TBT: Dizzying Backflip Makes Headlines

About a year ago, a short video clip I had posted made headlines… in Australia?!


It also spurred a pretty radical discussion about how low is “too low” for aerobatics… All I’ll say is that this wasn’t as low, or upside down, as it looks.  Regardless, it was cool getting noticed down undah.

Color, or Black & White?

As an avid photographer, this is a choice I often struggle with… Obviously there is no definitive answer, it’s pure preference.  The world we live in is full of color, and often we want images that capture and represent that well… but every once in a while, there is a photo that just seems to tell it’s story a bit better in black and white.

Black and white is a look not all appreciate; It seems most of the people that appreciate have at least some interest/experience in photography.  I think it’s these people that appreciate black and white when it’s used “correctly”… sometimes the lack of color ads some metaphorical meaning to the art… and other times, the color is just a distractor from the subject or the storyline of the image.

Anyway- here is a photo I took back in October, with a little help from my very good friends Jimmy and Davie…
Do you like it better in color, or in black and white? (click the image to view full-size)

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ADHD Productivity

ADHD is a chemical imbalance in the brain, which can manifest in a wide variety of ways.  I’ve already written a little about my “epiphany” in researching ADHD- and would like to thank those that reached out and shared their stories and support.  But only those that suffer from ADHD really understand what I’m going through… if you don’t have it, or even if you have it but don’t SUFFER from the symptoms… it’s going to be very hard to understand.  But if you WANT to understand me better, please read on…

ADHD is a “disorder”, not a disease; there is no cure.  To better understand, let’s think of it as an “abnormality”… not unlike having 6 toes.  Since the majority of the people in the world don’t have 6 toes, that’s what makes it ab-normal.  But it’s not something ‘curable’, either… even if you had one toe removed you’re just adapting to the accepted “normal”.

Thinking of ADHD in this manor might be a bit humorous (and it was meant to be), but bear with me and I’ll explain.  Because the ADHD brain’s chemistry is different than the world majority, it operates a little differently.  This in itself might not be an issue, but society has standards and expectations that are based on the “normal”.  Having 6 toes might make you better at some things, lots of things!, but make it impossible to wear “normal” closed-toe shoes.  But to work in professional America “proper footwear” is expected…

Let me get away from the toes thing and back to the ADHD thing… Our society functions by rewarding good behaviors.  Do-a-good-job-and-get-a-gold-star kind of thing.  If you finish all of your chores you earn the right to play, right?  But in the ADHD brain- it’s short on a needed chemical… so it’s searching.  Like a fish on the bottom of a fish tank, sucking up pebbles and spitting them out again.  The ADHD brain takes over the body and seeks stimulus that will release the needed chemical(s) to right the balance in the brain.  This is as involuntary as breathing or blinking.  Both of which are great examples, by the way, because they are things we can think about and control for short periods… but honestly, how long can you think about how or when you breathe or blink before it become involuntary again.  ADHD people aren’t entirely incapable of controlling their attention… but like blinking or breathing it’s not too long before the brain takes back over.  Squirrel?!  Something shiny?  What’s that noise?!

I mentioned society’s reward-after-task format because, for the ADHD brain, this system is backwards.  The ADHD brain needs to achieve equilibrium before it can function like a “normal” brain is expected to.  This means, for ADHD people, often the reward should really come BEFORE the task.  Myself, for example, writing this article.  I have a big video editing project I’m supposed to be working on today- and I’ve been uber productive so far… on everything EXCEPT video editing.  I just can’t seem to make my focus stay on where I need it.

Am I impulsive?  Irresponsible?  Lazy?  Am I choosing to not get any work done, or do I really, really want to be productive on this?!  (I do!).  So why am I writing this instead of editing?  Well, this is hopefully an artful strategy that will help me get to work.  You see, these thoughts were bouncing around in my head… and I had the sudden impulse to put them in writing.  I enjoy writing (sometimes), I get to creatively express myself… and in this case I also get to help people understand who I am and why I’m the way I am.  If I understand the ADHD brain, in theory doing something I *want* to do, that I enjoy, should help get my chemistry upstairs right… and allow me to finally get some work done.

