Monday, September 22, 2014

Exploring Canada From the Sky

Jack Dekens is a 60 year old retired father of 5 (girls!) with a heart for adventure.  In July of 2014 he circumnavigated Canada solo in his Cessna 172 covering 16,300 km in about 30 days.  He is a man who loves a good adventure and is not afraid to dream big and just go for it.  He is also my father.  Here is an interview that I had with him.

Why did you decide to fly around Canada?

There are three reasons really.  As a kid, I loved learning about the history of the Northwest Passage and the Franklin Expedition so I wanted to see it in person.  Secondly,  I love adventure.  It started with a 13' Zodiac trip around Vancouver Island in 1990 and then in 2010 I took a jet ski from Vancouver to Skagway, Alaska solo.  I enjoyed it so much I ended by circumnavigating Vancouver Island which was about 4300 km total.  The third reason is that I wanted to see if it would be possible to eventually use a jet ski to do the Northwest Passage so I would first do it from the sky.

{You can see the route he took clockwise around Canada starting in Vancouver}

What sort of preparation did you need?

There were many different steps that needed to be taken to prepare for a trip like this.  First, I had to get my private pilot's license through Principal Air.  Their inclusion of grass and gravel landing strips was invaluable.  Then, once I knew the trip up north was in the plans I had to take `over the top training' which is above the clouds, instrument and night training.  I also did underwater egress training at the pool because I would have to fly above a large body of water.  Due to the polar bears up north, a friend who had already lost a researcher friend,  insisted I accept his gift of a 12 gauge Defender shotgun.  Therefore, I had to get my hunting and gun safety license.

When I bought my plane I had to find one that had a long range tank.  There is no aviation gas for non turbine planes in the arctic circle which is a huge area.   With help from others, including Kenn Borek Air,  I made a connection to a private stash in Resolute Bay.  I also had to order a special funnel to remove impurities and plan to have oil sent up to Iqaluit.  The plane needed some updates on it to make it safe for a trip like this.  I had a new factory motor, propeller and batteries put in.  A new exhaust system increased power and cruise range.  I upgraded my electrical system to facilitate running the iPhone, iPad, and charge the cameras. 

My wife, Joanne, made bright yellow wing covers for the low temperatures up north.  This colour would also be easier for Search and Rescue to find me in the event that I was forced down.

I had to call each airport that was supposed to have gas available and confirmed that with them.  I ordered maps to work alongside my ForeFlight program and rented a satellite phone (a necessity along with my SPOT device)  for filing flight plans as the arctic is a military zone.  

Finally, I needed to decide what to take along.  The plane had to be as light as possible so I removed all of the seats except for one.  I had 5 Jerry cans of gas, two sheepskin rugs (for comfort during the flights and then to sleep on at night),  freeze dried food, canned fish and a stove.  Instead of a sleeping bag, I just brought a very warm down jacket.   By the way, freeze dried breakfasts are better than the dinners.

What are a few of the most interesting things you learned along the way?

I learned about the Canadian Rangers program which is part of the Canadian Armed Forces and is a volunteer force made up of Inuit, First Nations and Metis.  They work as Search and Rescue and are very proud of what they do including teaching the Armed Forces personal survival and stealth skills, and in turn, the Armed Forces provide them with weapons and electronics like GPS's.  

The term `Flow Edge' now conjures up images of narwhals, seals, and bears rather than just a bit of water between the shore and the ice.

I found it interesting that the government invested a lot of money to install an underground water line up in Pond Inlet, Baffin Island, for it to just freeze the first winter.  Water and septic are delivered by truck weekly and also removed the same way (separate trucks!).  Nothing underground. 

I realized that the aviation world is small,  not only up north, but throughout Canada.  They all know and help each other.  Borek Air and Nunavut Air engineers assisted with information and helping to 'dress up' the propeller which was pitted by the 20 or more gravel runways.  Pilots invited me into their homes.  Airport managers in Nova Scotia knew my aviation friends back home from their days of early arctic aviation's Bradley Airlines. The stories flowed.

Finally, I was very surprised to see that new cell phones don't work up north.  No 3G or LTE.  The compass does swing wildly the further north you go so reliance on GPS becomes the primary navigational tool.

What was the scariest moment?

There were a few moments that made me nervous.  First, I had a notification that they ran out of fuel in Frobisher Bay. It was my next stop and I needed to top up all of my tanks there in order to make it to Quebec.  I didn't want to wait several weeks for the ice breakers to bring in the gas.  I ordered a barrel of gas ($1300!) to be flown in.  Once I arrived, I found out that the regular fueler, whom I had been speaking with prior to my starting my trip, had set one tank aside for me.  I didn't need to pay for that expensive barrel of fuel and it was just $350.00 instead.

