Just getting to the World Steel Challenge Championship in Piru, California, just outside of Valencia, was a challenge in itself. We had to take a car to the nearby grocery store parking lot to meet the Whidbey-SEATAC shuttle van. The van took us across the Clinton - Mukilteo ferry to the mainland, then South through Seattle to the SEATAC airport. At SEATAC we checked in for our Alaska Airlines flight to Burbank, California.
My race gun and backup race gun were securely locked in a hard sided gun case which was strapped inside of my suitcase. After declaring the firearms at the Alaska counter, I signed a small form that then was put into the gun case. Next I took the suitcase to another part of the terminal where TSA was set up for inspections. I had been dreading this for days, but it went very smoothly. The TSA guy just put the suitcase on the conveyor belt, ran it through the x-ray machine, and from there it went down the conveyor back to Alaska Airlines and hopefully to my flight to Burbank.
From there it was on to the security checkpoint, and from there to the departure gate. We boarded one of the newer Boeing 737's, and actually departed on time! So far things were going almost TOO smoothly! On the flight to Burbank I got some really good pictures of Mount St. Helens.
Mt. St. Helen's - The ultimate aerosol can causing global warming.....
As we got to Central And Southern California the smoke and haze from the wildfires was incredible. One of the fires was producing so much heat and rising air that it was actually boiling through the deck of clouds and forming another cloud of it's own.
Rising air from a wildfire.
Descending into Burbank we dropped down into the smoke and visibility went to essentially zero. After getting off the plane, we went to baggage claim, picked up our bags, and headed for the Alamo rental car counter. We picked up the paper for our rental car and walked out of the terminal and around the corner to the rental car lot. The guy in the lot office gave us the car keys and sent us down row D15 to pick up our car. I had specified a mid-sized car, and expected some sort of four door boxy clone car, but to my surprise, D15 held a sparkling banana yellow PT-Cruiser! VERY COOL!
"PT - BANANA!"
We loaded our suitcases and fired "PT - BANANA" up for the short (we hoped) 30 or 40 minute ride up I-5 to Valencia and the Hilton Garden Inn Hotel. It had less than 1500 miles on it!
We only got a "little" lost, but soon we were on the freeway, and not long after we exited onto the Magic Mountain Parkway, drove a couple of blocks, and pulled into the hotel parking lot. WOO HOO! We had managed to make it all the way from Whidbey to the hotel in Valencia without a single problem. Luck, I suspect, played a major part.
We checked in at the hotel, found the Steel Challenge registration room, and picked up my shooter's package with shooting schedule. I needed to be at the range, ready to shoot, at 8:30 am the next morning. It was now mid-afternoon, and it was getting rather hot outside, so an early start time sounded like a great idea!
We headed back to "PT-Banana" and drove the half hour out to the range, both to figure out how to get there when we had the time to get lost, and to see about getting in a little practice on the practice stages set up for that purpose. The drive was paved roads all the way to the range except for the last mile or so, where it turned into a dusty, lumpy, rutted, one lane 'almost but not quite'
We pulled into the parking area, I unpacked my long barreled High Standard .22 pistol, and grabbed a few magazines and a few hundred rounds of ammo. We walked over to one of the stages, where four or five shooters were taking turns shooting the plates against the clock. Two or three of them looked a little familiar. It turned out that one was Max Michel ,and another was K.C. Eusebio. Both of them had won the World Steel Challenge in the past. I watched in amazement as K.C. shot a 2.05 time, unofficially breaking the current world record which he already held. Man, are those guys FAST!
When they had finished I shot through the stage a few times, and then moved to some of the other practice stages to try them out.
One of the stages, "Outer Limits", I could see was potentially going to be a big problem. The course of fire was to shoot two right side plates from the right side shooter's box, then move to the center box and shoot the two remaining plates and the stop plate. For right handed shooters they would start on the left side box, then finish from the center shooter's box. The boxes were six feet apart. Since most of the shooter's were moving from the left box to the center, they had kicked must all of the loose dirt and brass to the right side of the center box, right where I had to plant a foot before shooting the final three plates. I loaded some magazines and got into the right side box. FRom a low ready, I raised and fired, hitting the first two plates. I took three quick steps to the center box and planted my foot into the middle of the dirt and brass in preparation for the final three shots. IT WAS LIKE STEPPING ON A BAR OF SOAP! Fortunately I found just enough traction that I sort of slid to a stop without falling on my butt. I scraped some of the loose stuff away, and tried it again. At least I didn't fall, and I managed to hit all five plates, even though you could have timed it with a sun dial! I tried it a couple of more times, but I could see that "Outer Limits" could be a "Bad Experience" to say the least, one of those experiences that could play over and over in your mind long after the match was over.
The range was about to close for the night, so we drove back to the hotel. We dropped our stuff in the room, then went over to the Marie Callender's restaurant next door for dinner. After dinner we went back to the hotel room so I could get my range bag packed, magazines loaded, and make a few reminder notes to myself about the various stages for tomorrow.
Tomorrow was going to be an interesting day.............
.....End of Part One.