Fréjus, France

Fréjus, France
Aqueduc Romain

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Mon anniversaire cadeau

As I wrote in my last post, my wonderful wife pulled off an excellent surprise party that left me feeling grateful for the friends and life we've developed here in France. I also noted that they had all joined together to buy me a 30-minute flight in a glider. Wow!

I awoke to a cloudless blue sky on Sunday...perfect! The flight was at 5 pm in Fayence, one of those classic European hill-top villages.
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Laurent and Nathalie picked us up, and we took our time getting there, stopping at Lac de Saint-Cassien for a short hike down to the lake. I had some stomach butterflies, nervous excitement, but was really looking forward to it. I like thrills and adventures, but sadly, I also have an issue with getting somewhat motion sick on boats, in planes, even sometimes riding in the backseat of a car. I took a pill before we left, but they make me a bit fatigued, so I had a weird sense of pumped-up anxiety mixed with the pills effects. Irie was all excited and wanted to do it herself...I almost let her.

As we approached the air field, we could see other gliders in the sky. After checking in, they took us out to the glider, put my parachute on (a first for me!), explained what I needed to do en français if it was needed (yikes), and put me in the glider. So if I have this correct: in case of emergency, open the transparent bubble that separated me from space, unlatch the seatbelts, and pull the cord (after I'm out of the glider of course). Okay. Within minutes the small plane had pulled in front of us, latched us to it with a cable of some sort, and was pulling us into the air. I've only flown on big passenger airplanes, so being pulled into the sky was a trip. After 5 minutes or so, when we were high up in the air, the plane detached the cable and we were on our own, no motor, just me and the pilot floating (or was it being pushed around by the wind currents?) in space. He did lots of circles and figure-8 types of maneuvers and would occasionally do steep embankment turns where I was looking down the wing straight to the ground. While feeling a bit of the motion in my stomach, it wasn't too bad and I was videotaping and snapping pictures left and right. I was thankful that there was a small sliding window that I kept open for some cold fresh air. A couple times, the pilot asked me "ca va?" (OK?) and I replied "oui!" Other than that it was silence and the sound of the wind. And beautiful!!! I could see the snow-covered Alps to the north and our town of Frejus and the Sea to the south.
The pilot slowly made his way back towards Fayence and I really enjoyed circling low over the town. It was clear he was inching lower in altitude getting ready for our landing. As we came in, I could see Lisa, Irie, Laurent, and Nathalie waving. The landing approach was steep and fast, or maybe that's just a visual trick as the ground gets closer, but it seemed like the ground and the plane came upon each other trop vite and that is the one moment when I almost tossed my cookies. I was also filming the landing, but at the same time telling myself: "no, you made it this far, you're not going to get sick damnit!"
I felt like we were landing on little toy wagon wheels, but in a heartbeat we were stopped and it was over. Here's the video: My glider flight.

After disembarking, I helped him turn the glider around and it was light as a feather, then they hooked it to a golf cart and pulled it to the hangar. What a fun little business they have going! What a great experience and present!!! Thanks to Lisa for wanting to make my birthday in France special, Nathalie, who had the idea for this present, Laurent for driving, and everyone else for pitching was really fantastic! Here's the photo gallery.


William said...

I think you should get one of the picture frames that says "Lucky Dog" and put your picture in it.

What a year to remember for you Lisa and Irie

Ken said...

Finally got to watch the video. What a fun ride!

One question though, how does a diver suffer from motion sickness?

Rick said...

I've always had screwed up ears, diving didn't help, and it messes with my balance. I think a dive would happen so fast that I wouldn't have time to feel ill, but it's also gotten worse with age. So there you have it :)