So there we were in our brand new 2015 black SUV driving along a typical California interstate listening to the low din of the radio. Night had fallen and the cars were clipping along in bumper to bumper rhythm. I look over and notice the speedometer reading 71 mph as Clark launches into another story, casually maintaining pace with the surrounding traffic. Suddenly the dark sky ignites with bright red tail lights and I see the traffic come to a sliding and metal shattering halt.

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As we slide at 71 mph towards the ensuing disaster time seems to stop. I start questioning our judgement in declining that additional rental car insurance. Then like a scene out of The Matrix, time slows as Clark slams the gas, and finds that narrowing gap between the concrete bridge columns and the swerving and twisting cars. We slide through the closing gap whilst breaking tail lights, bumpers, and debris explode all around us. We come out the other end without a scratch and remarkably unscathed. Time quickly returns to normal pace, everyone is okay, the adrenaline drains, and a call from the backseat “Anyone up for Mexican Food?”

Southern California from DEAF Crew on Vimeo.

Searching for that never ending summer of flyable weather, and apparently a good mexican food dinner is always an adventure. That is just how it goes sometimes….well, most of the time really, but that is what keeps me searching (at least for the flyable weather). I left Salt Lake City, not only with three of my good friends, but an unwelcome and terrible cold. We land in Long Beach and with offshore winds, and a fever, nobody is too optimistic. “We head to Elsinore. It will be fine, and flyable…trust me” I say. “We stick to the plan”, which is a lesson I have learned many times now. Several hours later my feet dangle thousands of feet above Lake Elsinore as I watch the sun dip below the surrounding peaks. With over three hours in the air soaring and thermal flying across the mountains I just have to smile, regardless of my raging fever, because I think we just found summer.

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Myself, Clark and Keenan flying along the ridges of Elsinore
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Sick, but still smiling after hours of flying.

I cannot speak much about last night, as I was deliriously sick, but the sun is bright and I find myself in the beautiful land of Santa Barbara. I always love it here. Not only is the atmosphere comfortably welcoming, but the flying is always good. Hooking up with Fly Above All, we get a ride to the top of the mountains. The air is warm, welcoming and bubbling. Keenan and I are the first in the air over the VOR and together we quickly lock into a thermal that allows us to climb a thousand feet over the top of the mountains. We wait for some of the others to launch, but enough is enough and we start heading east across the range. Several peaks, and an hour or so later the lift begins to dwindle and we start fighting our way back towards Santa Barbara. Paul, Clark, Keenan, and I all group together against the cliffs in a small thermal just long enough to get us the necessary altitude to get out of the mountains and into the valley. Paul holds on a little too long and ends up in a small vineyard in the foothills. The rest of us make it out safely. Santa Barbara Magic!

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Clark and myself heading to the valley
The daily fuel stop....Clark style.
The daily fuel stop….Clark style.

The day ends with the group attempting some beach flying with several near mishaps including a tangle with a flag pole and some very prickly bare feet. I choose to forego the beach flight attempt and spend the evening behind the lens filming my friends.

Keenan deciding where to land.
Keenan deciding where to land.
Jeff S.....enjoying the view.
Jeff S…..enjoying the view.
Gary headed out to sea.
Gary headed out to sea.

As morning crests I am feeling better, but the weather is not the best. We find ourselves back in the mountains eager to fly, but conflicted with very mixed weather data. Many of the locals decide to stand down due to the swirling Santa Anna Winds, and we all decide to follow their lead. Except for Paul of course, as he decides to launch and has a bumpy, but otherwise successful and safe flight. I am a little conflicted over the day and wish I would have flown, but not flying when things do not ‘feel’ right is never a bad thing I guess.

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Friends enjoying the last sunset in the grass lined cliffs

We continue to chase the wind around the valley and eventually end up atop a cliff area stretching above the Pacific. The wind is light, but good enough for me to play around along the cliff face. The flights are short, but worth every step back up to the top of the cliffs. The day, and our trip ends relaxing along the grassy ledges watching the sun dip into the Pacific Ocean surrounded by new and old friends alike. Summer? Yes, I think we found it and I look forward to coming back again soon.

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