On Thursday morning, the RUC and NAM forecasts were almost identical in the southern portion of the San Joaquin Valley with positive inputs, however, at Avenal there was a large difference--the RUC showing 4000' being the top of usable lift at 2 PM, whereas the NAM was forecasting 8000'.
The entire flight (click on the image for higher resolution)
We arrived over it around 1760' agl and climbed back up. This turned out to be the lowpoint of the flight.
From there we followed the dust devils and then watched and flew toward a couple of high, small, clouds that would remain visible for a few minutes then disappear and then reappear. By the time we got to Taft, we were back up over 5000' msl again. These were the only clouds we would have to help us on our flight.
The mountains at the southern end of the valley were very green as in the images here below.
We reached the mountains guarding the valley with altitude to spare and found a thermal waiting for us. A little help from above, thank you.
We ridge soared around the mountain waiting for Tehachapi to make its appearance. When it finally came into view, my initial reaction was "why didn't I stay and climb longer at our last thermal?," but Alby gave me that look again and waved us on. We were eight miles out.
I had to make sure Alby was in safe hands before I left. Finally Paul Corbett, an instructor, whom I had not seen in a long time, rode up on his bike and helped me. Before leaving, he left me with a beer and his warm jacket to wait for my trusty crew. The wind never let up.
This was a very rewarding flight. It was our 2nd attempt early in our soaring season. I consider it an honor to be have flown with Alby. Again I wish to thank my crew, Jerry and Don for making it possible.
So long Alby. It was a pleasure to accompany you on at least a short part of your incredible journey.