We were soaring over cloudless desert in big blue thermals (or not so much in fact), eventually getting low enough to notice the fluttering tarp on a nearby shed.   That sun-beaten rag’s glittering revealed surface wind direction as well as some indication of its speed, and it was really popping.   If wind were blowing that hard everywhere the sky would be filled with dust – yet it wasn’t.   Therefore we had to suspect a thermal in-draft at that location, feeding lift somewhere downwind.

As it happened, that’s where we were headed, toward a choice of two dirt strips a mile apart.   On we glided, further and lower, finally close enough to see one field’s windsock standing straight out, but in a different direction.   It was pointed toward the other strip – whose sock hung quite still…    Just then we entered sink.

So, Watson, what now?

Elementary.   Turn straight toward the becalmed strip, downwind through this sink which, presumably, surrounds fresh lift above the limp windsock.   If it doesn’t work we reverse and land back into the localized breeze that should begin picking up any moment.

And?   We were already climbing when the dust devil’s first swirl kicked off right below us.   Soon it peppered us with material from the ‘becalmed’ runway, sounding more like gravel than sand.    A mile higher all that had been ejected and fallen away, but the lift continued for most of yet another vertical mile…

Turns out detective Holmes is not the only one who does okay in a goofy hat.