blending an assortment of thoughts and experiences for my friends, relations and kindred spirit

blending an assortment of thoughts and experiences for my friends, relations and kindred spirit
By Alison Hobbs, blending a mixture of thoughts and experiences for friends, relations and kindred spirits.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Day 6: reaching the prairies

Indoor view from our hotel room in Brandon
We are out of Ontario, finally, and on the prairies now, at Brandon, Manitoba, spending the night at the Victoria Inn where there's an indoor swimming pool for families right outside our sliding glass doors. When I ticked the box for a poolside room, I didn't realise what that meant. We don't have any other windows, so no view of the sky tomorrow morning.

Morning at the hotel in Fort Frances

Rainy Lake on a windy morning

Sandbags in Fort Frances, by the Rainy River
This morning was quite different, with a view of the stormy lake at 6:30am, waves breaking on the shore a few metres away. We heard the waves, and the rain coming down on Rainy Lake, last night. After breakfast in another lakeside room we used our borrowed van to drive a few km along Highway 11 as far as the causeway and long bridges, finding a harbour where a float plane was loading barrels, a typical northwoods scene! Back in town (Fort Frances) we had another walk beside Rainy River near the spot where they held the International Bass Fishing Championship "with big money prizes" this weekend. The riverside road was sandbagged. Everyone we speak to mentions the recent flooding which is also the talk of the town in Winnipeg and Brandon.

Climbing out from Fort Frances
Our first flight today was from Fort Frances to Winnipeg. (Chris dictating ... "We needed to get our flight clearance from Minneapolis Centre but couldn't contact them on the ground. Cloud base appeared to be about 2500' so we took off VFR and got our clearance in the air. We were in or above cloud all the way until very close to Winnipeg. For about 80 miles in the middle of the journey we were not on radar at all. At Winnipeg, runway 36 is closed for repair and so, although the wind was from 020 at 15 gusting 20 knots, we and all othe traffic had to use rwy 31.") I'm glad it wasn't I who had to do that landing; in fact with my eyes closed for some of it I didn't give it the attention it deserved ...but did see how he landed on the right hand wheel on the centre line. "I unnecessarily flew the ILS to minimums, 200ft," he adds proudly.

Approaching Winnipeg airport
We had an interesting lunch break at Winnipeg, welcomed by a nice young man from the Shell FBO, very assiduous in looking after us, giving us a gift bag of wipes and a good quality pen when we left. It was a posh facility that doubled as the waiting room for occasional flights to Nunavut. The nice young man advised us to get something to eat at an outlet of Chicken Delight in the next door terminal, a sort of bus station for passengers flying to the First Nations reserves. It was very crowded with not very happy looking people. The airline is called Perimeter Aviation and its slogan says: We Put First Nations First. There were notices on the wall saying that passengers travelling to DRY communities would be severely punished for smuggling in liquor or drugs. The chicken delights were rather slow in coming and we carried them in paper bags back to the FBO to eat there.

Strange landscape at the southern end of Lake Manitoba

Canal emptying into Lake Manitoba
From an aeronautical point of view the flight from Winnipeg to Brandon was uneventful: at 6000' we were in and out of cloud until we descended for Brandon. Flying IFR we had to go via a waypoint called UDE on the V304 airway, so from an observational point of view this made a wonderful detour: after the colourful patchwork of flat fields, yellow, green and blue, we saw the wonderfully patterned marshland on the edge of Lake Manitoba and the flooded rivers and canals emptying into it.

Brandon and the floods
The Assiniboine River is particularly flooded.

Road in Manitoba
A grey-haired couple in a Cessna 150 approached the field at the same time as we did; we let them fly the circuit ahead of us, and both planes used the gravel strip, runway 32, rather than the wide, paved one, runway 26. Brandon Flying Club has premises rather like Rockcliffe's. We made a Facetime call to Mum from the pilots' lounge then ordered a taxi to the hotel, thinking it would be downtown, but it happened to be on the far side of Brandon, on Victoria Avenue where it crosses 34th Street. The north-south streets are mostly numbered, as we noticed when walking into town for our supper, as far as 10th Street where the Downtown Hub is, that the Brandon city councillors are desperately trying to regenerate. They've done well with the street landscaping and the flowers, adding an inevitable skateboard rink, but they need to have some places for people to live and shop in, at the Hub, otherwise everyone will disappear back to the leafy streets around the university, where it doesn't look so derelict and deserted.

Arrival at Brandon airport

Downtown Brandon

The Brandon skateboard rink

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