Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Road Trip!

So, the Lovely Wife and I had planned for her to come visit me mid-june. We thought this would be a good way to get us through those first few weeks of being apart, seeing as how it's something we haven't done yet in our six years of married bliss. It gave us both something to look forward to during the hard parts, and it was a relatively short period as well. My employer was very gracious in agreeing to give me an uninterrupted 5-day run of days off in June so that we could make this happen as well.

Closer to D-Day, we were looking at options as to where we could stay ( the crew bunk-house was NOT going to work... ) and we started thinking that maybe it would be better ( cheaper ) if I were to fly home instead and we could spend our time together in familiar surroundings. Surroundings that weren't costing us 100 bucks a night.

A week or so before the holiday, the Boss told me he had learned I had changed plans and he gave me an extra two days for the trip!!

One of my co-workers lent me his car so I could drive to nearest-big-city-ville and catch a flight home.

Thanks Man!

He's 22 I think, and I remember my wheels being an intensely personal thing at that point in my life. Now, its just a machine and I wouldn't think twice about letting just about anyone I know with a license drive it off, but at that age, I think it would have been a bigger deal to me.

So, Monday AM, I got up bright and early and set off for the Big City. It was about a 6 hour drive to the airport, and I budgeted myself just over seven hours, plus an hours leeway for domestic airline security and check-in. ( Dun-Dun-DUH dramatic foreshadowing music )

Weather was awesome for the drive down, summer has finally arrived at this part of Canada and it was a picture perfect day for a road trip.

I've finally come around to using my MP3 player in the car, so I had good tunes, sunshine and I was on my way to see the Love Of My Life...good times.

The first leg of the drive was on the small highway from my town, to the part where it connects to Canada's main artery, the Trans-Canada Highway. This part was about three hours and change and was limited to 80 Km/h ( Read: 90 or so, unless you were near a town that had an OPP detachment ). At one point, I was booking along and noticed an OPP cruiser coming up behind me at a high rate of speed. I glanced down at my own speedometer and noticed I was doing 100 Km/h. I promptly applied a little profanity and let off the gas. He sat behind me for a few minutes as I tooled along at 85, then passed me. I thanked him in my head for letting me go with an increased heart-rate and a mental note to pay more attention.

I like driving 5 km/h over the limit when I'm being followed by the police. I like to think it gives me an out.

"oh, officer, I didn't know you were there..I was simply driving along like a normal person, gosh.... no, I didn't slow down to EXACTLY the limit the minute I saw you rushing up behind me. ".

I guess it wouldn't say much for my situational awareness that I didn't see him coming up behind me, but it might give him the impression, that I was driving at my normal speed, not some uh-oh-the-cops-are-behind-me-I-better-drive-exactly-the-limit kind of speed. Or not... It doesn't matter anyways. I seem to slow down by about a km/h or two a year now, so by my estimate, in the next five years, I'll never break the speed limit again and in a decade or so, you'll be honking at me to get the hell outta your way.

On this part of the drive, I saw a ton of wildlife as well. I saw a total of three moose and two black bears, all along the highway.

The bears were worth a stop for pics, I suppose the moose were too, but I see so many of them along the roads now that I didn't really think of it. Stopping on the highway, shoulder or no, is also something that make me nervous, so I try to avoid it. I got a tiny little video of one of the bears out the window of the car..

I should probably try to film a little longer, as I always seem to end up with 5-second video clips.

I understand the airplane-on-a-stick, most towns have something-on-a-stick...but the USA surface-to-air missile kind of has me stumped.

Once I got to the Transcanada Highway, things opened up a little, speed-wise, and since the sun was out and my windows down, I took my shirt off as I drove.

Note - pull over before you try this, its kind of unnerving as your shirt goes over your head... Ladies, well... oh hell, go for it.

I've resolved that this is the year I beat the farmer-tan blues. After two years of fuelling and wearing the mandatory fire-retardant uniform, which bares only your neck and forearms, out in the sun allll day, I've developed a serious case of brown-arms, white chest.

