon I've gotten I'm now going into this box canyon and Phil is, has had enough altitude to sort of fall off the other side, the safer side. And he says to me, he's scared and it's in his voice on the radio.

He says, Thad, do the best you can. And his radio goes out and cause we've, he's gone below and I've gone below. And my glider, by the way, I'm flying US. I'm flying US. The Sigma five, advanced Sigma five, I think was what it was. Yep. And so you get idea where I was in my progression and that glider starts to do things that I didn't know, a paragliders to do. It literally went from flying to under my feet in, in this, this amount of time.

And it was under my feet and I'm falling down towards it. And I remember I had to pull my legs in sort of tuck them up, like to not get in the lines as I passed by my glider. But then it flew again and I'm flying and, but it's still making a lot of sound and sometimes it would, it would be in front of me and then it would be back up and you know, my little is going okay, well it's flying half the time. This isn't all bad. We're doing all right. Let's we get out of this.

There's no way on God's green earth. I'm getting out of this. And at one point it did something horrible, like way down below me or off to the side below me and I, and I get my reserve out, you know, I, I ended up full, I pull it out and it's hanging, you know, from the, from the thing and I'm holding it and my glider starts flying again. And I'm like, oh, I still have this. So now I'm flying the paraglider with a dangling reserve, kind of dangling in my lap, kind of hitting me against the chest, kind of thump, thump that's I'm flying.

And it does something else. You know? I mean, I swear to you, I've never seen anything like it. If people talk about Big rotor, I can tell you firsthand, it's unbelievable what it does to your paraglider. And finally, I pulled my head out of my ass and tossed, you know, and it, and it worked, it worked beautifully. I remember it opened up, it was one of those gin Yeti's it was yellow, round yellow. And it just was like this magic, beautiful thing above my head. I, I got a quick glance at it. And then immediately you look down like, okay. And it's just scree, like 90 degree angle of stones and boulders and scree and tall pine trees like shitty little tall pine trees.

And I'm like, well, I wonder what two broken legs feel like, cause I'm sure I'm going to bust, you know, get busted up. Cause you know, you're going down fast. And I was able to pull the glider in a couple of handfuls and bam hit and nothing happened. I just kind of did a natural pilot. What does it PLF? I think I did just a, like a, like if you dropped a dummy out of a helicopter, it'd probably PLF about as good as I did cause I did. And I was okay. And the wind is still just charging up the bow and it's dragging me by my, by my glider and my, my cause I've got the glider stills open and, and the goddamn, you know, parachute is up.

So it'd be kind of face first dragged up this scree field. I remember that you're supposed to grab the middle thing and I put, you know, I get the thing and long story short, I pack all that up. This is short. I apologize by pack all that up. We're getting to the good part, by the way, this is all just stupidity. I pack up and I'm like, okay, well I can walk down because I know that there's a valley. And then you know the road and it'll be a long hike, but I start walking down the mountain slowly and I got to a point you can't, it's just sheer granted for like 3000 feet.

You can't, you can't walk down from this mountain. And I spent a fair bit of time circumnavigating trying to find a way down. And there's none. Now I should mention I've been on the radio repeatedly looking for my friend because I want to know that he's okay because he was also in the shit. Right. And he's not coming on the radio. And so I realized, well, all I can do is go up. I can't go down. I can go up though. So I start climbing up this mountain and it's a long time. There's parts of it where I'm literally on all fours with my big, you know, fucking backpack, like a turtle climbing with I'm crawling and using like little scrappy trees to help me find my way.

And I finally get above the treeline. Now it's just, you know, the stone and I find a way up. And I finally, finally finally make it to the top. And just as I get to the top, Phil comes on the radio. Cause I, I keep checking like every five minutes I fail, fail, fail. And he comes off. I'm like, oh my God, he's alive because he thought I was dead. And I assumed he's dead. You know, we both kind of, so we have this great, like, like, no, no, no, I'm fine, dude. I'm up on top now, where are you? And ends up. He's about three spines over. And we fight, I find him by, he says, see the shadow.

Cause he could tell, you could see a shadow coming in. When the shadow got to him, he said, I'm right here. The shadow just hit me. And so I kind of knew where he was, but he even took out his glider to show me like he popped his glider out and I could see, cause it was quite a ways away. I'm like, okay, well what the fuck are we going to do? Cause he tried to get down to he's like, there's no way off this mountain. I said, yeah, there's, there's no way. I said, did he crack all that? Yeah, he didn't crash. He, he just had a really hard landing. Okay. And was in a lot of, a lot of rotor, but was able to manage it. And he had, you know, he wasn't in this box didn't thing like I was so, but he put himself there for me for God's sake, you know?

