Fleetwood Owners Club
Join Date: Feb 2010
Location: Granite Falls, NC
Back in 08 me and Willa stopped by to see a couple of friends we had met on one of those Caravans. Their names were Bill and Cathy Vogal and they lived just out of Upper Lake, California. We called ahead to warn them and they said ''Come on by, you can set up of the ''Back Lot'' with full hook up''. The ''Back Lot'' is where they set their camper while they built their house on the 20 plus acres on top of a mountain out there. We went by and drank some wine and ate some ''toe foo'' and generally had fun while we mooched off these wonderful people. One night at supper Cathy said that Bill wanted to go hang gliding tomorrow and he would love for us to go watch. Not a problem on our part and the next morning Bill and I loaded up his hang glider on the top of a giant SUV that came by just to pick him and his ''kite'' up. I decided to ride up with the girls in Bills four wheel drive SUV. I learned we were going up on Elk Mountain to watch them fly. We started out on pavement road and advanced to a dirt road up the mountain and then to a ''fire road'' up the side of the mountain. I noticed Cathy had a small FM radio and she called up to the top of the mountain to inform Shila that we were nearing what she called the ''pasture''. The ''pasture'' amounted to a parking area on the side of the mountain just before it got really steep. Shila arrived about the same time we did and we all piled into her SUV that was a little bit smaller than a Sherman tank.
I want everyone to understand that Shila's SUV was one of those giant trucks with the thousand horse power engine, double extra low range, very oversize tires with cleats that a rabbit can run thru, a cracked windshield and several ''grab iron hand grips'' inside the cab. Willa and Cathy jumped in the back seat and Shila patted the passenger seat and said I could sit up front with her.
Shila was a full figured woman with a delightful smile and a head full of curly hair and she talked constantly. I hopped in the front seat and found my seat belt and we started up the ''steep part of the mountain''. Now when I say ''STEEP'' I mean ''REALLY STEEP''. Shila clicked the transmission into double low gear, four wheel drive and kicked in the afterburner. We went up the mountain.
Shila was constantly talking and driving on a road that would disappear under the SUV and all I could see was ''SKY''. Occasionally I would peek over to my right and see the edge of the mountain which dropped off for probably what seemed like a thousand feet. This ''fire road'' was more a path up the side of the mountain. It consisted primarily of two ditches with large rocks, logs, small animals, boulders, dead trees, holes, ditches both across and vertical to the surface of the road, or should I say trail, vertical trail. As we assented higher and higher Shela would drive with her left hand and point out interesting things along the way. She had an FM portable radio hanging on the rear view mirror and sometimes it would swing in a circle when we hit a bump just right. She finally noticed that I had gotten a grip on two of the ''hand holds'' on the dash and I was holding on for dear life. As we bounced along she laughed and pointed to the right and said '' If you look quick, between those two pines, you can see the Golden Gate Bridge''.....About then I became a Christian again.... Then she laughed a friendly laugh and we roared on up the mountain slinging stuff out behind the SUV tires. With her right hand she un hooked the portable radio from the mirror and told her husband we were getting close to the top of the mountain. We rolled over a log and leveled out on top of Elk Mountain. The guys were well into assembling their gliders when we got there. I was amazed at the relatively ''small area'' on top of the mountain and the seemingly almost vertical drop of both sides of the road as the mountain dropped away. For flying up there the guys had ''roped off'' and chain sawed all the scrub off the sides of the mountain for probably two hundred feet down the face on both sides. This was a safety factor in case they made a bad launch they would have a place to ''land'' (yeah sure) The actual ''working area'' up on top was maybe 100 feet long by maybe 50 feet wide at the widest point. We were literally on the ''peek'' of Elk Mountain.
The guys got all prepared and then they sat and watched the ribbons on the face to judge the wind for a satisfactory launch. Finally they decided things were perfect and they launched into the sky like eagles leaving the nest. Each of the guys had helmet radios and we could listen in on their conversations as they ''danced in the sky''. Shila finally said we should go down now and watch them cross ''Elk Creek'' which is their first landing field option.
Going down the mountain was ''funner'' than going up. God and Gravity pushed us down with small animals, rocks, boulders, trees, logs, stumps, and all manner of ''stuff'' being pushed down ahead of our sliding oversized tires, with extra large cleats, as we descended the mountain. I think I became a Christian again on the way down. Shela would watch me and laugh and talk on the FM radio to the guys as we descended the mountain with one hand on the wheel and the radio in the other hand.
She would smile that beautiful smile and say ''Ain't this fun??????'' over the roar of the engine and the whine of the transmission......
We made it down to the parking lot and Cathy, Willa and me transferred over to bills SUV and we continued down the mountain to Elk Creek to watch the guys pass over us at probably a mile off the ground.
They had what they call a ''short flight'' that day in that they were only in the air for a little over two hours. They had designated landing areas along their route and we would leapfrog ahead of their flight path and watch them go over. We could talk to them on the FM radio also.
