EJ Steele (
Saturday, 2/14/04, Valentine Day
The Eliminator to the VOR turnpoint ~ 6 miles
VOR turnpoint to Lake Casitas ~ 26 miles (~ 23 LFSD points)

After a fast & furious speed-glide through the crisp 7 am air between the Eliminator and the Monastery Gap, it was back up to launch for what is always the set task on opening day of The Contest; Open Distance.

Weather that day was exactly what had been highly anticipated for the event; filled with cross country potential.  Many pilots were well on course before I (being the "Meathead" has it disadvantages), and there was the VOR that still needed to be turned.  Ol' Sheila though, she was live!  With super controlled climb rates and a sick sink-rate on nothing but fully stuffed to the ankles glides, Sheila and I rocketed through each thermal and rounded the VOR with good rhythm set and plenty of mojo on our side.

Sighting the Eastern profile of the range, I spotted the lead pilots well on their way to Snowball... "Not gonna be easy"; I whispered to Sheila.  But what a hoot!  Being that far behind gives the sense of race that only comes with bar stuffin' 'til the nose is pressed on the back of your neck transitions between peaks.  We flew together like the wind; Sheila and I.  I'd tell her gently but assertively; "Dance with me here, girl.  You want it, I want, let’s get busy!"  And, before I knew it we were in striking distance.  I saw the profile of their wings... bags.  Dang, they could scoot!  They raced those puppies like there was a bad-ass trophy on the line.  But Sheila and I were upon them; in fact, there were no others in front of us.

Unfortunately, things took a turn there.  As ol' Sheila sunk her wingtip into a low-level thermal that Ron Faoro mapped out for us in front of West Divide, we began to climb gently to an attitude that would surely put us through the pass.  It was then that I got relaxed and waved to Ron in excitement that we were able to core together so fluently.  But Ron had a motive; Dan Keyser had gone in.  I did my best to survey Dan's emergency LZ, radio somewhat of a call for help, then headed for the pass. (It was an inspirational and purely selfless maneuver for Ron to touch down at the site, stabilize Dan, and radio-guide in the Rescue Team.  My hat comes off for you Ron, and heart goes out to Dan and his loved ones... Dan, it's a pleasure to see you recover; you ROCK!)

But, I still had some flying to do.  I had left the lift and put myself in a bit deep to access the situation and now was “dolphin-ing” through the air, like a hot knife through butter, with a mere 1900, hoping to make the glide out to Lake Casitas.  When I arrived on the opposite side of the pass, there was a saver or two waiting to put me back in the game, but the day’s events had me mentally exhausted.  So, with toes pointed so hard I think I broke one, as always, Sheila took me to safety at the edge of the lake's entrance.

So, Eliminator to VOR to Lake Casitas entrance... does someone want to confirm the distance for me?