After an abbreviated day of doing good work along the FEBA I recovered at Echo One North, looking forward to chow, a shower, and some shuteye. It was not to be. While I was hot pumping in the pits the Maintenance Chief clambered up the ladder with a grin on his face. Yeah. One of those grins.
The jet was due for a 120 day and engine/avionics trends demanded a depot swap. I'd only logged 5.7 hours for the day, so the book said I was fresh enough to make the short hop to Kilo Main and return with a PMC'd jet. Okay.
As the Chief climbed down I motioned stop fueling to the Grape. I had a full internal bag, more than enough gas. The big centerline tank was dry and and the wing stations carried only MER's, so the jet was light and relatively slick. I still had a full magazine of 25 mm. Where I was going the gun would suffice, and in truth I wouldn't need it anyway. There were rumors that the Progs still had a few fighters tucked away, but Intel said they were just that -- rumors. I unhooked and swarmed down the ladder for a quick piss, leaving the jet running. Unthinkable in peacetime. Maybe this war shit was alright after all.
I launched into a moonless night with a clag layer at 3,500'. It was darker than the inside of a donkey. I stayed low just in case Intel was wrong. In my experience they were only ever right by accident. I headed east until I'd cleared Charlie Romeo Two Eight, then followed steering and put Kilo on the nose. My ass started to hurt from being so low on such a dark night, so I pussied out and cheated up to 2,500 AGL.
From out of nowhere a four-ship of bad guys blasted across my nose from right to left in parade formation. Adrenaline erupted throughout my system and time slowed to a crawl. The enemy clearly hadn't seen me, but if the four-ship was a sucker gaggle then the shooters would be... there!
Lead of the first shooter element flashed by at a comfortable distance, dash two kicked out even further to the north in combat. Which meant that the trailing pair could be right on top of me. I came hard right and was instantly nose to nose with a trailer. As my fingers desperately played piccolo to arm the gun and switch dogfight, the enemy turned hard to his right and bunted, trying to run away from me. Stupid. Unless...
Firetruck! The wingman had sure as shit turned into me, and should have had me cold. Perhaps the only thing that saved me in that moment was surprise and the geometry of proximity. In an instant the wingman and I passed each other left side to left side and nearly close enough to touch.
I bunted, unloaded, and accelerated. Fuck this dogfighting shit. I was clear of the ambush, and there was no way they could catch me down low and with my speed advantage.
And that's exactly the way it happened last night. Except I was driving (rather than flying) the trusty Ranger, and the enemy fighters were Mule Deer crossing Highway 71. Fuckers ambushed the shit out of me and I would have tagged the guy who turned away if I hadn't whipped down into the ditch. As it was I'm not sure how I missed the second one, who did indeed turn into me, the dickhead!
All's well that ends well. Paying attention and understanding Mule Deer combat tactics paid off.
As I promised myself yesterday, I would climb Isandlwana Ridge today. Ahem. So it's like this. As I'm writing this now, it's actually last evening if you are reading this on the day of publication, which right now is tomorrow, except that for you the reader, tomorrow is now now, and as of now, the first two nows are last evening. I think. No! I'm sure! Pretty sure.
Okay, hang with me while I sort this out. That first clever fighter-sweep spoof didn't really happen last night. No, it happened the night before, or Sunday night. As you're reading this. If you're reading it on the day of publication, January 14, 2020.
There has got to be a better way.
As I promised myself while glacier galloping on Sunday, Monday would include a climb of Isandlwana Ridge.
|That's not Isandlwana!|
|Hmmm. Maybe. If you squint.|
|No effin' way.|
So bright and early at 11:30 a.m. local time yesterday, Red and I set out and got to it.
I have no doubt that my version is easier to climb than the real thing. No doubt at all. I mean, c'mon!
|Lookit the size of that monster!|
Case closed. Obviously. But does the real thing have one of these?
I think not.
Anyway, what goes down, must struggle back up. I cut out most of the struggle because of wind noise and sobbing.
A little more hiking and climbing; secondary ridge here.
I had intended to just run back and forth over the multiple ridges for a while, but once I reached the back or south side of the Isandlwana ridge complex I decided to combine distance with verticality. So I did a tour of the stock tanks and ran up and down some other steep ridges. I shot a lot of video and you'll doubtless be pleased that most of it was ruined by wind noise and therefore is not featured in this post.
Everywhere I went today there was Little Bluestem, a native perennial grass. It's also the state grass of Nebraska. Little Bluestem doesn't take kindly to being mistreated. If farmed or overgrazed it just packs its bags and leaves. When it comes back voluntarily you know you're on the right path so far as managing and husbanding the shortgrass ecosystem. So I get stupid excited to see it coming back so strong.
|Little Bluestem. Secret name: Antelopeville Assegai Grass. Shhh! It's secret!|
|Kind of attractive even in winter.|
In the meantime, Red was ever alert for the presence of the dreaded Zubraska Ice Lions.
Nice view of Isandlwana Ridge from the southwest.
|Right in the middle.|
Less talkin'! More walkin'! (Sorry 'bout the talkin').
For what it's worth, the weather conditions were less than pleasant. It was quite windy and the air temperature hovered around 35 most of the day. Occasional bright sunshine was mostly interrupted by clouds blasting through the area. But it wasn't that bad.
Our little jaunt covered 6.14 miles and more than a dozen ridge scrambles. I went a little harder and farther than I should have, but I didn't stray far over the line and I got away with it. The nerve pain was ever present but I continued to fight through it. I'd sure like to get that problem fixed because I'd prefer to not have to fight through nerve pain all the time. We'll just have to wait and see what happens.
Be well and enjoy the blessings of liberty.