We finally met them in a large pasture and we took Bills hang glider apart and placed it on top of the rack on the SUV and headed home. He had a digital camera mounted on his glider and he would make pictures of his prospective while flying. We sat that evening and reviewed the pictures and we could actually see ourselves waving from the ground.
Bill Vogal was a highly accomplished pilot, instructor, lecturer in the art of hang gliding. He won many championships and had a wall full of plaques attributing to his talent. Bill Vogal died doing what he loved a year later. He died at Elk Creek when he came in for a landing and did a ''wing over maneuver'' to avoid power lines and his left wing hit a small tree and he smashed to the ground. The impact killed my friend that day. He still lives in my mind and in my heart and I shall forever remember that day we went up on Elk Mountain to watch him ''fly''.....
Cathy asked me to preside over his ''Celebration of Life'' ceremony at his memorial. I wrote a poem in his honor and when I find it …. I will post it here.....
Nuff said for now... I'm getting sad..........
WHERE EAGLES TOUCH THE SKY…….
WHERE EAGLES DARE ….I’VE WATCHED MEN GO
TO FLY THEIR KITES AND FEEL THE GLOW
OF WIND AND SUN AND CLEAR BLUE SKY
AND WATCH AN EAGLE PASSING BY.
ELK MOUNTAIN IS THE PLACE THEY GO UPON A RIDGE SO TALL
I STOOD AND WATCHED AS THEY PREPARED, AFRAID THAT I MIGHT FALL.
THEY BUILD THEIR KITES AND SETTLE BACK AND WATCH THE WIND GO BY
THEY JUDGE THE WIND, THEY SAT AND TALKED, THEY EVEN WATCHED THE SKY
THEY WATCHED THE RIBBONS ON THE FACE AND JUDGED THE WIND AS IT DID RACE UP MOUNTAIN SLOPE AND PASSING BY,,,,
THEY WATCH THE EAGLES IN THE SKY.
THE WIND IS RIGHT, TIS TIME TO GO INTO THE FRAGILE KITES BELOW
AND EACH IN TURN WILL STEP AND FLY,,,,
LIKE EAGLES THEY WOULD TOUCH THE SKY.
WHILE ON THE GROUND I STAND IN FEAR AND WATCH THEM AS THEY DISAPPEAR IN THERMALS WITH UPLIFT AND GRACE,,,,,
I WATCH THEM DISAPPEAR IN SPACE..
THE RADIO IT CRACKLED LOUD AS THESE BRAVE FEW DANCED IN THE CLOUD
‘’ I’VE GOT GOOD LIFT. COME! FLY TO ME”
THEY TOUCHED THE SKY AND THEY WERE FREE
ON MOUNTAINTOP I STAND IN AWE AND WATCH BRAVE MEN IN FLIGHT
THEY DANCE AND DIVE AND CIRCLE ROUND,,
DO THINGS I WISH I MIGHT.
‘’HOP IN THE TRUCK, ITS TIME TO GO
FOR THEY ARE HEADING DOWN BELOW
AND WE MUST GO STRAIGHT TO OUR PLACE’’.
SO DOWN THE MOUNTAIN WE DID RACE.
THE RADIO IT CRACKLES LOUD, ‘’YOU’RE GONNA BUMP INTO A CLOUD’’ AND LAUGHTER FILTERS FROM THE SKY,
ABOVE OUR HEADS THEY DANCE AND FLY.
THEY DANCE THE DANCE OF FREEDOM SKY AND WE WILL NEVER KNOW
THE FEEL OF FREEDOM IN THE SKY LIKE LEAVES OR FALLING SNOW.
WE WATCH THEM AS THEY FLY SO HIGH, WE’LL NEVER KNOW THE REASON WHY
THEY RISK SO MUCH, AND GO SO HIGH, TO SOAR LIKE EAGLES IN THE SKY.
SO SOAR, MY FRIEND. ABOVE THE CLOUDS FOR THERE’S A PLACE FOR YOU
WHERE WINGS WILL NEVER LOSE THEIR LIFT, THE SKY IS ALWAYS BLUE
THE EAGLE’S NOW YOUR FRIEND YOU SEE AND LIKE AN EAGLE YOU WILL BE ,, YOU’LL FLY WITH HIM ON WINGS OF GOLD FOREVER YOUNG AND NEVER OLD …..
I’V STOOD AND WATCHED THE BRAVE MEN GO
WHERE ONLY EAGLES DARE TO FLY,
I’VE STOOD AND WATCHED, I WAS RIGHT THERE
WHEN BRAVE MEN TOUCHED GOD’S CLEAR BLUE SKY……………
DEDICATED TO THE MEMORY OF MY FRIEND BILL ‘’BIRDMAN’’ VOGEL AND ALL HANG GLIDER PILOTS EVERYWHERE …….
C. RICHARD CECIL …..’’SEAJAY’’
I found the poem I wrote for Bill Vogal
God bring our troops home safe and sound ….....