This shear has carried us east instead of south, now within range of a new alternate, Brian Ranch. It’s the same kind of tentative final glide we had over Harmon, only a third as far. Lift where we are is feeble at best and the glide angle to Crystal has stopped improving, so again we have to swallow hard and GO.

The endgame’s on us, ready or not. Fly at zero MacCready plus a knot or two for the headwind, settle in and try to keep both eyes open. Early in the flight this spending of altitude between miracles was joyous, like a shopping spree, but lately it’s all become a chore. Even these last couple climbs have felt more like something to endure. Been a wonderful day, but I could use a nap. If there were any backwash left I’d pour it on my head.

From fifteen hundred AGL at Brian Ranch the smart thing to do is accept a gracious defeat and land. What relief! Four miles short shouldn’t be hard to live with. Even so (force of habit) I have to wonder…

Gliding from Silver Queen we bet five miles for every thousand feet of altitude and almost made it. Here we are with basically the same glide slope and just four miles to go. If only we can…

Sure, I know better than to think like this, but these pesky miracles keep popping up every few minutes and truth is we’re learning to expect ‘em. “We’ve got Brian cold,” I say out loud. “Let’s sneak one mile further to see what’s there and then hurry back.” One angel says that’s pointless if we intend to retreat anyway, and the other says it’s harmless enough so long as we promise to…

Uh huh, so which angel’s which?

Well, now Brian’s been behind us for a while, we’ve lost barely a hundred feet, and Crystal’s creeping lower in the canopy! We have this glide darn it, even into the wind — but fall short and we’re toast. Which gets the angels bickering so fiercely neither’s intelligible. Flaky spirit guides, right when you need ‘em!

We’re honestly at the very cusp of returning to Brian when sink grabs us, and after nosing over it feels too late to turn. In a fillip the decision’s been made. We’re committed to Crystal, heck or high wire.

Dropping through pattern altitude three miles out we aim straight for the nearest corner with speed-to-fly now triply important. Don’t forget to breathe. After most of another minute the glide’s still improving!

And that inaudible echo? Sound of the other shoe dropping. Yes more sink, deceptively smooth, and suddenly we’re down to five hundred feet still more than two miles out. Screwed. Every muscle screams slow up and postpone certain disaster, every one but this lazy muscle inside the skull. It says shove over and grasp the rest of your life.

Too late to wait for more miracles, this last one we must perform for ourselves. Time for the errant pilot’s ace up a sleeve, GROUND EFFECT.