The world is always seeking balance; like a swinging pendulum, balance is only momentarily achieved and then it is lost once again.  But whether the pendulum is moving left or right, we can count on it to seek it’s center once again.  In the ADHD brain, it’s seeking a similar balance… and by understanding what it needs I’m hoping to achieve it long enough to function on a necessary task.  Rather than fighting that pendulum swing and prolonging it’s return to center, I’m trying something different- I’m recognizing it’s need to swing and running with it (in the right direction).

I’m super-stoked to identify with ADHD suffers, not because I want an excuse, but because I want to take charge and stop the suffering.  I want to believe I have a *CHOICE* in who I am and how I behave.  I want to take charge of my life.  I want to… ooh, is that ice cream still in the fridge?!

Selling the “Sundancer” T2C

This has been, hands down, the best glider I have ever owned or flown!  I’ve never had so many amazing, memorable experiences in such a short span of time as I have since getting this wing.  It’s been a wild ride!HGPGcover1307

But, like all good rides, they must come to an end.  I’m rehabbing from a shoulder reconstruction, and won’t by flying for quite a while still (possibly not until the Spring).  And when I do start flying again, I’ll ease into things on my Falcon for a good while first.

SO- not that there’s ever really a good time to part with a great wing- but I don’t imagine there will ever be a more “logical” time than right now.

“Sundancer” T2C 144, serial # 40410
Sail manufacture date 4/8/2011

  • Sail is UVPT White (not the cool clear stuff, but excellent visibility to others)
  • Includes all the T2C standard issue goodness: Carbon aft LE’s, carbon sprogs, carbon-kevlar LE inserts, carbon speed bar (LOVE!) and 12mm battens.
  • Currently has the “World Team” carbon DT’s (slightly narrower profile than even the Slipstream legs for slightly more performance at speed).  If you’d prefer aluminum Slipstream legs I can do that and take $100 off.
  • Sail has no more than 200 hours on it, with lots of life left in it.  It’s always been super babied, and the UV-stabilized Mylars are lasting as long as Dacron these days- with the added benefit of 0-stretch.  It still performs outstanding.
  • All general maintenance is up-to-date; Side wires and tip wands were recently replaced.
  • Original and one-of-a-kind (except for my matching Falcon4) sail colors look great up close and from afar.  Photographs well and gets lots of positive attention everywhere I go :-)


  • Glider is located in Ellenville, NY and is available for test flight to serious buyers.
  • I am willing to pack and ship (no charge to pack, buyer pays shipping).
  • If you are interested or have questions I can be reached using the ‘Contact’ link above.

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*I will not sell this glider to a new or unqualified pilot.  If you’re not a H4 or higher rated pilot, and I don’t know you, please ask an instructor or mentor to endorse this transaction*

A.D.D. and me

I’ve been reading a lot about A.D.D. lately. I’ve known what it is, or at least thought I did, for a long time. I’ve had friends that had it, and were on prescriptions to manage it. But to be honest, I didn’t really “get it”. I knew what A.D.D. stands for- “Attention Deficit Disorder”… and from there I really just created my own mental understanding given the name. I didn’t realize I had done this, until…

Someone shared a golden article on Facebook, and I happened to click the link and start reading. Before this moment of clarity, I had kind of casually laughed and said to myself “Oh yea, A.D.D., I’ve got that! I get distracted all the time!”. I’m ignorant and stupid, what can I say. BUT- deep down, I didn’t think I REALLY had it, because among my life of distracted half-finished tasks, I’m also able to super-concentrate to the point of obsession.  And I thought, maybe I have the opposite of A.D.D., since I have these times where I have an abundance of attention.

Like I said, I read this article, and boom- my conflicted self was explained in a way only someone just like me could understand.  Here is http://www.tickld.com/x/if-your-friends-ever-say-they-have-adhd-just-show-them-this  This article introduced me to a new term: HYPER-FOCUS.  If you know me, you will read this article and think that maybe I wrote it myself.  Hyper-Focus is my middle name… among a sea of distracted, half-engaged moments all day every day.

This seems like a good time to say that I am undiagnosed A.D.D.- which is to mean I haven’t been tested or had someone in a long white coat tell me I’ve got it.  I’m self-diagnosing here; risky business I know!  But this isn’t like reading the symptoms of some disease and saying oh my god I think I have that.  There is no think.  The more I read up about it… I have it, period.

