I hope you enjoy my blog, a collection of articles and thoughts regarding my interests. I'm a married father of two that loves to write about gliding, hunting, fishing, camping and any outdoor passion. Oh yah, I'm a quadriplegic. I hope this is informative to some, entertaining to others, and interesting to all. Let me know what you think. If you'd like an article for your publication, I've got words I haven't even used yet!

Friday, 10 August 2018

Buggy Fun!!!

"Should we try high gear?" says I. It's not like us to push things.

"Let's giver!" says Paul. I'm thinking he probably just wants to witness a first-class screw-up.

He reaches over and clicks me into high range. I give him a couple of seconds to mount his four-wheeler (he is getting old). I pull the throttle down, and off we go! So much for "I'll just putt around in low, I don't need to go fast." New motto ... "Go big or go home!"

This thing is a hoot!! It is very stable, takes bumps well, and with the racing seats and belts I can corner without getting thrown around! A friend (Landon Catt) and his buddies adapted this thing, a 250cc dune buggy, for himself (by coincidence a quadriplegic with my nearly-identical injury level). Later he offered me a deal on it, as they were building a bigger-better-faster one!

After a little particularizing to help me steer better (us gimps are always tweaking stuff, "If it ain't  broke ... fix till it is!"), we are out test-burning around the field. Low range went well, climbs hills like crazy, but the top speed ... yawn ... is about 25mph. Now high range ... hoo-hoo (like Tim the Toolman) is 50-60mph, plenty to get me into trouble without taking much effort.

"Holy (censored) you can go now! You even drifted a few times!" Says Paul after a 2.5 mile lap. His vocabulary needs regular censorship, but it is a colorful addition to your day. It was nice to see dirt in his eyes and teeth. He was right, I was zooming around much faster, and taking corners at high speed. Landon and his friends have this thing dialed in, it is much easier to drive than my van that cost many many thousands more!

This buggy has opened up a whole new world! I hadn't seriously considered driving an atv until I met Landon, thanks so much!

Thursday, 21 December 2017

Bucket List Loop

"Are you ready?" says Gary from the back seat.

"I'm ready!" I say.

"I'm going to point the nose down and gain some speed, then four g’s and pull her up over the top!" he replies.

The nose points down and I can hear the noise of the wind rushing louder and louder as we gain speed. The view of the landscape nearly fills the windscreen as we approach 90 knots. I’m a bit nervous, this is the moment I’ve been waiting for!

"Four G's!" says Gary.

I take a deep breath to help hold myself still and straight. Then I feel the pull of the g’s.  The nose rises quickly until the blue sky fills the whole windscreen, then I feel the force of gravity reduce as Gary relaxes the stick. The horizon comes into view upside down! We slowly arc over the top and start the 2nd half of the loop, I feel the force of gravity come on stronger and stronger as Gary once again pulls on the joystick.

"How does that feel?" asks Gary as we pull out of the bottom of the loop.

"It feels beautiful!!" I reply with enthusiasm, amazing!

"Okay we’ll go around again then!"

We have lots of speed coming out of the first loop, and Gary easily takes us through a second one!

"Look to the right!" says Gary.

Gary moves the stick right and we roll inverted, then he pulls back to perform a split-s maneuver, ending with us straight and level.

This was one of the things on my bucket list! Way back about 100 years ago when I was a teenager, I had the privilege of flying a Citabria to take aerial photographs. At the time I didn’t know any aerobatics, but I did like to do spins and wing-overs a lot. I searched around for an instructor at the time that could get me going on the basics like loops and rolls, but didn’t find one, and all too soon my days of playing with that airplane were done. I remember learning wing-overs in a mountain flying course, and practiced in a Piper Arrow rolling inverted and pulling out the bottom with very little g-force. It had always kind of bothered me that I never got to experience real aerobatics back then, and to this day hated having to admit that I have never experienced a loop. Now I am a quadriplegic due to an automobile accident, and aerobatics have since seemed out of reach.

