Polk City to Chicago

2014-05-21 Enterprise Trip To Endless Footdrag and Beyond

We've left for the Endless Footdrag!

We left late on Tuesday night after a full day of preparations. The Enterprise will be out for 4 months, staying North for the summer. This was intended to be an escape but we're now getting ready to sell the Naperville house which is under contract. The listing wasn't even up on MSL. That's good, obviously, but certainly quicker than we planed on. Let the scramble begin.

Thermaling Bubba

I've been gone so much that Bubba (the Bonanza) was feeling neglected so it was time to fly. A few miles north there was a controlled burn going on and smoke made the resultant thermal plainly obvious. It was so fascinating that I went back, landed at Flanders, got my camera, and took off again to photograph it.

Thermals are uneven, lumpy affairs. The smoke makes this readily apparent--Very educational. As I've always known, thermals are where you find them, not necessarily where you think they come from. They certainly will form along the wind lines which is why, if you're in sink, turn perpendicular to the  wind to improve your odds.

Driving, Driving

Fri 05/23

It's 16 hours total but we're not pushing too hard. This evening I went for a roller blade and stumbled on a hot air balloon landing. That was cool. He placed it nicely in a grassy area next to a mall and the crew made quick work of packing up.

It was good to get out skating, too. Going to the rhythm of a good song is almost as fun as flying. I have to say, though, that seeing the balloon float in made me long for flight. And we could have, too, this mall area we found had plenty of open areas.

If you haven't listened to audio books while driving you're missing out. It turns the trip into a movie. I can't do it while writing or dealing with speaking parts of the video, but while I'm driving it's brilliant. Tim is kind enough to do most of the driving so I can get work done and boy does the time fly when I get enmeshed in something, whether it be a book or editing.

Airspace And Law For Ultralights

I'm now solidly on the timeline. Making minutes, as it were, towards completion. The title is firm now and a cool little opening animation has been created. It's another one of those little pieces that will be onscreen for probably 7 seconds and I spent several hours creating it. There's a lot of that in this video, though, since it's so essentially graphical.

Much of it is centered around understanding the border between G and E airspace--that's where we fly. And charts expend enormous energy on it. This is not merely an academic exercise, either--it points out WHY this stuff is relevant. We don't want to get impaled on an airplane any more than they want us there. The video explores this "Why."

Endless Footdrag

An event has not been more aptly named since Beach Blast. Park on 100's of acres of manicured paramotor launch and have a good time. It's a beautiful place to fly and Britton is a welcoming host.

LOTS of great people here. This feels like the largest number of folks I've seen. Partly that might be due to not having Beach Blast.

Garret Reed and Blanie Wagner were offering free flight tows. I took two on Friday but missed out on the best climbs Saturday. Super nice folks with a great attitude.


From the dumps to dreamy in one day. 8 pilots entered the event but, at this point, it is the only one scheduled for the year. The dumps were because on the first round I turned wrong and got DQ'd in the cloverleaf. Dreamy after the second round where I flew a perfect set of tasks -- nailed every landing on the frisbee, got the bomb drop within a few inches and, thankfully, flew a decent cloverleaf. It wasn't particularly fast but it was in the correct direction with no sticks missed. When both rounds were tallied, it turned out to be Ryan Shaw as 3rd, Chad Bastian 2nd and myself in 1st. Never give up.

Some experienced pilots who are new competitors joined the fray and did very well. That was good to see. I should probably retire on a high note.

Where Tim & I we're parked is a secondary line probably a quarter mile from the main line of activity to allow for better launching based on the forecast wind. Instead of walk, I've been flying the paramotor. So yesterday, between the competition and flying back and forth I launched at least 20 times.


Spoiler alert -- it was more of an slide than a crash but, given the spillage of blood I think I'm entitled to the term.

Practicing for the cloverleaf on Friday was the first time using my new finger toggles with tip steering in a cloverleaf. I put the tip toggles in the same finger as my main toggles. That meant I couldn't differentiate pressure from the tip steers and main brakes. Turns out, that' s a big deal.

When rounding a pylon I started sinking and pulled brakes. Nothing happened, I kept sinking. It was an amount of brake pressure that SHOULD have stopped the descent easily but it didn't. For a moment I thought maybe the wing was going parachutal because it just didn't feel right, so I came off of full power and did NOT pull more brake. I did let it level off and I descended into the grass, sliding mostly on my right knee. Ouch. It was a smooth affair but smoothly removing the first few layers of skin still hurts. I got up, reset for a forward, realized my mistake and relaunched. NOW I put the tip toggles in my pinkies and that solved the problem nicely.

1. The course.
2. The flight line.
3. Screen shot of the results
4. Winning pilots, Ryan, me, Chad.



The morning started out with a practice round in an easy little 2-3 mph breeze. We got through it in about 45 minutes so Britton asked if pilots wanted to do a real round and we agreed. Let the games begin. Let the wind die.

Seriously, if you can consistently launch these things in no wind or in a really light crosswind and land within 15 feet or so of the target you're competitive. The cloverleaf? Just fly it in the correct direction. Go out wide on the sticks--a slow time is better than a DQ or missing a stick. I give that advice constantly, including here. Guess what? I DQd on round one I went the wrong direction on one of the turns. Ouch. I exited and knew it was over. The judges were looking up at me, probably thinking, shouldn't THIS guy know which way to go? I had a brain fart.

