Many years ago, when my wife and I were still just editor and author, and early in the process of building a friendship, I offhandedly mentioned that I couldn’t imagine ever living anywhere that wasn’t Canada. It was true. I simply couldn’t envisage any circumstances that would lure me away from my family, friends, and the country I am proud to call home. No doubt at that point, raucous laughter rocked the halls of heaven, because the circumstances I couldn’t even imagine, came to pass. I fell deeply in love with an American who lived over four thousand kilometres away in Atlanta, Georgia. Since that naive assertion crumbled when faced with the power of the heart, I’ve been through three vehicles, three passports, multiple sets of tires, innumerable litres of gasoline, and covered more miles than I can count living the nomadic life between Alberta and Georgia. By the time this blog is posted, I will have completed my annual fall migration, one of my most, and least favourite requisites for our being together.
I’ve made the drive across the Canadian prairies, down through the American Midwest and southeast to Georgia so many times, that I could do it with my eyes closed, which is probably not a reassuring prospect to drivers sharing the highways and byways along my route. This year I’ll be back with my wife in our Southern home, relieved that I arrived too late to suffer prolonged exposure to the pre-midterm political advertising. I’ll be grateful that I left just in time to outrace the polar vortex as it sweeps from Alaska, through Alberta, and down to the southeastern states where I’ll spend the next five months. Since we’ll be on the leading edge of that front as we drive south, no doubt friends in Georgia will blame me for bringing the cold with me, as if I’d packed it into the overly crowded trunk of my car. That’s okay. Every time Atlanta stations predict Arctic blasts or Alberta Clippers, my wife raises one eloquent—and mildly accusatory eyebrow at me. I’m not sure how I became responsible for continental weather patterns, but since I’ll be evading the ice and snow that descended on my home just days after I left, I’m okay with the occasional glance of aspersion.
My journey south is a time of mixed emotions—great joy that I shall soon be reunited with my wife, but also a touch of sadness as I leave my Canadian family and friends until spring. The trip itself is always a mixed bag of the familiar and the unusual. I greatly enjoy the massive flocks of Canada geese that fly overhead as my migratory ritual matches theirs, but this year my departure was three weeks later than usual, and I missed my customary companions. I did see hundreds of snow geese on the lakes and fields of Saskatchewan, as well as a flock of swans that had staked out a nearby watering hole. In Minnesota I drove past a field full of wild turkeys feasting on the stubble in the wake of a farmer as he cleared his corn fields and a kamikaze grouse who flew so close to the front of my car, I could’ve counted his feathers if I hadn’t been busy ducking.
Mostly though, I like the long, peaceful hours broken only by the occasional tumbleweed that bounces across my path. I’m a fan of satellite radio news programs, and in the past have listened en route to breaking coverage of events such as the Boston bombing and SCOTUS’ Hobby Lobby decision. This year I was driven to eschew my usual news analysis by the aftermath of the GOP midterms sweep. There’s only so much a moderate small ‘l’ liberal can take, so I listened to much more music on this trip. With my cognitive processes less engaged than usual, I took note of a lone buffalo grazing in an Alberta field, hardy campers braving the late Canadian fall in a tiny Saskatchewan campground, and a train over two kilometres long heading for the border and pulled by both Canadian Pacific and Union Pacific engines, industrious evidence of long-standing ties between our countries. Fields of dead sunflowers stark against a grey, lowering North Dakota sky evoked spectral soldiers, and, in silent salute, I touched the Remembrance Day poppy pinned to my collar.
Travelling isn’t an unalloyed pleasure. I grow weary of the long hours behind the wheel, the noisy hotel rooms with beds like concrete, and the pronounced absence of healthy meals as I grab whatever’s fast and will get me back on the road. But my wife flies up to meet me near the halfway point so we can complete the drive together. And the moment she walks through the airport security door, with that beautiful smile I love so much and her eyes shining at the sight of me, it’s all worth it. We still have a long way to go, but we’ll cover those miles together. And that is the sweetest part of my annual migration.
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