I mean, he was well out of this and he came down to this. I mean, that's just incredible. He's an incredible guy. So I decided by the way, the gear that we have back then remember the Garmin, I think it was called the garments 76. It was that little rectangular. That's all I got. I got, yup. I got that thing. And I got a little fly master Verio and I got a Motorola flip phone and flipping it open. I, I have no bars, no fucking bars, but I know the valley is that way. And I'm on this kind of spine.

And I figure it's about a half an hour, 40 minute walk out to get me as close as I can to the valley, which is at least close to civilization. And so I take a GPS reading of where my kid is and I leave my kid here and I tell Phil Phil's, Phil's looking for water because if we, if we need to stay tonight, we're going to stay up on the mountain. I'm going to walk to him. And so he's going to find water and I have one phone number in France and it's that instructor that told me it was too windy. We got his number and I don't know how, but we have his number and I'm like, okay, well I know that, oh no, no, no, I'm sorry. I have the student's number.

And I know that he could probably get us a helicopter from that guy. Right? Yeah. The student is just this lovely guy. That's from Paris and he's just training to be a pilot. So he wouldn't know how to get a helicopter, but I knew that guy would, and I have his number in my phone. So I take my ancient, you know, ridiculous, Motorola flip. And I've got the GPS location, you know, written down and I walk out on the spine and I get a bar, maybe a bar and a half, you know, it would go like one bar, a bar and a half. And I start dialing this number.

And of course it fucking doesn't go through and it doesn't go through it. Doesn't go through, you know how you get that beep no, I keep doing it. I keep doing, I keep doing, I keep doing, I keep doing it. And finally it rings and he answers and he's he says, ah, we, oh, Hey. And I, I apologize. I can't remember this guy's name, but I wish I did because he was, it was so great. And I said, Hey, let's say his name's Pete, Pete it's fad. I'm sorry to bother you, but please listen carefully. I need a helicopter rescue.

And I need you to take down some information to organize it. We're sort of in, we've got a problem here. And he goes, oh, you please quit being such a jackass. It don't bother me. You know? Cause he thinks I'm fucking with him. Cause we've just been screwing around all the time where we're having meals and stuff at the sheet. So he thinks I've called him to make a joke and he hangs up on. Yeah. And so there I am. Do I do it all over again? I call a hundred more times until finally it fucking rings and he picks up again. He goes, quit bothering me.

You jackass American. And I'm like, no, no, no, no, no, no, no. Do not hang up. Do not hang up. Please do not. This is for real. And he starts to believe, I say, okay, here are the coordinates. He goes, okay, just one minute. Let me write this down. And he writes it down. And then I gave him my radio frequency. I said, we've got our radios on up here. So if you need to give that to the helicopter, that would be great too. So once again, because he didn't know his English. Wasn't great. I said, once again, it's a helicopter rescue. Super important. Yeah, yeah, yeah. I got it.

And I go back, I marched back success to, to my gear and to Phil and I'm like, I did a buddy. We are looking for a helicopter ride. I got us covered, buddy. No more need for water. Daddy took care of business. Right. And so we're sitting there and on I've left my radio on and all of a sudden it starts to kind of start to hear that somebody is trying to come on the frequency and I'm like, oh, that's interesting. So I start listening and Phil can hear it too.

And lo and behold, so it's been a, maybe an hour and a half since we've had the call and I'm sort of looking at the sky for a helicopter and finally they come on and it's the instructor of his. And he says, that's been our way. I'm looking for you. Where are you? And finally, I, I, so I get like, Hey, Hey, where are you guys? How you got good radio here? Yeah, no, I'm still up here on the mountain. And he goes, yes, we are at the mountain. Where are you? We are ready to pick you up to drive you back. And I'm like, no, dude, we're not on the ground.

You're way up on the top of this thing. And he's like, what? And I'm like, and so Phil speaks French and Phil helps him realize, dude, you're, we're on the top of the mountain. We need a, and it's kind of getting closer to dusk now. So maybe we need that quick. And he, he totally gets it. And he calls the helicopter. Now, now I'm getting excited because you know, it's going to be fun and, and I'm sitting there now. The biggest thing is they're going to come to my coordinates. And so I have to bring the helicopter to Phil and he's three spines over, he's a world away.