I have been flying gliders with the Edmonton Soaring Club for a few years now, and I find that my arm strength is not good enough to do the very intense maneuvers, and my lack of stomach muscles made me concerned about passing out during high-G maneuvers, so I have been content to putt around and look for lift. I worry that it is boring for the pilot in the back seat, since I fly like an old tea granny, but I suppose at times they need some sleep! I got talking to Gary Hill earlier in the year as he is an aerobatic instructor. He had flown with me a few times on my long and boring "see how long you can stay in the air" flights, and was great company. I asked him if he thought it was feasible for me to experience a loop, and I reminded him that I have no control over my legs or trunk muscles. We would have to be careful to make sure we don't do any negative G’s since we want my legs to stay where they are supposed to be.

"Let me know when you want to, I think it would work out fine." he replied.

“Okay,” I say, “Maybe later in the year when my stomach is stronger.” The first flights of the year seem to make me queasy.

Then one day I show up at the club when I know that Gary was instructing, and it was a day where there was very little lift potential.

"So, what are you doing here on a day that there is no lift?" asks Gary with a grin, knowing full well why I was there. I guess I am getting a reputation of showing up on the good soaring days so they don’t expect to see me on poor ones LOL.

"I thought if you had time I could finally do that bucket-list loop!" I said.

"It’s club policy that you put a parachute on for aerobatics, so go find one and let's go!" he said.

The rest is history! We found a parachute that fit me, got me strapped into the glider with the help of the lift and several club members, and away we went!

Back to the flight.

"How was that?" he asks.

"I tried to follow what you are doing but couldn't," I say.

"I've got another one here for you to figure out!" says Gary, grinning I am sure.

He points the nose down and we gain some more speed, the wind is rushing by once again. I feel a sharp tug and the nose pitch up, followed by an immediate fast roll to the right! Then Gary pulled back and we came out the bottom level.

"A half-snap-roll to the right!" I say. This is a fun game!

"Half snap roll followed by a half loop!" exclaims Gary.

He finished off the session with a hammerhead followed by 2 more loops, then a half roll and half loop out to level. Incredible!

"You have control now." says Gary.

I fit my cuff over the stick and take control, we are now getting a little bit low and the odds of finding lift before we get to the airport are fairly slim. I aim back towards home, looking for any sign of a thermal that will take us back up so we can play some more.

There is nothing, we’re now down at circuit height joining downwind. Gary does the pre-landing checks while I fly the circuit. I line up on the runway, Gary runs the speed brakes and we float down to the runway. I gently pull back and round out, the grass touches the wheel and I hear it spinning. We are once again on the ground. The crew pulls us back to the club members waiting at the shack. Gary opens the canopy and I see a lot of smiling faces.

“Well Gary,” I say loud enough for all to hear, “don’t get too discouraged, one of these days you will get a handle on that straight and level flying, just keep practicing!”

“I am having trouble with that straight and level,” laughs Gary, “I need to work on that!

It is so humbling to realize the work and dedication that these people do to keep a gliding club running, and the effort they make to help me fit in and enjoy this great sport. Thanks Edmonton Soaring Club, and all of the great soaring people I’ve met, it’s a blast hanging out with you!

Sunday, 9 October 2016

Summer 2016

Upper Lakes Kananaskis 2016

Ok, I know, I haven't been doing much writing lately. You're thinking .... "WTF ya been up to?" Well, believe it or not us gimps get busy some times.

As I'm writing this we are getting our 1st dump of snow (ick) and it is only October 9! I'm not ready for this stuff, and might have to use my degree in power-whining to see if that helps. Anyhow, with Radio Margaritaville in the background I'll think happy thoughts and recap some of the fun.

