Friday, May 16, 2008

Rocky Mountain High

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.

At first.

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.


Roger Miller said...

Way Cool!! Up to the losing your lunch part, of course.

Did you go to Purgatory as well? I hear the hiking there is great! I KNOW that the skiing is. Best part is, at least it used to be, low crowds, and GREAT snow.

Julie Pippert said...

It sounds VERY cool in theory, especially as you describe it. Then I remember we are talking about flying.

So...I am not showing my husband this post.

And happy upcoming 19th anniversary!

It's our 15th.

Gen said...

It sounded like a very cool experience right up to the puking part. I will do almost anything to avoid puking. Maybe I would have the same experience as your wife. But if there is a chance of pukage, I would probably pass.

Heather said...

How cool. Sorry about the barfing though. Bummer.

Seals said...

We did a bunch of that sort of stuff when I was a kid. My dad was a pilot so did every kind of flying I can think of.

Of course, now, I have vertigo and I wouldn't be able to do any of it.

Elizabeth said...

Wow, you and your wife are brave! Being up that high in a plane without an engine would scare me to death! Plus I get motion sick just riding in an elevator, so I would make it about 2 minutes before I lost my lunch!

MYM said...

OMG that does sound cool ... of course I'd never do it, a foot stool is about all I can handle. 3 feet in the air is high when you're short!

Sounds like a great memory...and 19 years! You 2 are beating the odds...and that's just so fantastic to hear! :) :) Congratulations!

Anonymous said...

We took the train from Durango to Silverton. I sat next to an American Airlines pilot. He said, "Flying does not scare me, but this train sure does!" Remember?

The Super Bongo said...

I'm thinking that tossing your lunch on your honeymoon was probably good training for marriage. It proves you aren't totally cool . . . and, it is something of a bumpy ride.

Phenom and I have been together 19 years too. 19 years on D-Day.

Michelle said...

Now that sounds like a cool experience, although I'd recommend in the future taking the dramamine before you go up in the glider vs just before you puke ;)

Congrats on 19 years. Any idea what you're doing to celebrate? My husband and I have our 5 year in two weeks, and I have NO idea what to get him....

bon bon said...

can't get much more romantic than that. i suggest three cream puffs and the tilt-a-whirl for your twentieth.

robkroese said...

Wow, that sounds awesome. Dramamine is a must though. I can't even ride the damn teacups at Disneyworld without it.

Idaho Dad said...

Great story! At least you didn't need the barf bag on your wedding night.

My wife and rode the Durango-Silverton train in 1992. Yikes, I remember it being really steep in places.

Happy Anniversary!

deborah said...

I'm impressed with the fact that you could even go UP! I am certain, could I have done such a thing (NOT) my response would have been pretty much the same as yours.

oh, and better than the Dramamine, is a patch called, Scopolomine. Check it out

Jeff and Charli Lee said...

mylhibug - No, we didn't get to Purgatory, but we're definitely going back some day. There's so much to do in CO that one week is not nearly enough.

julie - It IS cool... in theory and for real.

groovy mom - I'm with you. Some people like to get the puke over with, but I'll curl up in a little ball for hours if it will prevent the purge.

heather - That's alright, it didn't screw things up at all. The experience was worth the barf.

ajooja - Wow, that's weird. I thought Alfred Hitchcock was the only one who ever had that.

elizabeth - Actually, I felt safer in that than I do in a small engine plane, because a glider can glide without power whereas a plane can only drop and crash.

drowsey monkey - For some reason it doesn't feel like you're up high. It's not scary like that.

bill - Yes, that train ride has some thrilling moments, that's for sure!

super bongo - My wife knew I wasn't totally cool for about 2 years before we got married ;-)

michelle - We actually were supposed to go up a few hours later than we did, but we went there early to check it out and the pilot had some open spots. Unfortunately, we had just eaten a few minutes before. Not a good plan. And no, we don't have any specific plans for our anniversary. As it stands right now, I'm planning on taking a motorcycle trip with my brother that week. Does that qualify?

bon bon - I'm sorry, there'll be no tilt-a-whirls EVER thank you.

diesel - I once got sick taking my daughter on those fake hot air balloon kiddie rides that go around in a circle at about 1 mph. I kept having to look at the horizon while we rode it. Very nice.

phil - That train ride is awesome. Heck, the whole area is awesome.

deborah - I'll check out the "patch." I definitely need something for stuff like that.

Mom Thumb said...

I married a pilot whose parents were pilots. Now there are seven pilots in the family, including my son. My FIL has a glider in the cities. We'll be up there in June - you could come on down and I'm sure he would be happy to take you up. That is, if you REALLY want to go . . .

Doozie said...

That is insane, you'll never catch me up in the air in an engine less vehicle. Yeah...I'm a big wussy

Karen MEG said...

How about a replay for your actual anniversary ... now that you're experienced and all!

Very cool, though.

Jake Titus said...

Sounds like a great time. Not sure why everyone is making such a big deal about a little barf? That's my litmus test to gauge how sucessful my night was. Rock on brudda!

Maureen said...

Aw, poor Jeff! I never would have eaten before the ride, and Gravol is my best friend on any flight.

Sounds like a very cool experience though. My uncle took my cousin and I through the Rockies in his 4 seater plane when I was young. I was up front while my cousin squirmed in the back.

I'll never forget the view of seeing waterfalls from above.

but Momma said...

Romantic. :)

I think my husband probably barfed on our honeymoon as well, but instead of a panoramic view, it was caused by too much Welcome Punch at the Jack Tar Village Toga party.

Good Times.

yellojkt said...

My dad soars with a sailing club, but I've never been up with him. I will have to give it a try just to bust your balls when I don't vomit.

Anonymous said...

You remind me of the guy behind the bar trying to sell Buicks. He keep repeating--"Ralph Buuiick", as he was bent over.

Anonymous said...

Ah, Jeff, congrats on your anniversary. I'm fine on large planes, but not the lightweight kind. Gliders would be out of the question. And this from a woman who just auditioned for The Amazing Race. Stupid is as stupid does.

Ed (zoesdad) said...

You just gave me a great idea for my wife's birthday. Not the puking part, I don't think she'd enjoy that.

JD at I Do Things said...

I threw up a little just reading this.

Kudos to you for doing this---it really sounds awesome (except for the throwing up part).

It's cool how the pilot "knew."

Unknown said...

Cool honeymoon. What's a honeymoon?

Ed said...

Errr...isn't that how John Denver died too? Oh wait, that was an ultra-light plane...