You know, for the past five winters I have been going South. Actually it’s six winters if you count 2007-2008 which was only for three months. Arizona has become a part of my life now and in the winter time I just can’t think of a better place to be.
Come late October or early November we prepare the house and our affairs, get the mail re-routed and get everything that will need done taken care of before heading south. Then it’s into the car, which always seems to be loaded to the hilt, and down the road we go.
Most years we have stopped in Calgary to see the our daughter and grand kids. After a few days there and as the weather starts to chill and you can see your breath, we are on the road again. Down through Lethbridge, past Great Falls Montana and deep into Idaho before calling it a night in Pocatello Idaho. Some years we have gone further but this is where we usually hang our hat on the first night.
After a second long day of diving we may stay in Mesquite Nevada or Nephi Utah, it all depends on how we feel at the time. Some days we like to drive, drive, drive, other days we take it easy. We have all winter to get there and back. So where we stay on the way down and back isn’t that important to us.
As you enter Arizona you notice the distinct change to the landscape. The rough South Western look of the desert and the rolling hills takes on its own beauty. Turning a corner you expect to see John Wayne come riding out of the pass chasing bad guys. As you get a little deeper into the state you see the Joshua trees, the cactus and finally the Saguaro. You know then you are almost there.
The last leg of the road for us is from Wickenburg, south on US 60 which takes you right into Phoenix. As you drive along you watch the temperature outside climb. Up and up it goes. When it reaches around 27 Celsius or 80 Ferenheit you roll down the window and stick your arm out. The warmth is like a summer evening and warms you instantly. You made it to The Valley of the Sun once more. Another snowbird has arrived.
Spending the winter in Arizona has a lot of advantages, best of all though is the weather. No snow to shovel, always wearing light clothing and all but a few days are sunshine. Bar-B-Qs and dinner with neighbours and friends from back home make the winter pass quickly and most enjoyably. The time goes quickly. Visitors come to see what it’s all about, you take side trips to Sedona and Mexico, Yuma and Tombstone, and then Spring is in the air and it is time to head home.
After putting our Arizona home to bed and arranging everything that needs taken care of down there, it’s once again into the car and headed home. We have a few different routes we take going home. It depends on where we are going. If we are going straight home we may take 93 up through Ely Nevada and I-84 to Kennewick Washington, through the Okanogan and home. Other times its up I-15 then West at Butte Montana onto I-90 to Spokane and up through Grand Forks, Kelowna and home.
The part of the trip I enjoy the most is when we arrive at the Canadian border. After the usuall questions from the Border Guard about what are bringing into the country and how long you have been gone, I just love it when He or She says ” Thank you Sir. Welcome Home”.
While there are plenty of perks while in the US, shopping, sight seeing and the general lower cost of living, there is a feeling that you get once you cross back into Canada that you just can’t get anywhere else. A sense of being home.
You have to leave Canada and return to get that feeling. It is a sense of less stress, slower pace, more smiles. While there may not be the selection in the grocery stores in Canada that you have on the US. there isn’t the stress of having to decide what brand, flavour, colour or size you want.
In Canada you don’t expect anyone to be carrying a firearm except the police. In the US virtually everyone has the right to bear arms, so you just never know who is “carrying” and who isn’t.
As we drive up the Okanagan, through Salmon Arm and into Blind Bay the feeling gets a little stronger with each passing mile. In another six months we will be looking South, packing the car and doing it all over again. But for now it sure is good to be home.