Blackhawk Fly-In 2018

This past weekend I attended the Blackhawk Flyin up in Valley Springs, CA.  The fly-in is put on by Blackhawk Paramotors.  They offer training and sales of powered paramotor equipment.  Normally the field is only open to their customers but once or twice a year they open it up to everyone.  This past weekend was their Spring fly-in.  I towed my PPC to work with me on Friday so that I could drive directly to the fly-in after work.

After work on Friday I drove up Highway 26 to Linden where I tanked up my truck and mixed up some fuel for my PPC.  I continued up to Blackhawk Ranch located on the south end of New Hogan Reservoir.  I pulled onto the field and found a spot on the northwest side of the field.  After parking I pulled my PPC out into the sun and started walking the field checking out all the other flying machines.  It was also fun to pause and watch the takeoffs and landings.  Some of them showed some very interesting…um… techniques.


I ran into some friends that I fly with at New Jerusalem and talked with them for a while.  Then I decided to cook dinner.


Yes, I had a heaping helping of MRE’s for dinner.  If you don’t know what that means it’s “Meals, Ready To Eat.”  You either love them or hate them.  I think they are just fine.  You can store them for years, they don’t need refrigeration, and come with water-activated heater to heat the food up.  After dinner I watched the evening flights and after dark listened to the coyotes calling to each other around the valley.

The next morning I put on my thermal layers under my clothes and started warming up my PPC.  It was cold and dewy outside as taxied over to my selected launch spot.  I laid out my wing in the driest spot I could find.  There was no wind as I launched into the air.  The ground run was longer than I was used to  I was coming up on the end of the field so I kicked my rudder bars a couple of times to get off the ground.  When I relaxed my feet the PPC sunk back toward the ground.  So I held a little rudder in until I was climbing and then slowly let it out.  Climb rate was not stellar, I was just above the tree tops as I climbed out of the small valley.  After a few nerve wracking moments I was comfortably above the trees and climbing over the hills.

I tried to relax and just enjoy the scenery.  I’ve flown over this area for over 25 years but something about flying slow in a PPC give you time to notice details you’ve never seen before.  I spent about 45 minutes flying over the lake and rolling hills.

Given all the activity at the field I was a little nervous about the landing.  However, there really was no problem landing.  I just picked an area that no one was in and set down there.  I folded and stowed my parachute, put the PPC back at the trailer and then went to socialize some more.   I also took the opportunity to change my main carburetor jet to one size leaner.  I was hoping that this would give me a little better engine performance.  Given that the engine temps were so cool, my RPMs were so low (only 5900 rpm on climbout)  and my climb was so poor, I thought maybe the engine is running too rich.

After changing my main jet afternoon slowed down quiet a bit.  Kind of a lazy warm Spring day.  Spent the rest of the day napping, socializing, and then having dinner with the other pilots.  The fly-in organizers put on a dinner.   After dark I went back to my trailer and called it a night.

The next morning (Sunday) it was just as dewy as the previous morning.  Since I really didn’t feel good about my climb-out performance the previous day I decided to sit out the morning flight and just pack up.  I’d rather do my engine testing in friendlier terrain.  I said my goodbyes to everyone and headed for home.  Even though I only got one flight in I really enjoyed the weekend.  It was great to get off the grid, fly, and do nothing at all.


Local History

My wife Cristy and I really enjoy driving up to Ripon, CA for lunch.  Our favorite place to eat is right on Main St,  Ede’s Taco Shop.  They have excellent taco truck tacos but lately our favorite has been their albondigas soup.  This past Saturday after lunch we decided to take a stroll up Main.  We walked up one side and down the other.  As we were on our way back we saw a house with an open door and a woman sweeping out front.  She called out, “Our sign is missing but feel free to come on in!”

“What would your sign say if it were not missing?”  I called back.

“It’s the Clarence Smit Museum!”  She called back.

Well, heck, we can’t miss the Clarence Smit Museum!  So Cristy and I walked in and started poking around.  It was in fact administered by the Ripon Historical Society and had lots of photos and artifacts dating back to the mid-1800’s.  Since I work in the medical industry I was really interested in the section they had that was donated by a local doctor.  He had a pretty well-equipped doctor’s office for the time.  He had some 1950’s vintage X-ray machines and other medical supplies and gadgets.


