Sacramento, 2001-5-19

The forecast had been very confused, with each model contradicting all the others, and all changing radically with each new forecast over the previous two days. The Kellercast had North, getting usefully strong later in the day. Weather Underground said NW 5-10. ETA Meteograms were all over the shop, predicting light winds until very late and NW.

In the event, the wind was chiefly NNW, and very inconsistent. There were some cycles of 10 mph, but there were also some dead calm lulls. Seduced by a 5 minute period of 10 mph, I moved to launch around 3 pm. Naturally I was becalmed for many minutes once I'd climbed the bump. I'm not really a very patient kind of guy, so as soon as a half decent breath of air came up the hill, I was out of there. To paraphrase Barry Goldwater (yup, showing my age): "if it means a sled, let it be a sled."

After getting pushed below launch for a brief minute, I found some thermal activity East of launch. Climbed out and set off for the Route 125 crossing to record the remote start of a planned monster XC (yeah, right). I played stepping stones with the landing fields, and after 10 minutes found myself down to 100' or so above launch. I headed out to the chosen field, only to be rewarded with a nice thermal to get me up and on my way.

Eventually made it to Route 125, where I marked my turnpoint and headed back. I milked a thermal over launch while I observed Alana's launch from 1500' over, then carried on towards Klingerstown gap. Crossed the gap uneventfully, only to be threatened with a drilling into the same field I landed in last time I headed for the river. I eventually overcame that hurdle and made it to Pillow gap.

By this time the sky was seriously overdeveloped and the sun was getting low. There never had been any usable ridge lift—wind was NW to NNW, between 7 and 10 most of the time. I couldn't gain enough altitude to cross the gap, in spite of trying to pimp off a couple of redtails. They were beautiful—looked like a pair doing a courtship ritual. They were soaring around in random-looking patterns at zero sink, flapping occasionally. After about 5 minutes of that, steadily losing all the way, I reasoned that if the professionals weren't finding usable lift then I was hardly likely to. So I put it on the deck in the preselected field, for 14.7 miles from the remote start point at Route 125 (a personal best).

This was a very fine, very rewarding flight. 2 hours, +2366' to go with the 15 miles. Beautiful views, nice smooth thermals, hawks to fly with—the works. Did I mention that, man, I love this sport?

I tried in vain to contact the rest of the gang by phone and radio. (Note to self: work out this retrieve thing.) After breaking down and stashing the glider in the weeds, I put the harness on my back and stuck out my thumb. The second car stopped, and this real super guy went out of his way to drop me at the main Sac LZ. Turns out he's a prison guard and Army volunteer. Obviously the guy can take care of himself and has no need to be nervous about picking up a scruffy-looking hitchhiker!

Others flying were Jeff and Alana, Joe and Karen, Lenko, and Bruce Engen from Leesburg, VA.