Sunday, August 10, 2008

Morning bombing raid repelled

I've been forcing myself to ignore the glorious flying weather we've had thus far this weekend, hoping to save the gas for a trip on one of the first three days of the (non-) work week as I take a another short vay-cay. Work has been hectic and it's been hard to get time away, but as it appears that there will never be a good time for me to be off I decided to try to squeeze three days in while co-pilot Egg is off at band camp. The work going undone and the remorseless deadlines approaching like runaway freight trains will surely weigh heavy on my mind, but that's a burden I'm willing to live with. The cost of being more or less an individual contributor is that the work that would have been done on those rare off days just piles on top of the rest of it. Coming back from time off is like coming home to find that the sink drains were plugged and the water left running. The temptation to avoid all of that by just working all year with no time off is always there, but in the interest of mental health must be ignored.

I managed to fill my time sufficiently yesterday to distract myself from the aching desire to be in the sky ("Think about baseball. Think about baseball."), although neither of my two efforts at productive labor worked out all that well in the end. I did some work on the porch swing that turned out sub-optimally (the topic of a later post) and I did the cropdusting that the yard needed so horribly to get control over the clover invading from the yard next door. That in itself went well enough; it was the unforecast rain that came out of the blue (so to speak) that washed all of the weed killer off in the late afternoon that was the problem.

This morning was even better weather, and my general mood was in strong need of improvement. But... I still wanted to keep the gas. I decided I could afford a short dawn patrol, though, as a compromise. It's good that I did! As I climbed out to the West at a brisk 1,300 feet per minute, I saw a formation of clouds approaching my base. Well, to call them 'clouds' is an aggrandizement. Soon-to-be clouds. Cloud fetuses. Baby clouds. In other words, wisps. They were at the stage of development where they're still not opaque; kind of the jelly fish of clouds, if you will.

They were approaching down low, under the radar. 3,000' to be precise. They were formed in waves, like a bomber formation. I climbed above them and maneuvered to put the sun at my back in the classic attack position. I chose one, got it aligned in my sights, and rolled into a steep bank and dive towards my selected target. For the next ten minutes I swooped and dived and turned, thrusting and parrying against the unstoppable fleet. Some I just skimmed across, others I blasted right on through. Up, down, right, left, G's piled on and taken off. Quick glances at altimeter and airspeed to ensure that both were giving sufficiently high readings, and equally furtive glances at local landmarks to maintain my position away from the airport and small towns, situational awareness being somewhat important as well. Finally, out of both ammo and stress to be burned, I decided to return to base.

"Now where in the hell did Lilly Chapel go???," I asked myself as a quick scan failed to find it. I had been keeping pretty careful track of where I was, but suddenly Lilly Chapel was nowhere to be seen. "Well," I figured, "there's only one place I haven't looked." A tight bank and a glance straight down the wing solved that mystery. Right on top of it. Convenient, that. Almost as if I had planned it that way.

Back to Bolton to land with a 9 knot crosswind from the right, which is not always conducive to a good landing. Today was the exception, though. There was a little swoopiness in the flare, but the touchdown itself was very smooth. Just like a European campaign trip: no bounce. I taxied back in and did the requisite post-flight math:

.27 hours on the tach. 15 minutes, or close enough to it. Two gallons of gas. About $11. The smile? Priceless.

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