Its a vicious circle as well, because now, I dare not take my shirt off anywhere semi-public, as its so comical, that it just gets worse. Now that I have a lot of time out in the bush or semi-secluded places, I'm going to try and even it out a little.

Out of the Canadian Shield and into the prairies, I rock and rolled my way westward.

Only the lines of my seatbelt and headphone cords interrupting my unnaturally white chest as folks passed me, glancing over as they did, thinking... I hope he's wearing pants in there.

I got within twenty minutes of the town that held my destination airport and realized I had two and a half hours left till my plane departed. On such a beautiful day, who wants to be stuck in an airport?

I easily had time to stop at a lake and take a dip, or even just find a nice sunny spot to pull off and stretch out in the sun for awhile. I started looking for something, but didn't find much.

I settled on a side-road and a deserted little electrical substation on a prairie road where I could get out and eat my lunch. The bugs and birds made so much noise, it was almost funny. I can only imagine how quiet it would be out here in the middle of winter, or at night.

I didn't bring a book, so I stretched out and played a few mental meteorology games, analyzing the clouds, temperatures and winds. Where's the dewpoint? Whats the surface temperature? wheres the freezing level? What type of clouds are those? How much sky coverage? I spent a while putting together my own Aviation Weather Report ( METAR ) and then looked up the closest one to me on my cellphone. I was pretty close. Thank you Air Command Weather Manual. Yeah, I know, geek.

I calculated that I should be in for a little more tolerable airport wait of an hour before boarding time, so headed off.

Unfortunately, when I got into town, my initial plan of staying on the TransCanada until I saw the airport signs, kind of derailed. The TransCanada kind of disintegrated in to city streets with Hwy signs posted on them so you would know you are going the right way.

Then came the Bypass route, the Highway and the Airport routes..... I took the airport route, but got bogged down in construction traffic. I know that the city has to work on the roads at some point. I also know that in a prairie town, there is usually an old joke about two seasons, Winter and Construction. But, I was kind of surprised that the traffic was at a standstill on what was prominently displayed as the Airport Route..

Couldn't you detour these people so that flights could be made?

More importantly, I had pissed away my safety buffer before I was truly safe, and was starting to sweat.

When I notice myself making far-fetched claims of others incompetence or poor strategic planning, it usually means, if I look close enough, I can find some act of stupidity on my part that I am over-compensating for.

Anyways, enough drama, I made the airport, made the flight, everything worked out...just a little extra sweat on my back.

The airport parking is going to cost me 75 bucks to park in long-term for the week. Had I planned this a little better, I probably could have parked in the city and bussed it out to the airport and saved 50 bucks.

Learning..... has occurred here.

I had fun on the flight, despising my neighbour. How do I loathe thee? Let me count the ways...

1.) Nice job pressing the F/A call button, DURING the safety briefing and then interrupting the demo'ing F/A closest to us, so you could ask for a BLANKET.

2.) When they came around offering free soft drinks and a selection of snacks, you asked for hot chocolate, a pop and one of each of the snacks they asked you to choose from.

3.) Telling the F/A indignantly that your headphones were turned off, as if that would negate her need to request you to take them off, even after they had just finished explaining during the safety demo, that you would be required to remove them for the takeoff and that they were about to go through the cabin to ensure compliance. ( I remembered this one from Air Law as well )

4.) "bashing " me with your elbow and pointy-ass coat sleeves even after I graciously gave up the armrest between us. An amazing display of arm-restmanship on my behalf.

5.) Asking the F/A twice to see if she could fix the seat-back TV or move you to a different seat when our row inexplicably went dark. I can understand asking once, I mean, maybe it happens regularly and there is a fix... but after she said, sorry, we cant fix it, why did you ask her again if she had found the problem?

Its funny, I see so many people who love to bash their flight experiences, but I really find so much more idiocy in the passengers themselves. I could never be a flight attendant. I'd hit people.

