OK. It's done. The launch went flawlessly. I filed my stories and think I got it right the first time through (rereading the first breaking story I filed, I actually kind of liked the way it read. It was direct and not too jazzy but still reflected the excitement I felt as the stuff was happening).
So now I'll get ready to go back home. Maybe back up I-5, or maybe a less direct route up the east side of the Sierra or something.
But, the difficulties of breaking away from my old desk habits and actually going into the field aside, this has been a wonderful story to get to cover. My only regret is not having gotten closer to some of the key players; it's painfully obvious out here how hard it is to get on the inside of what's going on. Of course, Rutan is known to want to keep reporters at arm's length; also, by the time I was working on the story, the project had drawn a lot of attention, the Discovery Channel filmmakers had gotten the real inside track, and I was just one among hundreds of people to descend on the scene of the action. Lesson: Get in early. Now I have to think of the story I need to get in early on.