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Kamloops News

THOMPSON: 19th Grand and Glorious Semi-Annual Adventure



As you read this, I am basking in the Florida sun. I don’t write this to piss off anyone, I’m merely grateful to be warm after my 19th Grand and Glorious Semi-Annual Adventure.

Regular readers of my column are familiar with the thrills, trials and tribulations during our comings-and-goings between horse farms in B.C. and Florida.

My wife - Bonnie - and I gave these trips the name early on…they were, indeed, grand and glorious. I’ve written about a few of the more challenging and humorous trips over the years…adventures certainly was the right term…grand and glorious slightly tongue-in-cheek. Each trip was different…and the most recent journey didn’t disappoint. It helps to have a good sense of humour and the resiliency of a door-to-door sales person to make these trips.

This was the longest trip in terms of distance…our regular 3,140-mile trip ended up being 3,574 miles. And - like almost everything else in everyone’s lives for the past 20 months - it’s COVID-19’s fault. Rather than our customary and very convenient Oroville entry into the U.S., I had to drive to Sumas…two days out of my way…as the veterinarian assigned to Oroville retired and wasn’t yet replaced.

So, our two Dutch Friesians, two Borzoi hounds and two cats and I - all boys - started the trip East…by driving four-and-a-half hours West. A U.S. veterinarian in Sumas “inspected” the boys - all but me - collected a handful of money and sent us on our way.

Bonnie, however, did not come with me to Sumas. No, she boarded a flight the next day from Kelowna to Vancouver, changed planes for a flight to Seattle, then changed planes for a flight to Spokane, where she took a $35 cab ride to a truck stop on Interstate-90 just west of Spokane to meet me…and the rest of the boys.

19th Grand and Glorious Semi-Annual Adventure
19th Grand and Glorious Semi-Annual Adventure
Image Credit: Don Thompson

We go through all of these machinations because of the pandemic…but we stubbornly refuse to give up our lifestyle for which we are truly grateful. By the way, Bonnie - 24 hours before her flight - paid $126 for an antigen test to prove her good health before flying. Both she and I have been fully vaccinated…back in February and March…in Florida. And we’ll be getting a Moderna or Pfizer booster in a couple weeks.

Of course, the border crossings today aren’t entirely about public health…Canadian or U.S. It is more politics…and perceptions. You see, Canadians cannot drive across the border…but they can fly. Canadians, as well as Americans, flying across the border have to prove they’re healthy with an approved COVID-19 test within 72 hours of flying. Americans driving across the border from Canada to the U.S. need not prove anything…neither current COVID-19 test nor proof of vaccination.

I asked a U.S. Customs and Border Patrol Officer, “How does that make sense?” He shrugged, and said, “We don’t make the laws, we just enforce them.” Canadians can cross the border in a car or truck starting Nov. 8. Canadians flying to the U.S. will still need a negative PCR or antigen test after that date, but not for crossing by land or sea.

Bonnie is coming back for Christmas on Dec. 18…and must have a negative PCR test within 72 hours of entering Canada…whether flying, driving or - heaven forbid - by sea. I will stay in Florida, taking care of the boys…horses, dogs and cats…and Zoom Christmas with the grandkids. I must admit, not enduring another pandemic border crossing and the thought of a round of golf on Christmas…well, it doesn’t suck.

Our past Grand and Glorious Semi-Annual Adventures always offered surprises…weather, mechanical issues…you name it. I prepare foods for our evening meals during the trips and re-heat them on a gas grill. You would certainly understand this if you eat much at truck stops. But I have had some strange looks tending a grill in truck stop parking lots when it’s zero degrees.

Unfortunately, this trip ended up being eight days instead of five because of our re-routing and weather…so we ended up relying on truck stop restaurants for two nights. Now, it has been a long, long time since I ate at a Denny’s. After this trip, I know why. Both truck stops - the last two days of our journey - had Denny’s restaurants…one in Missouri and one in Georgia.

Upon entering The first night’s Denny’s, we see a small sign informing us that “Due to staffing and supply-chain considerations we close in-restaurant dining at 3 P.M., effective today.” We had four choices of take-out orders…a cheeseburger, their infamous Grand Slam Breakfast, a country-fried steak and another culinary delight I cannot remember.

Bonnie chose the breakfast…which she found later came without knife, fork or spoon…and I selected the cheeseburger…which didn’t thrill me given lunch at McDonalds in two truck stops during our trip. It was, I must admit, a great burger…much better than MacDonald’s. Bonnie suffered through overcooked scrambled eggs, limp toast and bacon so thin you could see through it.

Night two in Georgia was worse…much worse. I had a steak and eggs for $16…it was awful, but Bonnie ordered Eggs Benedict, which came first with scrambled eggs and salsa. A re-order brought more scrambled eggs…hold the salsa. It looked like something our dogs wouldn’t eat…and they lick themselves.

The server - the manager - didn’t charge us for either meal…and I handed her a $5 tip for her trouble. Bonnie settled for truck stop fare…two pieces of pepperoni pizza under a heat lamp. It will be a long time - once again - before entering a Denny’s.

The next afternoon - my eighth day on the road we arrived at our farm…another Grand and Glorious Semi-Annual Adventure. Life is good.

— Don Thompson, an American awaiting Canadian citizenship, lives in Vernon and in Florida. In a career that spans more than 40 years, Don has been a working journalist, a speechwriter and the CEO of an advertising and public relations firm. A passionate and compassionate man, he loves the written word as much as fine dinners with great wines.

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