Snowbirds take off

We left the house by 5:30am. Dragged the garbage to the street — the neighbours will look after our house again this winter. I left the water main on — unfortunately the Krentz boys will be in our house this coming week to fix the water issue under the sunroom, so Nathan will close down the water once they are done.

We have a long day of driving ahead of us: We want to get to Gold Canyon by Wednesday afternoon so we can make it for a planned BBQ with the Bishops at the house we’ve rented in Gold Canyon. The Bishops are leaving for home on Thursday so that is when we will take possession of their house. We’ve pre-booked our hotels for the next 3 nights (something we NEVER do!). We have 13 hours to get to North Platte, Nebraska tonight. Then another 9.5 hours to Albuquerque, New Mexico for night number 2. Then 6.5 hours to the Best Western in Gold Canyon, Arizona.

This whole business of renting a house from the Bishops has a back story as well. We had actually planned to go to Texas for our winter get-away this year. Then Jill approached us and offered her house in Gold Canyon to us for Nov-January. Too good a deal to pass up. So we agreed. Our kids booked Allegiant Air tickets so they could join us here for their 2-week Christmas break. We were all looking forward to it. The Driedgers would be in Gold Canyon in their own rented home for January and February. Ed and Val would be at their Gold Canyon home for a month in mid-November and again in February. We would try to find a second Phoenix-area location for February and March, and we hoped there might even be a possibility of Jill’s house being available for those months. All set. And then we left for a month-long bicycle trip along the Danube with our friends Ed and Millie. We were set to return home on October 9, have 3 weeks to get ready for 5 months in Arizona, beginning November 1.

We were one week into our cycling trip when we got an email from Jill: “Due to our own requirements we will NOT be renting out our home this winter. Sorry for any inconvenience this may have caused.” What?!? I fired an email right back: “Yes, this is VERY inconvenient! What happened? Any suggestions? Any chance we can at least have your place for November while we try to find an alternative?” No reply. What have we done? What has happened? And now we’re in another timezone, pedalling our bikes all day every day, and sketchy internet access at best in the little ‘gasthauses’ we stay at each night. NINE days later we finally get another email from Jill. “Due to our own requirements we will NOT be renting out our home this winter. No, I do not know of any other rental possibilities for you. Sorry for any inconvenience this may have caused.” That was it. Well, we could only imagine what circumstances might have changed our relationship so quickly. And now we are screwed. We can’t find anything while we’re on the bike trip, so we’ll have to scramble once we get home — maybe even just drive down to Phoenix and stay in a hotel while we look for something. Our kids have booked their flights to Mesa — we pretty much have to have something in that area that will work for us at Christmas.

And then one night, while searching kijiji using my phone and another poor internet connection in an Austrian hotel, I found the posting for the Bishops’ home in Gold Canyon. I sent an email to them: “Very interested. Two seniors, very neat, like to cycle, golf, and go for walks.” And they responded that they too were currently in Europe, but we should call them when we got home. Which we did. And we met them at their home in Winnipeg!! and made the deal.

So it’s early morning as we leave Steinbach. Well, not as early as we had thought — for the past couple of weeks Sue and I have been waking up at around 3am — the effects of jetlag from our Danube cycling trip. But THIS morning we need our alarm to wake us up at 4:30. Our ‘new’ Honda van was packed to the gills — we’ve NEVER taken this much stuff with us before. But as we headed down Hwy 59 I was pleased to note that there was no clanking and rattling behind me. We were watching our ‘new’ built-in Honda GPS as we took the turnoff to Hwy 23 to Morris. Oh, oh. Detour. Oh no! now had to drive a gravel road back up to Aubigny, then cross the Red River, and back down on the 75 through Morris. An hour wasted and we weren’t even across the border. At the border I expected at least a bit of a wait, enough for me to swap my MTS SIM card out of my phone and put in my new Roam-Mobility ‘Snowbird Plan’ SIM card. But no, there’s no wait. Partially dismantled phone in hand, I pull up to the customs gate. “When is the last time either of you have been arrested?” What? “How much cash do you have? Any fruits or vegetables?” None. “None?” Oh wait, we have a couple of oranges and bananas. Unimpressed look on the agent’s face. “Any rice?” Oh, oh. We’ve been here before. Yes, a small bag of basmati rice. “Pull up to gate number 4. The inspector there will return your passports to you.” I pull into the garage, phone in hand. The inspector tells us to open the tailgate and get out of the van. He looks at me holding my phone in my hand and asks, accusingly, “Are you recording this?” I sheepishly put my phone and open SIM card tray back on the console of the van. So once again, Sue and I are sitting in a small closed-off room while a customs inspector rummages through my carefully-packed (and I mean PACKED) van. Nice way to start off a long day of driving! Finally, rice-less, we continue on our way.

We stopped for gas and a McDonald’s “breakfast” in Fargo. Weather was cold but the roads were great. After breakfast Sue took a turn at the wheel. Good thing, too, because around that time I had a serious nosebleed. Wouldn’t stop. Big wads of blood-soaked paper towel in the empty chip bag on the floor. Don’t know how this will turn out — hopefully I don’t have to go to the doctor and get a blood vessel cauterized. After a late, late lunch, I returned to the driver’s seat. We drove across South Dakota, and turned south, squinting into the setting sun before arriving at our hotel in North Platte after dark. Didn’t even check in — just registered and then headed straight for an Applebee’s to watch Monday Night Football. Saw opening kickoff and ordered our supper. The game was a terrible disappointment — my Giants (3-5) played horribly and lost 40-24 to the Colts (6-3). By halftime we had seen enough and headed back to our hotel. Watched the rest of the game and then fell asleep and slept well. It had been a long and tiring Day One of this trip.