A Different Sort of Trip

IMG_1209It was near the end of October. For health reasons, I needed to escape our Canadian winter. Still smarting from September’s solo trip to Sedona and the Grand Canyon, I was careful to take into account that the trip I was planning was for an almost 80-year-old body and brain. Loneliness had stalked me on the first trip and, although I felt proud of myself for booking hotels, renting a car and successfully finding my destinations, that trip left me exhausted. I was still recovering from the realization that my body and brain weren’t what they used to be. This trip needed to be different.

For starters, I would not travel alone. I was going to spend the winter in Green Valley, Arizona, 2,243 miles southwest of Toronto. My friend Barb agreed to share the journey with me. We would take turns driving and I would pay our expenses and fly her back home. Sammy the poodle would come with us in the car. At the end of winter, Barb would fly back to Tucson and we’d reverse the journey through the diverse landscape of the USA.

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My friends know I lack a sense of direction. Somehow the points of the compass never got installed when the right hemisphere of my brain was forming. Barb assured me she really liked maps and planning trips. She also likes driving and road trips. We sounded like a good match: which brings me to my first piece of advice. If you’re going travelling, choose a companion whose strong points dovetail with your own deficits.

I drove to her house in Toronto from my home in Kingston and the next morning we set out on our adventure. I’d joined The Snowbirds’ Association, a move I highly recommend. Why reinvent the wheel? This association has tips for every aspect of staying out of the country for extended periods. Thanks to their advice, I was well prepared for the border crossing at Sarnia. I had a whole folder of proof I was renting a house for five months and that my dog was safe to enter their country. (U.S. customs want to make sure you don’t plan to stay in their country without paying taxes.) I rolled down the window at Customs and was met by the brown eyes and warm smile of a friendly young official. I handed him our passports. He glanced at them and maybe swiped them under a scanner. He was more interested in chatting and wishing us a great trip. I don’t think he even noticed Sammy in the back of the car.

We drove on and ended our first day near Chicago. Barb had already made the reservation. This was when we found that Best Western hotels welcome dogs for an extra twenty dollars. Sammy the Poodle was in for an extended experience in hotel living.

IMG_1209From the flat lands of Illinois to the mountains, hills and forests of Missouri and Oklahoma, we drove by endless cotton fields in Texas, then southwest through New Mexico until we finally entered Arizona. We arrived in Green Valley exactly on the eve of our November first rental.

The trip was five days and covered 2,243 miles. That means we drove 7 hours or 449 miles per day. We didn’t push it. Mornings were spent planning our route and making hotel reservations for the coming night. Midday we took time for a leisurely meal and found the local dog park for Sammy. Evenings were spent in the hotel room while we snacked on the supplies we carried with us.

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I won’t claim we weren’t tired at the end of the trip, but we enjoyed ourselves and my anxiety level was manageable.

It’s been a while since I’ve written. In my next post, I’ll tell you about life in Arizona.

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