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Patience paid off! You throw the dice on days like these, deciding when to launch. Ron got off and then it got socked in. I've been skunked before on days when the door is closed and it never opens again. There were plenty of cars at launch so I decided to stick it out.
After about 15 minutes or so, the muck began to lift and we could make out the valley below. While the first pilots launched, holes began to open above us and we could see the sun. Chad made a bee line for the Holy Hills and Jim was the first one to make good with the house thermal. Rob headed out with a tandem then Dan and Sharon quickly followed.
It took three tries before I could successfully launch. I got above launch in the house thermal but started loosing it so I followed someone in an orange wing out to the Holy Hills. The West wind was messy as I approached the Holy Hills low at first and got a lil rock n' roll and small tip folds. Once on the other side though I hooked a thermal and followed the orange glider up.
As we topped out the orange glider left for the Monastery and I continued to work the Holy Hills. I was checking out the clouds developing all around me and making sure I could keep Parma in view.
All of a sudden I was surrounded and everything started going white. It was pretty cool. I knew I was the only pilot around and I had my gps to make sure I knew my direction so I wasn't too concerned. I've shot through small clouds and worked around cloud base but this was the first full on cloud experience.
For me, it was like an acid trip (not that I've ever done acid!). Before the white out I had two pictures in my head, the terrain below me, checking to see if I'm drifting and a mental picture of the thermal, trying to make sure I was following the thermal up and back with the wind. In the 2 seconds it took to envelope me in the clouds both those pictures washed away just like someone pulled a plug on the tv.
I was climbing the whole time I was in the cloud but I headed South and broke out of it in a couple of minutes. From there I headed to the round house and played around with the clouds developing all around me but never went into any clouds like over the Holy Hills.
There was tons of lift just about everywhere between the the round house and Parma... and beyond.
Ron, Trifko (cool aka!) and I played around over the Riviera but I made the mistake of trying to find the fatty Ron grabbed before he headed to the beach. Note to myself, never try to fly someone else's thermal! I started getting below 1600 so I headed over to Parma and landed... short (just below the lip)!
As for the clouds. I thought it was awesome. I don't encourage flying in clouds but it was a great learning experience, similar to a maneuvers clinic. Best to prepare yourself for the event before it happens.
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