Burning Off Altitude
The spring was great, and started with several awesome flights at the Edmonton Soaring Club ranging between 2 and 3 hours each, and reaching heights of 12,500 feet! It it so amazing to stay aloft for hours using nature instead of an engine ... better not get onto this subject or I'll ramble for hours ... everybody has something that rattles their chain and gliding sure does it for me!

Then there was camping, what a hoot. Early in the summer we camped southern Alberta with friends Joe and Sue. Waterton Lakes area was amazing,so many fantastic mountain and lake views. Terry and Sue are avid photographers and geocachers, Joe and I are really good followers. Since Joe is a Newfie, he had an unfair advantage when it came to happy hour and I took a distant second place ... training will begin sooner next year. The girls and
Waterton Park
their hobbies led us to fantastic scenery, geocaches, hikes, and a tour down Montana's Beartooth Highway - "America's Most Scenic Road". The scenery lived up to the hype and we had a great 2 weeks, ending in our fav Kananaskis Country!

Then there was Fathers' Day. I have been so good (just ask me) that my wife and kids got me a 360 camera. It takes 360 pictures that you can scroll around ... I'd love to post them here, but of course they don't @#$%-en work on my blog ... cheapo me. But you can see what they're like here:

Monday, 23 May 2016

Soaring Week!

Elk Island Park
It's that time of year! Flying season has begun for me! After a flightless winter it has once again been too long with my butt strapped to a wheelchair, time to don the wings and soar! The Edmonton Soaring Club is starting the season this year with several flying weeks in a row, meaning they are going to fly seven days a week as long as there are people and flyable weather! Terryll packed the necessary monumental pile of flying gear into the van, and we headed up to Chipman last Tuesday to get some flying in.

It was the 30 year anniversary of the car accident that left me a quadriplegic, and what better way to mark it than with a great flight! After that accident it was a long road back to getting a life going, but with the help of my wife, my family, and my friends this adventure has been a blast and keeps getting better!


Guy Blood volunteered to take the back seat behind me in the glider. He would handle the tow to altitude since my lack of arm strength makes that difficult, and rudder and spoiler. My wife, having a black-belt in gimp-transfer procedures, put the sling on me and directed Guy who was driving the the lift-equipped Kubota into position, turns out he's multi-talented and can run that too! With the Kubota, Guy and Terryll lifted me out of my chair and placed me perfectly into the Perkoz' front seat, pilot-installation-procedure complete! The Perkoz is a high-performance glider with a glide ratio of approximately 40 to 1, meaning that for every foot of altitude you lose it will travel 40 feet forward.

Burning off height for landing with spoilers out
Master-Thermal-Finder Bob Hagan flew the Scout and pulled us up to 3000 feet above ground. He dropped us right in the middle of a boomer of a thermal. We connected right away and climbed as high as we could, only limited by clouds that kept us at about 9500 feet. We toured around for two hours, exploring towns and a nearby river, finally returning when a student needed Guy's expertise. To our chagrin our multi-talented back-seat photographer got faulty information from yours-truly during his camera-checkout, and we ended up with no pictures or video. Guess we gotta come back tomorrow :)

The next day my buddy Dave Loshny and I headed back up to Chipman. Guy and I went up and once again Thermal-Master-Bob had us hooked up to lift right away. This time the thermal took us at 1000 ft./m to a height of 10,500 feet! We decided to head East towards Mundare and Vegreville. Being a quadriplegic, an outlanding would be a major inconvenience, and I don't think Guy could pack me far. Thus it is important to keep enough altitude in one's pocket to assure a safe return home. I got a little nervous near Vegreville since lift was eluding me, so we turned homeward and hooked up to Old Faithful, a thermal that always seems to hang out just West of Chipman. This time the camera was working, and we brought a spare for insurance ... take THAT Murphy! We toured Lamont, Mundare, and Elk Island, enjoying the view from a mile high. It was so amazing to take photos and video from that height, and great to be back in the air after a long winter off! Here are some pictures and a video of the landing, what a day once again! Thanks so much to my wife Terryll, Dave, Guy, Bob, and the whole Edmonton Soaring Club for making these adventures a possibility!

