Straight out record flight from Hollister - Friday, 05/09/2003
Glider DG300 - DG3
611K free flight
7 hrs 48 mins
49.9 mph avg
New straight out record of 362 statute miles
My crewless soaring story (not to be confused with clueless soaring - which I tend to do allot while clover leafing around thermals)
I arrived at Hollister bright and early, after hearing Ramy was going to attempt a straight out, I couldn't let him go alone.
I filled DG3 full with water, I noticed Ramy doing the same later that morning. There was talk of going to Vegas. I kept thinking if I did somehow manage to get to the Sierras, It would be a bummer to find lift higher that 14k and not have oxy, so I took my bottle out and had Gavlin aviation fill it.
I let Ramy tow first, he chose a high tow to panoche (release 15 miles from Hollister at 6,000) since the cloud bases were only 4,000 in the valley. I towed about 30 minutes later, and released at the same distance and alt (to be fair). I headed for EL1, the clouds looked great, but were not working, I got low and headed for the panoche valley, where I connected with my 1st climb, I decided to continue down the panoche valley, and found it very difficult, with many good looking clouds not working, and difficult wind sheared thermals.
south - panoche valley looking to the central valley
After much struggling and frustration, I finally crossed to new idria valley, where again I still struggled to get to hernandez. Regretting my poor choice of staying east, whilst Ramy was already at Black Mountain!
New idria valley looking across the central valley
Eventually I made it to the edge of the convergence, and found my 1st decent lift, I climbed to cloud base 8,000 ft on the east side of the convergence, whilst the west side bases were only 6,000, I proceeded under the stepped clouds toward coalinga, where the convergence ended and I was now forced to stay under the valley cloud base of 5,000 ft. I figured I may as well try something new, since I was getting tired of the same old milk run to Black mountain. It was so rare to see cu's all the was across the central valley, I just had to try it.
Convergence stepped cloud near hernandez - looking toward Coalinga
Convergence cloud looking toward Panoche
View across the Central valley from Coalinga
Off I went, without any hesitation, plenty of fields down there! well, it wasn't much fun, one out of every 3 clouds seemed to work, several times I tossed up weather to dump the water as I got low, but kept thinking strong wind home, must keep water to return, as I climbed 2 kt thermals (averaging .9 to 1kt) I drifted downwind continuously towards Bakersfield. I got to the Sierra foothills and attempted to continue east several times, without success, each time getting shot down with strong sink. Once past Bakersfield, I tried to get to Tehachapi, but the bases were too low, so I continued down toward the southern end of the central valley where the clouds looked better and higher.
crossing the central valley- looking toward the sierras
Sierra foothills, north of bakersfield
I managed 6,000 ft near the bottom of the Central valley, and decided since it was late and there was NO way I was going back through this cruddy lift in a headwind home, I would try to cross over to the Majave desert and at least get to Cal City or Crystal Air. I followed the ridges across at 6,000 ft and went for it, with 2 strips in glide + 1000 ft off I went. Immediately into 1000ft/min sink, great, now too late to head back I was committed to the Majave desert, when is the is sink going to end! glide to one airstrip gone, then another, start looking at the desert, no fields, just ground looping tumble weeds. I headed for a dirt road that had no fence and no power lines, I had no better options. I kept going away from the mountains as it was obvious I was in the lee sink. At 802ft agl with water dumping, and looking at the dirt road, which thankfully pointed into the wind, I heard the vario say "LIFT", hello! I turned around and hit it again, circled a couple of times, and moved a little, then bam, a bump and 1000ft min up! smooth, and strong! WOW cool, I headed in the same direction (tracking cross wind) and up I went, I couldn't believe it, there is a God. At 10,000 ft I took some pics, and grabbed a bite to eat, relaxed for a bit, while I looked at the LA sectional and figured out my next move.
10,000ft looking back toward the central valley.
Rotor clouds bellow - facing grapevine and LA
3d view of wave climb
I decided to at least go to Crystal now that I had it in glide. So off I went, then ran into strong wave again, I couldn't help myself, 6kts up I put my oxy on (how happy I was to have filled it in the morning) I climbed to 17,999 ft (indicated) - WOW what a view, last time I was in this valley I was at 2,000ft and landed at Palmdale. Ok now I guess I have a few downwind airports in glide :) I knew to break the straight out record I had to get to Bear Mtn at least (325 SM) so I decided on Palm Springs since it was much lower than any airports on the east side of Bear. Off I went, cruzing between 120 and 150 mph ground speed. Averaging 52:1 glide.
Looking back toward the sierras and tehachapi at 17,999ft
Rotor clouds bellow - facing Edwards AFB
I passed over Crystal air at 14,000 ft and talked to them on the radio, they told me to go for Banning since it was a glider port. I had Banning made, and pressed on, I then checked the map and noticed Palm Springs was lower than Banning and I had that made too, since it was farther i may as well keep going. I cut through the gap and contacted approach, asking nicely if I could transition there class c airspace without a transponder. To my surprise they said no problem, and kept up a conversation with all kinds of questions about where I had come from, and how i get the glider back. Once over Palm Springs, I continued to Bermuda Dunes, which I now could see and had it made with 2000 ft. There was another strip further south, but I only just had it in glide with 500 ft, felling tired, adn the lighting was dim, I didn't want to chance it, pulled the dive brakes and landed into the 25kt gusting headwind at Bermuda Dunes. I had radioed ahead, and I had a team of helpers get me off the runway and safely tied down.
Mountain to the west - photo taken over crystal
I got a taxi to the greyhound station, took a greyhound to Oakland that arrived in oak the next morning at 8:30am, spent the weekend at home for mothersday, then drove down to retrieve the ship. This to be my longest retrieve ever. 871 miles return from Hollister (1061 miles from my house in Berkeley!) took 2 days. Driving really gave me an apreciation of how far Ihad flown.
FYI: Photos were taken using a digital camera (fuji finepix4900) with a polorizing filter. I simply hold the camera out the window and click away left and forward shots - I usually have a few keepers after clicking lots of pics.
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