Ryan flew it brilliantly and most other competitors flew it correctly so that goose egg hurt. After every task you come back in for a spot landings. Thankfully I nailed all the launches and hit the frisbee on each landing so I did wind up with a 3rd place finish on round one.

It went light and variable so there was understandable frustration as pilots felt pressured into launching with unfavorable winds. I was impressed with one guy who pulled off a quartering tailwind launch. He had no clutch so couldn't feel the wind but I could. Nice job.

I saw a lot of nailed spot landings. That's good since a lot of points go to launching and landing well.

Round 2 was in the afternoon with a solid little consistent breeze of probably 6-8 mph.


During round two I went up to get some aerial pictures while pilots flew tasks. Ryan Shaw entered the cloverleaf and, shortly after his first kick, took a sizeable collapse. He sorted it out, kept his wits and resumed the course but, not surprisingly, it slowed him down and caused him to miss one stick. I asked him why it happened and he said it was improper use of brake while on full speedbar. As he said, it was a brain fart.

We are pushing these things to their max. I've begged off of full speedbar and trim. My speedbar is now maxed at about 80%--the pulleys don't touch but get get to about an inch apart. And I have my trims set at neutral. It makes it a bit less likely that accidentally using the brakes will cause a collapse. It still happens, but so far it's been really minor.

Thanks To

Thanks to Britton Shaw who ran the thing along with Dave Fore all all those who who made it possible. There must have been 15 people involved in pulling it all off. Britton worked hard to make it a friendly affair while keeping things flowing. It's a tough task.

Also, thanks to Ryan, his girlfriend Dianne and Dad Dave. Ryan provided the pylons, blowers and electronic timer for the footdrag course.

Most of the volunteer judges were also pilots and gave up some primo air to run this thing. I, for one, really appreciate their time and sacrifice.


Garret Reed and Blanie Wagner from Truman Air Sports brought their scooter tow rig and were pulling pilots up most every day. I took two flights on Friday. It was nice to be in free flight right at a paramotor event. With wind they could easily get people up over 1000 feet but, when I went, it wasn't blowing much and I only got up about 600 feet.

The second tow was cut short by a line break which is not a big deal. Damp the surge as necessary and use the height for whatever you need. What was kind of amusing was that I thought it was my weak link that broke until Garret radioed me: "you've got two choices -- either land with the line or release it." Ahhh, I thought, I've still got it. Not wanting to allow it the opportunity to catch on something when I got lower, I released it. But I held on to it so I could fly it back to them. If it caught I could just let go. Worked out perfect.

Garret and Blanie are good people. Generous of their time and skills, they were introducing a number of folks to towing and possibly a few to free flight. Tim & Arrived while they were doing a towing clinic with Britton playing the student. It was well done.

Thanks for the pulls!

1. Blanie stretching. Some people don't need photoshop. The only thing I did with this was to blur the background.
2. Garret and Blanie work together on the tow. Everybody has a radio.
3. Garret sets up an A-assist bridle. This pulls the speed system if the wing goes back very far. Some wings are only safe to tow with this system and some tow operators prefer them on any wing.
4. Saturday evening tow setup.

Final Day Filming

Next up? Northbound. After a morning flight we're going to hit the road, possibly going to the Lake of the Ozarks. It's kind of cool not having a particular destination in mind.

The morning flight turned out to be really cool. We arranged to get a group of folks to do some formation flying. A 630am departure was discussed and I was indeed out there at 630am getting ready to launch with my video camera. But how often are people ACTUALLY ready to go at that hour after the partying these things are famous for. I left the festivities early and still got to bed around midnight.

But I heard a paramotor flying.

"Really?" I thought -- "they're actually launching?" So I woke poor Tim up to sight my camera framer, which he did graciously, and then launched.

There was one paramotor flying and it wasn't part of the group. I could see stirrings but clearly it wouldn't be right away. Soon Shane Denherder and Jeff Toll launched. I followed them for a while. They are VERY fun to film! We did some tree slaloms, wet drags, and other fun stuff. Given the right targets, and these guys clearly qualify, this may be my favorite type of flying. I sure wish I did more of it here.

Memorial Day

This Monday we honor those who gave the ultimate sacrifice in service to their country. We have a democracy here and, in spite of it's problems, it's an amazing thing. Some people get caught up in negativity but the tests to see that a real democracy exists (yes, I know, it's technically a federal republic) are simple: 1. does the leadership ACTUALLY change on a periodic basis and 2. is the media free. We pass both of these with flying colors but BILLIONS of people endure government where that's not the case.

We're lucky. Damn lucky to live in these united states or other countries where such freedom shines.

The course at The Endless Footdrag. Pylons and Timer was courtesy of Paradrenalin.


Thanks to those who made it possible! These folks made the competition happen:

Director - Britton Shaw
Lead Judge - Robert Simpson

Other Judges & Helpers -
Dave Fore
Dave Ryhal
Shawn Hickman
Chris Erb
Trent Almon
Bruce Painter
Terry Painter
Dinny Bullard
Steve DeWater
Eric Brabec
Hadley Robinson


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