Here's Part II of a fun story posted by Steve Roti to the US hang-gliding listserv on 3/4/98.

Hell of a Launch, Part II

Seward Whitfield

[The following fictional story about foot-launched flight was read by Seward Whitfield at the March 3 meeting of the Cascade Paragliding Club. I'm sending it to the mailing list for those who enjoyed Seward's previous story "Cross-Country" featuring O.D and Lorena that was posted about two years ago. Some of the pilots mentioned in this story are Oregon locals (instructor Larry Pindar, cross-country pilots Rick Higgins and Terry Taggart), but I think it's appropriate for a larger audience as well.   Steve Roti, Portland, Oregon]

This probably isn't the time or place, I guess, to go into everything I did decide to do in those three days, but I will say that I took my mother out for a quick hazelnut latte-- she's very fond of them.

* * *

Time flies too, when you're having fun. Late in the afternoon of the third day, I was really beat. I was almost too tired to think or care, when I suddenly found myself at Elk Rock again, staring out over the valley. I heard the familiar sound of twanging wires and crunching aluminum as he plowed into the gravel.

"Hey, you been doing pretty good for yourself," he said as he picked himself up and dug out his green bag. "Dang, I need one of these. You?"

"Sure," I said.

He looked at my face. "May as well make 'em doubles."

We finished that Spanish Coffee and another one before he looked around at the lowering sun. "Time for us to quit being launch potatoes, I guess. You're not French are you?"


"Ahh, I always like that one. Launch potato to French fries in five minutes, heh."

He had been as good as his word, and those three days had really been something. I didn't argue or whine. But I did have my worst-ever case of launch butt. "I'll be right back," I told him.

"Yeah, still happens to me, too," he said.

When I came back I picked up my wing. I had been flying a super-skinny factory-tweaked Pro-Design Mega-Max competition prototype that no one else had ever had the balls to fly before, but now I had my old Compact, just for the comfort of it. There wasn't a breath of air, unless it was coming over the back just a little. I spread the Compact out as far back as I could against the slope of the hill, which still left only about fifteen feet of running room. I crossed and half-twisted the lines and hooked in in reverse.

He looked at me like I was nuts. "You can't do a reverse here. In no wind."

"Yeah, I think I can," I said. "That's all I ever do. See, I think people who try forward launches in scary places are always just a little timid in their run. With a reverse, once I see my wing up nicely, I can trust it completely and turn around and run like...well, heck. I pretty well figure that if can't do a running reverse, I shouldn't be launching at all."

"Look," he says, "I've never tried to fly one of those things-- or even wanted to-- I don't at all like the way they decide to fold themselves up sometimes of their own dang accord. But all I do is fly around all day every day watching people launching and flying and landing and screwing up and I know you can't do a reverse here."

"Well, I don't do forwards. You got a problem with that?"

"Totally. It isn't safe. You'd crash."

"So what? My time is up isn't it?"

"That's not the point. The point is, you can't do a damned running reverse here. A crash is not the right way to START your very last flight. Now turn around."


"Listen, it's not all exactly the same where we're going. There's parts of hell that are a lot worse than others. Seven levels, in fact. Turn around and do a forward or I'll see to it that you start at about level five."

"In those movies they always bet the devil," I said to him. "I'm betting you I can do a reverse."

Shaking his head, he paced to the edge and looked over.

"Can't be done."

"Can. And if I win, what do I get?"

"Hellfire-- just for the sake of argument-- more time before you have to go, I guess."

"How much more time?"

"I'm not at liberty to divulge information of that nature, you know that."

"Well, I like the idea of having some more time, and I don't like forward launches. You're on."

"All right, all right. It's your ass to fry, French or otherwise," he said. "But let's have one more toddy before we do this."

I sucked the cream from my mustache as I hooked back in. I picked up the risers and looked at my trusty old wing laying there in the dust. I lifted the A's as evenly as I could as I lunged backwards toward the drop-off!

* * *

Since I'm here to tell the truth about what happened, I guess you know how that running reverse turned out.

When you're flying up at Mt. St. Helens this summer, keep a good eye out. One of those little things you see flying into or out of the crater may not be a helicopter.

(the end)