Peter wrote quite many articles about flying and mount 7. Here are articles written or published at unspecified dates. Contributed by Brenda Bowle-Evans
Steady now, all of you faithful spouse drivers. There is a sequel to this piece. It is called, “Pilots - As A Pilot Imagines Drivers See Us”. That is the reality check. This one is our side of it. I had better qualify that though - this could be thin ice. This is what I perceive as our side of it, between myself and at least some of the other pilots I have obtained drivers with. “Obtain” you say? Well, look here now. They get to drive a four wheel drive, and even my truck is a decent one now! Besides, what is wrong with a little bit of adventure? They get to go up to an awesome place. Some people pay thousands of dollars to get to a place with a view like the Lookout, and here now we are giving it to them for nothing. They get wonderful company, from guys who are in the best of spirits. It is holiday time. Have fun and make merry. When Eric and I were learning to fly, which meant we were going up about ten times a week, it was sort of understood that we provided everything they needed and quite a few of the things they wanted. All they had to do was take it in turns to drive. “Watching hang gliders launch is totally awesome man, you just HAVE to see it!” If leaping off a cliff at the top of a mountain is what they think is going to happen, far be it from us to put other words into their mouths if this makes them want to come up and watch - and drive. It doesn't really take that long, and then while we are flying, the vehicle is yours. We will call on the radio when we are going to land and tell you where to pick us up. What could be easier? (Read the sequel story)
So off we go. Now, if the driver just happens to be generally appealing (you can fill in your own fantasies) - well, why not? We have found it prudent to casually mention things like 'standard transmission', 'here is where we put the hubs in and you take them out on the way down', 'oh and, you really do need to shift it out of low range and into two high; see, you do it like this' - followed by a demonstration. “What gear do I go down in?” Oh, first or second, or second and third, depending. “Depending on what?” Well, the vehicle and the road conditions - today in this truck, just go down in third, except for the steep part, where its best to stop and go down to second. It'll be in low range already so its just easy. Just go slow. These are complete instructions, yes?
Beer is generally readily to hand at any time, the view is magnificent, the road is impressive, the weather is superb, the site is world class, and we are - look, you just HAVE to get to know these guys - and what we are doing is incredible. “They don't just go down, they go up! Some of them go hundreds of miles.” With all of this, a few little helping hands here and there is a must, right? A lift with the glider off the rack, sure put these bags on the tailgate, actually a cold drink right now would be nice, thanks, hand me my sunglasses from that tree where I left them hanging, would you?, now just hold the nose of the glider while I do a hang check, OK, now just hold that wire there, not like that though, put your hand the other way around. Did I tell you how to use the radio? Well, it's all plugged in and ready to go, you'll figure it out. You're papa tango. CLEAR.
I generally make a visual check of my truck as I climb out. There are a million reasons why it may leave immediately or wait a while. By the time I am over the mountain, I sort of figure it is time it left. Either I am going to lose it, in which case it is time they headed for the LZ so I won't have to wait, or much better and very likely, I am going down range somewhere, in which case the day will seem more worthwhile for them. When the radios are working, it is all pretty basic. When they are not, it is still not that bad. All they have to do is cruise down the valley till they see a red hang glider. I always land close to the road. Besides, sometimes I am transmitting and just not receiving, so I will transmit my whereabouts anyway, and tell them not to bother replying, just follow me down the valley. Now, lots of pilots have better radios than me, so my shortcomings in this regard are not a general case. So, with good communication, we are off to a happy tour down the Columbia valley. For any pilot on a cross country flight, an accompanying driver is always a good thing. It means the hassles of retrieval should be anywhere from minimal to none. This means things like actually getting home for supper, getting to bed before midnight, not being half asleep at the office tomorrow, or having time to do a few other things in the day yet. Of course, if it turns out to be a really long XC flight, then we will probably eat supper out, which means I/we buy for the lucky driver. It is my personal experience that the longer the flight the bigger and better the supper, so there is the added driver bonus. That is, provided the flight is not so long that everywhere is closed. In some areas of the Columbia valley, this can happen: but that will not happen today, will it? Well, probably not, but I am not about to quit. Besides, if it does happen, they will be so proud of us/me, that they will not mind anyway!
