Growing wings: learning to fly

Growing wings: learning to fly

By Jackson


This is not symbolism, we’re talking about becoming a recreational pilot. Ok, not living the childhood dream of literally growing wings, but the adult version of completing a privet pilots licence.

For as long as I can remember, my parents have talked about flying. Christmas normally had the latest flight simulator under the tree. My parents dream became realty when they bought there first plan 10 years ago. At the time, I was amazed and impressed. You know how to encourage your kids to “reach for the stars”? It is to live an extraordinary life yourself. Well, my parents do that. So when I found myself in my hometown for the summer, it wasn’t long before I was sitting in a Cesna 182 staring down the barrel of a runway.

The process begins with a trip to the medical doctor for a check up.

Ground school can be done online and takes about 80 hours. I signed up to and cost under $300 but if cost is going to hold you back, you might as well not begin. Because 40 hours in a plane with a trainer, fuel, exams & other red tape will set you back about $15,000 out of pocket.

My instructor Will Dobbins, is a fun and considerate person on the ground. But in the air he is demanding and unwavering. It is his way or nothing. Which is comforting as you stare at the earth from 10,000 feet.


10 things to remember when you start flying

1) Start. There is a constant drive to ‘prepare’, but don’t let that stop you from just getting started. There are a few time sensitive things that expire (medical 5 years) but for the most part just starting is a big step.

2) Perfection is a killer. The type of people that are interested in flying are normally the technical type and when faced with death as the consequence, we tend to want to “do it right”. Trust me, if you are doing or thinking about something that is risky or dangerous, you will know. I’m not advising cutting corners at all. I’m advising not re-watching the 45 minute presentation of engine layouts 4 times. If you miss or forget something you will be reminded during a quiz, in the readings, by your instructor or on an exam.

3) Take notes when talking with your instructor. They will tell you exactly what to do and what to remember. They have the experience and your best interest in mind. Use your notes to ensure you do everything they ask/recommend.

4) Arrive early to lessons. When you are paying hundreds of dollars per hour to fly, be there early every time. Even if you are completely ready and there is nothing to do, just give yourself a break to breathe.


5) Not everything is a discussion point. I tend to chat. I like people and want to talk about things. Leave this attitude on the ground. Develop good focus in the air. If something the instructor is explaining is unclear then mention it. But resist the urge to dive into every thought. You don’t need to be right. You need to be alive.

6) On the ground ask the instructor questions like “how can I make this easier on you”? The focus is always on you. Shift the context by acknowledging the trainer is there and is dealing with you.

7) Don’t take it personally. If you knew how to fly, land, operate a radio, maintain paperwork then you would already be a seasoned pilot. Much like learning a new language, leave room for mistakes and learning.

8) Realize it takes time and more time. Because everyone starts flying Visual Flight Rules(VFR) weather gets in the way.. a lot. So plan to fly and be prepared to fly but half the time weather cancels your flight. This is the nature of the beast.

9) You’re not a test pilot. Everything you learn is what you need to keep you safe. There is no need to do anything outside the requirements. No need to “push yourself”. And if you have the adrenaline junky disposition, best pick up a safer sport like skydiving and let someone else fly 🙂

10) Recognize that no one uses a private pilots licence for anything but fun. It is of very little utility, never makes money, and is at best fun. So relax and enjoy yourself.


Here is a flashback to last year when we went to Calgary’s Aerospace Museum. I guess it’s been an interest for a while!

Bold pilots


Canoe Keji

Kejimkujik National Park (pronounced Kej-ee-mah-coo-jick) is a stunning park in South-Western Nova Scotia on the east coast of Canada. It’s a large park in comparison to the total size of the province (404 km2 to 55283 km2). This park is awesome for paddling, camping and hiking. Tourists can also learn about Mi’kmaq First Nations history (10,000 years strong in that area). Although both Erin and Jackson grew up within a day’s drive of the park, neither had ever visited until this summer. Jackson’s mother Merredith orchestrated a trip for Jackson’s little brother Chris and his girlfriend Courtney, Erin and Jackson, and herself and Jackson’s dad Richard.




