Blackfoot, Idaho, has a lovely airport that is great for launching paramotors out of. When it’s closed for repairs to the runway, it has a lovely set of baseball and soccer fields next to it that look fantastic for launching paramotors out of. But I wouldn’t know for sure.
I downplay how physically challenging this paramotor stuff is for me, but even getting the damn thing on my back takes my breath away some days, and especially at altitudes higher than the 79′ field I fly out of at home. From the second I decide to fly to the second I take my first step to launch, a not-insignificant number of calories are burned.
On this morning, I was half a click from that first step to launch from this beautiful field when a truck comes roaring up and a dude yells what I think is, “Hsfhjuourlw truck off MY FIELD NOW ldfjouuwjerlj,” (I have noise-blocking ear muffs because I’m sitting 15 inches in front of a 200cc 2-stroke engine; I can’t hear shit.) and peels out. Uh, fine dude, we’ll move the car. Kyler, however, has no such hearing protection and could hear the small man yell, “This is not a launch site, you need to move your truck OFF MY FIELD NOW.” At least I got part of it right.
So fuck. Fine. For this little man it might have seemed like a trivial distance to just walk over to the airport but I’m here to assure him IT IS NOT TRIVIAL. Dick.
We get all my shit over to the runway, where there are backhoes moving gravel, trucks zooming to wherever construction managers on site must get to in a hot hurry, and everything in general disarray. I pick a launch site I don’t think will kill or inconvenience anyone and go.
Six attempts at launching and almost two full hours later, I am in the air. Fucking finally. I give the white truck the finger from 500′ and am on my way to American Falls, which will turn out to be a much more pleasant Idaho experience.
After a pretty uneventful flight, I have one of my rare nice landings. Sweet!
We settle into the FBO (I was going to spell out what this acronym means but now realize I have no idea. It’s the office bit of the airport, where there is usually a pilot’s lounge, bathrooms, internet and heat. Fixed business office! I do have an idea.) and try to warm up. It is still colder than my warming angels can fly so it takes a while.
We also get an awesome surprise in the form of my good friend Arlito, freshly landed just an hour and a half away in Twin Falls for some BASE jumping! We work literally next door to each other but there is something about seeing someone from home in unfamiliar places that is always welcome. Love you Arlo!
There are usually local pilots hanging around airports and they are usually pretty interested in the craziness it takes to fly a lawn chair across the country. In American Falls we met an awesome pilot named Dallan who was originally from the town I wanted to land in next. He gave us a ton of good information, including the very helpful intel that the spot I intended to land was a feed lot that held 65,000 head of cattle.
Time comes to take off and it is PER-FECT! Dallan hopped in his plane and flew with me for a little bit which was super cool. Usually traffic scares the bejeezus out of me but he and I had talked about wake turbulence and he let me know he’d be there so it was great.
Just before the Snake River I got a whiff of some sweet smelling syrupy air and thought, “Well isn’t that pleasant?” Then came the pig shit smell which was both stronger and far less pleasant. Gotta take the good with the bad, I guess.
Approaching Malta I got another flying companion; Kester with the organizer truck had popped up to say hello in the air and take some photos. He’s one of the best pilots in the world so I trusted as he buzzed around me at distances I normally would have crapped my pants about.
We flew together over to the spot where Kyler was waiting with the car. I started my landing pattern, lost a little altitude then BAM! The air felt like it wanted to throw me straight into the ground. Maybe that was just a little dust devil or maybe it was even in my imagination? I went back up and around to try again. BAM, BITCH, DID YOU NOT HEAR ME THE FIRST TIME?
That was the air, btw. It really did not want me near Kyler. I circled a bit more, dipping down to find some clean happy air that hadn’t been mistreated as a child. If it happened to be above a bit of land that wasn’t occupied by a barbed-wire fence or a power line or a home or a horse, so much the better.
I found a little bit of land and landed. Not terribly gracefully, especially in light of the high-def camera attached to Kester that was recording every bit for posterity, but I landed.
We headed to the boomtown of Malta, Idaho, for some well-deserved steak. Over dinner Kester told us about a family that came out to meet him where he landed. They’d been watching the tracker and were excited to meet us. Me, okay. They were excited to meet me. It makes me feel funny even typing that.
I have such conflicted feelings about being the only woman in this race. Two years ago, Claire did the race (unsupported!) and she told me about the rock-star treatment she got as well. I’m so proud to be in this thing as a woman in a very, very, very male-dominated sport. I’ve always done traditionally male things, for whatever reason. There is a part of me that likes giving traditional gender roles the finger, and there is the part of me that just likes grease and dirt.
Anyway this mom and her daughters came to the restaurant to meet us and get pictures. I just have no idea how to act around people in normal social situations but this is way above my pay grade. I hope like hell I don’t say anything stupid or offensive or careless, and take a picture with the girls. I don’t know what it’s like to grow up in a small town but I hope they at least have more evidence of what’s possible when you do what you like and not what people tell you you should like or do.
I recover from my shock and embarrassment to be really grateful for that experience – and the steak, which was possibly the best steak I’ve ever had – and we finish our meal. We give our credit card to the waitress and she says, “I’d take your card, but your meal’s already been paid for.”
HOLY CRAPOLA! I feel like I should send hand embroidered thank-you doilies to this lovely family in Malta. Thank you, lovely Malta family!
So we go to hunker down for the night when we get the weather report and decide the best possible course of action is to get to Wendover, Nevada, that night and fly the famous Bonneville Salt Flats the next evening after some gambling and sleep. Not in that order. Hopefully.