Lebanon, NH to Parry Sound, ON

Thursday, August 6

Escaping to the North

Escaping to the North


Part of the lost trip report.

Checking The Barn box office

Checking The Barn box office

The summer is all about the boys seeing some places other than home. The airplane is great for that. So far they have seen nearly every state (we’re missing Washington, Oregon, Montana, Idaho, Iowa, and a couple southern ones; I don’t think we’re going to ever have a reason to fly through North Dakota, so we might have to just call that one Canada and let it go). More importantly, they have seen a real variety of places, from college towns to Washington, D.C., the town of Marfa, Texas out in the middle of the high desert, and the non-town of Pontiac, Illinois set amongst infinite cornfields. Next winter vacation is meant to be a flight down to the Keys. I would like to stop in Marfa again on our way there.

Anyway, the summer is about being away from Los Angeles and seeing some other places. We try to see some community theater in New Hampshire (summer stock!), and get out on the water at Pleasant Lake and Lake Wah Wash Kesh. Having a different experience for a couple months makes it much easier to understand your life back home.

Nell had to return to work, but I took the boys north into Canada for a week. This is our traditional trip up to the lake which I spent every summer on. After Nell headed to Boston to catch her JetBlue jet back to the west coast, I packed up our bags. It had been a great stay at Pleasant Lake, with cousins, grandparents, swimming, paddling, board games, card games, ice cream and pizza. We drove up to Lebanon early on Thursday morning well-rested and already full of a summer’s worth of memories.

Staying Focused on the Flying

Staying Focused on the Flying

The FBO had the plane parked quite a ways off, but towed it over to the terminal for us. The boys lolled in the lounge while I got everything packed up. I am always nervous about the border crossing (it got much more complicated after 9/11 and then yet-more-complicated in the past year). We had to file an electronic form to exit the United States this year. Their web site is terrible. Once we are en route we are meant to contact customs and let them know if the arrival time is changing by more than thirty minutes.

Soon we were in the air and headed back over the mountains into Vermont, climbing up and continuing on to fly over the Adirondack State Park. I am a little tense when I am flying with the boys by myself. I know that it makes Nell nervous to have the three of us in the plane without her, but I try not to dwell on that and focus on the piloting instead. People often ask if I have gotten scared while flying. They are asking whether I’ve been in situations which scare me, which I haven’t really, but I always think of the times that I scare myself. Just flying along quietly, responsible for both the boys and myself, with my skills and judgement standing between us and disaster… I can raise my heart rate just thinking about it. So I try to focus on the tasks involved instead. Check the cylinder temperatures, monitor the fuel situation, look at the weather again, check in with the boys… repeat.

We landed at City Centre Airport, which is adjacent to the very center of the city of Toronto. It’s on an island in Lake Ontario and the landing is one of the more dramatic we do each year. The controllers couldn’t be nicer to this November-bird, which is what they call the pilots coming North from the State in the summer. I wanted to stay a little higher over Lake Ontario on my way across (see above about worrying about the boys), and they cleared me into the controlled airspace for Pearson International without complaint. It meant that I was a little bit more work for them (they had to call me out as traffic to a few Air Canada flights and vice versa), but it made me feel better knowing that I could glide to shore if we lost the engine.

Customs didn’t bother coming out to the plane. The drill is that you need to call them when you have landed (and shut down the engine). You can’t open the doors of the plane (which in the summer is a bit of a drag). I called and they needed the registration number for the plane, and that was about it. I asked if they were sending agents out and they said they didn’t need to. I guess that was my opportunity to smuggle in a bunch of illegal immigrants, guns, drugs and currency. An opportunity wasted.

The boys and I walked through the FBO (which took the fuel order for the plane) and found a place to have a snack-like lunch. (Later, on the way back, we saw a BBQ operation for the FBO employees and wished we had thought to have lunch with them instead.) I called and told my parents my approximate landing time at the Parry Sound airport and we took off.

Vacationing so hard you need a nap

Vacationing so hard you need a nap

This was the third summer I flew up and it was easier. I now understand a little more of the Canada-specific radio terminology, and I am more concise on the radio, which always makes the controllers happier and more helpful. The Parry Sound airport is small. It is a shorter runway than a lot of the places we land and there are no taxiways. That means that after landing you have to turn around and taxi back to the parking area ON the runway. I always keep the plane all the way to one side and I am prepared to scoot right off the runway into the bushes to get out of the way of some ignorant pilot who is trying to land even though someone has announced that they are using the runway as a taxiway. (This sort of accident never happens, but see above about worrying about the boys.)

We get the plane parked and tied down. Alex is there to help us unpack everything and drive us to the Lake. We stop on the way to grab some provisions because the general store at the Lake is a little pricey. For the next five days we will just relax. Dexter will try to catch fish, Rudy will read and kayak, and I will stare at the waves and listen to the wind in the pine trees.

Clan Summers at the Lodge

Clan Summers at the Lodge

About Colin Summers

I am an architect, programmer, private pilot, husband and father. A couple of those I am good at.
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