Another moment, gas related, was that I had punched in the wrong airport code before taking off and so my GPS showed that I was heading in the wrong direction.  You can't waste gas going in the wrong direction so I'm glad I figured it out relatively fast.

Weather is obviously a big concern up there and as I was coming into Resolute Bay, and past the point of no return (not enough gas to return!), I was notified that the weather deteriorated and the cloud dropped to 400 feet.  It was recommended not to land but I had no choice.  I had to land using technical skills and not on sight as it was almost all white (the clouds and ice).

What would you do differently if you did it over again?

If I did it again, I would plan to have more fuel caches up north so that I could do a little bit more exploring.  Once I was up in Resolute Bay there were many recommendations of where to go which included further north.  

Also, some smaller changes would be; go in August as it's warmer, bring an older cell phone,  try out the opposite direction, use a shelf rather than a hammock to store things in the back of the plane, and find something other than Garmin for tracking. 

6.  What was your favourite place?

I can't choose one but I especially loved; Northwestern BC (Atlin),  Whitehorse, Alaska, Pond Inlet/Baffin Island and the Maritimes.  I sure love Canada and we are so blessed.

7. How much does someone spend on gas for a trip like this?

About $6,000.

8.  What is next for you?

I would like to volunteer for Hope Air. They provide flights to those in tough financial situations in order to get the health care they need. Another organization would be Angel Flight. They provide free of charge transportation for cancer patients in areas from Port McNeil to Hope, B.C.  If anyone needs a break from cancer treatment, let me know.  Nothing takes your mind off of reality like a flight through the mountains.
Other thoughts include snowmobiling from Cambridge Bay near where Franklin's Ships are to Resolute and Iqaluit.  Or, maybe a trip around South America.  Or...I just want to remain healthy enough to continue to fly.  If anyone has any other ideas, I look forward to hearing them.

And now, after all of those miles, gravel strip landings, fuel burn calculations and flight plan filings, maybe my kids will fly with me!  I want them to see what I saw and maybe catch the flying bug.

9.  What advice would you give to others?

Dream. Plan. Plan some more. Ask around.  Listen. Do it.  We're not getting any younger or healthier with age.  Just make sure that you don't put anyone else at an unnecessary risk like Search and Rescue having to go get you.

If anyone is interested, Jack is preparing a Power Point presentation for ground school classes and any other interested groups.  You can also see some blog posts from his trip here.  I should mention that I have finally flown with him and although I felt safe, I definitely did not catch that flying bug. For now, keep dreaming and doing! 

Sunday, September 21, 2014


My family is exhausting.  It's not the day in and out stuff, it's that one particular child loves to be a pest and distrupts our whole family.  I feel bad saying it but it's my reality.  I REALLY want him in full time kindergarten for my sanity but I know that three long days is best for him.  Someone please tell me that the pest in your family loses some of their `pestiness' once they get a bit older. Like 6 years old?  

 It's also that I feel like no one listens to me. I have to repeat myself over and over to the other 4 members of this family.  I'm tired.  However, with all the exhaustion and lack of listening, I love these people.  We had our family photos taken last night and I'd say the kids were a little nuts in 90% of them.  Oh well, that is our life and the reality of three kids with a whole lotta extra energy and `personality'.  I can look at this photo and exhale and smile because I feel like everyone is quiet and we're together.  The only other time they are nice and quiet is when they are sleeping or at all-you-can-eat sushi.

I recently announced that Gary and I are taking  step back from GC Photography.  We are still doing 5 weddings a year but are no longer doing family photos (for now).  I just really need my evenings and weekends back.  Last night, I watched a show and read a book and it was PERFECT.  Usually I'd have to work for 2-4 hours first and then maybe watch something at 10 pm.   I know that with this change will come some adjustment....Will I get sick of reading in the evenings? Will I get the family photo `itch'?  Will we get more car bills that require more income?  Will subbing once a week be enough for me to feel productive?

I don't know what the future brings but I do know that right now I'm thankful for the jobs we have and the family that we've been given...Mr. Super Pest and all.


PS Some people have asked about where we are in the Fostering process.  We are still waiting to start our education component which will hopefully begin at the end of October.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Thankful Thursday

Thankful for:

1. Winning date nights! All right, don't bug me about winning so many things, but...I won tickets to the Fraser Valley Cork & Keg festival valued at $130!  Gary and I will have a date night in Langley tomorrow.  Yahoo! We love food and I love beer and wine.  I entered over at  Again :)  There's probably a great contest there almost every week.  I do want to say that I spend about 2-3 hours a week entering contests so it's not just a fluke, I enter a lot!

2.  So much encouragement and support over our announcement over at GC Photography.  There were so many positive comments over on our facebook page and I love that we have created and captured so many great memories for families over the years.  I have met so many wonderful friends this way.  Thank you!!

