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March 10
Flyin' High in Yucca Valley

After a string of festivals that were too windy, not windy enough, to wet, and way, way too cold, Susie and I were ready for a trip to Southern California and the second Yucca Valley Kite Festival.

Yucca Valley is half an hour from Palm Springs. The parks department handles organizing duties and invited us for the second time to provide a 'big kite show'. Flying is on the football field at the local high school which we are pleased to share with friends from the Seal Beach Kite club. The show was scheduled from one until five.

Yucca Panorama

For the first hour, we struggled to decide where the prevailing wind would eventually come from. Eventually we set one of the anchors on our big Octopus, and then used Glen Rothstein as a second, more mobile anchor. His instructions were simple -- keep the tension on both flying lines balanced. Glen moved back and fourth and the kite stayed in the air. Hours two and three went fairly well as the crowd grew to 1500.

Octopus Bears Blue Devil

Finally, for the fourth hour, we got the steady even wind we wanted and everything came out of the bag. Even with lamp post, fences, bleachers, and field goals to contend with, it is amazing how much fabric you can fit into a small space. We had bears, geckos, and octopus spread across the playing field. At that point our biggest challenge was filtering out the smaller kites being flown by 500 enthused kids on the grass directly upwind. I must have been having fun because even that didn't bother me too much...

Kids and Kites Kids and Kites Kids and Kites

At 5 pm, right on cue, the winds dropped off and we stuffed the kites back into their travel bags. Fliers grabbed showers and headed to The Rib House for a St. Louis rack with stuffed potatoes on the side. There we met a couple of new fliers, Mike and Robin McWilliams, who we learned flew kites when it was too windy for their hot air balloons...

And that, friends, is how a handful of kiters came to be driving out into the desert at 5 am the next morning in search of open spaces and dead air.

Balloon Lunch
Balloon Launch
Balloon Launch

Balloon Launch

Ballooning, it turns out, is a lot like flying large kites. It involves a bunch of fabric, serious concern for safety, and an occasional shot of hot air. Oh -- and it is also a lot of fun.

Susie's Flight Susie's Flight Susie's Flight

Each of us took a short ride in the small but solid basket. How did it feel?? Smooth and quiet. You hardly had the sensation of movement at all -- except when you looked over the side. Susie's grin was as big as the envelope.

A Desert Toast

We finished off our morning by packing up all the gear and then toasting the flight in traditional ballooning style. And since, as I said, ballooning and big kites are so similar, I may need to start carrying a bottle of champagne with me to the field each weekend to thank volunteers and celebrate the flight.


And now, to answer a few questions:

  • This balloon was about 90 feet tall -- roughly the same height as a large Octopus but obviously much larger in volume. Costs a bit more than an Octopus too.
  • The "Blue Devil" kite shown above is a prototype we're considering putting into production.
  • The smaller Blue Bear shown above is our first production sample. The cool GKPI Mid-Bear is now priced at $1250. We'll be making a few changes to the next model -- especially in the eyes -- but if you want a unique, wide-eyed teddy, you can buy this model from us today for $1000 even.

New Product Alert!

There is something about spikes on line laundry that never fails to get attention. Wonder what that is....

We've just added a spikey-option to our too-cool Diamond Spin Socks. We've got twenty-two, fifty, and eighty footers. And the too-cool part is that spikes don't cost anything extra!

Diamond Spinsock

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