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This was INCREDIBLE!!

So to start this out I screwed up. I scheduled this for the morning of Valentine’s Day. That’s right. V-Day…the one day it is critical to be a good romantic husband. I was getting off work that morning and had to boogie and drive 90 miles to Williams to meet to fulfill this dream. So the first person I have to thank for being able to pull this off is my beautiful, wonderful, understanding wife that I love with all my heart and soul. Dani is the reason I am the man I am and she has given me a life that anyone would be jealous of and kill for.

Another important person was key in giving me the opportunity to pull this one off. LarDog was willing to get up and come to work at 0530 so that I could get out of there and on the road in order to make the appointment. So a big thank you to the LarDog!!

So number 57 is crossed off. Thanks to Charlie I was able to fly an aircraft…specifically a glider.

I'm about to go up in one of these.

So Charlie has a neighbor that’s true passion is flying without an engine. These gliders are towed behind an airplane up into the sky and then the tow rope is released and your on your own. So Dallan, Charlie’s neighbor, is also a pilot in the Air Force, but his true passion is floating around without the jets. These gliders rely on the airplanes, updrafts, and the pilots skill to stay in the air. Dallan kept telling me that it was easy to fly them and that they wanted to stay upright in the air. Needless to say, I didn’t really believe him. Once we got to the field I was more than a little nervous.

Checking out the glider before going up

So Dallan went over the pre-flight checks with me and showed me all the controls on the glider. Everything in there from the 5-point harness, the release from the airplane, to how to lose the canopy in the event we crashed. Yeah CRASHED!!! Then he assured me that we wouldn’t. Then we walked the glider out onto the runway and hooked up to the airplane. I was really surprised by how light the glider felt as we easily walked with it. So after hugs and kisses (a small prayer), in I jumped into the cockpit of the tiniest aircraft I can imagine. Dallan gave me the front seat for a better view when we got airborne. Didn’t dawn on me that the one flying the glider should have the best view of where we were flying. I’m a big dude, some would call a fat kid, so it was a tight squeeze trying to fit all of me in there. Mostly it was due to the fact that my legs were longer than the cockpit. All the controls right up against my body reminding me that a little mistake with them and…well lets not think about that.

Moving the glider onto the runway.

Trying to get in and adjusted in the cockpit.

When I finally got all settled it became real. I was about to go up a mile into the sky without any engine or propulsion, just the wind and skill of the pilot that was going to be sitting behind me. I looked over at my gorgeous family and thought “I hope this bucket list doesn’t end up killing me.”

Closing the cockpit, no turning back. That is me praying.

So there I am sitting on the tip of the worlds biggest lawn dart, behind an airplane that is going to take us a mile into the sky and leave us there, hoping that we will be able to make it back to the runway. Then without any warning, no radios, the plane takes off. Just zooms up and then we are in the air…the plane isn’t even up and we are gaining altitude!!!

Off to the heavens!

Amazing, amazing, amazing!! It was one of the best experiences of my life. Following the plane was a bit surreal. Being so close and attached by a small rope or cable was a lot like being pulled in a wagon behind a bike when you were a little kid. Then the release…plane to the left, glider to the right and we are on our own. No engine noise, just the whoosh of the air as we floated. Dallan was really good at explaining how the controls worked, what the glider was capable of, how the energy worked in each manuever, and performed some of the turns and lifted and dives to demonstrate. Then he turned to controls over to me! I was in control of an aircraft that was in flight!!! This is on my list and I am doing it.

Really stoked to have accomplished this!!!

I'm flying...in the sky!!

It was a great day to be up also. Clear and sunny with great visibility. It’s incredible what a different perspective you get from that heighth. I have driven through this area countless times and never realized how much water and agriculture was going on. I was beautiful.

Off the wing, Williams is down there somewhere.

So once we get up Dallan starts talking about accidents and things that have happened to people in gliders. Just last week an accident involving two planes that collided with one of them pulling a glider. The two planes went down in a fiery ball that killed all on board, but the glider was able to release and made it safely back to the runway. Seemed unreal that something like that could happen in such a tranquil endeavor. I didn’t even care about the accidents. Having control of the glider and looking around at all the incredible scenery was serene. It is similar to surfing and snowboarding in that you are trying to become one with the elements and ride cooperatively with the gifts that nature is giving you in that moment.

I must have been boring Dallan at first because he started giving me direction in how to increase speed, take turns and other basic controls. It was amazing having the craft react to what I wanted it to do.

We started talking about family and how I dragged Dani and Robby out of bed on Valentines to come and do this. Dallen decided that Dani was going to get a ride…if she would get into the glider. So we headed back to the runway. Along the way we played with a flock of birds, getting them to change direction and watching how they synchronize their flights. Then the approach…this was intense. You basically dive towards the earth and attempt to put the craft down between two lines marked on the runway. Dallan nailed the landing and we skidded to a stop. This was one of the greatest things I’ve ever done and I am so happy that it was on the list.

So Dani had ran into town with Robby to get some breakfast. I told her that I was done, but that she could take a ride if she wanted. She gave me a message that said she was on the way, but didn’t want to go up. It took a little convincing once she arrived, but she decided to go for it. I was extremely proud of her! Dani doesn’t really even like getting on a big commercial airline, so I was really surprised when she decided to try it.

Dani getting ready to glide.

Dani and Dallan went up and soared around for about 20 minutes. I was really nervous about what she was going to think about it. Would she be upset or love it? Would she hate me for talking her into it? I didn’t want her scared on Valentines. What had I done?

Dani during her glide.

Well it looks like she enjoyed it. Thank God!!

Dani coming in for a landing.

Safe and sound...whew.

Dani said it was fun and a little scary. She was really glad that she did it though. I knew that she would have been regretting not taking the opportunity if we had drove away without her going up. I was extremely relieved that she had a good time up there.

What an incredible experience. I know I’ve said that a lot in this post, but it really was awesome. Dallan really made it a great time with his passion and the time he took to make us both feel comfortable. I can’t thank him enough for inviting us along. I also have to give another big thank you to Charlie. He has really gone out of his way a couple of times now to help me out with the list. It is really great to know that I have friends that don’t think this is just silly or stupid or ridiculous. I don’t know if I could attempt some of these things without the support of friends and family…of which I have the best of both. Until next time…who knows what is around the corner now…

Dani going up on her glide.

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