3. My first giveaway going well! Yay!  It's always risky veering away from the norm but it's a giveaway for a place that we've been super pleased with. There were too many drop ins during Kai's class yesterday so hopefully none of you were there last night!  They have apologized and will have more staff on next week.  Now let's hope the Rafflecopter continues to work well and picks two winners tomorrow.   I hope you've entered if you live in this area.

4.  A great night saying `see you later' to a good friend.  We went for fish and chips and ate them on the beach while the sun went down.  It was perfect!  By the way, if you are looking for fish and chips, go to Kahunas.  They give you twice as much as you order and it's good.  $20 for Gary and I to share 6 pieces of salmon and yam fries (I ordered 3, they gave 6!).   Also, I did take off the `best part' (the batter) due to my eating less carbs.

5.  Beautiful sunsets.  We get so many beautiful ones here. 

6.  A good time celebrating Surrey Christian School's 50th anniversary.

7. Capturing Koen's real smile.  It's near impossible but he thought he was hilarious waving his arm around so I  couldn't get a shot of the tattoo on his hand.  Being a pest makes him smile.

8.  A nice night out.  Dinner and dessert with friends while learning about some fancy strollers.  It was so relaxing.

9.  The public library.   You can read great books for free. PS Good book and easy read.

10.  The series `Downton Abbey'.  I was hesitant to start watching this (you have to get the DVD's or watch on netflix) because I didn't think it would be my thing.  I made it through the first season in the first week and I'm now into the second one.  Love it.  I'm in awe of their lives and how much has changed over the last 100 years.  Also, the cinematography is very, very beautiful. Totally recommend it. 

That's the `Thankful Thursday' for the week.  I wish I could say that our mechanic bill was way better than expected so I could be thankful for that too :) At least they were super efficient, knowledgeable and nice!


Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Black & Blue and Bugaboo!

Last night I was able to attend a beautiful dinner and presentation by Bugaboo at the Black + Blue Restaurant downtown.  I love learning and I love good food.  Perfect. Win win.  Oh ya, and I was able to hang out with some other bloggers too.  Another win.

When we bought our first stroller, I had no idea what to look for.  I didn't realize how much we would use it either.  Knowing what I know now, 8 years and 3 kids later, I would have invested in a different one.  Would I invest in a Bugaboo? Read on.

Bugaboo was showcasing the beautiful Bugaboo Bee3 as well as a new jogger and a collaboration with Diesel.  I will say, the designers desire is to produce strollers that are innovative and they are. Where you see #2 listed saying `Smooth ride', they have a ridge down the center of their tires that ensures this.  The suspension is able to be altered as the child ages and changes in weight.  They do think of everything.

The Cameleon is a stroller that can have two wheels removed so that you can use it on hiking terrain.  They sun canopy on all of them can be increased in size with a simple zipper.  I was also impressed with the fact that you can remove the chair from one frame and put it on another, so if you wanted to get a jogging stroller too, you would just need to purchase the frame.

{The Bugaboo Bee3}

Although I'm huge on functionality, I'm also a frugal mom so the price tag on these is too steep for me (about $1000.00).  Over the past 8 years, I would say we use our stroller at least 3 days a week so I do recommend investing in a good one.  What would I do?  There would be a couple of options for me.  I could buy a Bugaboo second hand on craigslist.  That's me, though, I tend to buy almost all big items second hand.  Another option would be instead of receving typical baby shower gifts, maybe have a `contribution to my beautiful stroller fund' instead (and hope you have some very generous friends and family).  Finally, we did go through 3 strollers over the years with our double lasting the longest.  The total cost of these three strollers would be about $500.00 (all second hand) so not far off from a used Bugaboo.  That perspective makes the price tag a little easier on me.

If I did get one, which one would it be? The Donkey is the one that I would get because it's a double that fits through a doorway (a must!) and we use our double all the time for Nya on one side and groceries or a cousin on the other.  In the past 8 years there were probably 4 years where we had two kids in a stroller at a time.   

And now, I must talk about the FOOD!!!

I loved that we got to wine and dine at a beautiful restaurant.  I love good food.  We had a private room and the restaurant is huge!  Three levels and a roof top restaurant.

{See the stroller in the center of the square table? Ideal set up!}

The service was amazing and so was the salmon.  

I've been off sugar for over 6 weeks but I had to try the dessert; Crispy Chocolate Manjari Cake.  Probably one of the best desserts I've had in my life. I'm serious.  The wafer in the middle was perfect.

It was fun to be part of an event like this!  I enjoyed a night out.  I learned a lot about Bugaboo strollers and was able to try out a beautiful new restaurant.

Do you think a stroller is worth a huge investment?  Did you use yours often?  If you are a stroller user, what would you have done differently? Totally curious what you think.

Happy Tuesday, friends!


PS Have you been to this restaurant before?!

Monday, September 15, 2014

Free Shoes! Sort Of.

