Life is full of surprises, in fact just over five years ago I was surprised to find myself travelling many miles with a new man in my life. I would have been even more surprised if you would tell me that in July of 2013, we would be celebrating our one year wedding anniversary! The many surprises life has brought my way have brought very much joy, others such as the life half of this past weekend, we could do without!
Bob is a tricky man and was insistent on making our first anniversary special with a surprise day trip for me. It was a bit torturous because he would barely give me any clues. He was vague with comments such as "The thing is not known for the place" and "it's 300-500 nautical miles away" and "we can have lunch at the place but there isn't eating at the thing." The sneaky man was driving me nuts, but finally the day of the "place with the thing" came and we were on our way. Bob put the radios to ISO each time he had to mention something to tower or ATC. All I knew was that we were headed North!
As Bob flew, my mind turned. I found it odd when the radios had to be muted on my headset while Bob talked. It was so quiet and you forget how flight following can become such a integrated part of a cross country flight. While over the center of New York, Bob asked if I had any clue as to where we were headed.
"Canada?" I asked.
"Do you have your passport?"
"Guess it's not Canada, then!" he replied.
He lied. Just a half hour later, the controller surprised Bob by asking him to confirm that our destination was Ottawa International Airport (YOW). I gave him an astonished look while Bob pulled out my passport from his pocket. I still had no idea what we were going to be doing there.
Flying to Canada is not too complicated. You must land at a destination with customs and call 2-48 hours ahead of time to inform them of your future arrival. When going VFR, you must also file a VFR flight plan and activate it with flight service once in the air. After landing, the procedure is to call customs to inform them of your arrival. When returning from Canada, you must land at the first airport along your route with customs available. However, since we'd be returning late, Bob was unsure of we'd return during their working hours so he filed for an overflight permit which allowed us to continue onto Dulles and clear customs there. However, that part of the trip did not happen for us...
On the flight over, we had noticed that the well where the manual flaps are had a lot of air coming out of it. This meant only one thing: the gear must not be up all the way. Bob recycled them, but with no change. Upon landing (which should have been just fine) the plane started swerving and bouncing. Bob got it under control but then my side suddenly dropped lower. We slowly turned onto the taxi way and informed the tower we thought we had a tire blowout. While Bob held the brakes, I jumped out to assess the damage and determine if we could taxi further. As it turns out the tire was fine, the strut, however, had collapsed. We taxied while lopsided on the way to the ramp.
The ground crew around YOW was extremely helpful in their aid to our aircraft and very friendly to chat with while we awaited a mechanic that would not come. It turns out that mechanics don't like to work at a big international airport on Sundays! Who would have thought? Luckily, we had a surprise to head off to while we awaited someone to hopefully come in and help two stranded Americans out.
First up was lunch in downtown Ottawa. We took the two minute walk from Shell Aerocentre and picked up our rental from Hertz in the main terminal. YOW is just over 10 minutes from the airport and it was relatively easy to find a parking spot and to navigate. We enjoyed a delicious Mediterranean meal outside at the 73 North restaurant. It was the perfect spot for people watching and a great place to continue our walk on to visit the beautiful and historic Parliament buildings. After grabbing some mouth watering gelato at Piccolo Grande, it was finally time for the drive to the surprise!
What was it? You must wait for part 2!