Today was a day of mixed emotions. On the one hand, it was a sign of success. I was leaving Canada to return to the US, with a successful North Pole flight in my logbook. On the other end, it marked the end of the Canadian chapter on my trip. I met a lot of wonderful, interesting people. Most of them I wouldn’t see again anytime soon.
Either way, it was time for goodbye. Kevin drove me to Dave, the mechanic. He stayed around for a while to help me prepare the plane. The sun was starting to break through and heating the hangar. Once more I was ready to leave Dave’s protective care. This time there was no “see you in a few weeks”. It’s amazing to see how much an influence people can have, even if you only met them for a few days.
When I was about ready to leave, Kevin had to return home. We said the usual goodbyes and I saw him walking out the door, probably unaware of how important his role was in my adventure. The door closed behind him.
The airplane was restored to its former clean glory. In the sunny day I set course to Niagara Falls. I need a border airport to enter the United States, so it might as well be a good time to check out the famous waterfalls. The flight across the border took me over Toronto, where I had to hold around the famous Toronto tower to give way to traffic departing from one of Toronto’s airports. I took in the last views from Canada’s mainland and headed over to the Big Lakes, into the United States’ airspace.
Although the falls were a little less spectacular than imagined, flying over them was still a very nice bonus on this flight. As hinted by its name, the Niagara Falls airport was located quite closely to the falls. Upon landing, my airplane was inspected by the border patrol with a funny beeping instrument. It was used to detect if I had any radioactive materials on board. Luckily, my radiating personality didn’t set it off.
I packed my agenda for the day quite full, but I managed to squeeze in an hour to visit the Falls from the ground. The airport assisted in finding a taxi driver. Visiting the Falls was pretty straight forward, and quite impressive. On the way back, this same taxi driver insisted on showing me some other sights of the falls. This resulted in a weird photo shoot in all kinds of poses, including – but not limited to – climbing over some slippery rocks, smiling as he requested and taking into account the position of the sun. I was grateful there were some other people nearby, as a typical horror movie scenario started to play inside my head. After this detour, I arrived alive and well at the airport.
I got a lengthy weather briefing, modified my routing a bit due to forecasted thunderstorms, and headed for my next destination: Frankfort, Indiana. During the flight, I noticed there was one button my radios I’d never pressed before, and I had no idea what it was supposed to do. I pressed it a couple of times, and I thought nothing happened. However, after half an hour without radio transmissions, I noticed it messed up the frequencies. This resulted in my first transmission on 121.5 (the international distress frequency), which was promptly replied to with a frequency to contact.
A few hours later, I landed on a deserted airfield. The manager could be reached by phone and directed me to a hotel room and a taxi driver. The taxi driver strongly suggested to switch hotels and drove me to a motel with a very suspicious owner. He had no interest in my ID, but wanted to see my driving license. He looked at my Belgian license for 3 long minutes, while ignoring my questions about the room rate and if there was something wrong. Apparently he was afraid I wasn’t 21 years old yet. A simple question would have solved that issue instead of trying to memorize every square millimeter of my license.
I headed into town and felt very unwelcome. It had the atmosphere of a Zombie town. It was filled with elderly people who just never smiled. Fighting the nightmares, I went to bed.