Once on the ground, there may be a little to and fro for the driver to get the final directions as to where we are. At this point they get to learn just exactly what and where is Hank's, Juniper, Spur Valley, Lucas's, the 15 k field, the Radium airport, the Parson landing strip, Bill Braul's, the field behind the trailer court at Donald, (I did say we sometimes fly North, didn't I?) the taxidermist's, Kinsey's at Hospital creek, Spilli, Beards creek, or any one of a dozen or more other prominent XC LZ's. Then, a little help to carry the hundred yards or so to the fence, a lift over the fence and ditch, up onto the highway and onto the rack, the harness bag and a cold drink, and then we are off home, or perhaps for that supper if it has been a long one. We return the driver to wherever they want - their own vehicle, parked often at the regular LZ so they can carry on their day from there any time if that is where we are going to end up, the campground, their house, anywhere in town, whatever. It has always been fun somewhere along the line. Can I give you a call tomorrow, or some other day?
Peter Bowle-Evans has been accused of writing this article, but pleads innocence.
Recently an anonymous, misguided HG pilot laid himself open to eternal driver abuse by writing a story on how he wished drivers would appreciate our never ending plight. He was prudent enough to give himself an out by claiming to have a sequel, expounding a “through the looking glass” viewpoint, as you might say. So, here goes my best shot.
Not that hot shot has got anything to do with it; far from it. I mean, really, you wouldn't believe the shit those arseholes expect us to put up with. They seem to think that just because they like risking their necks fooling around in the sky all the time that this makes them king shit and everyone else is supposed to bend over backwards to wait on them hand and foot. Fancy trucks, eh? Have you ever had a flat on a hill that so steep and so slippery you can hardly stand up on it? I would have left it right there, except it would have probably slid down on me while I tried to walk away, so, screw it, you drive it on down to the nearest safe place to get away from it and dump it there, and to hell with his screwed-up tire. Can you believe his spare was flat too? “Well then, why do you still drive for them? You do, don't you?” God, I don't know. Actually he's kind of a nice guy; most of them are, it's just they are self-centered.
“It's all the screwing around that gets me. I don't mind going up there, it is kind of a nice spot, and half the people I know are up there too, so at least I can commiserate with them. I would not mind so much if they just got on with it, but they mess about, wait, wait some more, then it's too soon, too cloudy, too weak, too strong, and eventually it can get to be too late!”
Imagine this scenario. For the best effect, the parts in parentheses should be read as loud and terse; the other as quiet and meek, or at least apologetic. Your driver of the day is your other half, be it boy or girl.
“- Look, I will drive for you today if you promise you will just set it up and go. I haven't started doing anything else yet today, so if that's OK with you let's get on with it right now.
- Well, of course I will, honey, just as soon as its right.
- That's not what I said. I said just set it up and go!
- Well, yes, of course, but, well, I mean, it has got to start thermalling. Otherwise there's no point, and you don't want me to waste a day.
- The whole thing is a waste anyway, what's the difference?
- Well, it's just that if you go too early, there's a good chance of sinking out real quick and being on the ground in no time at all.
- Great! Then we can do something I want to do for a change - let's go!”
One group of spouse drivers I know have an impeccable rule: if they do not get back to the campground by six o'clock, they will not cook that day, and expect to be taken out for supper. That's it, whether the pilots have a long flight or a short one, a good one or a bad one, whether they land in trees or in water, get run over by a train, or whatever other nonsense they are going to get into that afternoon - six o'clock or else.......... Now, six may not be exactly the magic hour, but that it is close enough. Whether the reverse happens when they do get back before six, I am not totally sure, but I know it does sometimes. I may be a sinner, but so help me, I personally like it when someone cooks supper for me; but do I like supper more than flying? As a pilot in flight, this unimpeachable standard must pose some excruciating decision making at times. Presumably this path gets pre-programmed into the high tech wizardry these days - speed to fly to make supper time.
