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An (Almost) International Adventure

I sat in my Seattle hotel room frowning at my computer screen. The weather synopsis showed a stationary front parked right on the Canadian border, and true to its name, it was forecast to stay put for at least the next 24 hours bringing rain and low clouds to the area. In contrast, the forecast for Seattle was surprisingly good, and the view out my hotel window corroborated it.

"How's it looking?" asked my wife Janet.

"Well, the ceilings look reasonably high and temperatures are above freezing," I answered. "It looks like we can get into Victoria or Vancouver pretty easily, but there won't be any sightseeing along the way and once we're there, well, the weather will be crummy."

"And we have to head home day after tomorrow," Janet said.

"Yep, and tomorrow's forecast looks just as bad," I replied.

"Doesn't make much sense, does it?"

"Nope, not really."

So much for the best-laid plans! I'd spent months collecting all the documents and charts we'd need to cross the border to visit Victoria, Vancouver, and the Sunshine Coast of British Columbia. I'd registered with eAPIS and learned how to submit manifests. I'd researched Canadian customs procedures and aviation regulations and purchased the required survival gear. I'd spent hours studying the Canadian charts and approach plates, which cost real money. I'd renewed my passport and obtained a Restricted Radiotelephone Operator Permit. I'd updated my pilot certificate with an "English proficient" endorsement. I'd obtained a US Customs user fee decal, Radio Station License, and letter of insurance for the airplane.

And now it looked as though it had all been for naught. Sigh. "Well, that's the flying game," I said, and started planning a flight South where the forecast was much more vacation-friendly.

The start of our flying vacation in my club's A36 Bonanza with my parents and Eddie Pippin, Canine Aviator, had been delayed two days by a nasty weather system complete with thunderstorms and icing, so we knew we'd have to be flexible. As it was, we spent the trip visiting the remote family farm where my mother had spent the five happiest Summers of her childhood, the stunning painted hills of the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument, and four first-rate aviation and car museums: the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum, the LeMay Museum, Seattle's Museum of Flight, and the Western Antique Aeroplane and Automobile Museum in Hood River, Oregon. We were treated to a wonderful birthday dinner with friends and family in Seattle. And we got to tour the stunning Cascade mountains that span California, Oregon, and Washington in the best possible way: by small airplane.

So even though the trip didn't go as planned, no one was complaining. For me it was yet another lesson in how much more fun, relaxing, and safe flying can be when I'm not too attached to an itinerary.

Dusk was fast approaching when we finally landed at Ukiah, California to drop my parents off at their car. We loaded their bags, said our good-byes, and Janet and I prepared the airplane for the trip home. The stars were bright in the moonless sky as we took off to the South, following Highway 101. Soon we were level at our cruising altitude as the scattered lights of the Santa Rosa Valley passed underneath us.

"It was a wonderful trip, sweetie," Janet said with a smile.

"It certainly was, and it's not over yet," I replied, gazing out the window. "It's a beautiful night for flying!"

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