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Ron Faoro
Saturday, 12/4/04
Skyport to almost Fillmore
~ 41 miles (LFSD points ~ 39)

The Loneliness of Long Distance

Four hours and fifteen minutes.  Forty-one miles of cold and wind, of thermals tugging you higher and sink taking your heart down with it.  It's mentally demanding to focus constantly on the current lift, the next goal, the conditions ahead.  Yet sometimes you just sit back and think to yourself, "Relax! This is as good as it gets."  All these thoughts ran around in my head on the trip down range yesterday.  If not for the radio, the marathon would have been lonely indeed.

I flew by myself the entire day.  It's not easy to follow the leaders, especially when you're solo.  But I could see my friends always ahead in the distance, two yellow gliders, Dean and Brendan, and John in white, pointing out the lift and the trouble points.  It had to be the most beautiful day of the year.  Clear cold skies and views to the horizon in every direction.  But the battle with the east wind and the fatigue from the cold is wearing.  Dean and Tom have chronicled the major events of the day.  And Dean's pictures are a storybook of exactly how it all went down (or up).  Me, I was the hermit, the recluse, the outcast, the Phantom of the Front Range.  Never shared a thermal on the XC, with the leaders out front and Tom a mile or two behind.

I was first off the hill at 10:10 AM.  But it was early and the house thermal was quiet.  As I cruised down the ridge toward the power lines, I felt the stronger than expected east wind of eight or nine miles per hour and bailed for the Holy Hills.  Cleared the power lines with a good twenty feet, my closest pass ever.  Worked the meager lift right behind the lines at the edge of the ridge for fifteen minutes before deciding not to waste any more of the day and having Eddie bring me back to the top.

The second launch at 11 AM was right as the day was turning soarable.  Got rotored by the east wind when I crept over to the Thermal Factory, so I opted for the Antenna Farm and Dean and I made it work to move back to the Thermal Factory.  The lift was out front (as it would be much of the day early on) and we got up to 5K.  But as I 360'd, the drift took me all the way back over Skyport launch.  Then I would speed bar east from the top of the thermal and come in exactly -- at the Thermal Factory again!  Did this yo-yo a few times before deciding to chase Dean (who was making it look easy at Montecito Peak) with what I had.

I followed John and Brendan, always a peak behind them, all the way to Noon Peak.  It was upwind, gut-wrenching sink between triggers.  But the lift was always waiting in the wings, so to speak, and we used Shadow, then the front of the east ridge of Montecito Peak, then the back edge at Romero Canyon, then dolphin across Castle Ridge.  Things got big at the power line crossing.  From there it was nothing but icy cold cumis popping over me at Noon, Divide and White Ledge.  Altitudes improved to 6-7K (but the involuntary shakes from the temperature came with it) and I made the top of the Nuthouse Ridge from White Ledge on the glide with no further headwind, changing my GPS batteries (took a long time with numb fingers, but thank God, for what was about to transpire in Ojai!) enroute.

It was downright scary (well, thrilling) to watch Ojai go off in the course of thirty to forty minutes with me in the center of it all.  The cumi that Dean caught me in (Picture Ojai 05) was pure energy, it literally developed in minutes, swallowing me whole as I watched in wonder over Nordhoff Peak.  I didn't want to go as high as it wanted me to go and I left shivering, approaching seven thousand feet out of the side of the cloud.  Yes, the door did hit me in the butt as I left, too!  From there it was dodge 'em with the clouds, occasional moisture and many compass headings, while I tried to convince myself that flying was more fun than a hot drink at some cocktail lounge in Ojai.  Rounded the corner at 2,700 feet, 100 feet AGL, and connected with enough scraps in the overdevelopment with cloudbase at ground level to float over toward Fillmore with the 8 mph tailwind.  Didn't warm up until after three Coronas at the Christmas party.


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