Two Roads Diverged

Life is all about choices – so which choice is coming next?

“I’m so glad I have kids who can get high without marijuana” – my mother

on November 14, 2012

So a lot people have bucket lists, and if you’re epic like the Bucket List Publication (Lesley Carter) you’re able to do many of your bucket list items.

If you’re like me, you might need a little push to get there.

So I made myself a promise on my 20th birthday.

If your birthday isn’t going to be exciting, MAKE it exciting!

Because let’s face it, after 21, what is there to look forward to?

So for my 20th: I cut off 20 inches of hair (the first time I’d significantly cut my hair since I was 5!).
For my 21st: I celebrated in Scotland.
For my 22nd: I went skydiving and drove a NASCAR racecar.
For my 23rd: I celebrated in Greece (and went bungee jumping later)

And this year, my 24th – I decided to go hang gliding.

Luckily for me, the hang gliding season has been quite bad, but this past weekend, the bright sunshine disappeared, and the high winds came.

We showed up at the Gliderport around 12:15, and I was planning to get in the air pretty quickly (because that’s what all the reviews said would happen).

Filled out 6 pages of “I won’t sue the company if I die” paperwork. And was told to expect an hour wait.

An hour? Ok, I’ll wait.

So I did.

But at 1 they stopped calling names.

”The winds are too high! We’re going to wait for them to calm down.”

While I didn’t disagree that it was a bit windy (ok, more than a bit – I was positively shivering and chattering my teeth), I was disappointed at the time lapse. My dad had a meeting to get to later, and we had to leave by 2:30.

We waited another hour, and 2 pm rolls around.

The guy who signed up with me walks up to us,
“I just asked them about the wait time. They said I have 4 people in front of me, and to expect another 2 to 3 hours before I go up. I’m leaving – just wanted to let you know it sounds like you have a while too!”

With a heavy heart I watched him leave.

I turned to my dad, “Well… we have to leave in a half hour, and I don’t see that I’ll be called in that time. So I guess we’ll come back another day…”

My dad just looked and me and we turned and walked towards the front office.

We reached the sidewalk, were about to step inside, when a man comes out with a clipboard.

”Jillian!”
“That’s me.”
”Well this is John, he’s your instructor. Best pilot we got, and he’ll be taking you up!”

And so I followed John to a hang glider and prepared (which involves lying on the ground and pushing your body from one side to the other, because that’s how you turn a glider).

John went down to the edge, studied the winds, came back, and asked my dad and me to help him wheel the glider down to the edge.

We went down the hill, and the winds were strong enough that holding onto the wing wire, I was being pulled off the ground!

The third time my feet left the ground, three men came running up to take over.

We finally got the glider down to the cliff edge. Clipped in. And the man holding the nose down turned to John,
”John, what do I do? Keep backing up?”

John just stared and him and yelled, “DUCK!”

And straight up we went!! No going down off the cliff edge – the winds just went Straight. Up.

We flew out towards the sea, and swung around the head back to the cliff.

“Smile, the photographers are waiting,” John informed me.
Torrey Pines Gliderport, Hang Gliding, Hang gliding san diego, hang gliding la jolla
We flew a ways down the coast, and he pointed out the ridiculously expensive houses, the Salk Institute, and the nearby college.

We got to a hot spot and went from 600 ft above the ground to 900 ft in less than a minute.

”If you didn’t know it was windy before, you sure would now!”

And then I got to take over.

Now I may have an adventurous spirit – but I’ll admit that with that spirit comes tons of trepidation! While I’ll trust pretty much anyone to handle something (bus, hang glider, plane, etc.) when it comes to me, I’m less than trusting.

But I took the reins (eh hem, well, Handle if we’re going to be technical) and after a few bouts of almost sending us spiraling downwards to a horrendous death minor problems, I figured out the gist of how to steer.

We sat above the world. Hanging in place like the birds do, and I appreciated how good the birds got it.

The ocean was stunning. The view was stunning. The world seemed calm. Life was good.

We slowly made our way back to the cliff – coming in at an angle that made it seem like the ocean waves were curling in place and not moving anywhere.

We swooped one last time over the ocean, and came speeding into the land.

I slid forward in the harness, going from a lying down position to an almost standing position.

We were out over the parking lot and John turned a strong 180 again.

We gained speed as the nose rushed towards the ground –

Then, Boop. The nose tilted up. Our speed abruptly slowed. And we landed gently on our feet.

I unclipped with a beaming smile on my face, shaking from the cold and the thrill of flight.

Unlike my other flying adventures, hang gliding was relaxing as well as thrilling.

And left me with a pretty sweet Facebook profile picture. ;)
Hang Gliding, John Heiney hang gliding, Torrey Pines Gliderport

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16 responses to ““I’m so glad I have kids who can get high without marijuana” – my mother

  1. Wow! That looks like so much fun! I’m terrified of heights, but if I was a little bit braver, I would love to do something like that… Also that is a REALLY sweet Facebook profile pic! Happy Birthday, by the way! :)

  2. El Guapo says:

    Wow, I’ve never seen a hangglider take off so easily.

    You should learn to do it yourself too. the start is running down a gentle slope with a hangglider strapped to your back – not near as death defying, but just as cool.

    HAPPY BIRTHDAY, and well done!!!

  3. MissFourEyes says:

    You have the best birthdays! Hang gliding! Driving a racecar! So jealous!
    Happy Birthday!

  4. The Hook says:

    What can I say? The title alone was worth the price of admission..

  5. Lily says:

    Amazing! You are so brave! I love celebrating birthdays in style. Seems like you do too! Happy 24th!

  6. What a fun birthday! Good thing your dad was not taking no for an answer..! Adventurous fb profile pics are the best and this one is perfect! Happy 24th!

    PS — I just turned 24 and didn’t celebrate with anything this fun (although I had just gotten back from Asia my jet lag made me a zombie)… Also, my bday isn’t on Facebook so only like, 5 people knew about it. Blog entries are a great way to spread the word. Note taken for next October 7th..!

  7. You’re mom is pretty cool! Not to mention an optimist ; – ) All this flying stuff is fun but be careful! I have 37 1/2 flight hours in a Cessna. You can’t always trust the instructors, especially the young ones. If you don’t go up, the instructors don’t get paid and sometimes their desire for payment over-rules their common sense! I went up one day when it was below freezing. Nobody else was flying (that should have been my first clue). Just as we cleared the runway, the engine died due to frost. Long story short, my instructor got chewed out when we safely landed. When I went to work the next day (at an airplane engine manufacturer) I got chewed out by the pilots there for going up on a day when I shouldn’t have. The thing is, I trusted my instructor. Use your own common sense. Accidents do happen. But I understand your reluctance about leaving, believe me I do!!! I was actually crying at work one day because somebody “stole” my plane that I had reserved to take a lesson in. Crying! LOL! And I couldn’t stop! Thank God my boss was a pilot and understood. Not too many people would understand. I never did get my license but I have a heck of a lot of “hangar” stories to tell!

  8. I’d love to try that sometime! It looks amazing.

  9. […] For my 21st – I was in Scotland. 22nd – Skydiving 23rd – Bungy Jumping in Greece (technically it was months later, and my 23rd was just celebrated in Greece, but I’m including it anyway ^.^) 24th – Hang-gliding […]

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