Some other aspects of my life have really come into focus as I’ve researched A.D.D. further.  A very abbreviated explanation of A.D.D. is that, when you see, taste, smell, or do something you find enjoyable, your brain releases some chemicals (aka drugs).  It’s like a reward from your brain for giving it stimulation it likes.  Well A.D.D. brains either release less of this chemical, or are less sensitive to it- so it takes more stimulation to get the same chemistry as a non-A.D.D. person.  I’m not a doctor, and certainly no scientist, so take my simplified explanation with that disclaimer in mind.

One thing I’ve struggled with all my life is being “normal”.  And by normal I’m going to say being a cliche’d member of society.  I have also felt entirely unable (not unwilling; UNABLE) to work in an office environment for too long.  I can’t ride a desk (CAN’T, not won’t- I’ve tried).  I’ve never been able to describe it- the hopeless feeling I get when I do that kind of thing for too long.  It’s like claustrophobia, anxiety, and depression all at the same time.  It feels like my brain is dying… and my body follows suit.

I’ve countered this by living a pretty “free” lifestyle.  I do a lot of freelance-type work.  I work outside whenever possible.  I surround and engulf myself in adventure sports and activities.  And when I can’t do any of that… I compensate.  Again, if you know me, you know about my addiction to soda.  I don’t do anything in moderation, especially soda.  Pepsi at breakfast.  Then one at 11.  And another around 3.  And at least one at dinner (restaurants with free refills hate me, as do the servers I’m sure).  As I get older, I’ve struggled with staying fit vs gaining weight.  I know my soda addiction is a huge factor.  Soda in itself is sugary and high in calories… but those sugars also spike appetite and lead to over-eating and never really getting that “full”, satisfied feeling after a meal.

As I read and learn about A.D.D… and the accompanying medications… they’re stimulants, and trigger that good stuff in your brain.  Guess what else is a stimulant- caffeine.  I tried an experiment about a week ago, and started drinking coffee in the mornings.  I’ve never had much of a taste for it, but I wanted to see if I could *FINALLY* go soda-free if I replaced the caffeine with another delivery method (spoken like a true addict).  It’s been a week now, and I haven’t missed- or craved- a coke even once.  MIND. BLOWN.

There are also smaller things about me… like my digital appendage most people call a phone.  Quality time with my family, out to dinner with friends, at a party (even my own b-day party), it’s not unusual in the least to find me fiddling with my appliance.  It has irked a lot of people, caused friction with employers and loved ones, and some have taken it as a total lack of interest or even disrespect.  I’ve tried to tell people it’s nothing… and I’ve tried to put the phone down, pull myself away, and “be present”.  Yea, that doesn’t last long.  And if I force myself too long, my happiness or pleasantness to be around leaves the room, leaving a distracted miserable cranky shell-of-a-Ryan behind.  Sitting at the table having conversation feels like being thirsty in the desert.  And I know there’s a water bottle in my pocket!  But I’ve been asked not to drink the water, or hold the bottle.  So I sit, starving of thirst.  The phone- the constant forum reading, Google searching, video watching… meaningless “fiddling” in general… it’s brain stimulation.  It helps me function.

None of my new “understanding” of A.D.D. or myself really excuses such behavior… but it helps me approach workable solutions better.  I contemplate meds… but I’ve found constructive uses for my “hyper-focus”, and don’t want to lose that… it’s tough choice…

I write this because it might help other’s understand themselves, and be happier, more functional members of society.  And if not, thanks for reading my ramblings, and understanding me a little better!  I’ve always struggled with impulsiveness- feeling the need to do selfish things that make me happy… and not being able to do a single thing until I get that out of my system.  I never knew why.  I’ve always hated it; I feel guilty about it.  But aren’t I in charge of my own actions?!  WHY do I keep acting this way?!  Am I really this selfish?!  I’m realizing I was doing what I had to do to get by… and, like my soda addiction, I can’t stop doing these selfish acts without first replacing the brain-chemical-triggering action with something equally satisfying to my mind.  Makes perfect sense to me now!  (although coming up with actual solutions is not so simple).

And lastly, I’d like to apologize to those friends that have A.D.D. for my lack of understanding or respect for how they function or what they need to be happy.  Like I tell so many new hang glider pilots, don’t stop learning about stuff because “you don’t know what you don’t know”!

