Jim Miller, owner of the Juneau Rubber Stamp Co. and father of this photographer, shows off a Waco YMF-5 bi-plane.

Jim Miller, owner of the Juneau Rubber Stamp Co. and father of this photographer, shows off a Waco YMF-5 bi-plane.

Celebrate Ride the Wind Day the Juneau way

This Tuesday, Aug. 23, is National Ride the Wind Day, and there’s lots of diverse ways we can celebrate.

A quick note if, like me, you didn’t know this was a holiday before now or why we should be celebrating: The story goes that industrialist Henry Kremer, under the auspices of the Royal Aeronautical Society, created a contest to see who could fly a human powered aircraft in a figure-eight around two markers a half-mile apart; in 1973, Bryan Allen flew the Gossamer Condor 2 built by Dr. Paul B. MacCready in the first figure-eight, a distance of 2,172 meters taken at 11 mpg, taking home the £50,000 Kremer prize.

Now, National Ride the Wind Day is often taken as a time to appreciate the last of summer’s breezes. In Juneau, we can look at it as the herald of impending autumn rainstorms and wintery Taku Winds whipping up snow on the mountains that inspires a chill factor of one big nope.

This Tuesday if you don’t find yourself on an airplane headed to some place warmer, there are other ways you can celebrate the wonder of flight and the power of the wind right here.

There are the adventurous options like hang gliding, wind surfing, sailing, or if the wind is feeling a bit testy, you can pretend you, along with your house, got swept up in a twister and then plunked down into a land where the infrastructure budget is spent on dyeing brick roadways — double points if the sun comes out and you wander around outside muttering you’re not in Juneau anymore.

You can walk the Dike Trail and watch the flocks of birds fly south, or stand underneath the roar of an airliner taking off with its non-human-powered engine and imagine you won that Juneau Jetaway that’s advertised ad-nauseum.

If it’s a windy garbage day, just make a game of it. You can let the wind smack your garbage can over like a toddler does a block tower, and when the wind scatters your trash around the neighborhood (or maybe that’s the ravens), just think of it as a scavenger hunt. The lid which Frisbeed into the fenced yard next door belonging to the neighbor you never talk to can be the grand prize.

Or you can invest in one of those remote controlled airplanes, and on baseball fields turned runways, become an expert in crash landing your expensive and new tech-toy.

You can celebrate the wonder of aeronautics in a more affordable way by getting some of those balsa wood planes with the plastic propellers powered by wound-up rubber bands. Have a competition with your friends on whose planes flew the farthest, whose did the most loops before stalling and whose plane disappeared into the Bermuda Triangle called the neighbors roof. Now you know how my dad decided to teach that science lesson on aerodynamics.

Which reminds me, if you’re lover of history, particularly when it comes to man-made inventions to achieve flight, you can always peek inside the Juneau Rubber Stamp Co. and find models made by my grandpa hanging on display from the ceiling. Inside you’ll find my father and he’d be able to tell you about the maker of the models (his father) and maybe even a little about the planes. One of these planes was even on display at the Juneau International Airport, for a time.

If your wallet is feeling the pinch but you’ve got access to wheels, drive out to Eagle Beach at low tide, ditch your shoes and walk barefoot in the mud and fly yourself. What do I mean by that? I haven’t done this since I was little girl, when my sisters and I kept ourselves entertained as my dad and his buddy golfed on the beach, and it may not work the same if you don’t have a body weight under the triple digits, but it’s worth a go. All you’ve got to do is shrug your coat down your shoulders so when a gust comes the material billows out behind you to send you sailing — sometimes giggling — right into your siblings. Note: wind required, siblings optional but recommended.

Or, maybe you’ll be stuck at the office. You can turn on the fan and pretend you’re outside, or you can raid the office supply cabinet and build something inventive. Turn on the Wright side of your brain, and see if you can get something to fly, or at least move. You could go the old-fashioned paper airplane route, or try constructing a sail out of printer paper to tape on your empty water bottle to cruise across the nearest countertop; just power up your fan, and voila! If you do try this, you may need to fill up at least a fifth of your bottle because it’s going to need some weight or or else it will topple.

Why are you looking at me like that? What, you think I’ve done this before? I solemnly swear I’m up to no good — I mean I’m always up to good (Narrator slips beneath invisibility cloak).

Now where was I?

Consider unpacking that kite you bought and — good grief — flew only once after a tree decided to eat it. Unearth it from your garage, untangle that mess of string and start humming yourself some Mary Poppins.

Speaking of trees eating the unfortunate, this was my exact experience playing with parachute army men as a kid. My dad bought a pack of these neon-colored plastic army men with folded parachutes attached to their backs. My sisters and I had a thrill running around our yard hurling them into the air for them to just come back down a second or two later. We got it into our heads that we weren’t high enough, because after all, didn’t people go splat in the movies if they were too close to the ground when they pulled the strings on their chutes?

Fast-forward, and we were hurling our parachuters out of our upstairs bedroom window, and of course, one rode the wind and went right into the maw of a waiting pine tree. That little orange jumper got irrevocably stuck. Many years later, I would look out that window and see a flash of color. It might still be there to this day.

The lesson here is that if you decide to fly anything this Tuesday, as Eomer said at the close of the Battle of Helm’s Deep: “Stay away from the forest! Keep away from the trees!”

When my sisters and I were tucked in for the night, and Dad wasn’t reading us the Hobbit or the Lord of the Rings, he’d tell us stories of the wind. Three little girls, who strangely all had our names, would be minding their own business and then suddenly the Wind (personified, of course) would sweep in and take those innocent children on adventures that oftentimes, but not always, included polar bears, CIA/FBI/Super-Secret-Agent hideouts, aliens and three stubborn sisters pointedly arguing with Wind to let them go home.

Those stories would always end with the three little girls being dropped mid-flight by an exasperated yet mollified Wind, sending those kids falling through the roof of the Augustus Brown Swimming Pool and right into the water, only to be yelled at by the manager (safe to say the manager got annoyed with Wind too — roof repairs are expensive).

So be mindful Tuesday, despite how you celebrate Ride the Wind Day — the wind can be a mischievous being, but so can you. Stay safe, have fun and use your imagination.

 

If you get into any interesting shenanigans while celebrating Ride the Wind Day, take a picture and send them to neighbors@juneauempire.com.

 

• Contact Clara Miller at 523-2243 or at clara.miller@juneauempire.com.

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