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Sometimes the journey is the destination - Michael Atkins (02/05)

I was looking forward to my visit. MICHAEL ATKINS The travel plans were not exotic: Get on a Bearskin Airlines flight to Thunder Bay.
I was looking forward to my visit.

The travel plans were not exotic: Get on a Bearskin Airlines flight to Thunder Bay. With luck, I was told, the plane would go all the way to Fort Frances, increasing the probability of it depositing both my luggage and myself at the same location at the same time.

I was to speak at eight o’clock in the morning and so booked the six o’clock flight out of Sudbury the night before.

The night before Sudbury was fogged in and it was pouring rain. Knowing Bearskin as I do, I stayed at the airport until the bitter end when the
prognostication went from “we check the weather on the hour and we’ll make our decision then” to “not a chance.”

By this time I had turned in my rental car and the rental car people, realizing no one was coming or going this night, sensibly decided to go home.
There was one cab. I grabbed it.

I was in for a shock.

By the time I got out of the parking lot I owed the man four bucks and I realized I was in for the cost of an overnight hotel bill by the time I got to my

It was 50 bucks!! That’s what I said. Fifty bucks from the Sudbury Airport to the Four Corners in Sudbury. These guys have been drinking the same water as Air Canada, who are pleased to look you in the eye and charge you $800 to fly from Sudbury to Toronto and back.

My mood was not improving. I decided as a precautionary move to wait until I got home to tell my host I didn’t have $50 in my pocket for a cab or anything else. My wife always says she needs 20 bucks for cab fare when she goes out and I seem to have appropriated that long ago standard. I settled the matter after some discussion with a credit card.

The next morning, there is no way I’m calling a cab. I drag Norm Tollinsky out of bed (our Sudbury Mining Solutions Journal editor) and offer to buy him breakfast at the airport if he can get me there for eight. He passes on the breakfast but kindly agrees to drive me out.

As we approach the Airport we realize we can’t see it. It has disappeared. We drive by the entrance and take another shot at it. Norm inquires if it makes much sense to attend to an airport you can’t find in a drive-by much less a fly-by.

“Listen, you just don’t know the bear,” I confidently tell him.

I settle in to wait for a miracle. An hour and a half later we are out of miracles.

Just then, the Bearskin lady runs up, grabs me by the collar and says the fog has lifted. Run!! There is a mad dash to security. We run out on the tarmac. It is a sheet of ice. It is pouring rain. Some of us hit the ground sliding. Within seconds the door is closed, the engine is primed and we are on our way. The only question is whether we can beat the oncoming bank of fog, which looks minutes away.

We do. Trust the bear.

We arrive in Thunder Bay. Did I mention there are no bathrooms in bear country? I am desperate. They run us into the airport and point us out another door without stopping for a breath. I can’t go on. I break for the washroom and pray they won’t leave me. I come back out and the waiting lounge is full. I nearly get on the plane to Atikokan.

A young lady from Fort Frances steps up and says “This way, Mr. Atkins.” Turns out she is a councillor from Fort Frances and says she has seen my old face in the pages of Northern Ontario Business. As we walk out on the tarmac with the wind blowing and the snow flying, I notice she is wearing no socks and a pair of summer shoes. Am I being kidnapped? Does it make sense a town councillor from Fort Frances would A) know my name, and B) be walking around in summer shoes in blizzard conditions? The answer is no.

When we arrive, it is 40 below and the wind is howling.

The alleged councillor doesn’t even try to start her car. We get in the cab and head for the Rendezvous Hotel where I am to speak.

As I walk in someone hands me a bowl of soup and I sit down in a room with maybe 70 people in it.

I focus on the soup. When I look up the room is empty. I wonder if it is something I’ve said before it is time to talk. A minute later Jim Cumming, the publisher of the Fort Frances Times and my host, comes into the room and says I’m up.

I follow Jim into the next room, and sure enough there are all the people who left me alone minutes ago. I speak to them. I notice the councillor in the audience. She must be legit. Eventually, someone brings me a scotch.

Don’t you love the North?

Michael Atkins is the president of Northern Ontario Business. He can be reached at .