Finally back safely on the ground at Reid-Hillview having just completed what was for me a fantastic landing. I get to enjoy my accomplishment.
Screw being professional... I let out a loud WHOOP! of joy, right there on the runway. No not over the radios, but it was loud in my headset. After this long trip and especially after my difficulties at Lodi and awkward landings, and potentially crazy winds, I was thrilled to be home and to make my final landing in a style that made me (and would make my CFI) proud.
The tower directed me to exit the runway at Delta and taxi via Yankee to Echo and then contact ground. I read back and did as instructed. When I got to Echo I did the after landing checklist and, still smiling, contacted ground to taxi back to Squadron2. Ground instructed me to taxi back via Zulu, so I read that back "Taxi via Zulu, Five Zero Niner Three Kilo, Thanks!" and another voice piped in "Do that zulu you do so well." No idea who said that, but it did make me smile. Someone else was happy too.
I taxied back to my parking spot. Shut down, did appropriate final checklist and climbed out of the plane. I saw a friend of mine pre-flighting another plane and I ran up to him and told him I just did my long cross country and I landed GREAT! I earned a hug and he said he'd back me up on the landing report :) Then I went back to the plane, and pushed it back into its spot. It was much lighter with 20 gallons less fuel. I was careful to secure the plane properly and double check the master to make sure that was off.
I packed up my stuff and caught my CFI as he was grabbing a drink from the coke machine before taking off for another flight. I told him he was wrong, I was back 50 minutes early. :) He asked me what I thought of the winds.. so I told him how I got a wind check and it turned out fine. He said he was worried I'd get back and wreck on landing here if the winds really were as reported. So was I! I got a quick congrats and a smile and he was off to train my friend.
So there you have it, my friends. 3.6 hours on the hobbs, over 261 nautical miles of travel, over 20 gallons of avgas, two bottles of water, one breakfast bar and many awesome experiences later I was at my home airport, relaxing in the flight club and basking in the glow. Another milestone my student pilot journey completed... It started off a bit rough. I made some big mistakes at the beginning. Ones I won't make again. But I shook them off and continued the flight and each leg was better than the last. I got to see and experience some beautiful things. I got to have to experience a real world, possible divert scenario, that I didn't have to divert for.. and I landed safe and sound. I'm happy and ready for the next step on the journey.
PS. If you want to see something sorta cool. Check this out. I reprogrammed my running Garmin for flying (my running friends despair) :) and the above link is the track of my flight from Colusa to RHV, the "laps" are the time between checkpoints. You can even see the wide downwind at RHV (and the wind blowing me away from the runway on base). You can compare this against my planned route (to the right) and see how well the plan and the reality worked.