By Lauren Tjaden
When asked to explain what flying was like, Wilbur Wright said, “More than anything else the sensation is one of perfect peace mingled with an excitement that strains every nerve to the utmost, if you can conceive of such a combination.”
I understand perfectly.
People who know me know that I spend much time with my head in the clouds. Or, close to them, anyhow, in all kinds of aircraft. Particularly hang gliders.
To say I’m addicted – to the perfume of orange-grove thermals spiraling upward, to the sight of falcons and vultures that treat me like a sister in the air, to the whistling, clean music that my glider makes when I fly her very fast – is not an overstatement. To me, flying is like breathing; when I go without it for any length of time, I feel as if I’m suffocating.
Here are five of my favorite flighty Florida adventures, for those of you who feel – or want to feel – the same.
Nope, there aren’t any mountains in Florida – you get airborne by hooking the glider to a light-sport airplane with a long line and towing to the desired altitude. Even if you’ve never flown you can go tandem with an instructor. Relax! The take-off and landing are on wheels, so there’s no running involved. You can enjoy tandem hang gliding discovery flights various Florida locations, including Wilotree Park Hang Gliding in Groveland, Wallaby Ranch in Davenport, and the Florida Ridge by La Belle.
This sport is the heaviest on adrenaline of those listed here. There’s something about leaping out of a perfectly good plane a couple of miles high that tends to get your heart thudding… and if that doesn’t do it for you, free-falling at 120 mph should wake you up. You can thrill to this adventure in all corners of the Sunshine State.
This peaceful way to get airborne often provides spectacular views of the beach and coastline. Almost any seashore you visit in Florida offers it.
Flying a Sailplane
This sport is much like flying a hang glider in that you don’t have a motor; you get towed up to altitude by a motorized plane; you stay airborne by circling in columns of rising air known as thermals. It’s a spectacular sport that you can enjoy in many Florida locations. One of my favorites is Seminole Lake Glider Port in Clermont.
This sport promises a feast of beauty – from the balloons gathering heat and taking shape in the early-morning field to the views the low, slow flight provides. I find it odd when ballooning there is no sense of flying whatsoever – it’s like standing in your living room, since you are moving at exactly the same speed as the wind. Here’s a list of Florida balloon companies.
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