Another section had a collection of old washing machines.  My son loves appliances and I know he would have really enjoyed this part of the museum.  Someone was sure a Maytag fan.


There are also vintage sewing machines, tools, books, newspapers, clothes and a bunch of other things all dating back from the 1990’s to the 1850’s.  It’s a really cool place to go back in time in Ripon.  If you’d like to check it out it’s in the old library building located at 430 W. Main Street. Open on Wednesdays & Saturdays from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Light Stuff

Had a wonderful flight this morning out at New Jerusalem.  Jeff Erck showed up flying his foot launch PPG as well as Terry Strahl who is interested in getting into foot launch PPG.  I took a short flight before work started lighting up my phone.  It wasn’t an emergency but I figured I better land before it became one.  I came around and landed after a short flight and made a great landing.  I decided I needed to do two more like that before I put it away.  I went around the pattern and made another great landing.  Third time around the landing was smooth but I popped a wheelie after I touched down.  Oh well, still good.  I taxied back to my truck to practice kiting and then shut it down.  MUCH better than my last flight.  No photos or videos because I was living in the moment.

In other news Just Aircraft as debuted a new Part 103 legal aircraft.  Just is famous for their Highlander and Super-STOL line of aircraft.  They have a new bird out called the Just 103.  It is basically just wings, a seat, and an engine but it looks very promising.  I’m keeping my eye on this one.  More info here:

Merced River Trail

Today I took Cristy up to Mariposa, Ca and the Merced River Trail.  Mariposa is a small town on Highway 140 on the way to Yosemite from Merced.  The Merced River Trail is a section of decommissioned railroad.

The Merced River Trail is an ungroomed, mostly dirt trail that follows the unshaded banks of the Merced River within the Merced River Recreation Area. Ideal for horseback riding, mountain biking and hiking, the trail offers many stunning overlooks and great natural scenery. – From Trail Link

Prior to hiking the MRT we decided to stop in Mariposa for lunch.  We stopped off at High Country Health Foods & Cafe.  They’ve got a great selection of organic fruits and vegetables and other healthy foods and also a great cafe.  They have gluten-free and dairy-free options for breakfast and lunch.  Cristy had a salad and I had a sandwich, both were delicious.


Afterwards we continued on up Highway 140 until we reached Briceburg.  We turned off and crossed the one lane bridge over the Merced River.  We drove about 6 or 7 miles down a one lane dirt road with beautiful views of the Merced River and the myriad of wildflowers in full bloom.


We finally arrived at the Merced River Trail trailhead and started walking down the trail.  For about a mile it looked just like the road we had been driving on.  But soon we to the trail itself and enjoyed a wonderful afternoon’s hike along the river.  This is one of the most peaceful and scenic afternoons we’ve spent in quite a while and it left both of us feeling rejuvenated.  There really isn’t much else to tell so I will just leave you with some photos of the hike.

If you made it this far… here’s a bonus video too.


When You Get Back Is Not Like When You Left

The winds looked good this morning. They were not forecasted to pick up until after Noon. Seemed like a great morning to go fly. I got out to New Jerusalem at about 8:00am. There was no wind, dead calm. I unpacked as usual and set up as usual. One last look at the wind sock told me it was going to be a great flight. It was hanging down, not a breath of wind.

I took off and flew south along the San Joaquin River. I circled back to overfly the Screenshot_20180404-092604confluence of the Stanislaus and San Joaquin Rivers. It was probably a big deal back before the rivers were dammed. Now it looks like two irrigation canals coming together. I continued on south over Highway 132 and towards a large pond just next to the river. I wasn’t too keen on flying over the acres and acres of orchards in front of me (I’m still learning to trust this engine, it didn’t skip a beat) so I turned back north. Once I got just north of Highway 132 the cart started to swing and my ground speed dropped from 28 MPH to 19 MPH!

I was about 3 miles from the airport and my ground speed kept dropping and the cart kept swinging. I might have said a prayer or two. As I came in on final approach my ground speed was down to 14 MPH. Things got a little more swingy near the ground but I managed to make a really decent landing. The cart was rolling on the ground so I killed the engine and tugged the brakes to bring the chute down. After it settled down behind me I just sat there as is my habit. I listen to the wind, the birds, the sound of the engine ticking as it cooled down. I unbuckled and immediately the wind started inflating the parachute and pulling the cart backwards. I grabbed one of the brake lines to deflate the chute. I dropped my helmet on the rear corner to keep the chute from billowing up again. If the ride back to the airport was interesting packing the chute back up was every bit as interesting. I finally got it in the bag and stowed on the cart.

