St John's, NL Canada
“Reunited and it feels so good!” - ... pretty sure those are lyrics to a song. Exactly according to plan, the 5intheSky crew were reunited in St. John's, Newfoundland on July 2nd, 2022, with Sam, Chris and Ian arriving in the 5intheSky AirVan, after flying for 17 days across the country and Sydney and Michelle arriving by commercial flight - Sydney a recent high-school graduate. For those not familiar with the background, Sydney needed to remain in Vancouver to complete high school and receive her degree and Michelle stayed with her. She has accepted an offer to attend Queen’s University at Kingston in sciences but will be looking to defer her acceptance until fall 2023 when she returns from the 5intheSky expedition. Chris is doing grade 10 while we travel around-the-world and Samantha has taken a gap year between 3rd and 4th year Geography at the University of British Columbia. There might have been a few places closer to Vancouver for the 5intheSky team to reunite, however Sydney was invited to participate in the Kumite (freestyle fighting) competition at the Canadian National Karate Tournament in St. John’s so we all agreed that a post-Canada Day rendezvous in St. John’s was in order.
Reuniting was a very happy time for the family, and after many hugs, the five of us were able to sit down and share a dinner of laughs and stories of Ian, Samantha and Chris’ adventures across Canada. After a night of relaxation at the hotel, we were up early to watch Sydney compete at the Karate Canada National Championship, which took up most of the day.
The next morning we went back to St John's airport to wash the bottom of the cargo pod, which had accumulated quite a lot of dirt and oil from the past weeks of flying. Andrew led us into the General Aviation hangar that the AirVan was parked outside of and we scrambled together a bucket, some dish soap and rags. As we were laying on the ground cleaning the underbelly of the plane, two other pilots came over to say hi to Andrew, and we all got talking. It turns out, one of the guys was heading to Oshkosh in his Cessna 182 Amphibian. EAA AirVenture Oshkosh is an air show held each summer in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, United States that attracts more than 500,000 people and 10,000 airplanes each year. Samantha recently got her Float Endorsement (Seaplane rating), and was very excited to hear that she had someone she could meet down at the floatplane base at Oshkosh 2022, as 5intheSky will be heading to the airshow for the full week!
Non-Pilot Tip: An amphibious aircraft, or amphibian, is an aircraft that can take-off and land on both solid ground or water. Due to this versatility, they're often seen as a very desirable aircraft type.
Once we completed our to-do list at the airport, Andrew offered to show us some tourist hot spots in and around St. Johns! We eagerly piled in his truck and headed towards our first touristy destination of the afternoon, Signal Hill. During the drive he told us a little bit about the recent solo-flying trip he did. It took him about 5 weeks and over 200 hours across parts of the U.S. and central Canada in his Piper Cherokee. Flying nearly 40 hours a week, he could relate to the long days and limited food we have experienced on our expedition.
As we rolled up to Signal Hill, parking was a nightmare - understandably, we guess due to the intriguing history surrounding Signal Hill, as it was the sight where Guglielmo Marconi received the world's first transatlantic wireless signal back in 1901. We walked up the steps and were in awe of the great view it had of the city of St Johns, the harbour and the open Atlantic ocean. It was a quick turn-around as we had parked the truck in the tour bus parking spot. We jumped back in the car, excited for our next stop, which was already in the eyeshot of Signal Hill - Cape Spear. A mere 25 minutes later and we had arrived at this most easterly point of North America. It was a beautiful sunny day, the wind was blowing, and we could see what life might have been like for lighthouse keepers and their families in Newfoundland and Labrador’s oldest surviving lighthouse. We spent some time taking each-others pictures and breathing in the salty sea air. It felt good to be back by the ocean again.
After regrettably running into every construction section on the drive back from Cape Spear, we went back up to the hotel room to freshen up before dinner. We had invited Andrew to come to the East Side Mario’s with us before Ian, Michelle and Samantha went out to the pub with him to partake in a highly marketed and infamous Newfoundland tradition. The four of us headed downtown, mentally preparing to kiss a frozen cod.
“A frozen cod??” you may ask! Yes. A frozen cod. It is all part of the ceremony where by the end, you are granted the prestigious title of an “honorary Newfoundlander”. Holding more value than any ordinary passport would, Andrew told us we couldn't come to “the rock” and not get screeched-in. We walked down George Street and got ourselves a spot in Christian’s Pub, along with the 20 other tourists awaiting the attraction. We ordered some Iceberg beers, a beer that is apparently brewed with real Iceberg water off of Newfoundland's coast, and were eventually called to crowd around the bar. The ceremony began and the Newfoundland folk music was blaring. After every single person introduced themselves and told Lukie, the bartender running the show, where they were from, he started the ceremonial procedures. A typical “screech-in” involves upbeat folk music, a kiss on the lips of a frozen cod, eating a piece of fried baloney and downing a shot of terrible tasting “screech”, a dark rum sold in Newfoundland. All went smoothly until we were 25th in line to kiss the frozen cod. Not knowing where these strangers had been on this fine monday night, we decided to give the cod a weak “half-side” kiss. Good enough. We took the shot as a group and finished off the ceremony being awarded our “Honorary Newfounlander” certificate.
