Triple-Play Day with Bicycle, Kayak and Hangglider



         Pedal,                       Paddle,                      Glide!

The weekend was forecast to bring lots of sun and fun to South Florida. On this day race horse “Big Brown” was highly favored to win the legendary Triple Crown in Belmont. No horse has done this in the last 30 years since Affirmed won in 1978. And Big Brown didn’t either. But we went for a Triple Play of our own.


Saturday, June 7, 2008

We get up early as usual around 6:30am for our typical weekend tandem bicycle ride up to Hobe Sound. We leave around 7:30am.

After ½ hr we reach the Jupiter Inlet, here crossing over the bridge to get back on A1A and to Jupiter Island. For a detailed track log of this route, check my report on the TrackStick from June 2007. It’s a great ride this morning, albeit already very warm with temperatures in the mid eighties.

This picture was taken while crossing the Intracoastal bridge in Hobe Sound aroudn 8:30am. Little did I know at this moment that I would be back here some 11 hours later (and almost 3000 ft higher…)

We reach the Bagel shop and stop for coffee and bagels.

We enjoy a leisure time here at the coffee shop and linger for about 1 hour. The ride back is similar to the one coming up with the wind blowing from the East, so side-ways both times.

We cross the Jupiter Inlet bridge around 10:00am. On Donald Ross road we go West and reach our top speed with the East tail wind going down the IntraCoastal bridge at about 32 mph (52 km/h). We are soon back in Palm Beach Gardens at 10:30am.


Usually we shower after our morning ride to wash off the sweat. Not so today! Why? Well, we decide to paddle at the near MacArthur State Park. After all, Jill had bought me some brandnew Kevlar paddles just like the ones she has owned for two years now. Besides, high tide is around noon, so we hope to rent some kayaks there (free with our annual membership as friends of John MacArthur State Park). This makes it a lot easier as you don’t have to load kayaks on the car; instead you take the paddles apart, fit them in the trunk and ride the 10 minutes to the State Park to arrive in style:

We find out that all single kayaks are already rented, so we need to go with a tandem. Unlike on the bike we prefer singles when it comes to kayaking. Double kayaks are heavier and slower than singles.

We take our usual route out under the A1A bridge and around Munyon Island. This is an interesting paddle as initially you’re still close to the road and the high-rise condos of Singer Island, but later you’re inside a bird sanctuary in the middle of Munyon Island.

There is also an opportunity to drag your kayak on a sandy beach and pretend you’re in the middle of nowhere and got away from it all.

I go for a quarter mile swim while Jill moves along in the double.

Soon we are back at the ranger station and return our kayak at 1:15pm. The sun is nearly vertical and the heat is very intense.

We get home and take the now well deserved shower. The next 2 hours are spent inside the cool of our home. But the day is far from over. I decide to give hanggliding a try again today for the first time in more than a year. After having had little luck and poor or no flights due to engine problems and lack of take-off fields I spend one hot hour to sort all my equipment and load it on my car once again. At 4:30pm we’re ready to leave.

First we stop at the Downtown by the Gardens mall for a Starbucks Frappucino to stay cool, hydrated and caffeinated. Then we part for Jill to do some shopping and me to get some gas for my motor-powered harness engine and then head North to the Hobe Sound area. There are some open roads and fields which can serve as take-off and landing strips given the right wind direction (from East). I start setting up my glider at around 6:00pm.

It takes a few minutes of fiddling and coaxing my Gocart racing motor on my Airtime Explorer harness into operation. After more than 1 year all the fuel in the engine and carburator had been evaporated and I need to pump it back in. Also this would be easier to do with a helper, as you need to hold the glider, get into the harness, untie the glider, walk into the wind, then kickstart the engine, and control the throttle with a mouth-piece. It takes quite some effort (and sweat) to get everything ready. But the conditions are perfect: A steady wind from the East at 10mph (15 km/h) allows me to launch straight down the road – it takes only 2-3 steps and I have lift off J

After a few minutes of slowly climbing out I get the camera at 500ft (150m) and look back at the launch site (my car in the center next to the road).

I catch a light thermal and circle it up, thus helping the small engine to lift me faster to about 1500ft (500m). From here the view gets much better and I can see both the Turnpike and I95 intersection below as well as the beach to the East.

It is 7:00pm and I need to head East into the wind if I want to get to the beach and back in time before sunset (around 8:15pm). The wind is NE with around 20mph+ (30km/h) up here, so I need to fly fast to penetrate into the wind. Even though I fly at 35-40mph (60km/h) the GPS often only registers ground speed of meager 15mph (25km/h). With that it takes a while to get closer to Hobe Sound. But I enjoy this time flying above 2000 ft and taking in the view in the mellow evening light. After ½ hr I am practically on top of the plaza with the Bagel shop we had breakfast this morning and look down East towards the IntraCoastal and the beach. What a view!

I fly over the bridge over the IntraCoastal which we had crossed at 8:30am in the morning. Shortly thereafter I reach the parking at Hobe Sound beach. I always wanted to fly here after having paused here during so many bike rides. Even after having lived for 12+ years in Florida this is the first time I am flying my hangglider on the Atlantic Ocean.

Looking East there is nothing but the endless blue of the Atlantic. The view to the South reveals the IntraCoastal waterway and A1A as well as the Golf Courses and luxurious homes of Jupiter Island, one of the most expensive real estate areas anywhere in the world.

The view to the North shows the Stuart Inlet and Hutchinson Island. This reminds me of some of the previous rides with Jill as well as the recent deep water fishing trip with my son Philip. Should also be fine kayaking territory up there…

After 1 hour of flight my gas tank is near empty and I need to head back to the landing site before I run out of gas and daylight. However, with the East wind pushing me I can fly at slow airspeed but good ground speed and still climb – as can be seen from the flight log (altitude, climb rate, air speed):

After only 15 minutes I’m back near the landing site and can relax. I play with the camera and the last evening sun.

I turn off the engine with only a few drops of fuel left in the tank. I enjoy the silence after more than 1 hr of gocart racing engine hardly muffled behind my feet. This quiet, unpowered flight is one of the reasons I was attracted to hanggliding in the first place. Close to mother nature, playing with the sun and the wind…

I need to focus on the landing now. Not having done this in 15 months makes me a bit rusty. Luckily there is no traffic so I can set up to land perfectly beside the road. I only need to walk a few yards and am back at the car. It is 8:00pm.

I realize the sun is about to set in the next few minutes. No time to waste now as it will take 20-30 mins to break down the glider plus harness and there will be very little daylight left.

After disassembling all gear and the glider I need to get my windsock from the fence across the street. It is 8:30pm when I take this last picture, 13 hours after we had left home for the morning bike ride.

I call home to let Jill know about the successful conclusion of Part 3 of today’s Triple Play. 20 minutes later I’m back home, starting the long process of unloading and storing the gear as well as loading all pictures, flight log and GPS tracklog to the computer…


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