I went for a long solo cross country flight today. Just me and the plane to a place I'd never flown before. It was the type of flight I haven't done in a very long time. I had a good enough excuse to go, a friend wanted to meet me for lunch and show me the planes he works on at Camarillo Airport down in Southern California. It was my first trip into LA airspace VFR. The flight was mostly smooth and I flew high to enjoy low fuel burn and high air speeds.
The visit in Camarillo was great. Great food at Waypoint Cafe. Great company there and a whirlwind tour of a very busy airport with many unique planes. After visiting I hopped back in the plane and flew back to home base. And this is where I felt it again.
A two hour return flight, just me and the plane. Scanning the instruments, maintaining heading and altitude. Watching the ground slide beneath my wings. Scanning for traffic. Looking left to the ocean and right to the Sierras. Feeling a bit sad at how brown the hills and land have become. Looking for smoke from the fires I know will be happening in this drought year. Switching frequencies with air traffic control. That zen state of flying that I get sometimes when flying cross country alone. Totally in the moment.
As I approached my home airspace I recognized the distinct shapes of hills and valleys. I relished the memories of different flights I've taken up the familiar valleys and past familiar peaks. The fun flights and the not so fun flights. Ah yes, this is the area where I was caught in a 2000+ per minute downdraft. Here is where I passed my commercial check ride. Right there, in the dip between this hill top and that one, is where I performed accelerated stalls for the DPE. There is the airport that my most memorable flight lessons happened at. There is the valley with the really good steak house. Over there, that ridge, that's where you aim to cross the ridge line for an easy descent onto the 45 into Watsonville. In front of that observatory is a great place to practice maneuvers. There's an area to avoid, too many student pilots training there. There - where I flew between clouds and peaks to get back into the Santa Clara valley. The wonderful long trips that ended with descents starting above this airport.
I recognized the sweep of the land all the way from the sea to the mountains. I knew it intimately and it was mine. Not the land itself, land belongs to no man, but the view, the moment. The past, present and future in the moment. That was mine. I was queen of all I surveyed. What I surveyed was good.