Right. But I know where he is cause he's shown me. And so I'm standing there with my gear on, because I start to hear the helicopter. You hear it, you know, it's like a half an hour later, your dot, dot, dot, dot, dot, dot dot, because it's a big valley and you just, and then they start to see the blinking light. And I'm like, oh, this is so awesome. And, but I'm like, don't get too excited. Cause remember you got to take him to where Phil is. So I'm looking and there's, you know, Phil's their helicopter. Oh, really excited. I'll Phil's over there. Don't forget. We're Phil is. And finally they show up and they don't just come over to you.

I don't know. You probably know this. I didn't, they don't just come over to you. They sort of hovered nearby and a guy jumps out and he's got the awesome French fucking helicopter rescue uniform on. And you know, everybody, there's so fucking handsome anyway. And he's got the cool helmet, you know? And I'm like the, fuck it buffoon American with fucking nose tape on and his head up his ass standing on top of this mountain, just trying to remember where my buddy is and it's exciting. And he keeps trotting over the helicopter, just calls by, by Rob booms up into the air and he comes running over and he's like, Mizzou, are you okay?

And I'm like, oh yeah, do that fine. I'm great. So great to see you. Good. And he just pushes me to the ground, you know, like kind of manhandled me down to the ground and I'm, so now I've got my pack on I'm on all fours and he makes this little, little hand signal with his, with his hand and the fucking helicopter just appears out of nowhere and I'm laying. And so I'm on all fours. Imagine just kind of doing like a cat cow and you know, yoga. I'm like looking at the ground and the fucking loudest thing that's ever been near me just comes and you see this big black skid just kind of go, okay.

And it's hovering like inches from me and they there's a whole crew in there. They just grabbed me by my pack, threw me inside the helicopter, which is, and they're like, you know, they, they stripped me of the bag to throw the bag and they're like, sit over there. You know, they've got this, this little sling chair, you know, kind of thing like military style and boom, they're in the air. They're just fucking in the air now. I don't know where we are. We rotate it. It's so I have no earthly idea where to find Phil.

And they say, they're all looking at me and they go miss you. There's one other to pick up. And I'm like, and there's four guys. There's two pilots, you know, two guys in the polishers and two other guys. And they're all, we're just in this loud fucking thing, the loudest thing you've ever been in in your life. And they're all looking at me like where's your body shit had. And I've got this little window. So I started, I poked my head out the little window and I picked her like fucking spasm looking out. And I'm like, I, it all is just the mouth.

I don't know. And so I get up and I'm running towards the door because the door is the biggest opening in the helicopter. It's an open door. Right. And, and you know, they see that and fucking guy just tackles me before I get close to it. And he's like, dude, you don't go near the door. He pushes me back in my little sling seat. And they quickly, the crew has quickly realized this idiot has no idea where his friend is. Why don't we try to find them? And so they start doing this circular pattern around the top of this.

Yeah. And I'm just standing there like a fucking, I'm not sitting like just humiliated humiliation. I'm just sitting in my little slim chair. They're not paying any attention to me. No, of course not. And one of them comes over to me and he's got this little pad of paper and a little pencil with a string attached to it and he goes, miss you, what does your name and address please? And he hands me the thing to put his Nan. I'm like, oh yeah, this just for that bill, you know, fuck. Yeah, they need, they need, cause they probably want my driver's license.

And you know, I'm just thinking and it'll have to be thinking, you know, Gavin, you know, you know Wisconsin, but I'm like, no, no, no, I'll own this. And so I write down my name and address and I give it back to me. He goes, thank you. And lo and behold, they of course find Phil. Now Phil's been on the ground for a long time. And he's realized what's happening. That, you know, there's no way on earth. Dad's going to take him to me. And he's just like, fuck, I may never get out of here, but he's jumping up and down and fills up very tall.

So he can only jump so high, you know? And he's jumping around and they, they find him, they pick him up, they throw him in the helicopter, just like they did me. And I'm just laughing because it's so great. I'm so relieved. And, and he's looking at me like you fucking idiot and you can't hear anything. Right. And the helicopter immediately goes up and it just hovers and it waits and, and, and they go to Phil and they're like, miss you, your name and address please. And Felix would be like, motherfucker, I ain't paying for this. So this is on you. And I've given him the handsome.

