It’s like pizza and cookie dough that you bring home and cook yourself. Sure it’s cheap, that’s the point. And you’re free to add something from the back of your own cupboard and make it better than that picture on the label. Guaranteed warm and fresh if you heat it right, and who knows, maybe even more satisfying.


On winter days with moderate winds and little or no thermal activity here in the Antelope Valley, we often find incongruous areas of weak but steady lift over flat ground, sometimes lasting several minutes before fading away. It’s easy to imagine these are waves of some kind because of their eerie smoothness, but they occur even in light wind and are not part of any apparent wavelike structure. They seem random but periodic, like swells on open water.

Seen from space, our valley amounts to a sideways V (<). Two prevailing winds, NW and SW, flow over the two windward ridges and their interactions add even more distinctive flavor to the local soaring. According to this half-baked theory, the merging winds each contain intermittent streamlines of comparatively stronger current running parallel with others, like extended fingers of a hand. When these winds meet in the valley those streamlines cross like fingers of two hands. Where such streamlines intersect they create temporary mounds of air (mystery lift) that eventually drift away and dissolve. Compare these to what, in electronics, are called ‘nodes of interference’. If this analogy works, some type of grid pattern may exist that could make the next swell easier to locate…

Might corollary sinkers also exist? Sure. When you find one, just hurry through it and look for the next upper!


And since you asked, here’s another take on soaring in a valley where two prevailing winds meet. Dust devils generally rotate counterclockwise in the northern hemisphere due to the weak but everpresent Coreolis effect. However, many other factors can exert stronger influence on the direction of any particular whirlwind. What’s curious is, if you see one rotating the opposite way (clockwise), you’ll probably find that most are doing so… Why would that be?

Ready for another half-baked theory? Perhaps the rotation is determined by whichever inflowing wind is stronger (NW or SW). Circumstantial evidence: On a typical day when the southerly component dominates here at Crystal and our devils rotate the usual counterclockwise, in neighboring Lucerne valley sixty miles east most will rotate clockwise…

Ever notice how eddies near the shore of a river tend to swirl away from the main current toward land? It’s due to drag of course, and the same thing happens in air. High ground on either side will pull the air into whorls that rotate away from the main wind. In this case the wind flows up through Cajon Pass and spreads into the desert on either side, left into our valley to drive the devils counterclockwise, and right into the Lucerne, spinning those devils clockwise. At this scale it’s that simple, and notable exceptions on the next smaller scale only prove the rule.

After the south wind bends rightward into the Lucerne Valley it’s then a west wind. Air entering the valley flows between spurs of higher ground on either side with the same effect – clockwise south of the valley’s entrance and counterclockwise on the north. Then once the valley opens out, most devils there remain clockwise, influenced more by the northward-to-eastward curl of inflowing wind than by the Coreolis effect.   Maybe.

You disagree? As we’ve said elsewhere in this space, if you have a better analysis, please pipe up.