Sonoma to Oshkosh-Part 3-Bad Decisions

If you enjoyed the stories about Adventure Wingman 2022 that covered 1000 miles in 10 days, then your gonna love this story covering nearly 2000 miles in just 6 days. This story’s journey started almost two years earlier having completed the 50 State Paramotor Tour and the Coast to Coast of the USA in just 8 days in 2020. If you haven’t read the two previous posts, consider starting there as it sets the stage.

| Paramotor Adventure Trip Choices | The months leading up to Sonoma to Oshkosh |
| Part 1-Getting-Ready | Part-2-Go-Time | Part-3-Bad-Decisions | Part-4-What-to-do | Part-5-Final-Push |
| After-Show |

Day 2—Flight 1

3:45 am—Time to get up. I quickly packed up my gear and made my way to the apron. Assessing the wind from the northwest I would have plenty of room downslope with the lights behind me. I shouldered the motor and warmed her up as I made my way over to the launch spot.

I had options for the day – follow i80 and play it safe, or push hard and see where it took me. It wasn’t long after laying the wing out, that I quickly got into the black sky of the night—04:23. As I climbed it got light quicker now that I was further north and it wasn’t long before I could see the amazing views ahead of me—some that were the best of the entire trip. I had decided to skip Battle Mountain and push to Spring Creek and then would take it from there. The engine was running well and my ground speed was above 60 mph so I knew I would cover the ground faster than the day before. It wasn’t long before I was pushing to Wells KLWL Elevation: 5769 ft.

As I approached there was a little rain but not enough to worry—I’d been rained on before in Florida without peril. The landing went well and I quickly refueled.

Day 2—Flight 2

Stuck in the Mountains

A few local firefighters rolled up and were interested in my story. Of course, with a crowd, the engine refused to start. It didn’t take me long to realize that I was now launching from twice the altitude above MSL. I adjusted the carburetor and got her running. While I wasn’t making full power I was eager to move away from the rain clouds that were hanging about. My route would continue along i80 and once again I found myself wanting to shorten the path—a big mistake. Not able to climb enough, I found myself skirting around Little Cedar Mountain and then slap-bang into the next 8500 MSL Mountain which I was having a problem getting over—payback for not properly adjusting my carb. It took a better part of 15 minutes looking for enough ridge lift to slide along until I was high enough to slip over. No sooner over the mountain, yet another directly ahead of me. With my tail between my legs, I turned back towards i80 realizing it would have been better all along had I stuck to the planned route. Back on track, it didn’t take long to reach West Wendover—UTAH.

Day 2—Flight 3

In the planning process, I consulted with legend  Chris Santacroce of Super Fly Paragliding who knew these UTAH mountains better than anyone. I had discussed my plan to land Ogden-Hinckley Airport KOGD but was quickly persuaded against trying to navigate the bureaucratic challenges of using this Class D towered airport on a Paramotor. Chris recommended an off-field LZ used by paramotorists and agreed to have Kylan assist me to get to a hotel for the night and pick up my fuel.

Paragliding is all Chris Santacroce has ever done, and he likes it that way. He was a full-time paragliding professional at age 17, ranking as one of North America’s top ten cross-country paragliders for a full decade before winning the continent’s championship and proving equal skill in jaw-dropping aerobatics.

My next big mistake of the day was to again deviate from my planned route along i80 to shorten the distance. I was skirting all kinds of airspace and quickly found weather and rain that forced me to remain little more than 100 feet off the ground. Once making it back to i80 stubbornly tried to shorten the distance again, only this time creating a very dangerous scenario that I wasn’t prepared for or equipped for—a 15-mile water crossing. Just to make it interesting a small problem developed where the engine would occasionally almost cut out from fuel starvation before immediately returning to full RPM—ask any pilot, it is quite nerve-racking, let alone over water. This was not a smart move and a total nail bitter for me—also for Ray and Greg who were monitoring my progress.

Kylan was kind enough to put up a wind sock and despite all my bad decisions, landed safely at the LZ. A short video session later and we were on our way to lunch/early dinner. There we discussed my route and the weather for the following day and headed to a hotel. Exhausted, it felt fantastic to get all the dirt and grime off me and to sleep in a nice warm bed.

Distance Covered 260.7

Day 3 – Flight 1

Kylan picked me up promptly at 05:15 am and shuttled me to the LZ. The road was closed so I could use it instead of the soft salt lake bed which would be more difficult to build speed on. The real problem with this next leg was to stay away from the military airport and then make sure not to bust the Bravo Airspace as I climbed up the mountain face. I knew I would have similar challenges as Lake Tahoe, but since the weather was ideal, knew that I would be fine along the plotted course up Highway 84 so that I didn’t need to climb all the way up to 10, 000 feet.

05:43—Airborne! In no time at all, I had navigated through the pass, bypassed echo, and was trucking along to Evanston. Fort Bridger was a mere 35 miles away and I was clocking over 50 mph and so kept going before landing at 8:08 just 2:26 minutes for a distance of 104 miles and now in Wyoming. My biggest concerns are behind me—or so I thought!

Day – 3 Flight 2

The weather was cool and there was a little wind that would help me. I was eager to get another flight in before it warmed up. After refueling, I quickly laid out the wing and got set up. The wing came up perfectly only to find I didn’t have the throttle in my hand. Instead of bringing the glider down and resetting, I tried to save it as I had done once before, only a gust of wind pulled the glider sideways, and just like that—disaster the lines were in the prop and one of the 3 blades was broken.

It took a while to get the lines out and a toggle was broken on the glider. I stupidly wondered if I could fly with 2.5 props – the motor nearly yanked itself off the cage. In total disgust with myself, I had created this mess because I was impatient and now I was going to have to figure out how to get myself out of it.

I had staged a spare prop with Ray in Buffalo Wyoming, but that was a 6-hour drive away. This was one of those times I wish I had known someone who could have flown it down. I reached out to Chris Santacroce who was only two hours away. Unfortunately despite arranging a prop and transportation from Utah, it wasn’t the right one for my motor, and thus it was necessary to wait for Ray to drive my spare down. In the meantime, Paul Hobbs shipped another spare I had in the truck. Helix also came to the rescue and shipped two more props but they would take a few more days to arrive in Buffalo.

Around 6 pm Ray arrived, and I was eager to go as I didn’t want another night’s flight just yet. It was still very warm out, but the conditions didn’t feel thermic and the winds were lower than they were in the morning. The airport elevation was 7038 ft. Ditching some fuel would make sense, but I didn’t want to waste any more time.

The wing came up fine and I pegged the throttle and ran in what became the run of my life. No matter how fast I ran or how little or much I touched the toggles I just wasn’t getting airborne. A football field or so later and I was running out of pavement and even if I got airborne I didn’t think I would clear the burn ahead of me. Now the problem stopping!

Finally screeching to a stop, my legs folded from under me but the prop was still spinning—those that know can see and hear what happened—now a second prop was totally destroyed and we didn’t have another. Why, Why Why?

There was no reason that I couldn’t have had more props with Ray. Worse was I didn’t dump my fuel to assure I could get off the ground and on top of that I didn’t take into account the air density from the 90° heat which we later determined had me launching my tiny 18m wing at nearly 10, 000 feet MSL. Yet another poor decision in a series that had me question if I should stop and re-evaluate what I was doing. Success was never assured for this trip, but this was a disappointing disaster given the incredible 700 miles I had already covered.

Part 4—What to do? |  Like Follow on Facebook and Subscribe on YouTube.

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