A couple of weeks ago, my CFII John and I had a little talk. He told me, "This rating isn't going to just happen. You have to make it happen." We then talked a little bit about things I could do to keep my head in the game while I'm not actually flying..basically, thinking about flying, thinking about approaches, visualizing and acting out Time, Turn, Throttle, Twist, Talk; working through radio jargon, etc. So I went home and started doing all of these things. Luckily I live alone.
So, the point is, all this actually worked! My last couple of lessons have been quite good, though I've had trouble tracking VOR courses especially when getting close to the source. Today, I flew probably the best I've ever flown -- my attention was in the right place at the right time, I was using the attitude indicator, I wasn't chasing needles, the plane was trimmed at every step, I was ahead of the airplane almost the whole time.
We flew to Salinas and did the VOR 13 with a published missed -- except that the tower insisted that I start the missed early. I handled that situation with aplomb, starting the missed two miles before the MAP, and immediately dialing SNS R275 and setting up a 45 degree intercept as I climbed. On the way to the hold, I set up for Watsonville LOC 2, went twice around the hold, and requested and got vectors to the localizer and flew it well. On the missed, I tuned SNS, got a radial, and switched over to GPS navigation before requesting IFR back to Palo Alto.
It was a really smooth flight! My lesson for this year is that preparation pays off. Keeping one's head in the game pays off. Not wasting time (or, wasting less time, anyway) pays off. Let's hope the phase check tomorrow goes even half as well!