This story is from August 1977 when I was a 17 year old kid on my first major cross country. At the time, I was a member of the Ames
Soaring Club (Livermore, California). The club had moved the Ka-7 and the 1-26 up to Truckee for the summer.
I post this as written from 19 years ago. Please excuse the "rough" style as this was my first big writing project. This was first
published in the 1-26 newsletter, but since then I had lost my copy. Thanks to Bertha Ryan for sending me a copy from her collection.
My First Big Cross Country Flight
(c) Kempton Izuno 1977
Staring thru the haze, I still could see no encouragement.
"You see any yet?", I said.
"No.....wait, look above and to the left of that hill."
Sure enough, thru the muck of the Central Valley inversion, Larry had spotted the cumulus over the Sierra Range.
"WHAAHOOOOO!", we yelled. "We're going to get our Diamonds for sure. Look at those bases, at least 17,000!"
Terminal cu fever had struck.
It was the afternoon of Sunday, August 21, 1977. I was headed for the Truckee-Tahoe airport accompanied by friend and crew Larry
Brill. Every summer our club (Ames Soaring) bases it's 1-26, N3829A, at Truckee. For the past two summers I had come up to the
Sierras for some flying, but had obtained no badges. My college career was to start in the fall and I thought I would have less flying
time, so I wanted to get in as much air time as possible now. In anticipation of this expedition I had spent the previous month making
a survival kit with tie-down, reading Soar Sierra, saving up $150, and going thru an extensive physical exercise program. Hopefully, I
would get my Gold badge, some Diamonds and a few state records. After that, I hoped I'd be satisfied and the soaring bug in me would
Previously my cross country experience consisted of two shorties. One was last March when I cut school (best excuse for cutting is a
passing cold front) and flew out of Fremont seventeen miles to a barley field. The other venture was a thirty-eight miler during
PASCO's annual Minden Wave Camp. (Didn't count because of the altitude penalty.) Thus my resume.
Excited and optimistic, we pull into Martias Creek campground, adjacent to the airport, where we meet John Seronello, the illustrious
premier of our club. With his blessings, the ship is ours for the week. That evening Larry and I drive over to the airport lounge to
do some flight planning.
In the rear of the lounge is a weather information phone provided by the airport from which one can talk to Guru Doug Armstrong of Reno
NOAA about conditions. Opposite the phone is a large map of the Western United States made up of various retired WAC charts. It was
over this map that we debated where I should go.
"Well, I think I'll go to Battle Mountain and get the state 15-meter goal record", I said.
Larry, having flown out this way for his Gold distance and othe distance tries, was an ideal advisor.
"Why don't you go for a 200 miler.....to here," tapping his finger on the red circle marked Crescent Valley (beyond Battle Mountain).
"Where? I've never heard of that place before."
"I thought of going there on my Battle Mountain flight but I didn't have the altitude, so why not?"
Next morning we're up, awakened to a cool, humid, lack of lift feeling in the air. I didn't want to rush things, so takeoff wasn't
until 1:00 pm. The forecast was for dry thermals, except for cu in Central Nevada. A 5 mph westerly wind was to be expected also.
The only other glider flying was a BASA 1-34 who I later heard headed south. He towed off ahead of me and was staying up with no
Having done everything necessary (or so I thought) I towed off. Minutes later I was over the Frog Pond, usually a reliable thermal
generator, scratching to save tow, face and the day. As the trace shows, it was Situation Rollercoaster for awhile. Finally I found
the good one which lofted me up over yonder mountain, 10,776 ft. Mt. Rose. On the lee side of Rose, I climbed up thru 11,000. Time
for a drag of Ox.
The meter's on, o.k. you feeling better?
My thoughts: "What's going on? I usually feel better when I'm on Ox. Uhhhhhhhhh....... (Nausea)......."
"What!? The regulator reads zero! I just put in a friggin' filled bottle....oh..... I didn't open up the bottle; I thought Larry said
he did it? Check it yourself next time, you're the pilot remember."
Thereafter ensued several minutes of very gyrated flying as I reached behind me, over the main spar, and down to the bottle head.
Ahhhhhhh, the gas of sustenance... I'm feeling better.
