Ever been out on the dance floor cutting a rug and have the fiddlers suddenly change their tune? It can be awkward, especially in the midst of a do-si-do.
We were in wave about a mile above cloud when we noticed the cloud thickening and the good lift weakening even as it crept forward, upwind… That didn’t seem to make sense. Clouds ordinarily shrink when lift weakens, and waves that migrate almost always move downwind. These anomalies made us look closer and think more carefully, which is when it got interesting.
Before, there’d been just one layer of broken cloud between us and the earth, and ample avenues for descent. But while pointing out that a second layer had formed above it I spied a third layer hiding under… a more greenish shade, the signature of GROUND FOG!
At once the sole mission was to find how quickly we could get DOWN. Even diving with full spoilers, we had several huge spirals to better observe and understand what was happening. Our wave wind had been from the south, but while we faced mostly that direction very different weather was encroaching from behind us. As our local wave flattened, converging winds on a larger scale generated broad uplift almost everywhere, clouds growing into a thickened mass. Safe escape routes were vanishing by the moment.
We had to fly away some distance for a neat passage back to the airport, and got there barely in time. Fog was rolling up the the runway before we finished securing our bird.
I’ve now experienced this same kind of rapid sea change at three different soaring sites, so the question is not if, but where and when it will occur again .…
Say you’re up soaring locally, with no special plan except to have fun and stay safe. That’s cool, but whether you like it or not, soaring always requires decisions. Even deciding not to decide is… you get it. One big choice that’s yours to make at any point is, would you rather have an excellent flight or a mediocre one? It’s your call!
For a mediocre flight just keep doing what you always do, and maybe bring music or some of your favorite food. It’s easy, but much less satisfying and in many ways less safe than pursuing excellence.
The more you demand of yourself the more you’ll enjoy it. If you prefer improvement over the status quo, simply challenge yourself, in any way you like. No need to go for the world record every flight, especially this time of year, but pick some uncertain goal like connecting the farthest corners of your neighborhood, or if that’s too easy, doing so more quickly. Not something certain, but something with a fifty-fifty chance of failure. If success were defined by avoiding failure, playing checkers with two-year olds would demonstrate your presumed eminence. The point is not to chalk up vain victories, it’s to try hard, learn a lot, and obtain more than a mere minimum of satisfaction.
Those who soar in weak or difficult conditions or in low performance craft need not feel deprived or deficient. And the same for those who are just starting out! Better to enjoy making the most of what is NOW, and lay an essential foundation for terrific adventures still to come. Success that comes from pursuing excellence is at your fingertips every moment, and leads to greater pleasures (and safety) on every subsequent flight. No one can ask for more.