Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The Birthday Present

I know, I know, I'm a little overdue for a new post. Yes, my birthday was in April. Whatever. Sorry. Anyway, on my birthday (well, actually, it was the day after my birthday, but there were scheduling complications) the lovely and talented Ms. Geranium presented me with a round trip ticket to Denver. I looked at it and thought, why would she be giving me a ticket to Denver? The only reason I could think of was to visit our old friend, Bill. It just so happens that Bill is also one of the most respected paragliding instructors in the region. I've always wanted to learn how to paraglide, and the birthday present included paragliding lessons! Ms. Geranium had planned the whole thing, got my mother, siblings, and even our oldest daughter to chip in to help pay for the trip, and, on top of that, what with all the people involved, she still managed to keep it a secret until my birthday (well, actually, as I mentioned before, the day after my birthday.)

Wednesday, the day I left, the weather was pretty nasty. Even at 36,000 feet I could see clouds that were higher than we were, and the plane was bouncing around like, well, like something that is bouncing around quite a bit. We eventually got beyond the nasty weather (somewhere over Nebraska, I think), the sky cleared up and, aside from seeing another plane scream past us in the other direction at a distance from our plane that seemed to me to be closer than was intended, the flight was pretty uneventful.

Bill picked me up at the airport, we stopped at a park in Boulder and ate our Fraboni sandwiches. (Fraboni's is an Italian Delicatessen in Madison that makes the best sandwiches. Bill, as a former Madisonian, stipulated that the price of my paragliding lessons would include, among other things, such as signed CDs from the various bands in which I play, sandwiches from Fraboni's, so I picked some up before going to the Madison airport. I was feeling nice, so I also bought him a bottle of Fraboni's secret sub sauce.)

Me with a partially eaten Fraboni's #1 in hand.
Photo by Bill

We did a quick paraglider transplant from his car to the car of his other student (unbeknownst to me at the time, the reason for the transplant was that he needed to make room for all the gear with which we were going to fill his car) and headed to Bill's cabin in Coal Creek Canyon. Bill checked the weather forecast on his computer, which, apparently, he had been watching throughout the preceding few days, and decided that it was not looking good for paragliding on the Front Range, which meant... Road Trip! We were leaving in the morning for the Western Slope on the other side of the mountains, 275 miles from his house. Whilst getting some of my stuff out of his car, I saw some sort of creature running around in the dark. I tried to get a photo of it and went back inside.

"Hey, Bill! There's some kind of critter running around outside. It looked like kind of like a fox, but I can't imagine a fox hanging around your house."

Bill informed me that there were two or three foxes in the area that frequently came around looking for raw chicken. You might wonder why they would expect to find raw chicken at Bill's house? Hmm...

While Bill was feeding raw chicken to the foxes, I had the opportunity to get a few more pictures.

The next day, we packed Bill's car full of camping and paragliding gear and headed to the other side of the mountains. We took our time getting there, making a few stops along the way.

Bill in front of his house.

We drove past this house, made famous in the movie Sleeper.

Stopped at Loveland Pass. (Click on the photo to embiggen it so you can read the orange sign.) Climbed up those stairs in the background so we could get above 12,000 feet.

At 12,000 feet, even those few steps took the wind out of me.

Heading down the other side of the Continental Divide, the rocks changed color. Something to do with cutting through different layers. You might even think it made a case for tectonic shift. Nah! God just made it all that way 6,000 years ago to confuse the scientists.

Stopped to take a bike ride in Glenwood Canyon along the Colorado River, sometimes under and sometimes next to I-70.

The water looked a little rough, but Bill decided to take a dip anyway.

Nice t-shirt.

The Book Cliffs. I guess these guys extend all the way into eastern Utah.

Checking out a potential flying site, Bill decides it's too rocky.
Ankle and toe breaking territory.

Here's a big pile of rocks.

Another hazard for the would-be paraglider: cacti! They were all over the place. Pretty, though.

By the time we got to our campsite it was getting dark.

This is what I saw when I woke up the next morning.

Our campsite.

Bill and I spent the next morning scoping out the various flying sites he has used in the area. Actually, Bill did the scoping. I mostly followed him around and took lots of pictures. We met Bill's other student, Amanda, and spent most of that day and the next training on the ground. It was Amanda's birthday, too! Happy birthday, Amanda.

This is Amanda. Hi, Amanda!
Amanda was an excellent camping and flying companion. She was further along then I was in the paragliding certification program, so I was able to watch and learn from her. She seemed to have no fear. She's a very fun and nice young woman. Bill told me he thinks she is going to be an excellent pilot.

This is Amanda's colorful food.

This is Bill sampling some of Amanda's colorful food.

Bill and Amanda climbing in the Big Ol' Cottonwood tree in our campsite. They found some ticks in the tree. They got out of the tree rather quickly. Smart tree.

The Colorado Beer Bottle Bush. Its flowers look enough like beer bottles that yahoos will pollinate it running from bush to bush looking for beer. Or, maybe, beer actually grows on trees.... er.... bushes in Colorado.

The Car Commercial™.
"The 1988 Suzuki Sidekick. It takes you where you need to go. (Standard Equipment: two out of four electric windows actually functional.)"

The horny toad.

The wind sock. Sometimes it was nice to us.

This town ain't big enough for the two of us.

Amanda training on the ground.

Amanda demonstrating takeoff position.

There she goes!

Bill actually got one photo of me all decked out in paragliding gear, waiting for the wind to cooperate.

On the way back to Bill's house we made a stop and hiked up to Hanging Lake, elevation 7,200 feet.

So, I did get to fly, despite the brevity of my trip. It was more fun than a barrel of monkeys. (Why do people say that? Would a barrel of monkeys actually be fun? I sort of doubt it.) Okay, whatever, it was lots of fun. I want to do it again. I still can't believe Ms. Geranium did all that for me. It was a truly inspired birthday gift. Thanks to Ms. Geranium, the rest of my family and Bill! You're the best!

Coming soon: Ed Goes Paragliding, the movie.


Dr. Monkey Von Monkerstein said...

Totally cool!

Anonymous said...

Fabulous photos, amazing adventure! I confess I'm a bit jealous, but don't think I'm quite brave enough to try paragliding.


Suzy said...

A barrel of Dr. Monkeys might be fun. Especially if each of them had a jar of strawberry jam.

Ed, my dear, you are most welcome. It was a fun present to give you. I also can't believe that nobody spilled the beans. The look on your face was priceless.

raw chicken said...

The part about the foxes scared me, but I thought they were cute.

Ed said...

Thanks, Doctor. It was one awesome trip!

Hi, Beth. Thanks for the compliments. You should consider trying it. I think you would find that you are brave enough. With all your dance experience, I think you would learn quickly (see my next post for more on that topic.)

Suzy, a barrel of Dr. Monkeys might be a hoot, indeed. With ho-made strawberry jam. Too bad you didn't get a picture of the look on my face.

Hello, Raw Chicken, and welcome. Do I know you? I guess if I was raw chicken, I might have been scared by the foxes, too.

Suzy said...

Are you calling Dr. Monkey a HO?

Tricky raw chicken. Glad he confessed.

Ed said...

No, I did not intend to call the good Dr. a ho. I was making reference to that place in Door County that has a sign saying "Ho-made pies". I'll never be able to think about anything being home made, or ho-made, the same again. That raw chicken is a tricky one, though.