Motoring the Meteor

May 10, 2007 Flagstaff, AZ

Kirk Sellinger warned me: don't miss highway 89A from Sedona, it's spectacular. Boy was he right.

Much of the drive is sufficiently open to keep the canyon's colorful expanse well in view. There was only one slow switchback road and it rewarded us with an incredible scenic overlook. Timing was perfect—the caretakers kept it open just enough for us to check out our just-driven route from the ledge. Trees, trees everywhere! Neither Tim or I wanted to fly that canyon—a motor out would have let us into the limbs.

It was too late to fly Flagstaff by the time we got there. Too windy anyway and blowing the wrong direction. Plus the call of Chili's restaurant was more than we could bare. After 3 days on PBJ sandwiches and cereal bars, it was mighty fine.

Mike B., a world traveler if ever there was one, recently dove into powered paragliding with a vengeance and had just finished another adventure with several pilots in monument valley. He met up with Tim and I at Meteor Crater. The original plan, to motor from the unpaved county road west of the crater was traded for our overnight location just north of I-40. It was fairly large, unused and offered a launch in any direction.

Shortly after sunrise we got set up and checked out the launch with benefit of light. A decreasing wind was coming the wrong way down an incline. A couple hundred yards upwind was a 5 foot berm. I'd be ok with the Black Devil pushing my efficient Spice but Tim didn't stand a chance with his Top 80 and Silex. I love that combination, mind you, but not for an uphill launch at 6000 feet over an obstruction. He elected not to try it.

Mike and I barely managed to clear everything then headed for the crater 6 miles south. It came into view immediately after liftoff. I mean the thing perks up over a hundred feet tall and nearly a mile across—it's pretty hard to miss.

What a view. It's nowhere near as spooky as the Maricopa Copper mine near Phoenix but knowing the weird winds that curl around such formations convinced us to mind our distance and altitude. It would have been fun to soar the rim but, alas, mine aren't big enough.

It was scary thinking about what caused this crater so many years ago. If it happened today, it would devastate several thousand square miles including Flagstaff.

As usual the air up high was smooth but, on the way back, I couldn't resist the road. Up high was a headwind, down low was the road. The foot-draggable and barely used road. It would soon fill with crater-bound tourists, but not yet. Foot dragging is a challenge when it's bumpy because a down bump puts your feet down hard on the pavement if you don't manage the brakes and power. Fortunately, you can almost always run. That's why I only do this upwind.

Upon our return Mike landed but I had a lot more fuel and interesting terrain sprouted just east of our launch. It was fun exploring that terrain, too, although it obviously didn't compare to the crater.

This wound up being the final flight of the trip. A forecast strong wind came in with vengeance that afternoon and we headed for Albuquerque after visiting the Meteor Crater Museum—a worthwhile jaunt.

My biggest regret is that we never made it to Albuquerque as planned. Apparently we missed a good party. But I'll be spending a lot of time there in June so that eases some pain.

This trip was among my favorite. Mostly because of the loose agenda and minimal driving. Five days with 8 road hours and lots of flying. That's relaxing freedom.


Below are some highlights of the trip including the hike in Sedona, the scenic overlook and a visit Meteor Crater's museum.

Top: The hike. What started out as an easy 2 hour trek turned into a 4 hour burden. The first 3 hours were great, though. What's with the piled up rocks? The ones where we're laying on the ledge is just over the cliff where we stopped on our way to Flagstaff Middle pictures: Meteor Crater was cool. We flew it in the morning then went to visit it in the afternoon. In the gift shop I saw a sign that said "Please pick up," kind of like the sign above that said "please touch" on the big crater chunk. Not so, it actually said "Please don't pick up." The shop keeper was very nice about it.

Also check out Mike's Meteor Crater Pics


The hardest part of morning flights: awakening. Getting up is one thing, getting awake is a completely different story. Mike checks things out as Tim emerges from the Enterprise.




1. The Meteor Museum is built on the rim and offers a fascinating account of both this meteor and others around worldwide.


2. The road from Meteor Crater Museum. When we went for the tour and they saw our paramotors they commented "so YOU'RE those guys!" They really don't like people flying over although they now there's no law against it as long as we don't fly over people or the building. Otherwise they were very welcoming and I highly recommend the visit.

© 2015 Jeff Goin   Remember: If there's air there, it should be flown in!