This has nothing to do with drivers, but in the simple part of my mind I find it curious and almost confusing, that the pilot who dons a thing that for some reason always makes me think of a bikini, except that there is something not quite right about it - they put it over their head and shoulders instead of around their....well never mind, to supposedly make them go faster, is often also the same pilot who then straps an expensive looking object about the size and shape of a high school text book to their base tube, and equally as streamlined, that will reportedly furiously calculate more information on the flight than most people will understand. I guess the one makes up for the other. Or then again, perhaps some of the former really are bikinis, it does indeed have to do with drivers, and some of my flying associates are a hair more flamboyant than I thought. Is anyone missing anything personal?
So some of them have radios. Sure - half the time they all rattle on so much you can hardly get a word in edgeways, and the other half they don't work. Even when they do work, so what if you hear,”I'm coming down at Dumphy's”. I know Golden and Invermere, and there's some place called Parson down there someplace. How are you supposed to know this means Dumphy's Bed & Breakfast? Even then, where the hell is that - it's not on my map! (These are Columbia valley names, but there will be similar conundrums anywhere.)
What could be easier? Having nothing to do with it! “You're going flying this afternoon - sure, you'll be hall of the day and most of the night too. Well, while you're doing that, I'm going: swimming, fishing, for a bicycle ride, a mountain bike trip, play golf, go whitewater rafting, kayaking, get to know those nice looking people at the other end of the campground, find someone nice to go for supper with when it's not the middle of the night - in fact, I'm going to have a good time - mind you don't damage that stupid hang glider/paraglider, you can't afford another one - bye!” Another version is, “I have to go to work this week, so I'm leaving now”. I have even heard reports of, “He/she just got bored and went home - no, he/she doesn't have to go to work this week, he/she just didn't want to be here anymore.” Non-pilot drivers/partners will, I believe, totally understand this little paragraph. Pilots may have some difficulty with it.
There are a few instances where the situation genuinely does provide someone with a bona fide fun afternoon, by way of an opportunity to see something new. I believe I can say this not only from having been on the receiving end of it from fascinated persons who have ended up driving for me - how you get them fascinated is another story, and should probably be the subject of a psychology research project at a prestigious university attended by the very best brains - but because I have done it myself. It was not for flying, but for kayaking, and was a long time ago. It was a nice sunny afternoon, I was invited to watch the whole scenario, and I had simply never seen anyone dive into a river that to me looked like certain death. All I had to do was drive the truck, as they were going to put in at some point upstream, and end up several miles lower down. I also did not mind driving their very characterful truck - that's just me. It was of a vintage that many of you are not old enough to have ever even seen, let alone driven. It was warmly known as “Uncle truck”, but could easily have qualified for “Grandpa truck”. Mind you, the steepest part of the road was no steeper than the upramp to a MacDonalds, and not much longer, and if “Uncle” had upped and died that afternoon, there was the occasional other vehicle going along the road to a rescue a stranded person. I recall watching in complete fascination as these guys hurled themselves into what to me looked like the very worst parts of the raging torrents, and being eternally thankful that I only had to watch, and had not somehow got talked into getting into a boat. But I only did it once, and this is typical of this sort of driver. It can be real fun - once.
Since we all want to do it more than once, there lies the problem. Any ideas anyone?
Peter Bowle-Evans is getting the blame for this one too.
So what is it that makes a person fly? Let's get past the technicalities, and 'who has the most superlative glider', or even 'who has the most superlative driver'. Never mind the competition, a competitive person will compete in anything, and someone who participates will participate in anything. Obviously there is something about the experience of defying our natural born place on the ground, in exchange for literally flying with birds and the proverbial but real soaring with eagles, that a person who really flies is not only comfortable with, but often excited with. Certainly there are some technical aspects that are pleasurable for some, learning curves, and a whole community of people and activities to engage in. But these things may be found in any number of pastimes, such as, I dare say, in underwater diving.
