Tag Archives: Travel

FLYING – Part One – HANG ON, DUDE

I’ve had a life long dream of flying. I want to float on the air waves (air currents?) like a bird

Not in an airplane.  They’re loud and scary and its taken me years not to puke every time I travel in one.

Skydiving is not an option as:

  1. See above air travel problem and;
  2. NO WAY I would have the stupidity courage to step out of a plane into thin air.

Parasailing is a possibility, but after my husband told the story of a friend of his on a Mexican vacation, who broke his leg on take off and they continued to fly him around with the injured leg swinging in the breeze, I think not.

Hang gliding.  That’s my ticket to soaring through the air along with my feathered friends.

Two years ago, on a trip to the Outer Banks in North Carolina, it took me a week to screw up the courage to call and make an appointment.  By that time, there were no spaces available.  Whew.  Darn.

This year’s trip to the Outer Banks included my daredevil nephew, Josh, who – upon hearing my dream – promptly called the local kite company and booked the two of us for the very next day.  Ack! Yeah!

Husband, in an attempt to get me to change my mind, repeated the parasailing story, adding more graphic detail about the broken leg and it’s position as it flapped away in the air.

“Bah!” I said.  “That was in Mexico!”  We went there once on our honeymoon and  rented a car and (as our local friends had counseled) requested one with seat belts.  The door-less jeep was delivered to the wide flat drive in front of our hotel.  We inspected it, located the seat belts, whereupon the uniformed employees handed us a large rock and disappeared.  We got in the car, pulled the buckles toward each other and felt the straps hang loosely in the air.  Yes, the seat belts came with the car, they just weren’t actually attached to the car. And the large rock? That, we discovered at our first stop as the parked jeep slowly rolled toward the ocean, was the parking brake.

But, I digress.

In the United States of America, where I was planning to hang glide, companies do things with safety in mind, as they know they will be sued otherwise.

In the United States, you pull off the highway toward a sparkling new building.  You then follow the hand written signs, through the freshly paved parking lot to a corn field, where you find a hung-over woman, with her shirt on inside/out, sitting at a folding table outside a dilapidated RV.

The woman informs you that in order to participate in a tandem hang gliding flight you have to have a hang gliding license. But, no worries, the test consists of eight yes/no questions on a tattered piece of paper.  One of which is “Are you aware that the FAA does not certify hang gliders for tandem flights?”

In America, a barefoot young man puts you on a ragged golf cart and careens around corn stalks to take you to the meadow airfield where more barefoot men stand around saying “dude” a lot.

Barefoot Hang Gliding Dude lies down, face first, into a hammock suspended from the A-frame poles of the glider.  Then, Golf Cart Dude straps you into another hammock that dangles over the top of Hang Gliding Dude.  He points out to you two fabric handles attached to the sides of the lower hammock. “Dude, use these if you feel like you need to hang on.  And, Dude, whatever you do, don’t grab any of the poles holding the kite together.”

Airplane Dude, with his grey hair in a pony tail, shouts “Dudes! I’m ready!” and climbs into his ultralight plane. A long black shoestring is attached from the back of his plane to the cross bar on the hang glider.

Hang Gliding Dude, swaying in his hammock, says, “Hang on, dude” and before you know it, you are bumping along, through a narrow patch of grass, in the middle of the a corn field, suspended by a couple of nylon straps, wrapped around a few aluminum pipes, covered in a scrap of nylon fabric.

Awesome, Dude.

What could go wrong?

What could go wrong?

When in England my friends, look right but always–ALWAYS–stay left!

Good Morning, Residents of Crazie Town.

IMG_0604After a good night’s sleep in our tiny hotel room in Oxford, England, I am sitting in the conservatory (pronounced conservatree) having my morning cup of tea.  I managed to negotiate the non-American breakfast buffet (pronounced with the T as in Warren) and picked some nice poached eggs. I even bravely chose a colorful “meat” link, but avoided a black hockey puck described as “Blood Sausage.”

Ignoring all the gluten free/sugar free promises I made to myself, I quickly abandoned my properly Paleo plate of food and instead snarfed my way through a delicious, crumbly croissant slathered in soft butter.  Yum.

I feel fine, really.

I feel fine, really.

As for that nasty sinus infection I’ve been fighting for two weeks – the antibiotics kicked in the morning of our flight and I made it through just fine.  

In a rare fit of genius, I’d asked the gate agent to see if there were any empty rows on the plane.  He (not so kindly) moved us to a row of three, so I was able to stretch out and get a few hours of sleep on the seven hour flight to London.

Upon arrival, we rented a car and cleverly refused the expensive SatNav (GPS to you Americans) as I’d borrowed my brother’s for the trip.  Off we drove, happy as clams.

I think we were supposed to turn left back there

I think we were supposed to turn left back there

Unfortunately, I could only get the screen to display a wide purple line snaking up north with a little blue car that floated from east to west in no discernable pattern. Turns out, I should have downloaded the “UK Maps” app to the GPS before leaving.  Oops.

Since my husband has the confidence of Paul Bunyan, we drove on, following the highway signs for Oxford.  We arrived in the medieval village, bumped over cobblestone streets and raced around roundabouts for an hour, with me shouting “Stay left! Stay left!” every five minutes.

In order to avoid a head on collision, John took a sharp turn and we ended up in a teeny tiny parking lot with one narrow space available.  Our Vauxhall fit perfectly.  We managed to extract ourselves from the car and walked down the sidewalk to our right. Not really sure what we were looking for or how to find it, two blocks later we turned around and walked four blocks to our left, stopped and walked the two blocks back to where we started.

Passing the Cous Cous Cafe for the fourth time, I grabbed John’s elbow and yanked him inside. “Please,” I begged the guy behind the counter, “can you help us find our hotel.” He told about the time he’d gotten lost in France and how the gentleman he’d asked directions from, drove him to his location.  “So,” he said, “I will do the same for you.”  He left his waitress in charge of his restaurant, got his car and waited while we retrieved ours. Then we followed him through a dozen twists and turns, back out on to the M40 and directly to our hotel.

We have been moving non-stop ever since, interrupting our journey just long enough to stop at every pub my husband deems “real,” where I choke down another order of fish and chips.

My tea is cold and John is ready for our next adventure.  A three hour drive to Wales.  

IMG_0612When in England my friends, look right, but always, ALWAYS, stay left.