With winter upon us, we have been talking about doing a quick trip to Southern California again; this time as a collective group. No time like the present so we make arrangements and off we go. We defined the meeting place to be a large bushy, desert field near Lake Elsinore, California. Paul, JoFo, and I fly into Long Beach, pick up Gary and arrive at our destination just a few minutes before JJ and Matt arrive. Let the games begin. We all pile in and drive to the top of the mountain to a small launch site just off the main road. The locals are…well, interesting to say the least. Paul, Gary, Matt and I quickly find our way into the thermic air. We fly two more times and spend over 7 hours in the air today. Awesome ridge soaring mixed with light thermals soaring high above Lake Elsinore. It felt so good to be in the air for longer than five to ten minutes. So much so, my stomach muscles are sore from sitting in the harness.
Wanting to take advantage of the time, we drive the several hours necessary up to Santa Barbara to experience some different scenery. Crammed into a smoke, cockroach, infested Motel 6 (not my favorite environment), the night passes. Come morning I can’t wait to get some fresh air. By 10:00 a.m. we are high in the desert mountains, teamed with Fly Above All Paragliding, launching off Alternator Peak. Paul, Gary, Matt and I head into the unfamiliar skies, cravats and all. There are no landing zones nearby, just miles of trees, so getting out the cravats was vital, and successfully achieved. With high pressure upon us, it was perhaps one of the more turbulent thermal flights in my career as a pilot. Nevertheless, we are able to work the difficult lift and get high above the mountains surrounding the Santa Barbara Valley despite getting thrown around in the unsettled air. JoFo and JJ finally launch into the sky and join us. We land by early afternoon, and come evening we are all still looking for some airtime. We rush over to a beach with a small 500 foot cliff above it. Again, Paul, Gary, Matt and I have to make our feet leave the ground just one more time. Silly we know, but hey, that is just how we roll. Forward launching off a plateau in zero wind, off a cliff, out over the ocean and into the sunset is a great way to end another day of flying. The flight literally lasts only 60 seconds, but the best 60 seconds of the day, and down on the beach….everyone is pure smiles!
Come morning we decide to launch Alternator Peak one more time. The sky is cloudy today and no thermals at all. A butter smooth flight extending several miles out into the valley. In a ditch effort to fly somewhere new we drive a few hours to Saboba. It is nearing evening and the winds are dead…almost catabatic. Matt and I decide it is worth the risk. Little did we know that getting a ride on the ATV would prove to be the most dangerous. We cling on for dear life as our driver cruises us along the edge of shear drops. Matt and I launch in slight catabatic conditions, but are able to get off safely. Again, a super fun, short flight at sunset. Another great and memorable day in the sky.
We spend the next day sitting on the grass of Torrey Pines just killing time until our flight brings us back home. Thankful to Gary’s hospitality in letting us spend the night and feed us dinner. As I sit here on the plane and stare out into the dark skies I reflect on what a great adventure this has been. Great friends and great flying. It was awesome getting to know Matt a little better and with his enthusiasm, and his willingness to always fly has definitely solidified his place in the DEAF Crew. As I stare out the window a lyric reflects in my mind “I need freedom now. And I need to know how…to live my life as its meant to be…..” It feels like for the first time in years I am living my life as it is meant to be….and it feels wonderful!