The week of September 17th started a little on the rocky side for me as I had some issues in my business that managed to stress me quite a bit. By Thursday I began to check weather information at my favourite site skysight.io.
By the way, for those of you who haven’t tried Skysight, make sure you give it a good try. In my opinion, it is hands down the best cross country weather software available. This tool provides accurate and valuable information required in any cross country flight. In any case, the forecast was showing a nice cloud street for Saturday in the east San Diego area extending from Jacumba in the border with Mexico to San Jacinto Mountain in the Palm Springs area at an elevation of roughly 10,000 ft MSL.
While that is not by any means a crazy fantastic forecast, it would be have been good enough to practice some cross country flying locally. So on Friday I checked the forecast again but by mistake I had opened up the scale to include Arizona. To my surprise, there was a giant cloud street that was supposed to develop around noon approximately 50-70 miles east of Twenty Nine Palms high in the high California desert. Lucky for me, Skysight was showing conditions to start developing as early as 10am in San Diego. With that forecast, I called a couple of friends and invited them for a long flight, possibly an all out cross country flight to take me to either Grand Canyon or Utah. Unfortunately, nobody was available and I ended up flying on Saturday all on my own.
Any successful cross country flight requires several factors to go in your favour. The first one of those key factors is a supporting family, more specifically a very understanding wife. Luckily for me, I got one! She provided full ATC clearance for the flight. Then, you need to have weather in your favour. Checked, weather looked good. Then you need to have the time and desire to go the distance to unfamiliar territory, checked on that. And finally, you need to have the tool for this kind of adventure. Oh yes, we all know we have the best cross country, mile eater, smile maker, adventure seeker machine: The mighty Stemme S10-VT.
So on Saturday September 22nd, I got up at around 6am and went through my breakfast routine. I need to eat really well in the morning to endure a long flight and not get airsick. I drink tea, toast, cereal and my eggs
Benedict are a must. Then I pack all kinds of crackers, ginger candy, electrolytes, etc. Just mention this because I know there are still people that get motion sick.
I showed up at Palomar airport in Carlsbad around 8.30. Went through my check list routine, clean the wings, check engine and pulled the glider. For some reason by 9 I look east and see this beautiful cloud street forming at what seem to be around 9k ft. That’s when the rushing begun. I could not believe clouds were streeting in September at 9am. Glider is now set up and I am up in the air before 10am.
By 10.15 am, I am motor off, climbing already in Julian through 7000 ft in a 3 knot thermal to take me to cloud base right around 10k. At this point there is like 20+ gliders in Warner Springs in line to get towed.
I later learned that many of those guys took close to 90 min to get airborne. This is one of the areas where owning a Stemme is a huge advantage. Most of the guys in that glider line drove from one to two hours to arrive at the airport, then it takes a minimum of another hour to set your glider up, then you need to wait in line to get towed. And if conditions are great, most of these gliders never go anywhere because trailering a glider back from hundreds of miles away is a huge pain in the neck and a multiday adventure. And to top it off, many of these modern gliders still cost the same or even more of what a used Stemme cost. So why bother?