I thought it was just me having a problem with the wind but then I saw a Cessna 172 on final approach and he was bucking and crabbing every bit as much as I was. I was just of the runway on the downwind side and started backing up when I saw he kept drifting towards me and looking like he was going to land on my PPC! He finally decided to go-around and passed about 30 feet above me. Yeah, so much for a full flap landing in a stiff crosswind. I got the cart back to the trailer before he tried his second approach. He made it down this time. Good for him.

So the moral to today’s story is that weather conditions can change very quickly. Stay on top of the weather, stay on top of your skills, and be ready to use those skills.

And now enjoy a short video of (most of) the flight…


And if you’re interested in where I flew today…

Resurrection Day Weekend

You call it Easter, I call it Resurrection Day.  We all celebrate Christmas as the be-all end-all day in the Christian faith but I believe it should be Resurrection Day.  The day my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ defeated death.   He paid the price for our sins once and for all.  If we believe that He died for our sins then all our sins are forgiven.  This sounds like mythical nonsense to the unbeliever, but to those who believe, it is our guarantee of our salvation.  Our guarantee of eternal life in the presence of our heavenly Father.

Okay, sermon over, pass the collection plates.

So how did we celebrate this Resurrection Day weekend?  Well Saturday morning I headed out to New Jerusalem and took a nice long flight in my powered parachute.  I didn’t take any video or pictures of the flight because sometimes I like to just live in the moment and enjoy it for myself.  I was joined by a powered paraglider pilot friend.  Always good to have company.

I flew around the San Joaquin river between Highway 132 and the City of Tracy here in California’s vast Central Valley.  The engine purred without any hiccup or flaw during the whole flight.  I kept my RPMs right at about 5400 RPM.  This put me in a slow climb.  I flew around for about 40 minutes enjoying the butter smooth air.  ZERO turbulence.  I made my way back to New Jerusalem airport.  Made one pass over the field to check my windsock and then set up to land.  I made a slow power-on approach and let my machine drift as far down the runway as it wanted to.  I wanted to make this landing a smooth one and I wasn’t disappointed.  I held in just a bit of brake pressure on the parachute and smoothly applied full brake just as the wheels were touching down.  I killed the engine and kept kicking the break pedals and the chute fell down behind me.  Perfect.   My PPG friend took another flight and I paused to watch a while before leaving.

I packed up and headed home to pick up Cristy so we could head up to Jack and Myrna’s place in the foothills, Red Hills Ranch.  This has become a tradition for Cristy and I.  On the Saturday between Good Friday and Easter/Resurrection Day they hold a potluck for family and friends.  When I had my airplane we would fly in but now we drive up.  Much easier on Cristy.



So here’s something for people who know about flowers.  I know nothing about them.  So if you do, can you help me identify these?  They are EVERYWHERE up at Jack and Myrna’s ranch.


Flower 1 – What’s this?
Flower 2 – What are these?
Flower 3 – What’s this?
Flower 4 – The white ones, what are they?
Flower 5 – What are the bright pink ones?
Flower 6 – What are they?


Flower 7 – The purple ones with the white tips. What are they?

That’s it for the flowers.  Would love some help identifying them.

We enjoyed our time up with the Moyle’s.  We’re always treated like family.  Can’t wait to visit again.

Sunday morning we all got up and went to sunrise service then later in the morning we picked up our son and brought him to the 11:30am service.  Cristy made ham, potatoes, and green beans and for dessert, apple cobbler!


All in all a wonderful weekend and a wonderful way to celebrate our Savior’s victory.  I hope your weekend was as good or better.



Quick Flight Before Church

I took a quick flight this past Sunday before heading off to church.  Weather was good if not chilly: 38 degrees F and 2-3 MPH crosswind from the right.  Otherwise wonderful flying conditions.  Thanks to some tips from a local group of PPC pilots I’m finally learning how to land!

Sorry for the low audio at the end.  What I basically said is that I’d like to thank J Bird Aviation and Six Chuter International for their amazing customer service.  They’ve been calm and helpful even when I wasn’t.  It’s a good machine and now I just need to learn to fly and enjoy it!