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Tennessee: Flying High at Lookout Mountain

July 4, 2011 by · Comments Off on Tennessee: Flying High at Lookout Mountain 

Lookout Mountain Flight Park

Flying High

 

Look out below; it’s a bird; it’s a plane; it’s me– hang gliding at Lookout Mountain in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

 

Woo-hoo and a hoot-hoot! I feel like an owl soaring through the sky on unfurled wings. The cloudless day blesses me with gorgeous views, rather like looking out the window of a low flying airplane, but…without the plane.

 

I’ve always dreamed of flying; as a kid I longed to leap from the window and soar off to Never Never Land like Peter Pan and Wendy. A few years ago, although scared, I jumped at the opportunity to sky dive. The incredible experience left me empowered enough to try just about anything. So, when a chance to go tandem hang gliding appeared, I knew I would go.

 

The outing began at mountain top where I found the pro shop and offices of Lookout Mountain Flight Park. Waivers and releases were signed and temporary student registration cards handed out. I wasn’t just going along for a ride, I was taking a lesson.

 


I drove back down the mountain to the flight school which sits within a 44-acre grassy field.  Here I met Dan Zink, manager, who had me step into a flight jacket of sorts with lots of tabs, hooks and rings. Then, a group of first timers assembled to watch a video and complete a short written test.

Suiting Up

 

Soon my pilot, the charismatic Eric Grue, called my name. He had just landed an earlier flight. Eric strapped me in a harness, more like a sling, as I lay face down in a horizontal position. Space was tight so I needed to snuggle up next to him, with my right arm over his back– one of the benefits for sure. The glider has wheels on a frame which allows it to be tethered to an ultra-light plane for take-off. Therefore, I did not need to fling myself off a cliff.

Getting into the Gear

 

The plane rolled down the field and slowly took off; we followed behind lifting with ease. No fairy dust needed; I was Peter Pan. The flight was surprisingly quiet but I could feel the rush of the wind on my face. Whew, pure exhilaration. Eric answered my questions and I had total faith in him- especially after he told me he had earned a Ph.D.

 

When the pilot reached 2,000 feet, the tether was released and our free flight began. I had a rush of euphoria but simultaneous calm; I think that’s a state of enlightenment. I honestly felt sereneness and joy.

 

Amanda Jobe, another first- time glider said afterward, “It was amazing. All my problems went away up there. It was the best way ever to start a day.”

Eric instructed me on how to control flight, “Push your hips and legs toward the left and the glider turns left. Want to go right, do the opposite. Pull forward on the bar and we’ll go faster, push back and we slow down.”

 

The technique was simple and I thought to myself “totally radical.” In that instant of ecstasy I forgot I was a sixty year-old grandmother. Instead I felt like one of those super cool Olympic snowboarders.

I’m still flying high.

If you go:

 

Lookout Mountain Flight Park is the largest hang gliding school and resort in the United States. Every year they teach, certify and solo five times as many pilots as any other school. Their 110-acre resort boasts cabins, bunkhouses and camping on site.

 

Lookout Mountain Flight Park
7201 Scenic Highway
Rising Fawn, GA  30738
800/688-5637 (toll-free)

www.hanglide.com

For other fun activities in the Chattanooga area please visit www.chattanoogafun.com

Top of Lookout Mountain

Zip Therapy

November 20, 2008 by · Comments Off on Zip Therapy 

The Benefits of Ziplining

Click to see video:
St Lucia Zipline

"If you never have, you should. These things are fun and fun is good.”
Dr. Seuss, Oh the Places You'll Go

When presented with the chance to ride a zip line on the Caribbean island of St. Lucia, I applied the above philosophy. How cool. Gliding through an emerald rainforest renewed my spirit and released giggles galore.

My friend and I arrived at Tree Top Adventure Park, near the village of Dennery, eager to try the challenge. Certainly wasn't expecting someone to flop a white bakery-style hairnet onto our heads; nor top that off with yellow helmets.

Next, we found ourselves draped in more harnesses and clinking chains than the ghost of Jacob Marley. Then, we donned extra heavy-duty leather gloves.

"Ready?" asked Daniel, a guide with an impish smile.

"Sure," replied Johanna, "but a little nervous."

"No problem," said Daniel, a hint of his Creole accent breaking through. "This is Simeon; he'll be helping out."

We climbed to a wooden platform built around a tree, making me feel akin to the Swiss Family Robinson. Daniel hitched three pulleys from his harness to a stainless steel wire strung across a ravine, then scooted off. Safety procedures require one guide to be on each end of the line.

"I'll go next," I shouted and lowered myself into a semi-sit, the harness cradling my body. Off I flew like Tarzan's Jane, suspended from a vine. The process was easy and the ride just scary enough to cause a rush.

Swoosh; I landed on my feet, laughing and raving about the wild ride. The rest of the group crossed over with equally happy faces and cheers. We were clipped into safety lines, and then our guides snapped us onto the next cable.

I found it hard to resist the urge to pound my chest like an ape and let out a deep yodeling cry. Trouble was I needed to grip the tether with my left hand and stabilize any rotation with my right.

During ten more rides, we frolicked as monkeys in the mist. We soared as colorful yellow-headed parrots; took flight over small gushing rivers, flew higher than treetops and danced in dense tropical foliage.

