Doubtless much spittle graced my monitor owing to maddening struggles convincing the computers of the world to do my bidding but by 1600 they finally went clickety and I began vectoring myself toward a ~1650 Northside arrival. An initially lackluster wind would turn into a slightly less lackluster wind, enough to eke out a respectable amount of ridge soaring, but nothing remarkable. By 1705 I was ready to go, performed a preliminary inflation to inspect the riggings, then let my wing down to wait for the right moment.
At 1710 I inflated again, spun forward, checked for clean brake lines, danced around another pilot whose wing was taking up a goodly portion of the finger, dealt with a brief asymmetric deflation, and powered through enough of a headwind to have some work but nothing epic. I had wanted to turn left initially to head toward the greater of the two thermals I had observed other pilots riding but turned right instead to avoid oncoming pilots. Happily I found enough lift to chain things together into a flight that lasted ~20 minutes.
Perhaps most notable from the experience were the challenges and risks around attention splitting when attempting to exploit thermals while flying near the ground. I caught myself at one moment overly fixated on another pilot’s trajectory as I attempted to emulate it from behind and below. I was nowhere near an actual hill-strike but found myself imagining how easily I might have allowed fixation on one problem to foment ignorance of another. I resolved to be more diligent.
I find myself reminded of my only at-fault car accident, an unpleasant affair from over a decade ago. I had just left a volleyball game and was on a side street (Main St) that merged awkwardly onto a highway (Route 1) where you needed to be looking over your left shoulder then stomp the gas at the right moment. I did what I had done countless times prior: waited for the car ahead of me to go, looked over my left shoulder to ensure clearance, let off the brake, and *CRUNCH*. The car ahead of me had balked and I rolled into it at 2 MPH. No serious damage, no injuries, but a painful lesson. You need to be continuously glancing where you are going. Sounds obvious but when there is a lot going on it can be easy to forget…
This evening I was mostly doing the right thing and the results were fine but multi-tasking is a hard yet critical thing where laxity can yield tragedy.