Saturday, June 22, 2019

Doctor, Watson Lake is full

We woke up to blue skies and a light headwind in Bend, Oregon. After a pre-flight and some dinosaur juice, T-bone lifted and turned the nose toward Wenatchee.

The company that I fly for purchased a new helicopter. T-bone and I got to ferry it north to its new home. We left Southern California Monday morning and hoped to land in Anchorage sometime on Wednesday. Along the way we would have to stop every three or so hours for fuel, a bathroom break and a leg stretch.

As one flies north, fuel and humans spread out a bit and there's a section of the map where it's more than a full fuel tank between Jet-A dispensaries. We overcame that logistical challenge by purchasing some fuel jugs from a Canadian Tire Store. (Hot tip- Canadians think the old fuel jugs are innocuous enough and as such do not have those silly safety necks. You know the ones that make the world a better place by requiring one to twist and/or push some ergonomically challenging mechanism before fuel can spill onto one's hands, the ground, the side of the machine and finally into the fuel tank. Good ol' Canada has fuel jugs with necks of yesteryear. Next time you go to Canada pick yourself up a fuel jug or ten. Give them away. Any recipient over thirty will thank you profusely. Give it to someone under thirty and he or she may develop a deep respect for our neighbors and their love of simplicity.)

But I digress. We landed on a sandbar and poured one hundred and fifty liters of fuel into the helicopter without spilling a drop so we could make the final push to Watson Lake in the Yukon Territory.

We landed just before nine in the evening, excited for a meal and a shower before bed. After securing the aircraft, we walked into the airport terminal named for American Frank Watson. He hurried north when gold fever took his senses in the nineteenth century. Watson didn't find much gold but he did find a local gal with whom he constructed a cabin and raised a family on a peninsula of a lake. When the buildup to World War II occurred, logistical planners realized that the jut of land Frank lived on was large enough for an airstrip with the added benefit of a caretaker on premises and a town sprouted from there.

Anyone who has driven the Al-Can probably remembers getting fuel in a town plastered with road, town, and traffic signs from all over the world. Our taxi driver ripped past the sign forest like the hounds of hell might be gaining on us. The car slid to a stop in front of the only hotel with a restaurant still serving food at that hour.

While T-bone paid the Canadian Mario Andretti, I stepped inside to acquire accommodations. The hotel clerk shook his head as I approached. "We're full and I don't mean the hotel, I mean Watson Lake. The first tour bus of the year arrived this afternoon."

I gave T-bone the good news and he suggested we get a bite to eat and consider our options. I agreed. "Are mashed potatoes okay? Ours are homemade. We're out of rice," said our server. Since our last meal had been twelve hundred miles ago, we thought mashed potatoes would indeed be the perfect compliment to our curries.

"Can I get you anything else?"

"We'd love two beds."

"Oh, sorry. Town's full, that's why we're out of rice."

"If we run out of here without paying for our meal will you please call the police so we can sleep in the jail?"

"That's a bad idea. Let me talk to my boss."

T-bone and I consider a game of rock paper scissors for who gets the backseat of the helicopter. Our server returns. "My boss says you can sleep in the bar if you promise to behave."

I'm excited for the opportunity to pay that particular favor forward.