Getting the Ma-Ha-Brew-Crewe together (a combination of everyone’s last names that is very catchy). Visiting each other at home is nice, casual, and convenient in a lot of ways but going out into nature for a trip is a very cool memory to harvest. Plus, Nova Scotia has so much beauty to explore.


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The stretches of canoeing were all across lakes, so it was a ‘move-at-your-own-pace’ kind of scenario (no white water on our path). This meant for a leisurely day, even if long. The portaging was another story. The highlight of each day would be when the portaging was done!



Fooling around out in the water really broke up the long paddles. Plus, we all confirmed what we had always suspected – Jackson’s mom can walk on water! And his brother Chris is, indeed, king of the land!


Setting up camp in these truly beautiful sites at the end of a long day consistently felt satisfying. We hung our food up in the trees to avoid attracting bears each night.


Fishing is allowed in several of the lakes within the park (check ahead of time), so fishing became a great pass-time to break up the day, with some success.



Campfires and camp cooking was fun through and through. The flavour of delicious food is only amplified after a day’s work and when made over a fire.



Tips for visiting Keji:

      • During high season book your canoe and kayak rentals at Jake’s Landing, as well as your campsites, in advance
      • Rent wheels for your canoe if you will be portaging a lot (through Jake’s Landing)
      • Pack light even if you rent wheels for portaging. You will thank yourself! For example, pack cans of beer instead of bottles so as you drink them, your load is significantly lightened
      • Come prepared for swimming and for rain
      • Pack your food and supplies in a smart way – the things you need on the last day on the bottom, the things you will need the first day on top
      • Bring: sufficient fuel for cooking, rain tarps for tents, sunblock, water filter system, sunglasses and hat
      • Plan your route so you know how long your days will be
      • There are lots of leeches so find a good entry point or jump in out in the middle of a lake. It’s great swimming and in the deep water you won’t find these little suckers. Best swim of the year!



Preparing food for camping:


Plan your meals ahead of time so you have enough and don’t have so much that you’ll be lugging supplies you don’t need. Label things with the meal they are meant for. Prepare some things ahead of time where appropriate – like rice for the first night or pre-chopped vegetables. Plan for hearty breakfasts like the oatmeal shown below. Pack snack bags for everyone so throughout the day, people can fuel themselves as they need without having to get off the water. Vegetarian meals tend to work better when out of the fridge for a few days, so consider meals like black bean chilli, Thai curry with cauliflower, broccoli, peas, chick peas, etc. If you’d like, you can dehydrate ahead of time too.



How to buy your parents a car

Jackson had been home for less than a week and he was ripping down the Trans Canada Highway in his mom’s 25 year old Mazda Miata roadster convertible. A whistle started at 80km. The radio was stuck on 95.5 and the car’s max speed was less than 100 kms/hr. Ok, this is a bit of an exaggeration but the car was definitely feeling more like an antique to be enjoyed with care as opposed to a roadster ready to take a corner on a dime. Sometimes in life we choose to take on projects that seem outlandish (even for us) and projects where we don’t necessarily know how we’re going to make them happen at the outset. This was one. We decided to buy Jackson’s parents a new car.


Testing the waters

Jackson’s parents are two of the most generous people we know. They are kind and always pointing attention at others while expecting nothing in return. They are the perfect people to surprise because they are so not expecting it. However, it was also hard to gage whether they would accept a gift like this. It’s hard to buy things for people who are pretty darn on top of having all of the gear and tools for life. So, naturally, getting them something they already have just newer and better is a safer bet than a gift out of nowhere. So we started with replacing small things in their life that were a little worn out….a watch….a blender. That went smoothly. They were grateful, and there was no resistance. Jackson bought a new jackknife and his dad said it was cool and he’d like to get himself one. Jackson offered it to him. His dad immediately said, “no, no, I’ll get my own”. Okay so these tests left us still a little uncertain, but we were still hopeful.


