The easiest way to touch the clouds, literally, is to go gliding. Gliding is less scary than skydiving. While the latter may seem to harness the power of adrenaline due to a quick drop, the former is better in providing a worthwhile flying experience in a much longer time. The first time you try gliding, there will be heart-thumping. It is the same feeling when you ride the roller coaster the very first time, that same sensation when the coaster begins to drop down a steep slope. At times after take-off, you may feel your heartbeat skip, especially during the first few minutes. The “skipping feel” is usually normal, as the glider experiences few sporadic bumps caused by a small powered tow plane connected to it by a rope.
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About five minutes. That is how long the bumpy ride will take. However, there is, as a matter of fact, nothing to worry at all. You glide with a trusted pilot. First-time gliders sit in front, while a licensed pilot seated behind you mans the flying craft. The pilot often warns you of a bumpy first few minutes and assures you that after the tow plane detaches itself from the flying glider, everything will be smooth sailing (or flying).
And it will be smooth gliding in the next 40 minutes of airborne! After reaching about 3,000 ft high, the rope disengages, and the glider is on its own. At this moment, you will forget about the bumpy start. If you don’t mind the pilot behind you, you think that you are flying the glider yourself — alone, peacefully, above lakes and cornfields. The flight is so smooth, uninterrupted, and every turn of the glider is a magnificent aerial view revealed. Looking down from a high point of perspective is the same as looking out of the window of a commercial plane during landing. The only difference is, you and your pilot have the full control of what to see, and where to go.
My first gliding experience happened at the Cross Country Soaring in Faribault, Minnesota. I went with friends who love to be airborne all the time. My initial intention was not to join them, but simply to watch them do it. Yet, it did not take very long for me to hop into the glider after I was persuaded that all will be fine. I was the third one to fly, and seeing the first two of my friends successfully landing on the runway easily boosted my level of enthusiasm.
It felt like I had wings. Truly. There was a point where my fear of falling vanished. It was replaced with the sensation of invincibility — that I can actually soar like a bird and know that nothing disastrous will ever happen to me. In between the gazing of wonderful scenes below me and listening to the pilot telling interesting facts about the glider, I took pictures for keepsakes. Aren’t extraordinary adventures worth sharing with others?
The glider landed with me hoping to do the experience all over again in the coming weeks.
For those wanting to glide in Faribault Minnesota, visit Cross Country Soaring. Check out the hourly prices here.
Thanks to Belinda for some of the pictures.