Thursday, 25 February 2016

Dual Drones

My friend Paul received a fantastic Christmas present from his nice wife, a little too nice for him I might add. His new toy, a quadcopter, had been laying in the corner for a couple of months, silently tormenting him until the warm spring days return. A week or so ago they made the trip to our place and packed the new Phantom 3 along in case the weather allowed a flight or two.

Mother nature cooperated, winds were moderate and temps were mild for February. Paul and Michelle arrived on time, we had a nice visit ... with Michelle :) Ah ... it's fun to tease Paul ... does the soul good you know.

Anyhow, back to the story. The first flight with a drone is nerve-racking. These things are pricey, and I don't know about you but in my radio-control airplane and helicopter days, I've converted a fair  bit of hard-earned money to landfill. Fortunately, by the time Paul was ready to try his Phantom 3 I'd had about 100 successful flights on my Phantom 2, so I was confident there'd be no problem.

"You fly it first," says Paul.

"Nope," says I.

"Bleepety-bleep-bleep (censored x 3)," says Paul.

"You'll do fine, you old %%$$@@##," says I, "Just be real gentle on the controls."

We download the DJI app, update the firmware and are soon ready for the maiden flight!

"I'm nervous," admits Paul. Heck, my first flight was terrifying, but after that all was well.

"Just start the props, keep your hands off the right stick, and advance the throttle slowly," I suggest.

The Phantom 3 gently rose about 10 feet and hovered.

"I'm hooked, this is neat sh--," laughs Paul.

He flew great, in a few minutes he was zooming around, ascending and descending, all under perfect control. He brought it back when the battery warning showed, and made a picture-perfect landing right in front of himself! We charged his battery and on his second flight we decided to fly the two drones together, what a blast! Above is a video shot from both copters and a handheld camera, it's going to be a great summer!

Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Alberta February Fly-Fishing

“So Wright … ya wanna fish or What?” says Dale Baden over the phone.

Let’s see, it’s mid-February in Alberta Canada. Normally this is the time of year that I’d be inside with the heat cranked up, looking out the window at sub-zero temps with my bottom lip hanging out, dreaming of summer fun. What am I really doing? I’m sitting on the deck enjoying a coffee, sun-tanning, and playing hooky from the bookwork that is patiently waiting.

“Get you’re a—out here,” I reply.

“You’re sure … I don’t want to pressure you …,” comes the reply … a bit over-the-top with sarcasm methinks.

Soon we’re on the dock, fly-rod in hand, casting into a hole-in-the-ice 20 feet across.

“I have one already, I guess they survived the winter!” always a concern.

Spring isn’t far off now, we’ll make it!

Tuesday, 5 January 2016

Push The Walls Back

Quadcopter Shot

Okay, it's about three degrees above absolute-zero with eight feet of ice on the lakes, 100mph winds and everywhere is uphill both ways ... you get the idea. Nah, it's not that bad ... but to a cold-blooded gimp it is a tad disheartening to look at spending 6 months indoors, longingly gazing at the lawnmower, drone, gliding cuff, rifles, fly-rod etc etc etc, and dreaming about spring.

Every so often this happens. We do the same thing over and over, frequent the same places, think the same things, even start to believe ourselves. It is worse in a Canadian winter  when we're more tempted to stay inside. The walls close in, we get stale, our creativity and zest for life go for crap. When it happens we need to make a break for it, mix it up and push the walls back. If you start to become afraid of stepping out of your comfort zone ... there's your sign ... you need to step out of your comfort zone. No use whining, do something about it! We hence have decided to make a run for the coast.

So here we are, enjoying green grass and ocean, meeting new people, listening to new ideas, I love it! We even brought the drone, it sure feels good to push the walls back when they creep in!