Things to consider

We started by visiting a Mazda dealership and taking a 2015 Mazda MX5 for a drive, which are the Canadian versions of the Miata (his parent’s old Miata was bought in the US). We got to see the features, compare the different trim levels and talk with the sales people. We then starting hunting to see what was available in Canada. We knew we wanted it to be white with a manual transmission which the older one is too. We knew it had to be sleek but without a lot of jazz (lots of chrome, stripes, decals, etc). We found about a dozen worthy of consideration.

If you’re buying a car, consider the following. Always look at several different options so you get a gage for the price range and the various features that might be included. Create a chart/grid of the various aspects of the car so you can compare the different ones you’re considering. We included the following headings:

kms (or miles)

trim level



body (any extra bells and whistles)





other considerations


We took all of the information we had on each car and fit it into the chart so we could compare easily.


Negotiating time

We set aside 4 hours one afternoon and called around to each of the dealerships letting them know we planned to buy a car that day so we were looking for their best price. They always needed to talk to their manager and call us back so it took all afternoon to get the best price on each. We lowered it down to 3 options and then slept on it. We decided to go with the top trim level in a 2014 model as opposed to the mid trim level 2015 model. We also found one that was a demo. Demo means a Mazda rep drove it around to promote the model so this one had 7000kms on it.


Getting a deal


There are lots of ways to get the best deal on a car. These are the ones that made the most difference for us.

End of the month – most dealerships work on monthly stats so when it’s the last week of the month, sales people are typically very motivated to sell.

Financing – most dealerships give bonuses if you can pay cash (or find your own financing).

Trade in – this is something we considered since we had a 2010 Mazda 3 that we didn’t need anymore. You don’t really make good money but it can save you the hassle of having to sell on your own. We actually got a low offer from the dealership. We thought we could do better so we put it on kijiji for sale and sold it at a way better price in just 5 hours.

Late in the season – since the car is a roadster and fall is just around the corner, it’s a good time of year to negotiate a bargain. Also, the new 2016 models (a total overhaul of the design) were coming out later in the summer, so dealers were really motivated to get the old models off the lot.

Having multiple options – considering various options means you can cause a little competition between the players to try to sweeten the deal.

Incentives and rebates – dealerships give rebates on anything from paying cash to being a recent college graduate to already owning a car from their brand, so make sure to ask.



The reveal

Keeping the secret was the hardest part. We checked in with Jackson’s brothers on their ideas about buying the car and the reveal. It was cool to have them involved. We got advice from a few friends, but mostly it was a secret. We wanted them to be shocked. We picked it up from Montreal and drove it back to Fredericton. We got a huge bow made and parked it near their house…but not too close. There is a trail that runs behind their house so we parked it behind some bushes at the trail head opening about an 8 min walk away. One of our friends hid in the bushes to capture some pictures. It was a hard go to get them to go for a walk, but we finally got them out with a story about having a cool idea to pitch to them. We were walking along to the trail head opening  as the flies got worse and Jackson’s dad started losing interest in being out at dusk. We coerced him to walk just a little bit longer (all the while trying not to be too weird or suspicious).

As we walked out past the car, Jackson’s mom declared “Oh, someone’s getting a gift”. Then she saw our friend in the bushes. Then she said “wait, did you guys buy a car….where’s mine (giggle)”. Erin said, “this is yours” and Jackson handed her the keys. She kept saying, “I don’t understand” over and over as we explained the featured and showed them how the automatic top goes up. Jackson’s dad said “I also don’t understand but I’m getting in that car.” He handed Erin his rubber boots and got in (he didn’t want to get the new car dirty with his boots). Still in shock and mid sentence, they ripped away. We laughed like crazy.

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We saw them out in town an hour later.

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They sent a text saying “How did you know this is exactly what we needed in our lives, when we didn’t even know? We’re going for a drive around the dam. Don’t wait up.”