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Published: February 17th 2018
Our breakfast table
... in front of Belinda and Davis' trailer at Quest Air.
My second conference trip of the year took me to Central Florida from 22nd of April to 1st of May. I left a few days before the conference so that I would be able to spend a few days with my wonderful friend Belinda. I was really looking forward to seeing her and to catching up again after she had visited me the previous autumn. Belinda was staying at Quest Air, a flight park not far from Orlando, with her husband Davis. I arrived on Saturday afternoon, and Belinda came and picked me up at the airport, and we drove straight to Quest. Quest Air
is an airstrip where mostly hang glider pilots fly. Since we are in Central Florida, the area is flat, so the gliders need to be towed up by tugs. There are always hang glider pilots there just staying in order to fly, but there are also competitions happening, and one can do tandem flights or learn to fly. While I was there a competition was going on, and that was great because there were a few pilots there that I had not seen in a long time. First of all, there was Davis, who had organised
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The lake - and a car with roof racks for a hang glider.
the comp together with Belinda. I had not seen him since 2012, when I had visited him and Belinda in California, so it was great to catch up. Then there was Rich from the UK, hang glider pilot, beekeeper, and cat lover, whom I had not seen in many years; and there was Konrad from Brazil, tandem pilot with German roots, whom I had driven for during a competition many years ago in Australia. Moreover, there was Dolores from Switzerland, who spends a few months every year at Quest. She is a hang glider and Dragonfly pilot as well as a yoga instructor and spends the rest of the year in Switzerland working in an office. It was wonderful to see them all and also the meet a few new people.
Belinda and Davis were staying in their huge trailer, and Belinda had booked a room for me in the club house that made my life cosy and comfy. While I was there Belinda spoiled me with great dinners and yummy breakfasts, and most of them we took outside in the warm climate. It was an exceptionally dry spring in Central Florida, and I needed to remind myself that
Quest Air II
The lake in beautiful light.
in some places rain is an event that makes people happy. Back home I am usually happy when it is dry for a change.
Altogether we took things slowly and I was very happy about this since my days back home had been stressful and hectic. Belinda had made a few plans for us though, so I got to see some of the surroundings of Quest. One day, we went to Oakland Nature Preserve
, a swamp area not far from Quest. It is located on the shores of Lake Apopka, and there are a number of boardwalks on which one can explore the area. There are a lot of animals: all kinds of birds, turtles, and of course crocodiles. Many of the plants and trees have signs close to them explaining what they are, so one can learn quite a lot about local flora and fauna. There were very few other visitors there, and it was nice, peaceful, and quiet.
Not far from Lake Apopka there is the town of Winter Garden, where we went one afternoon. On the city’s website it says ‘A charming little city with a juicy past’ because of the town’s history of citrus plantations. It
Quest Air III
The club house. It has several guest rooms, a kitchen, and a lounge.
has a larger Farmers Market and various cultural attractions and is very proud of its heritage. Belinda and I spent quite some time in a mall where all kinds of local produce were sold, and where there was a craft brewery as well. We had some nice organic food there.
Another day trip took us to The Dalí Museum
in St. Petersburg, Southwest of Quest. Those of you who know me know that I love Dali and wherever there are pieces of art he made I need to go and see them. The museum building itself was a highlight already. In its centre there is a spiral walkway that leads to the different floors, and the roof as well as parts of the wall are made of glass so that a lot of daylight comes in, but that one can also see the walkway from the outside. The exhibition itself takes one through Dalí’s life and one can see how his works evolved and changed across his lifespan. What I find so fascinating about his paintings is that one can keep looking at them for a long time and will always discover new things. The overall image will change when moving
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Hang glider being towed up.
closer or farther away or when changing perspective. And ultimately many of the paintings are like entering a dream world. I definitely enjoyed the museum a lot. After our visit we went to St. Pete Beach, a beach close by, to go for a little walk. Nice white sand, and there were not many people there, maybe because it was a rather windy day.
One day we wanted to go paddling, but when we got there it turned out that the boat rental was closed. However, since we were already in the area we decided to go for a walk and it was interesting because there was such different flora. Close to the river there were mangroves, and a little farther from the water there were other trees, so it felt a bit like walking between different worlds.
To round up my great time at Quest I had the opportunity to do something very special: I went for a tandem flight. It would be my first flight in a hang glider after having crashed so badly eight years ago. We went for an early morning flight when the air would still be calm. I have to say that
Quest Air V
I felt a bit tense before the flight. Spinner, the tandem pilot, was very calm and reassuring and kept talking while getting me into the harness. And then suddenly we were in the hang glider, and the tow plane started accelerating. My heart was pounding and I felt as if we were really speeding across the ground, but once we took off and were above the tree tops I started to relax and to enjoy the flight. Spinner explained the area to me, pointed out where one could fly and where areas of potential lift were, and we talked about various topics. Once we released from the tow I was allowed to take over. I still knew how to do it and I really enjoyed it. Of course a tandem glider is not as quick and easy to steer as a single glider, but still I managed to turn it and we even caught a bit of lift in one spot. I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed it! All too soon Spinner took over again for the landing, and then we were back on the ground. The big smile on my face, however, stayed throughout the entire day,
All too soon my four days at Quest were over and Belinda drove me into Disney World for the conference. But that’s the next story. Thank you so much, dear Belinda, for a wonderful four days with you, I really enjoyed them very much. Thank you also to Davis and to all the others at Quest who made my stay so much fun!
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