I was like, oh, it's all good district out. Write your name down. I'll pay. It's fine. I'll pay. And he does that. And then the two pilots who realized Phil can speak French. They asked Phil in French, where would you like to go? And Phil's like, where would we like to go? We assume we're going back to your, the field you took off from, you know? And they're like, no, where would you like to go? We will take you. And so they, they took, yeah, well, we just wanted to go to our friends who had driven all that way to come get us.

So we drove, there was this town below and, and they just spiraled down to that town. We, we right where our buddy's car was and they hovered through us. They threw our bags out, asked us to jump out and, and, and we did. And then they, they all stood at the door and the two guys stood at the door and waved as they took off. And we just laid in the grass. And I, I mean, I was like one of the deepest laughs I've had in a long time, we just bellied laughed about the absurdity of what we just went through. Cause they saved our lives completely.

And the, the instructor came up and he's laughing too, because he knows what as clowns we are. And he's like, I can't believe they just dropped you off in that beautiful $5 million helicopter. And I said, I know, dude, what is that going to cost me? Nico's costume. I said, well, I mean, I think in the states that's like 20 grand and he goes, oh no, no, no, it's France. It's all free. It's all free. You're good. I said, no, no, no. They took my name and the dress. He said, no, no, no. They want to fly that helicopter. They need your name and address to justify the jet fuel they needed, you know, to get to you so awesome.

So he, he said, he said, I said, I know, but they really thought I was a clown. He goes, no, no, no. They like you. They, they think pilots are cool and they want to fly that thing around all day. So you just gave him a great excuse to go fly their fancy helicopter. That's awesome. So two things, Hey, if you ever have problems in France, the helicopters are free. A little tip from me. And secondly, I mean, think about what, I mean, if, if anybody could prove their friendship to me, what Phil did that day, you know, coming down into what I was struggling in was just monumentally kind.

So just a really, it was a really interesting moment in my life and obviously gave me kind of PTSD flying for a while. After that. I don't think you go through something like that without kind of re refiguring. But the next thing I did, I think the next day we went to Tijuana and I bought, I bought the fly masters, 60, 30 flight tech flight tech. Yeah. The 60 30 then. Yeah. I love it. Still mine too. Cause it had the wind sock, you know, which I definitely need the wind sock.

Speaker 1 (2h 0m 39s): Jeff Shapiro calls that an inexpensive lesson. You know, we, we need these, we need these inexpensive mistakes that teach us a lot about surviving the next time we fuck it up.

Speaker 2 (2h 0m 51s): Well, it changed everything. I mean, I definitely, it definitely was an arrest. You know, it arrested my progression for a little bit because I reconsidered everything, my glider, my skills, my progression, you know, and I flew very timidly and flew very seldomly after that. And it took me years to really build back up the confidence and understanding that, you know, that was an isolated incident that you really did screw the pooch on. I mean, I couldn't have made more mistakes. Yeah. Have you been rescued off the, off the cuff here?

Have you been rescued by helicopter?

Speaker 1 (2h 1m 24s): I've never had a mean, you know, my only real accident was the one I had right before the race, you know, two weeks before the X outs, I, I pounded hard, man. It was a,

Speaker 2 (2h 1m 35s): I heard your whole appraisal of that. And surprisingly Gavin, I had a similar thing happened to me at the same time. I'm still recovering from my injury. I tore a rotator cuff. I've probably towed. Well, let's say at least 500 times maybe it's in the thousands. I don't know how many times I've told, but I've told a lot. And I was strapped in, got the line. Connected driver was pulling out. They always pull away with light tension and great day. Alex was flying with me. He had already, he had already got up to 10 grand, 10 grand days and Minnesota are very rare and extremely fun.

And he went, I let him tell first he got up. He said already at 10,000 feet. So I'm super stoked about the day, but it's, it's kind of a, it's pounding. You can tell there's a lot of energy in the day. And I pulled up a reverse in a nice wind turns, started to make my run. I had a little curve out on the, on the left side of the glider, which is very common with the two liner as you know, and it's the kind of thing you just sort of talk out on the run. So I'm just talking out that that left side is I'm running and the driver's on full tension now.

And I get picked up as I get picked up to the right, just picked up like a, like a marionette and slammed to the ground. I probably went up about 15 feet and then just cook a job on my side. And it's never happened to me in my life. And we've we've we think it was a dusty basically I got hit with a dusty cause we saw Dusty's that day that I've never seen before. We saw one that went up about 7,000 feet off a, of a dry corn field. So it was a really, really, really pungent day. And I just happened to, there was no side of it.

