In a few months my wife and I will be celebrating our 19th anniversary. This has me thinking about when we got married.
We spent our honeymoon in beautiful Durango, CO and had an absolutely perfect time doing such awesome things as horseback riding to the Maroon Bells, riding the train to Silverton, driving the Million Dollar Highway - and gliding above the mountains.
That's right you heard me - gliding above the mountains. This is where you hire a pilot to take you up in a two-seated glider.
The way it works is a small plane attaches a tether line to the front of your glider and literally tows you up into the sky. Then when you're high enough, the glider pilot releases the line and you float around over the mountains for an hour. The glider can stay up there pretty much all day if the pilot wants to because all he has to do is find a "thermal" air mass (which is warmer air that is rising) and circle his way back up to higher altitudes to begin the gliding journey back down again, just like the hawks and eagles.
The scenery is breathtaking and the feeling of gliding silently among the mountains is something I will never forget. Well, except for one part - but I'll get to that in a minute.
One of the cool things about it is you get to sit in the front of the glider right up against the windshield, and the pilot sits behind you. I went up with one pilot and my wife went up with another, and we were able to see each other when our gliders passed by and talk to each other through two-way radios. It was an amazing experience and my wife and I were positively animated as we chatted.
The pilots we hired were a married couple who had been doing this for many years and as a result, were able to tell exactly what their customers were experiencing during their rides. For example, after about 30 minutes of repeatedly dropping to lower altitudes and circling around to regain height, my pilot tapped me on the shoulder and said - "Hey Jeff, you about ready to head down?"
I was surprised he actually suggested that because we had paid for a full hour, but my stomach had apparently only purchased a half hour.
"Yeah, I think that should be ok," I said nonchalantly, trying to act like I was "cool" with heading down early because, you know, I had seen enough of the most beautiful landscape on earth - and not because I was about to blow chunks all over his windshield.
But my pilot was no fool and his experience told him he'd better get my ass down FAST! However, when you're in a glider there's really only one way to position yourself for a landing at an airport below you... that's right - by performing a series of really fast circles until you're in line with the runway and ready to set it down.
Well, needless to say, this only added fuel to the fire already burning in my belly. At some point right before we landed, the pilot reminded me that the bags were in the compartment by my elbow, which I immediately grabbed, opened and put into position. And sure enough, as if the runway were the trigger mechanism, the instant the wheels touched the ground I purged my lunch into the bag while we coasted to a stop.
Meanwhile, my wife and her pilot decided to follow us down because it just wasn't quite as much fun for her to be up there all alone without sharing the experience with me. So as soon as she saw me walking across the runway with my bagged lunch in hand, she burst into laughter. And even though I was a little worse for wear, I also thought it was kind of humorous.
But I was interested in knowing how the pilot knew so accurately that I was feeling sick.
"Oh easy... the first sign was that your conversation with your wife slowed down to almost nothing. Then you started to squirm in your seat. And I knew you only had a few minutes left in you when I saw the sweat beading up on the back of your neck."
All in all despite the fact that it cost me half the trip and all of my lunch, it was still one of the coolest things I've ever done. And if I ever get the chance to do it again, I'll make sure I don't eat right before I go up, and take plenty of Dramamine before I throw up.