Since my crappy unfixable auditory system is in the way of flying airplanes, I figured that hang gliders could be the second best option. Part of the reasoning is, pretty amazingly, that the bay area offers not one but a bunch of training locations. One of them is under 5 miles from my house. Very excitedly, I just showed up at the Mission Soaring Center in Milpitas and booked our first lessons for the upcoming weekend. Experience taught me that life-altering experiences like this should never wait unnecessarily. My coworker and avid cyclist Ken jumped right in, for he could not bear the thought of getting bored on the ground while we become airborne.
Our nearest location having a little unreliable training conditions for beginners, we had to drive down to the hills of Tres Pinos, near Hollister. It is a private property and we met our instructor Dave outside. All three of us were super excited and could not wait to start the lesson. We had another guy join us. John was having his sixth lesson and he showed us how to assemble a glider. Seeing the huge wing take shape was amazing.
Dave did a fantastic job showing us how to fly, in a very consistent way. Three of us shared a training glider, while John used a separate one. The first feeling of my feet leaving the ground was out of the world. It was a pleasure an order of magnitude higher than sitting inside a small plane, forget a commercial airliner. It was the bicycle equivalent of flying – being in the elements, wind in the face. No engines, batteries, or dependency on petroleum. It was nothing but unadulterated bliss.
We decided to take continued lessons for hang-one rating and beyond. The cost is nothing compared to the pleasure. Owning a glider is affordable, and even renting is quite cheap as well. The best part is that any ordinary sedan can carry one on the roof with a custom rack. I can’t wait for what awaits us in the future.
Oh and another thing. California is now back to being one of my favorite states, after I found out that it has the largest number of hang gliding sites in this country.
Flickr photoset: Hang Gliding – 2010
According to the latest United States Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association statistics, hang gliding is safer than a 25 year old man driving a car. You take more risk on the road than in the air.