The core of it has to be deep within our psyches. Due in part to the wonderfully unregulated existence of free flight, it gives something that in our all too often over protected society we are unable to do. It is to explore our own limits. We can step from our mundane, every day, feed the bank some money, often meaningless days, across into what seems to be a far more real, and without question more meaningful life. A whole new world is opened up, our horizons are expanded, and there is cause and meaning to elements of our world that previously we had been only dimly aware of, it at all.
So when Charles, and Chris, and Bill, and Victor, and Igor, and Willi, and others that many of you who read this will, sadly, be able to put names, faces, and real persons to, went out to fly their last day, they did not go out to do anything that different or special in relation to what they would normally do. It was not about records, personal bests, competitive placing, media coverage, peer status; and most certainly not about anything daredevil. Above all, it was not about playing the game on the knife edge of life over death. They simply went out to explore some more about themselves, and about their own human limits. In doing this, they stayed true to themselves, and made a last and ultimate contribution to their fellow flyer companions, in that what took place can be examined, analyzed, thought about, and worked into our own activities, be that in flying or other pursuits, be it technically or emotionally, so that we may, if faced with similar situations, handle them differently, and go home those days.
All that these friends of ours did, was to go out to explore their own limits, and to live life to the fullest. Perhaps that is what it is all about.
Sometime between 1990 and 2006
1948, and a young flight lieutenant gave up the struggle for life against the cancer that riddled the young man's body. A result of the early days of the use of oxygen in what at that time were known as high flying aircraft, he was not alone.
And so one small boy never really knew his Dad. He was not alone in this either, and indeed there was even a measure of honour in this in Europe at that time, and he became a mantlepiece hero. He must have been a good pilot, or at least he must have loved flying, because when he was demobilised after the war he spent his money on aeroplanes before houses, and for fun would go hedge hopping over the marshes close to his home. He did find time to provide for his young wife and son, and secured for them a small cottage which she lives in to this day. He determined to make his living from flying, and a charter flight business in North Africa was his first step. The solo flight in a single engine aircraft across as yet uncharted jungles was an event in itself, requiring special permits, and made the front pages of the London daily newspapers. A scant few weeks later, all this changed, and he was no more.
And so one small boy never really knew his Dad.
Until one day, after more than forty years had passed, when this small boy had found the lady of his life, Brenda, and they had their own small boy. Then, somewhere between a place called Longview, where we climbed up out of the mist and fog of a fall day to a bright blue sky with Winnipeg eight hundred miles to the East, and the mountains close enough to touch to the West, a man called Willy Muller and his friends, and a movie called "Always", a day where some things just happened for I did not know why, and a drive home through the Kananaskis with puffy little cumulus clouds dotting the crystal clear blue sky, and which I then still did not really understand; then, in one realisation, one small boy knew his Dad. Knew what it was that made his spirit soar, his heart pound, the blood flow in his veins, his body tingle, what it was that made life worth living and give it meaning. This small boy now had his own small boy, and knew the pleasures of playing together with him, skiing and later flying together in the mountains of their home, passing on to him, from father to son those things that are special to us. For if I have given you these things, my son, then I have given you my soul. For me there is no alone. Perhaps that is why I like to do things that seem to be unaccompanied.
And so, after more than forty years, one small boy knew his Dad.
So if truly some towering cu, some bullet thermal, rotor, dust devil, downdraft, turbulence, or other happening in the air; some avalanche, cornice or other happening in the snow, does indeed lie in wait for me, then it will just be a little sooner before two spirits soar together again for eternity. And if it is posssible from this place, we shall be waiting for our loved ones when their turns come. For us there is no alone.
For me, this is "Why".
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