I returned to Modesto for the first time since the Satanis....I mean, Stanislaus County Fair last August, in 610SP, a nice 172SP out of San Carlos. I thought I'd kill several birds with one stone by stopping at Palo Alto on my way back to San Carlos.
Things went well! I took off from SQL with a left crosswind departure off of runway 12, and proceeded over the mountains. I decided I really wanted to try to fly headings that I'd precalculated and not rely on the GPS, as much as possible. Once I got clear of Sunol Golf Course, my first waypoint, I tuned the VOR to Modesto, and went straight for it. Well...almost. Turns out hills are kind of scary at night, and even though I was at 5500 feet, and knew for a fact that I was not anywhere near any of the hills, I still kind of veered around the hills.
My landing in Modesto was good; I did need the GPS to track my distance from the airport on my way in, though, since either there was no DME or I couldn't figure out where it was. One mystery yet to be solved. I taxied back and took off on a straight out departure, and this time at 4500 feet decided I would fly directly to Sunol (using the GPS). I looked at my chart and saw that the minimum safe altitude was 4200, so I was safe by at least 600 feet including the 300 built into the MSA. So I did it, flew straight to Sunol, uneventfully, and then made for Palo Alto.
That landing was pretty crunchy. Nothing too bad, I just hit a little hard. No bouncing, though, so it couldn't have been too bad. I taxied back and made straight out for San Carlos, where I got a straight-in for 30. Decent landing there.
So, I'm now night current for 90 more days, I've added some cross country time to my total, and I think I've bumped my Cessna 172 currency as well. A good night!