A moment later a most painful burp wracked my body. For a minute I could barely see as I recovered from the intestinal distress. I
seriously considered landing at Reno, however I felt improved so I steered to the hills east of Reno. Here and there I found 3-400 fpm
drys but I steadily sank. Immediately west of Fernley and south of the freeway about half a mile is a short bluff of a ridge, no more
than 200 feet high. Having seen people pull off a save from west facing ridges I beelined for it.
In order to land if the ridge proved unproductive, I made a pass over the bluff which would be my base leg if there was no thermal. As
I swung over the rocks, sure enough, I ran into a 5-knot kicker, the kind that demands the ultimate in concentration lest it lose you.
In those few minutes, while I climbed out, the world was a kalidescope, wheeling of the browns and grays of the desert, punctuated with
green landing fields. I remember little, except I felt like I was fighting for my life in trying to extract myself. Once above 3000
ft AGL I felt washed with relief. HAHAAA, I defy gravity once again! On with the quest........
The sink all day seemed light, rarely ever worse than 4 knots (uncompensated vario). I suppose the 1-26 does better in light sink,
light lift than strong sink, strong lift. With renewed confidence, I cruised up I-80, oscillating between six and ten thousand feet
MSL. Thermals came with enough consistency to relax concentration slightly. I soon found my mind wandering from the recent arrest of
murderer Berkowitz to the tune of the movie ROCKY. A call from Larry focused my attention again.
"29 Alpha, where are you?"
"29 Ground, I'm about ten miles west of Fernley working. I'll call you later."
The problem was that I had gotten my directions mixed up. I was actually east of Fernley. Having forgotten to call Larry back and
being unable to raise Lovelock FSS (our retrieve phone) made Larry worry. He waited at Fernley until 8:30pm when he decided to call a
Search & Rescue, having thought I had gone down in the hills of Fernley. But before he did, he made one last call to Lovelock FSS
where he found I had made it (to Crescent Valley).
Back to the flight. Nearing Derby I had to decide, Should I head southwest to the hills between Humboldt and Carson Sink and risk a
long retrieve or head north to follow the highway and its greater accesibility? I headed southeast.
Now earlier I said I had been reading Soar Sierra. I was not very thorough in my reading because the ridge I'm heading for Earl Smith
describes as having "floundered on". However, I must have been lucky, as I managed to float on up the ridge.
Now should I go directly across from Lovelock to Crescent Valley? The cu's in that direction and a 7 know dry to 12,000 decided my
fate for me, yes. Flying high over this terrain, I could see perhaps two settlements with green fields within a 400 square mile area.
Not very encouraging should I go down.
Well, I was almost to the cu. They weren't very deep, but if that's all you've got, that's all you've got. I went from cloud to cloud
never getting anything strong, but not wanting to fall out. Finally after chasing another deceased cumulus, I headed out on course. I
soon caught a 7 knot to 15,800', high of the day and with it, my Gold Gain. At the end of the clouds, I max glide toward Battle
Mountain, not having the altitude to make my goal. Seeing no indications of lift and being 6:30 in the evening, I expect to land
there. However, the Divine Provider of LIft decided to loan me one more climb. In the middle of the valley between Antler Peak and
Mount Moses I found it.
I think, "What's this? It's very smooth, probably reversed valley circulation. O.K. on to Crescent Valley!"
"Hey, where is the Salt Lake Sectional? (rifle, search, search) Damn, I must have left it in the car. So what to do?
I have the road map, and I also have the co-ordinates of Crescent Valley on the declaration form which is here with me. So by
guesstimate C.V. is about 19 miles off the edge of the map. Sure hope my co-ordinates are correct. The next fifteen minutes will
I strain to see a runway, windsock, tower, anything that will clue me in on where the airport is. By now the evening air is definitely
settled down. Clearing the last mountain range I fnally pick out the runway. Assuming this really is the place I chandelle off my
altitude with glee. I lay down the slickest landing of my life and stop in front of the posts of a dismantled water tower. It is 7:10
p.m. I sit in the cokcpit for a while, not by choice, but because a flight of some time in a 1-26 tends to make one's posterior sore
and not very inclined to move. Finally I extract myself and go witness hunting.
The rest of the trip was uneventfull, but included a stay at the town's only bar until 2 in the morning while Larry drove in from Reno.
He was really wired when he got to me, having drunk gallons of Coke and hearing hours of that Nevada country music.
So for that one flight I obtained my Silver Badge, Gold Badge, California 15-meter Goal Record and the Region 11 Distance and Goal
records. It still seems unreal.