It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s... wait, what is that thing?
If you have been in Blanco for any length of time, then you have probably seen the hang glider-like apparatus in the sky.
But hang gliders don’t use parachutes. And then there is the sound of a motor that fills the air when it buzzes around.
I, like many of you, had seen it buzzing around. I thought it was neat, but had no clue what it was; let alone know who was steering it!
At the beginning of September, Bob Johnson came into the newspaper office with a set of aerial shots of the dry river bed. Cool, right? We asked how he got them, and he said, “Well, I was flying, and took some shots.”
Really... flying what? That is when it all came together. Bob Johnson is the man you see buzzing above Blanco in his contraption called a Power Parachute.
I was impressed. He offered to take Jennifer and me for a ride. Not really thinking that it would happen, I said sure. He surprised me by saying he wanted to go the next morning at 7:00am.
I was so excited! I was going to get to fly! Jennifer begged off, because she didn’t really want to get up that early.
Bob told me that he had taken up almost 3800 people in the almost 15 years that he had been flying. (He didn’t say if he had had any casualties, but he didn’t say he did either, so I felt pretty confident.)
As the day went on, though, I was losing some of my confidence. I was getting, well, pretty nervous.
The next morning I woke up and made it to Bob’s right at seven, after narrowly avoiding a crab-tastrophe. (Ants were in my kids’ crab cage.)
Bob thought maybe I had chickened out. I laughed, but truth be told, I had thought about it.
You see, when I pulled up to his house and saw this go-cart with a big fan on the back, I was really doubting that this thing was going to hold me. It really did look like something from ACME.
We jumped in the truck and headed for the empty field on Hwy 281 that Bob used as a runway.
Once there, Bob immediately began to unload the Power Parachute and go through a preflight checklist. “Clear the props,” he yelled. As he was checking gears, unrolling the parachute and other various get-ready-to-fly chores, I just stood there. I wanted to help, I really did, but I also didn’t want to mess something up and be the cause of us falling from the sky.
Bob started flying in 1995, and has loved it ever since. His family though, doesn’t care for it much. His wife, Donna, has gone up only once, and for only six minutes. She says, “I support him in everything he does; but I don’t want to do it.” His kids also don’t care for it much, preferring to stay on the ground. His grandkids, however, love it.
Bob and Donna travel around with the Power Parachute and go to Fly-In’s where people with Power Parachutes from all over come to hone their flying skills and just have fun.
Once all the checks were complete and Bob cleared us for take off, I climbed in, strapped in and felt kind of sick. The anticipation of lift-off was almost more than I could stand. I was starting to have second thoughts when I looked down and saw that we were already off the ground. Just like that! I hadn’t even noticed!
We climbed to about 1200’, high enough to see Canyon Lake from Blanco. We headed toward the schools so that I could wave at my kids on their way to school. I could see them walking, little dots in the road. We flew over the square and around past the cemetery and around town.
He then asked what I wanted to see. I, for once in my life, was speechless. I didn’t know. Just ‘seeing’ everything down below was enough for me. He took me over the Blanco River and I got to see dinosaur tracks. We did a touch and go, where we touched down and then climbed right back up.
I asked him how often he flies. He said, “Every chance I get.”
We flew for 39 minutes. It was one of the best times of my life. I don’t know if it was Bob that put me at ease or what, but I wasn’t scared. I didn’t worry that I would fall out of my seat and go careening to the ground. I just enjoyed the view.
When it came time to come down, I was sad for my time in the air to end.
As Bob was putting everything away, I couldn’t stop thanking him. All he said was, “Thank you for giving me an excuse to go up today.”
Well, thank you, Bob. That was one of the best gifts I have ever received.