We were approaching a pretty big day in our household. My wife Sara was about to turn the big 4-Oh! She had been doing a pretty good job of minimizing the occasion but because she did such a great job marking my 40th birthday a few months earlier, I wanted to make sure her day was extra special too.
Traditionally I have surprised Sara on her birthday with a variety unexpected activities like tidal bore rafting on her 30th, ziplining, picnics on the beach, fine dining and chalet getaways. I have to admit, I was a little bit stressed trying to figure out how I was going to top some of our previous experiences. I pondered a variety of alternatives, all of which seemed to lack pizzazz or have some logistical challenge. Until one night… it dawned on me!
It was right under my nose the entire time and I couldn’t believe that I had not thought of it before. We live within minutes of the Debert Flight Centre. We watch planes and gliders fly over our house all the time, but had yet to experience a birds-eye view of our beautiful area of Nova Scotia. The next day I secretly sent an email to enquire about a scenic flight tour over the Minas Basin of the Bay of Fundy. Thankfully they were available! The only flaw to my plan was that I had hoped to take our son Jaden and daughter Lienna, but unfortunately the planes could only accommodate three passengers (myself, Sara and one of the kids). I briefly considered a coin toss or maybe picking a favorite (just kidding of course) but decided that it would probably be best to have both kids sit out for that part of the day. Thankfully, they were ok to let mom and dad have a mini-date without them.
We’ve had plenty of encounters exploring the Fundy coastline up close, but had never viewed it from this perspective before. I was getting increasingly excited as I hurried Sara to get ready to go. At this point she had no idea what we were doing or that the kids were not coming with us. Finally, with minutes to spare, I convinced her to hop in the car and on to our destination.
She was a bit confused as we drove the familiar territory through Debert. We approached the West Colchester Stadium where our son plays hockey and I joked that I had booked the ice for a romantic skate for two. After a good chuckle we then turned down the road to the airport and that’s when she realized what we were about to do. “Just like The Bachelor!” I exclaimed.
Sara and I have a date night tradition of watching “The Bachelor” or the “The Bachelorette” over a bucket of Haagen-Dazs on Monday nights. Of course anyone familiar with the show knows that the Bachelor or Bachelorette is trying to choose a future wife or husband from a group of 24. They go on a variety of extravagant dates like romantic plane and helicopter rides to exotic destinations. I told Sara that I chose the bigger plane so we could sit together in the back seat and hold hands and steel the occasional kiss like they do on the show. She thought that was pretty funny and chose to sit up front with our pilot Casey instead.
I am not sure about Sara, but I felt like Tom Cruise in Top Gun when I put my head set on. Because it was Sara’s birthday I figured I’d let her be “Maverick” instead (which I guess makes me her sidekick “Goose”). Movie references aside, Sara made the right choice sitting next to Casey. Shortly after takeoff Casey showed Sara how to fly the plane and before I knew it she was flying us quite competently down the coast en route to Five Islands!
I was distracted by the incredible view and quickly forgot that my life was temporarily in Sara’s hands. Quite literally, the most extreme tides in the world were right below us. The tides have carved an absolute masterpiece of shoreline here and I was compelled to take as many pictures as possible.
As we approached Economy the sandstone cliffs became increasingly dramatic, especially around Economy Point and Thomas Cove where we had picnicked last year for Sara’s birthday celebration. The 200 million year old cliffs of Five Islands Provincial Park were also coming into view. You can actually see the transition from the Triassic to Jurassic time periods recorded in the cliffs as orangey-red rocks are topped by dark basalt lava rock.
From our aerial view we could see Blomidon and Cape Split as well as Parrsboro and the beautiful “Two Islands”. The Five Islands themselves were particularly spectacular from the sky. For fun I proceeded to test our Pilot Casey on her knowledge of the local area. I suspected by her British accent that she may not be familiar with the fascinating lore related to the islands. I told her the Mi’kmaw legend of how the islands were created when the giant “Glooscap” became angry with a beaver and threw clods of earth at him as he chased him into the Bay. The clods of earth became the Five Islands. This was just one of the many Glooscap legends learned from my friends at the Millbrook Cultural and Heritage Centre over the years.
I had also learned from interpreters at the Five Islands Lighthouse Park the stories of how each island got its name. Moose is the biggest and looks like the back of a moose. Diamond is shaped like a diamond and is known for having a variety of gems and minerals around it. Long is long in shape and used to have an arch in it before it collapsed due to natural causes last year. Egg is not only shaped like an egg but is also a breeding area for birds. Pinnacle is the fifth island at the end of the series – topping them all off!
Between you and me, I was a touch relieved when Casey took back the controls from Sara as we approached our landing back in Debert. Not that she didn’t do an amazing job…I am just pretty sure the landing would require a bit more expertise than Sara’s half hour of flying experience would afford her.
We were both on a bit of a high (no pun intended) after our incredible flight and were excited to return to the kids and our Golden Retriever Quentin for the next part of our day - a picnic at Wentworth Provincial Park! Wentworth Park is one of our favorites because it’s rarely busy, it’s in a beautiful location and has a river that runs the length of the park that’s perfect for a quick dip. Quentin was especially enjoying the outing but it was soon time to pack up and return home for the final phase of my plan - a gathering with family and friends to wrap up the day!
My final surprise was a special cake. Ever since discovering her sensitivity to wheat, Sara has missed the Masstown Market’s birthday cakes – especially the icing! So I decided to make a gluten free cake at home and asked Sherry at the Market Bakery if she could decorate it with the icing that Sara loved so much. Sherry was very accommodating and agreed. She did a wonderful job and the cake ended up being a huge hit! All in all “Operation 40th B-Day” turned out to be a great success. And better yet… all was achieved with resources from our own backyard!