I think it came across behind me and, and I probably got in just a little tip of it and it picked me up and just slammed me down. And so I'm laying on the ground and I'm hurt so bad that I don't know if I'm hurt and I'm humiliated too. Cause you know, you think you're pretty good and you don't screw up launches for God's sake. And I'm laying on my side and I slowly get up and I'm like, okay, I can move. All right. And I, nothing feels great, but nothing feels broken. And I said to Neil, the guy to him, I said, let's just hook me up and get me off the ground before I start to hurt, because this seems like a great day.

And Alex and I went and had a nice a hundred mile flight. And when I landed, I was just beyond painful. I thought, I thought I broke my hip. I think you said the same thing you thought you might have for sure.

Speaker 1 (2h 3m 53s): I broke my hip,

Speaker 2 (2h 3m 55s): Maybe two. And I went to the hospital. They, we got a guy we hitchhiked cause our driver was quite a ways out and we hitchhiked to a hospital and I had a CT done. It was fine. I didn't, I just, I think I just strained all of those ligaments and stuff, but the lesson there a other than, you know, I I'll, I will be an idiot for the rest of my life. Is that no matter what you can, you can, you know, you can have a lot of judgment and a lot of sort of wisdom, but you can still get, you get tagged, you know, it's still a dangerous sport.

Yeah.

Speaker 1 (2h 4m 25s): Yeah. Mine was, there really weren't any red flags. It was weird. I mean, other than just flying a big day in Idaho, you know, that's always,

Speaker 2 (2h 4m 33s): The jurors was early too. You said it was in the morning, eight 30 in the

Speaker 1 (2h 4m 35s): Morning. It has 11. Maybe it was. I mean it was just turning on. I mean, it was more on than I thought, definitely because where, you know, where I was as in the trees where I crashed was in the Sage, just, I mean, it was a four minute flight. I launched, flew down this Ridge, didn't get anything turned left. I was going to top land and wait for the data to turn on more and then boom. But the dust, you know, when I, when I landed well crashed, I, there was nothing, no landing. It was just boom. You know, the, the, the reserve stayed over my head until I was in, you know, I sat there for quite a few minutes with it just tugging on me, just kind of going, holy shit, that, that wasn't good.

And then, you know, okay, you know, it might be all right. I kind of crawled out and then I had to bring it in, you know, my, my main wing was on the ground. Cause it, it, it had come down nose down, but the reserve was, you know, so it was more on than I thought it wasn't windy. It was just, I was on a Southeast facing perfect slope to start a day on, you know? So it was just coming up, but it wasn't, you know, an hour later it was ripping, but not when I was going. So yeah, I think I, same thing. I got hit by something weird that I couldn't see. And just boom.

But what was the, what was your question? No, I've never been rescued. I've never had, I've never had it heli, but you know, in France, I think there's an average of one helicopter rescue at day in Annecy. It's 360 a day.

Speaker 2 (2h 5m 52s): If you've flown anywhere near Annecy, they're under you all day. There's, there's a helicopter under you at least 15% of the day when you fly anywhere near Annecy. It's just part of the deal. Crazy. Yeah. You always think about getting a collapse and spiraling into those blades or whatever, but it seems to work out. I had actually heard they're getting more. They're actually going to start maybe charging people because it's becoming such a burden on the municipality.

Speaker 1 (2h 6m 16s): Yeah. I mean, it makes sense. Or some kind of, they probably should just have like a LifeFlight membership or something like we do here at least year everybody's paying into some kind of system, but that's amazing. That's so cool that it's free. That that was awesome. We've been, we've been at this for two hours and think we could go for a lot longer, but in the interest of protecting our, our listeners, we'll, we'll call it and great stories. Great mishap, glad that all worked out. Great. Inexpensive mistake. And can we just share some more sky crack with yourself, buddy?

Speaker 2 (2h 6m 49s): Well, thank you. This has been a true honor. I don't believe I'm worthy of the time you spent talking to me. And even the recording devices used for what I had to say, but it was serious. It's a real thrill. Thanks money.

Speaker 1 (2h 7m 2s): That was a lot of fun. I appreciate it. But If you find the Cloudbase Mayhem valuable, you can support it in a lot of different ways. You can give us a rating on iTunes or Stitcher or however you get your podcasts that goes a long ways to help spread the word. You can blog about it on your own website or share it on social media. You can talk about it on the way to launch with your pilot friends. I know a lot of interesting conversations have happened that way. And of course you can support us financially. This show does take a lot of time, a lot of editing, a lot of storage and music and all kinds of behind the scenes costs.

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