Plan was to do ground reference maneuvers over the Leslie Salt flats, then return for short T/O and landing practice. All my takeoffs and landings today were "short" procedure. I did 3 takeoffs and landings.
The runup area was crowded due to the recent rainy weather -- it seemed like everyone in Palo Alto was desperate to escape at last! There was a trainee controller on tower, and a supervisor who cut in every once in a while. The supervisor once canceled the trainee's line up and wait clearance to me because there was a plane on final. I actually saw that plane and, I think, could have made it out there, but for future reference, this is a reminder to me not to accept clearances blindly.
Took off from Rwy 31, climbed to 1500' and turned right over the Dumbarton bridge, then right again once I had crossed the water. Once over the salt flats, I needed to dump altitude quickly to avoid flying into a bunch of clouds, so I cut the motor and slipped. I ended up overshooting my target 800' a bit by going down to about 650', but was able to climb back. This is something to keep in mind for next time.
I told tower to "be advised" of my intention to remain on frequency and practice over the salt. They eventually gave me a squawk code and gave me traffic alerts. What with the busy pattern, it was a lot of chatter and stuff to keep up with while I puttered around.
There was no wind to speak of, so I concentrated on maintaining altitude and learning to judge my distance from the "line" I was trying to follow. For the former, I did better than I would have expected, given the chatter -- I'd make a turn and look back at my altimeter and be surprised to see it reading more or less still 800'. Speed control was not very good though -- I still had an old habit of "creeping" on the throttle a bit. The real difficulty was turning so that I would end up at the proper distance from the line after making my turn. I suspect I could get to PTS standards after two or so practice sessions. In general, I think I did okay and I got a lot of experience maneuvering back and forth confidently.
I then asked Tower to make inbound for closed traffic, and was told to make a right base, then told to turn a bit to follow an inbound aircraft. I did well finding and following traffic. A couple of the landings confused me because of the non-standard pattern -- I ended up dropping full flaps too late, having to slip to burn energy, and never really having a nice stabilized approach. I made it safely in all cases, though. For a couple of the landings, though, especially the last one, I managed a "real" short landing, including raising flaps after touchdown and braking. Boy, when done right, that plane can stop on a dime! Good to know for emergencies.... On one landing, I landed maybe 50' before my intended point. I need to work on precision.
Overall, a happy flight.