RANKIN INLET, NUNAVUT — Ready for the twilight zone? Something happened today that made what's left of my hair stand up. Arthur saw a single-engine Beechcraft Bonanza approaching the airport. "Wouldn't it be funny if that airplane was from southern Africa, too?" he wondered. Sure enough, its registration number indicated it was South African. Running into the two guys at the hotel later, we find that they are ferrying the plane to an airstrip at the Nut Tree Restaurant in Vacaville, Calif., a place I've been to many times.
But here's the really weird part: Graham, the pilot, is the business partner of the guy who sold Arthur his Cessna in Johannesburg three years ago. And we just happen to run into each other at a little airstrip in Rankin Inlet - the only two light aircraft here. Nice chaps, Graham and Nick.
They, too, are trying to find the best way around the weather. The air is filled with moisture, and the freezing level is down to the ground. That means the icing level is down to the ground, too, so we can't escape by flying under it in warmer air.
So we're here a fourth day. In the evening, the people I met at church who invited us to dinner come by in their ATVs to take us out "on the land."
Bonnie Tulloch rides behind her husband, Merv. I drive Bonnie's machine with Arthur behind me. Tim Hinds and his wife, Michelle Ashby, are along, too. We rumble and bounce out of town on a gravel road several miles, through muddy potholes that would make Boston proud, around (or through) snow patches, over small boulders. We take the road as far as it goes, then warm up with hot cocoa in a hut built for Inuit elders and used for weddings and other special events. It's also just a place to hang out and enjoy the landscape, which stretches in cold, quiet beauty to the horizon all around.
On the way back, I get stuck in the snow. Merv pushes me out. We're bundled up, but my feet are wet and freezing. The weather to the west looks better. We may fly tomorrow, after all. We're grateful to have made new friends, but we're eager to get to Fairbanks.
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