Over the past few months I’ve been picking up a new
obsession hobby. It all started on a weekend back in May, when we were travelling up the coast and stopped at the Rockaway Beach Kite Festival. There I picked the Prism Nexus two string kite, which I flew a number of times both on the beach in parks around Portland. Somehow, something that I once thought was completely boring and only for kids had suddenly become exciting to me!
Here’s a short list to try to rationalize why I’m having so much fun flying kites:
- It’s relaxing
- Things that fly fascinate me
- It’s actually quite challenging, and it takes a lot of practice to refine the skill
- It gives me something to do on the beach besides just sun bathing
- There’s an element of high-tech, as the materials that go into kites need to be strong and light
- There’s a do-it-yourself aspect, as even the most high end kites can be made at home with very little in the way of tools
Two weekends ago we drove down to Brookings, OR (near the California border) and went to the Southern Oregon Kite Festival, and there I picked up a Revolution Kite. The first kite I bought was a 2-string kite. Pull the left string and the kite turns left, pull the right string and the kite turns right. Pretty simple. It’s easy to do loop-de-loops, and with a little practice you can stall the kite at the edge of the wind window, or land and take off again … but there is a limit to how much control you can have over a two string (although some of the pros can do some pretty cool things with them). The Revolution kite is a 4-string kite, which has more dimensions of control than a 2-string– forward/backward, slide left/right, turn left/right. My first attempts to fly the thing were pretty pitiful, but I’m starting to improve.
One of the challenges is finding good wind. Gusty wind is pretty terrible. Sarah and I hiked to one of the highest points in Washington Park where the wind seemed strong, but it was fluctuating between high gusts and dead still air. In those conditions, I really couldn’t fly at all. The best kite flying seems to be on the coast (plus it’s just nice being next to the ocean). I’ve been hunting around Portland trying to find open fields that have good winds, but most inner-city parks have too many tall buildings around to have steady breezes. The best two places seem to be West Delta Park, which is up in North Portland, close to Vancouver WA, and the beaches on Sauvie Island (one of which is ‘clothing-optional’, so if I ever decide to get into naked kite flying, that’s an option ).
My latest adventure in kites is an attempt to build one with Sarah. I’ve ordered some parts online, and we’ve found a cool fabric store nearby that sells high tech fabrics like ripstop nylon, goretex, etc. If we can succeed in building one using plans from the internet, then perhaps I will try to design one myself. I’m no aerospace engineer like some of my friends, but I don’t think it takes a rocket scientist to make something that will fly!Read More
As we explored the Oregon coast this past weekend, we noticed some large objects flying in the sky. Having just come from the McMinnville UFO Festival we initially thought aliens were coming to abduct us.. but, as it turned out (probably for the better), it was actually a kite festival!
The best part of the festival was the professional kite flying performances. Now you’re probably thinking the same thing I was thinking— professional kite flying?? I thought kites were for kids. I mean, don’t you just sit there and hold a string? In fact, because I thought kites were so boring, I just recently gave a kite I had for years and never flew to Beka. Well, let me tell you, these guys were pros. The best performances were by Team iQuad, which includes John Baressi, a Portlander who is now my kite hero.
They fly these kites like Tom Cruise flies jets in Top Gun (or in real life, take your pick). They made the kites dance, fly, soar, and spin. They made me laugh, they made me cry. Sarah put her hand out, and Baressi landed his kite on her finger tip, from 100ft away, and balanced it there. Incredible! Needless to say, seeing this excited me enough to open my wallet and immediately buy a kite (this was an even better impulse buy than the time that a magician at Universal Studios sold me a flaming wallet).
Now I hadn’t previously thought of kites as expensive pieces of equipment, but now that I see how expensive they can be, how many accessories are sold for them, and all the high tech materials that go in to them (can you say ‘carbon fiber’??) I’m all the more excited! I purchased a starter kite from a nice women named Theresa who operates a kite shop in Vancouver. Now this kite is nothing as fancy as those four-string kites that the pros were flying, but for $50 it has been a heck of a lot of fun. There’s a park in Portland called West Delta Park that Theresa pointed me towards, and I have been practicing in the park. Those of you who will see me in the Dominican Republic tomorrow, prepare to be blown away by my kiting skills!
Last weekend we went to an unusual event, although one that is certainly right down my alley– an event where wearing aluminum foil on your head is the norm rather than the exception! The McMinnville UFO festival is celebrated every year in McMinnville, Oregon to commemorate (or ridicule?) UFO sighting photographs that were published in the town newspaper in 1950. Although I was expecting the event to be very high on the geek-o-meter, it was really more of a family event– a chance for parents, kids, and pets to hang out and dress up in costume.
The main event was a parade, with floats ranging from UFOs to alien dancers to Star Wars characters. Although not officially part of the parade, one of my favorites was a huge dog, painted green, pulling a wagon with two kids in it (who looked thoroughly bored) dressed as little aliens. There was also a pet costume contest (although that particular dog didn’t enter), and while some of the pet costumes were lacking in effort, several
were quite good. One was a little pomeranian which landed in a spacecraft (salad bowl) full of color tissue paper and had a tutu-like alien outfit on. The other was a pair of afghan hounds dressed like the Na’vi from Avatar, including blue colored fir and a quill of arrows strapped around them. Avatar was pretty big at the event– there were lots of blue people.
We didn’t have time to make costumes this year, but you better believe that the bicycle helmets and aluminum foil are coming along next year!Read More