My favorite is the " gate lice ". People who crowd around the boarding gate a couple minutes before the first P/A call is made. A lot of them pre-board as well, when it is very clear, that they are a middle aged male and NOT a child, elderly, disabled or otherwise requiring additional time for boarding.

I know why they do it, they want to make sure there is a spot in the overhead bin above their seat for their precious carry-on bag. So they pre-board to make sure they have first pick on bin space. Frankly, I think I can count the number of times I've been shorted overhead bin-space on one hand. Even then, I've always found a spot within one row of my seat.

It is kind of funny though, to see people hurrying to line up and jostling for position to get on and off the plane. Seriously, we're all getting there at the same time. You're seat is already saved, reserved and waiting for you, you're not going to get a better one by getting on first.

The plane rolls to a halt and most of the seat belts pop off as if their owners had their fingers ready and waiting to release as soon as they felt the brakes. They bolt up and into the aisles to grab their precious cargo from the overhead, bumping elbows, bags and butts with those others running the same pointless race. Then stand there for the next ten minutes while the door is opened and the aisle clears.

I like to just sit there in my seat till the aisle clears ahead of me to the front. I can simply stand up ( Allah help you if you try to push past my row when its my turn to stand up! ), grab my bag from the now-empty overhead bin, and stroll off the plane. But I guess some people would rather stand there in their row, hunched over, fighting their gear out from above and then wait there for ten minutes while the plane empties before they can go....

Now, back in Vancouver, I'm enjoying an entire week of sleeping-in, good food, sitting on my deck and the company of My Lovely Wife.

We don't have a lot planned for the week, considering a day-trip down to Mt St Helens for Thursday or friday and a day-trip out to the lake on one of those days as well.

I can dump my memory cards into my home PC and make some room for the rest of the summers pics. I can reload my MP3 player with some fresh tunage. I can pick up a USB keyboard for my little netbook, to make churning out blog entries a little bit less of a chore on its tiny little dysfunctional keyboard.

Shot of the Beech cutting through the morning fog.

I've been thinking about starting the hunt for winter flying work as well. Right now, the plan is to come back and go back to my fuelling gig for the winter.

I've been considering getting some tailwheel time under my belt and registering with the local glider clubs to get a few hours over the winter as a tow-pilot... Not sure how much gliding they do over the winter, probably not much. Most of them seem to want 25 hours or so of tailwheel time. I currently have....none.

Its also been pointed out to me by The Lovely Wife, that I get very animated when I start talking about flying things, that perhaps looking into instructing might be an idea.

Who knows, lot of different options out there.

I've also been putting some serious thought into trying to get us into a year or two in Africa in the next couple of years. If we can find a way to get through the low-pay that it would mean, it'd be one hell of an adventure.

This is a shot of our local airport, with the brush neatly trimmed in a circle around one of it's radio navigation transmitters. I'm pretty sure this is a VOR.

This is kind of an inside joke... it has to do with a gaggle of Canada Geese that are...well.....regular.... and the lawn that they have been frequenting.

We thought, " Perhaps they don't know its not allowed here? We should make a sign, its only fair to properly inform them of the standard of acceptable behaviour that is expected. "

Ok, actually we thought, " God damn geese are shitting all over the $&^#$^%@ lawn again! "


  1. I think it might be worth compiling this into a book of some kind. It is a fascinating read even for the non flyer.

  2. Wow - you really did have a winning seat partner on that flight west!

  3. "glancing over as they did, thinking... I hope he's wearing pants in there."


    Ok, got that out of the way. ;)

    I would have killed that person if they sat next to me...mostly kidding, partly not. What the hell is wrong with people? Seriously, that kind of behaviour freaks me right out.

    Glad you made it home, and I also understand the terror when you realize you thought you had all this time....when in fact things would line up to screw you over.

    Awesome pic of the beech, that made my heart smile.

    Also, I instructed for a bit, not a ton (200 hours or so) but it was a blast. The first person I sent solo was a 67 year old man, followed by a 14 year old boy. Fun times. If you can find a place that would consider hiring you once you have done your rating...well that's what I did, and it worked out great.

    Thanks for the great post. :)