We flew from SQL up to Petaluma to have brunch at the Two Niner Diner this morning. The weather was absolutely beautiful; the winds over the last couple of days have pushed all the pollution off probably into the central valley or someplace. Yesterday the visibility was amazing; I could see Mt. Diablo from Palo Alto as if it was right next to me. Today was not quite as amazing, but still very good.
I booked N35583, a Cessna 172SP out of San Carlos. We got to the airport around 10:00, and went out to preflight. Nice looking plane; great interior and very nice GPS. Things were going fine, until...why is no fuel coming out of the front bottom fuel drain? Hmm. I tried again, and again. All the other drains were fine, but this one refused to budge. I saw that if I held the collecting jar in, liquid started coming out, one drop at a time. I held it there for a while, and looked at it. It was hard to tell, but it didn't really look blue. I threw out the sample and tried again. Same result. So my best theory is that there was ice in the lines, or at least water (though I don't know why water wouldn't have just flowed out).
So we got N236SP instead. Other than the oil being really low (I refilled), it looked fine, so I contacted ground and asked for a Bravo transition to Petaluma. After I taxied to runway 30 and did my runup, I was still waiting for a squawk code. Eventually I pinged SQL ground and asked if I should stay with them and wait, or go to tower. They came back with a code right away; I guess they'd just forgotten about me.
We took a straight out departure, and for once the voyage through Class B was totally uneventful. The eventfulness happened just above the Golden Gate, when Norcal Approach gave me a traffic alert, and then advised a 500' descent and 40 degree left turn ASAP -- naturally I complied. Score another one for flight following!
The rest of the trip out to Petaluma was smooth and scenic, other than not being able to see any of the traffic to which Norcal was alerting me. My pattern entry was good, but by the time I was turning base (early, at that), there were two other planes on downwind, so I was feeling a tad rushed. The early base turn led to a high approach, but full flaps and idle power got me down in time. I leveled off slightly high, but no big deal, just not the smoothest landing ever.
The food at Two Niner Diner was quite good! We shared a veggie omelette, which came with potatoes and coffee cake. The omelette was excellent; the eggs were really thin and properly cooked (i.e. not overcooked), and the vegetables were properly done and really flavorful. The rest of the food was pretty good (not amazing, but definitely not disappointing) as well.
A few clouds had started to develop by the time we headed back. One of them forced us to go around it, but nothing too traumatic. I contacted Oakland Center as soon as my ascent was complete (hooray for me!), and they routed me back through SFO's airspace. This time I got sent over midfield of SFO, which was a new view for my travel-mate Nirmala. Back at San Carlos, there was a mild crosswind, so I took the opportunity to practice all the crosswind technique I'd learned last summer. And, voila, probably my nicest crosswind landing ever! Smooth touchdown on the upwind wheel, nose pointed straight down the runway, right on the center line. It helped that the crosswind was really mild, but it was enough that my approach was crabbing in.
The only downside to the journey is that since I took off from San Carlos instead of Palo Alto, the distance to Petaluma does not quite qualify for cross country time. But that's alright; today was about having an enjoyable experience, not necessarily being goal oriented.