I am shortly going to be putting together a video of my time at the Blackhawk Ranch in Valley Springs, California, but until then I wanted to share with you the amazing thing which has just happened, my incredible foray into the heavens.
It has been a pretty intense 2 weeks, and as I sit at a coffee place in Plaza Las Americas typing on my laptop (who I abandoned for the last 2 weeks, I am ashamed to say) it almost seems like a hazy dream disappearing steadily as I wipe the sleep from my eyes.
The difference though is that this time, the dream was real, I actually did fly, and although it was definitely not as effortless as the real dreams that have for years preceded the main event, it was even more rewarding, more surreal, and incredibly exhilarating!
You hear it said so often, “Anything worth having is worth fighting for,” and I truly feel as if I have been through a battle. My body aches. The bruises on my upper arms are turning a lovely shade of purpley yellow, I lost the ability to lift my right leg for about a day (I am getting motion back now but that one was a bit scary, and made carrying a paramotor from San Francisco to Mexico more than a little tricky). My shoulders ache, my knee hurts, my back is yelling at me to lie down and every one of my nerve endings is frayed into a billion tiny pieces, but it was oh so worth it…
Taking a break from the weight
The training was as hard as I expected it to be, but my body was not as strong as I hoped it would be. The weird thing is, after a few days you learn how to cope with the weight of the engine and it gets a lot easier, so much so that I am sure when I have healed up and my wing gets here from the states (I couldn’t bring it with me unfortunately because of time restraints) I will be able to take off, fly, and land without doing myself any hurt at all. I just have to start doing lunges and squats to strengthen my very slender lady-like legs.
The training was amazing, thanks to our (It was just me and another fella, Billy, training for most of my time there) all round nice guy and trainer Joe Cruz, from Guam (cool name for a Paramotor dude right! Way better than Tyrhone Thomas Henry Tubbs). And the location was absolutely spectacular. The Blackhawk Paramotor Ranch is about an hour out of Sacramento in a friendly little town called Valley Springs, the view goes for miles, and once you are up in the air, for hundreds of miles!
Sarah chatting to me on one of my flights
Harder than it looks, especially with 60 pounds on your back
The drive to the ranch early in the morning was beautiful
We stayed at a really nice little place about 20 minutes from the ranch called “The 10th Green Inn”, and despite being the only place to stay close by, it was actually really good, all for $60 a night. The best part being they had a bath which I could soak my aching body in every night after training.
The training itself was intense. But somehow on day 1, Joe had me up in the air flying while he directed me by radio from the ground (lucky because it proceeded to rain for 3 days after that first sunny California day). I can’t describe adequately that first flight, and in truth any that came after it. It is such a bizarrely foreign experience for a human being to fly; and in particular with a minimum of stuff wrapped around you as is the case with Powered Paragliding, that I was in a state of disbelief and awe. As I accelerated and watched the ground and everything that was stuck to it turn into tiny little versions of what I have experienced for the last 32 years of my life, it was all I could do to remember to breathe.
Eventually I began to get over the fact that I was sitting in a little chair with a big kite over my head and dangling hundreds of feet in the air, and started to take in where I was, all while not breathing. I was flying above the birds, looking over hills which made up the valleys and seeing cities and towns far off in the distance. On one flight I decided to go as high as I could until Joe told me that “We’re not training to be astronauts buddy!” and I stopped ascending.
As I reached what Joe reckoned to be between 1500 and 2000 feet, the Sierra Nevada Mountains popped up all covered in snow with the setting sun making them shine, and it hit me…
I was flying.
I had done it, with an incredible amount of patience and support from my amazing girlfriend Sarah Somewhere. With fantastic training from Joe Cruz of Guam, and with the support of the entire Blackhawk Team; Heidi, Mike and Luis. I had reached for the sky and touched the clouds.
And then I breathed again.
Joe Cruz form Guam, Tae Kwon Do Gold medalist and PPG Pro. high flyin’, high kickin’ and high falutin’
Billy learning how to use the Gopro, thanks for the great recordings buddy
Heidi and Mike visiting the trainees on the field
This was an incredible experience, is an incredible experience. It reminds me that to truly live, you have to never stop reaching, or life might pass you by.
I was terrified a lot of the time, anxious some of the time, in pain then and now, but I have also never felt as alive as I have these past 2 weeks.
It just goes to show, if you dream big enough, not even the skies are the limit.
View at the end of a hard days training