10/14/2013 A Double Surprise
So this is why we don't fly over people.
My "phone" is this ginormous concoction of coolness with a huge
screen--great for looking at wind graphs, radar images, videos,
pictures, navigation, AND, gasp, I can call people on it. Like many of
us it has become remarkably indispensable. It's ginormity suggests that
you wouldn't want it falling on your head although maybe its also got a
lot of wind resistance. You know where this is going, obviously; here
are the details.
I went to Winter Haven airport to talk with TC Helicopters owner
Mike. This is where Ellie (the Enstrom F28A) will be getting maintained.
My normal routine will continue where I helicopter here carrying the
paramotor, fly the paramotor home, and reverse the process to pick her
back up after the annual inspection. Now I just wanted to fly the
paramotor trip. This is super handy having a helicopter maintenance shop
only 10 away AND he's my neighbor! Moreover, him and his wife Jenny are
just plain good people. It seems I've lucked out yet again.
Shortly after liftoff I realized I
didn't have my phone with me but decided it wasn't wilderness enough so,
with sunset time ticking quietly under the Top 80's hum, I pressed on.
Turns out I *DID* have my phone with me but didn't know it.
Limited landing options made me climb to about 600 feet and into the
teeth of a 12 mph north wind. OK, so "teeth" seems a bit excessive but
it is, after a third of my cruise speed. Even with my Speedy Gonzales
wing it adds a lot of time. It was smooth so I just cruised, trimmed
fast and hands off, steering by weight shift.
Along the way I came across a development swath with open
roads and acres of mowed goodness. Mmmm, I thought, that would be a nice potential
launch site so I landed to check it out. Just because I could. Damn
I love this stuff. After kiting the wing a bit I took a couple
pictures then headed back on course, going around the many lakes and
developments which was thankfully easy to do. This area rocks for PPG at
least until the housing market restarts.
Soon I was upon Fantasy of Flight only to find it awash in fencing--tall
black fencing that made no sense. It enclosed a bunch of areas that also made no sense.
It was too small for horses and not shaped for any sports I was at a
loss. Look at the pictures and see what you think. I did find out later:
I had stumbled on the national paintball tournament. Cool! I've played
paintball (badly) and really enjoyed it. I actually captured the flag
for our team once. That was cool and extremely tiring. I also still wear
the reminder of a close-range exchange with my own brother. Thanks Mike.
Back to the flight. Flanders field is only a few miles North of fantasy
so it wasn't long before I was buzzing about the house. What a gorgeous
area. The lake was a former sand mine that got embiggened to put houses
on. Only 7 houses have access to the airstrip and, of those, only three
have lakefront. In a way it's too bad because I'm not into boating so
the whole water thing is a bit lost on both Tim and I. Maybe I'll get a
kayak for exercise if I can get past the highly poisonous water
moccasins. At least the gators you can generally see. I'm told that a 3
foot snake can do you in. Great. Sunshine extracts it's price.
flight back was pretty quick and I landed just as the last sliver of sun
was consumed. I put my stuff away and went to get my phone to navigate
to the campground.
That's when I realized it was missing--surprise one. It must be
hiding in the Enterprise. Since I was alone there was nobody to call it
or locate it. I've got a program that can track the phone but had no way
to use it. So I went to a nearby McDonalds, logged onto the internet
and, to was astonished at two things: 1) it was obviously with me in
flight and now rested just south of Fantasy and surprise 2) it obviously
survived a 500 foot fall!
After some fighting with Skype I finally got
a hold of Tim and we arranged a time to have him start calling it. I
then headed to the spot--a wooded area next to an lime grove. I actually
shoe horned the enterprise back into that grove so I could get the
lights on the area. It was, after all dark, and the snakes were hungry.
I walked in that black brush, through spider webs, pricklies, and bugs
for probably 30 minutes. Nothing. Finally I gave up and BACKED the
enterprise out of there. Remind me not to do THAT again.
After much logistical falderal I picked up Jim Yeager at MCO, docking
the Enterprise at Le Lynn RV "Resort" (they' aren't "Parks"
anymore) around 1AM. He's helping me with some planned home improvements
and the home inspection was Tuesday. He agreed to join my phone search
in the morning.
Now the fun begins.
Jim and I talked to the landowner then traipsed back into the woods
again. Back and forth we looked with my trying to get his GPS to work.
It was not cooperating. I had my computer out there with saved images of
the map showing where my phone was supposed to be. Periodically I'd go
back to it, blow off the red ants, and make sure we were in the right
Amazingly the phone was still powered because it was still reporting
its position and would ring but not loud enough that we could hear it.
Back and forth we went, gradually broadening the search well beyond
the purported circle.
Finally I figured I'd try plan B, calling Verizon with Jim's phone to
see if there was something they, or their pals at the NSA, could do to
get it to ring at full blast. Jim was off talking to an insect guy who
was taking insect samples several tree rows away. I was thankful for his
help and wasn't surprised that he'd had enough.
While trying to get through Verizon's best customer defenses Jim's
phone rang. It was my phone. What? I answered. It was Jim on my phone!
YEAHHHHAAAAA! Now, where the h*#@ did you find it?
Turns out Jim had not, in fact, given up but had broadened his search
to a wider area that was easy to see and, amazingly, found it waiting
patiently in the sandy grass. Oh my Bob what a relief. 17% remained on
Where he found it was over 100 feet from where the program reported.
That's only weird because it had a clear view of the sky so GPS location
should be spot on. Normally it shows me within a few feet of my actual
location so I was surprised at the error. Maybe the Life360 program has
some issues but, to its credit, we obviously wouldn't have found it
Jim saved me several hours of boring resetting let alone the expense
of a new phone. Thanks man!
Lets hope this is a good reminder to keep better track of the thing,
make sure its secure in flight, and set up the program with all of its
sound features enabled.
Always an adventure.
If everything goes well, we'll be closing on the house sometime in
November. It was originally scheduled for Nov 1 but might get pushed
back to give the current owners more time.
Anybody interested in a Chicagoland house on a beautiful little