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Kamloops News

THOMPSON: Hunkered down in Florida awaiting the Grand and Glorious Semi-Annual Adventure

April 06, 2020 - 12:00 PM



With all the preparation of an assault on Mount Everest, Bonnie and I started planning and pulling together provisions for the 3,140-mile trip from our horse farm in Florida to the farm in Vernon.

Currently, we are hunkered down in Florida…seeing virtually no one face-to-face…going to the grocery store infrequently…and then shopping with gloves and wiping down things we buy when we return home.

We’re staying in place because it is the safest choice in every respect…weather is always a threat for road travel this time of year. Spring brings unpredictable snow…we once spent 13 days waylaid in Council Bluffs, IA waiting for the worst blizzard in more than 100 years to clear. Spring also brings flooding and tornadoes across many of the 17 states we traverse.

Now, of course, there’s the threat of the coronavirus pandemic…with an upward trajectory worse than what China, Italy, Iran or any other country faced. This will be our sixteenth one-way trip, but it won’t be like any other. We have always called our trips north or south the Grand and Glorious Semi-Annual Adventure…we’ve faced bad weather, floods, catastrophic fuel pump failures (never liked the sound of that one), flat tires…but this is our first pandemic.

When we depart…sometime later this month…we’ll be prepared for delays based on weather and the pandemic. We know it will take at least five days…maybe more. One of the many unknowns is whether one or more states will shut its borders to non-commercial traffic. Governors have lots of latitude…and we might have to deal with the considerations and political machinations of 17 of these elected officials en route.

The biggest fear - once we start the trip - is that something changes…and we find ourselves in our Ford F-350 towing a 48-foot horse trailer with two horses, two Russian Wolf Hounds and two pissed-off cats…seeking a new Northwest Passage. Central to that fear is the reality that somehow - despite our paranoid care in the last month - we might fall ill during the trip.

So, we’re planning as best we can. We’ve ordered a 10-inch foam queen-size bed for the upper shelf of the horse trailer tack room…along with a portable toilet…which Amazon says we’ll have this week. We normally stay in hotels…but we’ll further limit exposure by staying overnight in truck stops…where we fill up with diesel.

We will take all of our food…a combination of fresh and frozen items with dry ice…and use a portable gas grill as we overnight in truck stops. It might not be Michelin Star ambience…but we’ll dine sufficiently. We have a couple of director’s chairs so, envision us sitting on black asphalt in a truck stop flipping burgers and drinking…much like Randy Quaid’s character Cousin Eddie in “Vacation.”

Honestly, we don’t know what we will face…or even when we’ll actually leave Florida. Everything can change overnight…the nature of a pandemic…it’s a worldwide emergency. But whatever happens…we’ll try our best to get through it. We’ve persevered in previous trips…two separate emergency room visits, a two-week snow delay, flooded roads, three flat tires, losing an entire wheel, being chased by state officials for not stopping at an agricultural and animal inspection station, a dog with explosive diarrhea…a runaway dog, well, you get the picture.

Then, of course, we’ll arrive in Vernon and quarantine ourselves for 14 days. Even then, depending how things are going in Vernon and British Columbia and Canada…we’ll likely have no access to children, grandchildren and friends. Yes, there’s nothing convenient about this pandemic…but our sacrifices pale in comparison with those of our parents and grandparents. They made it through two wars that killed more more than 100,000 Canadians and more than 500,000 Americans last century.

When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, the United States was still recovering from the Great Depression. Unemployment was above 20 percent, bankruptcies were common, and the standard of living for most Americans was 60 percent lower than before the stock market crash of 1929. Everything was rationed by 1944…gasoline, butter, sugar,  bacon (that’s when it got serious!)…all but fruits and vegetables.

Canadians faced rationing, too, not just bacon…but all meat. An adult Canadian was allowed one cup of sugar a week…about what one person consumes in two days now. Yes, our parents or grandparents were the Greatest Generation…and if they could suffer through all that…we can sacrifice now to beat coronavirus. Hell, it’s obvious…this won’t be short or easy. But, we’ll make it.

And I know one other truth…we are all in this together. Maybe having everything to lose will make us appreciate better times when we see them once again.

— 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. His essays are a blend of news reporting and opinion.

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