COLUMBIA — The dust is still settling on River Road as Deputy Police Chief Tom Dresner, off duty for the evening, steps out of his pickup.
He sets up an electronic wind meter on a tripod and begins examining the readings. "Generally anything below 10 mph is good," he says.
In a few minutes, as the cooling temperature settles the gusts of wind, this empty field becomes Dresner's aerial playground.
When he's not managing Columbia's police force, Dresner is a paramotorist. He propels himself around the countryside with a small but powerful propeller-engine and a parachute-like airfoil.
"I just love aviation. Never pursued a career in it though," Dresner said. He describes himself as growing up in the "Right Stuff" generation, following the space program and aviation during childhood.
The only rules for paramotorists are put in place by the Federal Aviation Administration for ultralight aircraft. Dresner can fly low enough to brush his feet along the ground but can't go near "congested" city areas, according to the administration's regulations.
It may seem risky from the ground, but Dresner said it's actually a safe sport.
"You can't get off the ground unless you're doing everything absolutely right," he said, unfolding the airfoil.
The sun nears the horizon as Dresner starts up the roaring engine and leaps into the air.
For a brief moment, it seems like he might fall back to the earth, but the engine kicks, and the wind pulls him higher.
He has just enough time to watch the sun set over the Missouri River from his vantage point in the sky.