TBT: South Side Skyout

I recently came across this footage, filmed with the original GoPro Hero (the first one, before they were HD).  I’m flying my aluminum Wills Wing T2, which makes this sometime in the spring or summer of 2009.

A great day at the South Side, thermalling up above the “Blue Balls” radio antennas, and drifting way back almost to the North Side bench!  Looks like I wasn’t flying with a vario… and I only vaguely remember the day… no idea how high I was actually getting, but it looks pretty stinkin’ high from a little 300′ gravel pile!

I have mixed feelings watching this video… Having moved back to NY, I miss the hot summer days of hanging at the South Side and soaring the “training hill” playground all day.  Looking at the video I see how the mountain looked then, and knowing what it looks like now- how much of it has been destroyed- makes me very sad.  I also see some great cu’s popping over the mountains, and can’t help but wonder… on a day where we were thermalling this high at the South Side… did I miss a 17,999 ft day in the mountains?  Or could this have been a State-record beating XC day (220 miles)?  Whatever it could have been doesn’t really matter… watching this video brings back warm memories of a fun day with great people at one of the best sites in the world.

Got my feet off the ground!

Monday will make it 3-weeks since my shoulder surgery, and I’m already getting pretty tired of being one-armed, and not being able to do much “fun” stuff… like fly.

My friend Jimmy made a generous offer to take me up in his plane, to which I eagerly accepted!  It was a fantastic morning of driving around the sky; I am supremely grateful!


Definitely, definitely a good drrrriver…


Jimmy and the Tappan Zee Bridge off the left wing


A look at the construction of a NEW Tappan Zee Bridge… and they’ll tear down the current one when they’re done!


Looking North up the Hudson at the Bear Mountain Bridge


Can you name that runway?


Hint: C-130’s and C-5A’s live here.  Usually a couple C-17’s, too… but I didn’t see them this time


I finally got to fly the Gunks! :-)


And a scenic view of Lake Minnewaska as we crossed back over toward Ellenville

Thank you again Jimmy D!!!

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Blind Squirrel Finds a Nut!

With a forecast for light wind but decent lift I had high hopes of Saturday being a great day to fly Ellenville… despite the North/North-East forecast.  I got up to launch around 11 and Jay-Bird was already set up.  Griffin and Scotty T arrived about the same time, and Griff and I decided to set up.

At this point there were nice cu’s popping, everywhere but near launch.  My suspicion is the cu’s behind launch were coming from the sun hitting Pine Bush, Walker Valley, and the back side of the ridge all morning, while launch and the Ellenville valley remained shaded.  There were also nice cu’s across the valley, and again my theory was that the sun had been hitting over there for longer, causing convection.

Being a North-West facing site, Ellenville is best suited as an evening site because that’s when the sun hits the valley and ridge the best.  But for getting off, up and away on a light-and-variable day we wanted to hit the peak of the day to have the best chance of getting up.  We knew if we DIDN’T get up that meant landing mid-day, not a risk I accept lightly… but that was our plan.

We waited a few hours until clouds were starting to pop over launch, filling in the blue hole.  The general winds seemed to be North/North-West at launch, but North-East (as advertised) in the LZ.  Thermal cycles were coming through and would influence the wind speed/direction.  About 1:00 I was liking what I was seeing and started getting dressed… and talked Griffin into doing the same.  He got ready quicker and was on launch ahead of me.  We were talking strategy and I was sharing what I was looking for in a good cycle to launch.  I feel it’s important to be at-the-ready to take what might be the only great cycle on a day like this, but also to be patient when waiting there.  That’s really hard when you’re hooked in, standing on launch, and it’s blowing in.  Wearing layers and jackets doesn’t help either.

Griff got a decent cycle and took it.  His two-step launch was lame (sorry dude!) but I think he did a great job of scratching and working the light and broken lift he was presented.  He had one bit right in front of launch that he got a few 360’s in, not really gaining or losing much.  That seemed to fizzle out and he headed out into the valley toward the Kelly’s farm hoping to catch “the big valley thermal”- not at all a bad strategy given the general NE wind direction and that we saw clouds signifying lift out there.  He found another something and got a 360 or two but made a smart/safe decision to head toward the LZ and get there high enough to check the streamers and set up a proper approach.  Again, landing mid-day at Ellenville is to be much respected.

