Monday, July 24, 2017

Wallaby Ranch.

Wallaby Ranch (1805 Deen Still Rd, Davenport, FL 33897) is the first full-time Aerotow Hang Gliding Flight Park in the World. Open seven days a week since 1991. Flying in a hang glider at Wallaby Ranch is exhilarating, but much of the thrill comes from the anticipation and camaraderie even before the wings take to the sky. Air currents are best in the morning, so we were encouraged to get up at the break of dawn. Breakfast and coffee were available at the barn and everyone sat at the picnic tables chatting until the currents were just right. Malcom Jones, who founded Wallaby Ranch, has flown more tandem flights than anyone else in the world. He knows how to read the current and is known for never taking any unnecessary chances.

My flight took off without a hitch, but by the time we got back to the ground, Malcom had decided that the winds had changed making it unsafe for other tandem flights to take off. I got to experience the quiet thrill of soaring and seeing a rainbow encircling the shadow of my wings in the clouds. I was at the ranch to celebrate Pam Schwartz's birthday and unfortunately, she was grounded. She did get to take flight the next day and was equally impressed with the experience.

Most of the fun at the ranch happens on the ground, meeting new people who share a passion for flight. There is a pool that became mission central for much of the afternoon as people relaxed and soaked to stay cool. Pam and I took to the pool almost immediately upon arrival to watch the sunset. Once the sun went down, horse flies and dragon flies buzzed my ears causing me to flail and destroy the peace. In the evening, everyone gathered in the barn for dinner, games and music. We played a rather risque word game that was fun to play with strangers. One player would read a card that set up a situation and then each player had to put in their own card that they felt was the most funny or inappropriate way to finish the thought. You could tell if your card had worked if everyone else laughed at the result. When my card was read each time, I swear you could hear crickets chirping. I didn't win.

Guitar and harmonica music set the tone for the rest of the evening and everyone sang along. The feeling of community being among people who fly is intoxicating and I can understand how learning to fly solo can become an obsession. 20 hours of tandem flights are needed before a pilot can fly solo. I heard that it is possible to stay in the air for hours if the winds are just right. My flight was video recorded from start to finish with a Go Pro camera mounted on the wing. It is amazing to relive the experience from the comfort of a couch.

Prints are available for each sketch for $250 and many originals can be purchased for $400. White museum grade shadow box frames are $100 more. You can e-mail Thor at

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