23.08.10 Homeward Bound

And so began the final day of the tour. Heavy rain during the night had not dampened spirits and the sense of euphoria from winning the America Match still lingered, though so too did slightly thick heads for some. Order of the day: packing, cleaning and preparing for the return flight.

Rifles and bags were packed and weighed, with most puzzling over how their bags now weighed more than they did on the outward journey, despite having disposed of a large number of team brochures. Eventually rifles and bags were relocated to a few rooms for temporary storage and a party departed for the range to finish storing all the team kit for use by future visiting teams. David Rose, a member of next year’s team, took the opportunity to make a full inventory of the items, ranging from the fridge, cool boxes, gazebo, flag poles and coaching chairs down to paper napkins and the ever popular Scrabble board.

After packing and stacking the items on pallets to be taken away for storage for another year, one final duty remained, for the team Captain to nail pair of her favourite old shooting shoes to the shoe tree, a tradition dating back through the annals of time. An article about this venerable tradition appears in an earlier NRA Journal (probably also lost in the annals of time, unless some kind reader can point us to it). Needless to say, Jane’s rather elegant pair of white shoes make a notable change from the usual tatty old brown range shoes and trainers. See KittyCam for a video of the ceremony.

Duties completed and goodbyes said, we departed from the Connaught Ranges for the last time on this tour in glorious sunshine and blue skies (a complete contrast to the local forecast for rain all day), carrying with us many happy memories of our successes.

With four hours to kill before we needed to load the vans and depart for the airport, some team members opted to stay at the hotel. Others headed off into Ottawa for some last minute shopping (quite ignoring the fact that they were already over their weight limit for baggage). The Captain lead a small select group across the river into Gatineau Park for a drive up into the Gatineau hills with views over Ottawa, Connaught Ranges and the Ottawa River valley, as well as several scenic lakes (the Pink Lake is actually green!).  The name derives from the people who lived nearby and the colour derives from an annual algal bloom). The main attraction though, at least as far as the Main Coach was concerned, was a stop for tea and some rather delicious ice creams at a place the Captain had found on a previous visit.

The team reassembled and by dint of some ingenious packing, managed to get all the rifles and 4 people in one (heavily laden) van, and all the baggage and two people in another, with 7 in each of the remaining two vans. In case anyone is concerned that this leaves one team member unaccounted for, Dom had to stay in Ottawa for an extra day to make a presentation to the Canadian Government, so we said our goodbyes to him and headed for the airport.

Check-in was confused – just insert these pink forms with Bruce Roth’s signature in each rifle box – no we need each rifle case to be checked in by each individual – but half of us have already checked in without them – as your rifle cases have been checked in individually the pink form needs the individual’s signature on it – . . . The Vice Captain proved a master of magic by making everyone’s pink form disappear into their rifle box without opening the box, with the assistance of no more than sleight of hand and a long key.

At least we didn’t have to open any of the rifle boxes, although the memento pewter coasters presented at the Homestead range caused a bit of a stir as the rifle boxes were being x-rayed, until an example was produced to allay concerns.

Being a late flight (2245 local time), all of the airport shops and bars were closed. The team consoled themselves with their last fix of Canadian junk food from the Harveys burger outlet (the second of the day for some).

The homeward flight was particularly uneventful, especially so as the on board entertainment system refused to work for the entire flight. After the meal and free drink, the exhausted team (one of whom so tired that he attempted to drink his gin & tonic without adding the tonic) endeavoured to sleep. Within no time at all, we were awoken to land at Heathrow.

In quick order luggage was collected, formalities were completed, the bus was loaded and in less than two hours from landing we were all back at Bisley to a select welcoming committee of David Hossack and Pearl Townsend. With soup and sandwich from the Surrey for sustenance, the team dispersed back to normality after a final word from the Team Captain. And so ended a successful and memorable tour.