I waited on launch for what seemed like forever, and just wasn’t getting the cycle I wanted to see… so I moved away from launch and took my harness and jackets off for a bit.  Greg Lindy was behind me, and he waited on launch a while until it started to blow down, and he too backed off.

Normally blowing down is not something to celebrate… but I was wishfully thinking it was being caused by a giant thermal out in front of launch that was sucking air in to replace the lifting air.  After a while I noticed it was blowing in towards the mountain in the LZ, so I started getting dressed despite blowing down on launch.  Again I was hopeful it was a sign there was a thermal in the vicinity.  I was standing on launch when it started to blow in again very lightly.  I picked the glider up a few times but something just didn’t feel real promising so I put it back down.  It started to blow in a little better, and the trees and bushes below launch were showing some action.  I checked the LZ windsocks and they were still blowing straight at the hill.  This time when I picked the glider up the air felt much liftier, and off I went!

I floundered a little in broken lift in front of the North launch.  It was strong enough to turn tightly in, but I couldn’t get a full 360 without falling out of it.  And it felt like it kept shifting around and wouldn’t stay in one place.  After maybe 4 360’s I lost track of it and opted to head for the trailer thermal.  I pulled VG and tried to find the liftiest line to get me there the highest.  Greg’s big windsock in the LZ was still blowing straight toward the mountain, which is basically pointing at the trailer in the woods.  I had high hopes but low expectations of finding something worthwhile.

But I did!  It had to be about 300 fpm, and just barely big enough to turn in.  I had to bank pretty steeply, and fly as slow as I could without stalling or losing the ability to steer and stay centered.  I latch on to that little thermal and clung to it as it tried to lose me, shifting around or lifting a wing and trying to push me out.  It felt not unlike convergence lift.  As I got higher and higher it got wider, smoother, and faster.  I was reading 7-800 fpm on the averaged for a while, and I climbed to about 6500 ft before the lift lightened up.

The clouds were stellar; perfect flat-bottomed puffies with 5/8ths coverage (right Shaddo?!)

I jumped one cloud over because I could see that one was still building, and it was in the direction I wanted to go (I wanted to fly Greg’s Up the Valley challenge).  That cloud was even better taking me to my highest alt for the day of 7660… and the lift kept going, I could have easily gone higher but then I would have been IN the cloud!

The journey up the valley was an exciting one, pushing upwind with several low saves (two so low that I was preparing to land)… But this is already a long post so I’ll leave the rest of the story to be told over beers at the campfire or something.

Mohonk Mountain House, as seen from the Ellenville end of the ridge

Mohonk Mountain House, as seen from the Kingston end of the ridge

The story ended when I got to Kingston, still a little over 1500 ft, but that wasn’t high enough for me to comfortably make the next LZ I liked… so I decided not to press on.  I happened to be right over the NY State Trooper barracks, which had nice manicured grass and flags to show the direction of what little wind there was.  Plus I just thought it’d be fun to land there.

Google Earth says it’s a total straight-line distance of 26.13 miles from takeoff to touchdown.  I think that might be the farthest Up the Valley Run this year… but I’m not very confident it’ll hold, either.  I’m super happy with the result considering I was pushing upwind (NE) the whole flight… but on the right day I could totally see someone smashing that distance, too.  It’s a great route with LZ’s aplenty!

This is what the valley looks like once you get past Mohonk.  That’s 209 to the right of all these fields.  Each brown field had it’s own little thermal that kept me going, and the Trooper barracks is just to the right of the last brown field.  It gets pretty suburban after that…

And a major THANK YOU to Flyin’ Bryon who came to pick me up, in my own truck no less!  What a guy he is!

Comments to FAA re: UAS Prohibition

This is a follow up to my post earlier today, detailing the FAA’s proposed prohibition on flying RC aircraft via “first person view” (FPV) as well as operating commercially.  If you missed that post you can get caught up HERE.

For those willing to comment on the FAA’s memo of interpretation, I wanted to share what I had written to help and perhaps inspire others to take the time to write a comment, however brief.  Every comment counts!

YOU CAN (and I encourage you to) SUBMIT YOUR OWN COMMENT HERE:

Here’s what I said: