Three adventurous men flying from Constance Lake, Ontario to Otter Lake, Quebec.
One of those days to remember.
My friend, John, runs the engineering workshop for one of the universities here in Ottawa. Besides being a genius at creating tools for the university, and teaching students how to create these tools, he is diver (S.C.U.B.A), certified to mixed gasses (that means going to depths where you need something other than oxygen to survive).
To top things off, he knows photography and welding to the level an average person would qualify as knowledge necessary for a successful career.
Last week, during the usual bus ride to work, John told me he had done a welding job for a guy, Chuck, who needed to fix heavy equipment for moving floatplanes. Chuck offered John money for his service, but John asked for a barter, specifying a plane ride instead of money, adding he knew a student pilot (Me) who would probably love the experience. That excursion occurred yesterday, Saturday, September 3rd.
John has been nudging me for a year to go this place, where the owner of a restaurant owns a float plane. I am struggling to learn theories and practices which seem to my instincts as overkill and archaic, like being forced to learn how to drive a Model T to visit a neighbour across the road. Regardless, I was happy John thought of me.
Chuck, the owner of the floatplane, is in his 70s, and wiry. He sort of reminded me of me prior to the drama I started going through in 2006 (Noted in a few painful blogs here since 2007). But then again, when you are the type of wayseer who can generate income from your inspirations, then you can fly a plane to release tension and anxiety instead of needing to meditate to release all the tension.
Now, fast forward the three of us going to the dock.
I was so exited I told chuck, “You know, my first flight through the club felt like a roller-coaster ride.”
He looked at me seriously. “You’re not going to puke are you?”
I was stunned. “No, no way! I love roller-coasters.”
Then Chuck started zipping in and out of the plane. At one point he grabbed a gray plastic tube, removed a rubber cork from one of the holes along the left float, stuck the gray tube in the hole, started pumping and within seconds, water gushed out of an outlet at the side of the tube.
“Can I do anything to help?” I asked.
Chuck handed me the tube. “Here. Finish what I’m doing. I did this yesterday (this morning?), so you’re not going to find much.”
Chuck talked about as fast as he zipped, but not surprising for a wiry (Wayseer?) person.
“Try not to fall in,” were his final instructions before he continued zipping in and out, and around the plane.
Fast forward to a long time later, or so it felt like a long time later. We were in the plane, engine pulling us slowly along Constance Lake. Chuck adjusted knobs and various switches as though according to circumstances. I would likely be shot by the flight instructor if I were not following a checklist. So I watched, sensing Chuck knew the plane, like he was part of it, and responding to it.
“***damned GPS is not working,” he blurted, voice up a few notches.
He made a lot of adjustments on the way to Otter Lake, more than what I remember doing during flight training. So I am guessing floatplanes are a different animal than a normal Cessna 150.
Once at Otter Lake, we met a few of his friends, went to a local diner, and Chuck paid for our meal. He was also generous to the children from one of his friends. He took a two dollar coin from his pocket, hid it from the boy, then worked his fingers through the boy's hair, and showed the boy the money he found there.
John would later tell me landing at Otter Lake and the diner were complete surprises to him.
John took impressive aerial photos of Constance Lake and the terrain between Otter Lake and Constance Lake. Using BlackBerry, I snapped a picture of Chuck in between moments he was cursing the GPS, and I would later send that picture to Chuck's wife (She gave me her e-mail address).
Apparently, that morning was the 1st time the GPS was not working properly. Chuck also confided he taught himself how to fly, and passed the Transport Canada exam on the 4th try. I told him that would likely be my fate.
After touchdown and docking the plane, Chuck showed us the unusual chopper he built for his wife (A motorcycle body powered by car engine). Incredible workmanship. Something worthy of a magazine cover.
So, besides owning a successful restaurant, Chuck is a pilot and exceptional at bodywork and auto mechanics. He told me he restored a lot of antique cars.
I asked about his family name, and once he said it, I understood the reason he could enjoy so many toys, including the Jaguar sports car he bought for his wife. His family name is synonymous for wealth in this city. But you would never know it for the way he behaves like a regular guy.
So, besides a renewed interest to pass the exam next week, I am replacing the picture on the desktop at work (Me standing beside a Cessna 150 after introductory flight in July 2010) with one of me standing beside the floatplane.
Incidentally, I met John about 2 years ago, during a bus ride from home to work in downtown Ottawa. He was looking at a picture he took of a giant picture of the AVRO Aero turning over Niagra Falls. That started a conversation which lead to one of the best friendships to date.