Fear vs. Powered Paragliding

May 30, 2007 Naperville, IL | Epilogue: It's Finished!

Don't you get tired of hearing "but I'm afraid of heights?"

Of course you're afraid of heights! Everybody is afraid of heights. Open, unsupported heights, that is. Yes, you can overcome it, but that built in fear to real danger is why iron workers get paid so much money to scale scary heights. The most petrifying experience of my life was launching my tethered body into an abyss, 173 feet below while suspended by an overgrown rubber band. Whoever thought of Bungee jumping is way more maligned than any paramotor dude ever was.

So imagine my disgust at seeing the blank lines of failure on my home weather display. That meant only one thing: a trip to the roof which is where anemometers must live to be happy. It had been several years since I last conquered this fear to mount the silly thing and now I must refresh those thankfully unused dendrites. Adding insult to the ordeal was my lack of a ladder. The one I used originally moved out with my former sign-maker room mate. None of my neighbors had use for such a monstrosity, either, since they were apparently smart enough to stay off their roofs. And I live in an airport community full of pilots, most of which are probably afraid of heights, too.

$200 later I owned a big scary ladder with lots of stickers. They warned of the many ways to die using the big scary ladder. Comforting. Paramotors don't have that many stickers so they must be safer.

The rooftop anemometer unit sends a radio signal powered to the display inside. It's solar powered with batteries to help when Sol is absent. This is Chicago, Sol is absent a lot so I figured the batteries were dead.

If only it could be so easy. With Tim holding the base of the big scary ladder on one end and the other lodged precariously against the wall and roof, I made the climb. Terror grows quickly above about step 5. After finagling my way to the roof I tore into the waterproof transmitter where the batteries hide under a thousand tiny screws longing to be dropped. When I undid the first screw, water came out. Uh oh. That can't be good. What I discovered once the case was opened made it clear: these corroded guts would do no signaling whatsoever.

So I descended the big scary ladder in despair. That part from the roof to getting my feet on the ladder was shear terror. There has to be a better way. I ordered a new one and will have to go through this ordeal again only this time I'm gonna seal the thing up with tape and silicon thus guranteeing the batteries will need to be replaced in 6 months.

I don't think the sum total of my powered paragliding has instilled this much fear. Even my two parachutal crashes weren't as bad because they didn't last as long. Unfortunately, I don't think I could pull this off from the powered paraglider and there's definitely not enough room to land up there.

Epilogue: June 3, 2007: It was easier this time. After jamming the big scary ladder up against the roof, I headed up. Stopping near the top I waited for my nerve to build. Besides the feared fatal fall, I had to contend with hot shingles. My timing was terrible—the black shingles were soaking in afternoon sun. Oh well, here goes. I held on tight and swung my leg up. Interestingly, that move was a bit less fearsome than last time. I can see how iron workers might get careless after acclimating to their still-risky situations. It was scary but not as much as the first time.

This time I had the foresight to bring up a rope so that if anything was needed I didn't have climb the ladder but could get Tim, who was standing by with 9-1-1 on his phone, to send it up in the bag. Fortunately, Tim only used the bag and not the phone.

Standing up there was actually kind of cool. Looking out amidst the sea of housetops (while death gripping the chimney) provided a unique view. I relished anew our unique ability to navigate in 3D. Paramotors rock.

Removal and installation of the new anemometer was uneventful as was my last descent of the big scary ladder. Ahhh. So lets see, the winds are 315° at 12 mph gusting to 18 mph. Boy is that nice to have within easy eye shot. Too bad it also means there'll be no flying this evening.

30 feet in the air. If there's air there, it should be flown in, not climbed through.


Probably I'm making the discovery that all will not return to normal with a mere battery replacement. Photos by Tim Kaiser.

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