Helen, age 50, conquered her fear of heights and couldn't wait to tell her college-age daughters she won their challenge. Her husband David seemed to come alive, beaming with joy, as a child deep in an imaginary world.

I know it sounds dramatic to say a zipline escapade is therapeutic. But, for boomers fraught with creeping age, it just might be. The outing encouraged a return to carefree play, ignited laughter and an "I don't wanna grow up" attitude. Dr. Seuss is right: "These things are fun and fun is good."

Video: Riding the zipline St Lucia

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If you find yourself on St. Lucia, don't miss the chance to go ziplining:
www.adventuretourstlucia.com

Central Florida ~ I Went Skydiving

June 25, 2008 by · Comments Off on Central Florida ~ I Went Skydiving 

Flying

Skydiving wasn’t even on my Bucket List: that list of things to do before you die.

But here I stand: feet together, toes on the edge, knees bent, arms crossed and hands grasped to the straps. “3-2-1-GO,” yells my instructor who is harnessed to me and out we jump- plummeting at 125 mph toward earth. I kick my feet backward, close my eyes for a second or two, and open my heart. I want to enjoy this.

Immediately an immense wave of butterflies hits my stomach and then, just the rush of the wind. Opening my eyes, I see the world 14,500 feet below, and it’s beautiful.

I’ve just jettisoned out a Beechcraft King Air at the Florida Skydiving Center in Lake Wales, Florida. Before the jump, Buzz Bazzoni, head instructor, explained the procedures and safety rules to fellow students and me.

“Oh my gosh,” I scream, smiling now. “This feels amazing.” Not the most profound statement, but hey, I’m freefalling in my first tandem skydive, adrenaline pumping.

My senses tingle, on extra alert, reminiscent of the day my car was hit and spun in an accident. Each sensation registers simultaneously. I see, feel, smell, hear and taste the air as it pushes on my cheeks, making them flutter like a comic book character.

Pat Martin, my certified Zen-like guru, releases the drogue chute, a small thin parachute meant to slow down tandem jumpers, so their combined weight doesn’t allow them to fall too quickly. Later the drogue is used to deploy the main parachute.

What an odd sensation being tightly conjoined to a cute guy, his body smashed against my back. No, it’s not sexual but actually quite comforting.

Pat had to record at least 500 jumps and spend three years in the sport before he could receive his ratings and qualify as a Tandem Master. He must also be FAA medically certified, like a pilot. I feel I am in good hands.

FUN

Liz Sass, a videographer I hired at the facility, free falls as well. She approaches from midair, diving down. How she does this I don’t understand. She reaches out and grabs my hand, called “docking”, then swings me around. I’m having fun and not feeling scared. Liz makes me wave, throw a kiss and generally keeps me busy while I drop two miles. I feel like Peter Pan flying over hundreds of lakes in Central Florida. Gee, there’s a sports stadium and over there, the orange juice factory.

Pat checks the altimeter on his wrist. He does this often. He uses his fingers to count down, informing Liz when he will open the chute.

Shazam. Up we shoot like a human champagne cork, as if rebounding off a trampoline. The big Set-400 colorful canopy opens and billows above us.

Now our bodies hang more vertical. Margie Barron describes it, “as a bird on the thermals, just floating down.” The breeze keeps us aloft. I feel almost weightless, except for the pull from the chute on my shoulders and from the harness. It’s lovely up here.

Wispy, marshmallow puff clouds dot the air. Pat announces that we are about to go through one. Whoosh. I’ve always wanted to jump on a cloud.

Slowly we circle around; I see the drop zone, a grassy field. I look down and get a bit dizzy and queasy. I decide to gaze at the horizon instead.

I try to lift my legs out in front of me, like I must do for landing. Dang–a rather challenging task; should have done my ab exercises. Pat says to hold on to the ribbing on my jumpsuit, which makes it much easier.

We’re now close enough to yell to others on the ground; they respond with cheers. We zoom down and softly bump the ground, the heel of my shoes digging up a divot of grass. Whew- I take a deep breath in and let it out with relief.

Liz runs up to interview me. “What was the best moment?’

“When the parachute opened.”

“Did Pat take good care of you?”

“Absolutely.”

“What are you going to do next?”

“Go to Disney World.”

Well, actually I am going to call my family and tell them I jumped out of a plane three miles up and survived. Not only that- I loved it. They had no idea I went parachuting and will certainly be surprised, as I have a fear of heights.

“Hello, Jay. Guess what I just did? I went skydiving,” I cry.

My husband replies, “No you did not, you would never do that.”

My teenage daughter grabs the phone. “Mom, are you crazy? What were you thinking?”

My head is still in the clouds. I feel as thrilled as I did when I gave birth to each of my four children. Hormones zip through my body, the euphoria continues. I am empowered.

Yes, I earned lots of bragging rights; but when the newness dies, and the story has been told, it comes down to personal power. I opened myself to the world and took a chance. I soared to a new place and was fulfilled. I have touched the sky, found joy and I am alive.

Leonardo da Vinci, that Renaissance genius said, “, once you have tasted flight, you will walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you long to return.”

And I do.

Thumbs Up

www.FloridaSkydiving.com


Lake Wales on Dwellable

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