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Kamloops News

THOMPSON: The Grand and Glorious Semi-Annual Adventure

October 19, 2020 - 12:00 PM

I am starting this column on Thanksgiving Day. Tomorrow traditionally marks the beginning of the Grand and Glorious Semi-Annual Adventure...a 5,000-kilometre road trip from Vernon to Florida with my wife, Bonnie, two Friesian, our two Russian Wolfhounds and two cats.

Of course, this is 2020...which if I’m any judge of years...means our trip isn’t going to be easy. This is our 17th diagonal traverse across America. The COVID-19 pandemic is touching all our lives in very real and often disturbing ways...disrupting family get-togethers...throwing a major wrench in the way kids go to school...the way we all work...killing people. So, there are a few new wrinkles in our road trip.

Meanwhile, we all seem to be waiting for the other shoe to drop with this pandemic...when and where and how does it hit...and will it have the ferocity here that it has in so many places worldwide? We already miss our kids and grandkids...but FaceTime and Zoom have become not-nearly-as-good-but-better-than-nothing in sharing their lives.

Like so many people, we isolated since arriving in Vernon from Florida last Spring. Our social “bubble” seems smaller than the bead of a fine Champagne...and it won’t get any better when we arrive back in Florida.

The biggest reason for heading to Florida is - no surprise - the weather.  We’ll be back in April...and we’re always as happy to arrive in Vernon as Florida. Our happiness seems highly correlated to the number of days we spend in weather above 10 degrees...and pandemic notwithstanding...we’ve both had pneumonia in recent years.

No complaints...indeed, we are fortunate to live where we want...when we want. Life is good.

That said, this pandemic is doing its best to make us appreciate better times. Of course, border crossings...even at their best...are no more fun than a trip to the proctologist. Early this morning - remember I’m writing this on Thanksgiving - I dropped my beautiful wife off at Kelowna International Airport for her 9-hour flight to first Vancouver, then Seattle, then Spokane.

It is - by the way - only a six-hour drive from Vernon to Spokane. She - being Canadian - can fly into the United States with absolutely no hitches. However, she and most any other Canadian cannot drive across the border. No one - American or Canadian - has satisfactorily explained why you can do one and not the other. But it is the U.S....and it’s 2020.

So, the day after Thanksgiving, I wrangled horses, dogs, cats...in heavy early-morning rain...loaded food for our trip south in coolers, along with a grill/stove, clothing and various items we take back and forth. While loading Pasha, our 105-pound Russian Wolf Hound, he pulled me off my feet and dragged me...a skinned knee through my jeans and bruises I didn’t need.

Our horse trailer’s tack room has been re-purposed...compete with a rear-deck boat ladder to reach our 10-inch foam mattress in a crawl space four feet above the floor. We are both in our 70s...and can still do this ladder thing...but In ten years I envision some kind of trampoline or catapult...and that worries me some.

I went through the border fairly quickly...no waiting because - again - virtually no Canadian is entering the U.S. I declared a bottle of Hendricks Gin...which was stolen while I was busy in the men’s room or processing paperwork with the vet. Quite frankly, I hope the gun-toting, badge-wearing son-of-a-bitch chokes when he drinks it.

Bonnie said I should call the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol in Osoyoos and complain. I love this about Bonnie...that she believes in justice and fairness. I on the other hand see that phone call going something like this:

Border Patrol: “Hello.”
Me: “Hi, when I came through the border someone stole my bottle of gin.”
Border Patrol:  “Wasn’t us!”
Me. “Really?”
Border Patrol: “What’s your name?”
Me: “What’s yours?”
Border Patrol: “I need your name?”
Me: “Why?”
Border Patrol: “So we can bully you next time!”

Of course, Bonnie didn’t fare much better with U.S. officers in Vancouver the day before.

They stamped her passport...telling her she must be back in Canada by April 12...six months.

The actual rule, however, is six months - 183 days - in a calendar year. Sadly, my experience is the officers don’t know the laws...not even close...but they wear badges and guns...and know how to bully. Of course, I’m preaching to the choir...everyone reading this knows the truth.

My first day of travel didn’t get any better when during the pouring rain I clipped my head on the horse trailer frame while waiting for the vet inspection at the border. My hoodie obscured my vision...though saved me stitches. I now have a three-inch gash in my hairline that looks more like blunt trauma.

My long day didn’t improve as I crossed the narrow bridge at Grand Coulee Dam. After making a right-angle right turn onto the bridge with my truck and trailer - 63-feet in length - an extra- wide load truck entered from the other side. So, I backed up off the bridge nearly 50 metres...giving way to an even larger vehicle.

I picked up Bonnie in Spokane and we stayed in a truck stop there the first night...recovering from the terrible, horrible, no-good day. That’s what we did the remainder of the trip, stay in truck stops overnight...buying diesel and provisions...walking dogs and mucking horse stalls twice a day. There is a new flush-toilet on board this year because I discovered last Spring that getting dressed then walking farther than I can hit a golf ball with a five-iron at 10 P.M...in the rain or snow...to use the truck stop men’s room...well, it just wasn’t fun.

As we approached Kansas City, we hoped for our first decent weather...freezing the first three nights with 40-mph winds that followed us from the border. My turn to take the wheel...then another truck stop...grilling a gourmet meal...and a relaxing Gin and tonic before bedtime at 9 p.m. Oh, yeah, Bonnie found another bottle of Hendricks Gin at a liquor store in Sheridan, Wyoming. Another perfect Grand and Glorious Semi-Annual Adventure!

— 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.

News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2020
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