Leaving St John’s, Newfoundland, the morning of July 5th was a bittersweet moment. Though we had tons of fun over the past few days exploring the city and meeting new people, we were now on the next step of our 5intheSky around-the-world expedition – this time as a complete family of five, rather than three. After Ian, Sam and Christopher had touched down in ten provinces and territories prior to departing Newfoundland. We were determined to continue our goal of reaching every province and territory in Canada. With only three provinces left on the list, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick, we calculated our first stop as Port Hawkesbury, Nova Scotia. On our way out of St. Johns we stopped in Deer Lake for some overpriced but necessary AvGas and made a shorter-than-expected stop in Stephenville, where we were greeted with $100 worth of fees to stop in at their restaurant. It is safe to say we didn’t stay long and definitely didn’t check out their restaurant. Port Hawkesbury had a beautiful little airport, which checks out as it is used to private jets ferrying people up from the states to play golf. Our GA8 AirVan definitely stood out amongst the crowd! After having a good yak with the very friendly people at the airport and refuelling the AirVan, we continued to Prince Edward Island.
The first stop in P.E.I. was Charlottetown (CYYG), the province’s capital. We timed our landing on Charlottetown’s 7000-foot runway between big commercial jets, some of which had a keen eye on our plane and even asked A.T.C., “what’s the name of that cool little plane parked on the apron?”. We headed into the terminal for some food at Budley’s Restaurant, and after a filling meal, we decided we would spend the night in Summerside P.E.I. (CYSU). We called the Summerside airport manager, who was very helpful and accommodating, and we were on our way.
Flying northwest along the PEI coast, we did a couple of quick orbits over the Confederation Bridge. Connecting PEI to the mainland of Canada via New Brunswick, this bridge is not only quite the sight from the air, but it is the longest bridge in the world crossing ice-covered water! We considered flying its entire 13km of length, but our grumbling stomachs insisted otherwise, and we continued on to CYSU.
(https://welcomepei.com/getting-here/confederation-bridge/ hyperlink under ‘Confederation Bridge’)
In Summerside, PEI, we enjoyed a night at the Loyalist Country Inn, taking advantage of the on-site pool and gym facilities. We were on the fence about where to fly onwards to the next day, but the weather decided for us. As the storms grew overnight, we spent another night in Summerside, folks. Unfortunately, there were no rooms available at the Inn, so we packed our bags and moved to a little motel on the other side of town, where we eventually regretted the fact that we had to stay the extra night.
The following morning, we packed our things and ditched the motel as quickly as we possibly could. Fueled by the gas station’s Tim Hortons and a challenging night’s sleep, we were ready to fly to Miramichi, New Brunswick and complete our 13 provinces and territories! This was a big achievement, as not only is Canada the second largest country by land mass, but we had now gone from the westernmost coast to the northernmost coast to the easternmost coast and touched all three oceans bordering the country (Pacific, Arctic and Atlantic). After briefly celebrating our victory with a bathroom break and some trail mix, we continued on, landing in Edmunston, Quebec (CYES), Thetford Mines (CSM3), Cornwall (CYCC) and completed our day of travel at the Arnprior Airport (CNP3).
On final 28 for Arnprior, Ontario, we were met with some skydivers on the radio as they were coming into land. We positioned ourselves perfectly in line with the runway to ensure we stayed clear of their landing area. After touching down and taxing to a nearby parking spot on the apron. Seconds later, the AirVans “dad” arrived next to us on the apron, preparing to load up with people for another skydive drop – the Cessna 208 Caravan. If we had a dollar for every time someone mixed our GA8 Airvan up with one of those, we’d be going on a longer trip than 14 months (kidding). Parachute Ottawa, this skydive operation based out of CNP3, was run by a lovely couple who came over and introduced themselves to us. They mentioned that they had seen some of our TikToks and were looking forward to following the rest of our expedition. Samantha was pretty excited because not only had she been trying to pump out regular TikTok content, and it was nice to be recognized, but she had gone skydiving once before in Abbotsford and fell in love with it. Seeing all the jumpers made her wish she was one of them!
Once situated at the hotel in Arnprior, we walked into town where we were transported back in time to a small classical Ontario town. The granite buildings and broad Main Street with coffee shops and street performers playing music made it truly feel like a summer night! The highlight of our evening however was discovering the Arnprior Bowling Centre. Even though it was close to closing time, the owner let us stay and play a few games. He might have regretted that after seeing our tragic bowling skills. Though it was built in the 1930’s, making it the oldest bowling alley in Canada, there have been a few modern updates to the alley with TV scoreboards and some festive lights. The general feeling of the space is definitely from the 30’s and it was a fun, last minute activity to end our night in Arnprior.
The next morning we left to go to Muskoka, Ontario where we would be staying with some family friends and exploring the area...