I feel like I went on an undercover mission on Friday.  I had bought Kai his runners at Sears earlier in the year and he had worn them so much that they had a hole in them.   I know about the KidVantage program that Sears has and I wanted to try it out.  They say that they will replace or repair clothing and footwear if it wears out,  provided that you have your receipt.  The wild part (to me) is that someone in the house still needs to fit that size.  This means anything that Kai passes on to Koen is included!

Kai is active for at least 1-2 hours a day so it's guaranteed that shoes won't last a full year.

Kai's shoes were size 2 so they needed to be replaced by another size 2 (which won't last him long as he's almost a 3).   Did they accept it?!   Yes!  It took about 10 minutes to find some new similar shoes and then do the exchange.  I had to pay $7 for the difference.  Super happy.  Super impressed.  I will continue to buy the boys jeans and runners there.

The KidVantage program is for kids clothes up to size 18 and shoes up to size 6.  I'm just letting you know in case you have a child that wears through their clothes as quickly as my boys do!


Friday, September 12, 2014

Coastal Climbing Giveaway!

It's no secret that our eight year old son, Kai, has fallen in love with rock climbing.  What started out as a fascination with American Ninja Warrior has turned out into a passion for climbing.

We discovered Coastal Climbing , in Surrey, and Kai first participated in a drop-in class to see if he liked it.  A drop in is $17.00 and includes two hours of climbing.  You are provided with a harness, chalk, and a professional to set you up and belay you.  

Kai loved it so much that he joined the Little Lions.  He gets to go once a week for three months.  It's for ages 5-9 and includes an instructor, equipment and 1.5 hours of climbing each time!  They also get their own chalk bag and shirt.  I think it's very reasonable too at just $125.00.   Another perk is that during this three month period, they are allowed to go bouldering (that's where they can climb in places like the cave without a harness) at any time for free!

There are a lot of other programs from youth to beginner to advanced so there is something for everyone. For example, a beginner program is where you have a 3 hour lesson, and get a 4 day pass as well as a belay test.  This costs just $60.00. Could be a fun date night?! Gary, what do you think?

While Kai has his climbing lessons, I just hang out in the birthday party area (yes, they do birthdays!), read on the couches, watch him from the second level, drink free coffee and use the wifi!  

I highly recommend checking out Coastal Climbing.  I think their facility is great, the staff is very friendly and  knowledgeable, and their prices are affordable.

I am happy to let you know that I have two pairs of Climb Time Drop-in Sessions to give away!   What's better than one winner? Two!  Good luck and just follow the instructions on the Rafflecopter below.   Winners will be chosen by the lovely Rafflecopter Friday September 19th. 

**Disclaimer-these opinions are my own.  I was not given any compensation for this post other than the four Climb Time Drop-in Sessions to give away**

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Thankful Thursday

Hello friends!  This week I am thankful for....

1. A great time at Rolley Lake with my family. I've never been there before!  Three of the families were camping and the other two families came up for the day (so easy!).

2.  Getting to enjoy nature while it's still sunny and beautiful in September! 

{My sister Trish}

3.  A father that wants to be involved in his grandkids lives.  I know this is not always the case and I am thankful for this. PS My mom and dad's names were/are Greta and Jack and on my dad's lap is Nya Greta and Jack :)

4.  Nya being able to see Bobs & Lolo for the first time. We have all of their cd's and Nya was dancing in the front row most of the time. So fun.  They are playing at Campbell Valley Park this weekend too!  Free!

{The kids had a chance to meet Bobs...Lolo was in the other line.  Can you see Koen tickling his belly to try to smile. That kid.}

5.  Nya being a mini me.  It's very funny.  Whenever we go out, she must have her sunglasses, purse, camera and phone.  

6.  Finally flying with my dad.  Not as scary as I thought!

7.  Little nieces.  So cute.  Not mine.

8.  `New' climbing shoes for Kai.  They are MEC ones that I found on craigslist!  Regular $50, I got for $20.  Perfecto. 

9.  Where's Waldo?  It keeps Koen nice and entertained.  I remember Kai loving the `Where's Waldo?' books too.  This is the first book that Koen took out of the school library this week.  I'm totally ridiculous but I may have googled the answer key to one of the pages.  Google has everything.

10.  American Ninja Warrior.  If you haven't watched it, you might want to.  Well, the season is over now but it's really good.  I love hearing how dedicated people are to their passions and how hard they work at it.  The competitions are great.  Our kids love it and it has inspired them to try new activities that they wouldn't normally do.  Here Nya is watching and saying `I'm a Ninja Warrior!' while doing her `stunt'.

Thank you so much for reading.  I love looking back through my camera and seeing all that I'm thankful for.  By the way, I should add that I'm thankful for a fun giveaway that I'm going to have tomorrow!  I wanted it to be for something that I think is great so sure make you check back soon :)

Love, Louise