Escaping the Ottawa winter of 2014 With cries of “ENOUGH ALREADY”, I found myself finishing off the month of March with a snow shovel in my hand, once again valiantly heaving shovelful after shovelful of that darned white stuff (SNOW!!!) of to the side of the driveway. Only days earlier, another blast of winter had deposited a fresh white coating a few inches thick over our front yard and everything else. Looked really pretty, but meant more shovelling and I was getting tired of winter clothing and shovelling. Now, it was finally time to head off on that winter vacation to Florida that had been postponed many times for various reasons.
Our plan was simple, drive south on the 416 to Ogdensburg, cross the border at that point, slant over to Interstate 81 and then head south on I-81 as far as it would take us. Plan worked great. By the time that we crossed the St. Lawrence River, the amount of snow beside the highway had diminished and we knew instinctively that it wouldn’t be too long before snow would be just a memory. Every winter, Canadians head south for relaxation and to get a bit of winter warmth. Collectively, they are known as “snowbirds” but, since we were driving, not flying, “snowbirds” wasn’t a perfect fit but, this trip, we had no objections to that concept.
The last time that I crossed the Canada/US border was in February when I was hauling three kayaks back to Vancouver from the Grand Canyon. Usually, I don’t get slowed down at the border. A few questions get asked, I provide simple answers and off I go. The February crossing was a bit more dramatic as the border agents decided that they would like to pull me aside to “inspect” what I was carrying in the truck. This time around, we were driving our Volvo C70 convertible with its limited trunk space completely filled with luggage, two golf bags, my camera equipment and, as an added feature, my Martin Backpacker guitar. My wife was driving when we reached the border so she got to answer the questions. “Where are you from?”, “Where are you going?”, “How long?”, etc. Then there was that moment of silence before “Pop the trunk”. After the February truck search incident, that delayed that trip by an hour, all I could envision was the task ahead of taking everything out of that tightly packed Volvo trunk space so that the Customs agent could check to see that nothing untoward was packed in the golf bags squeezed tightly into the furthermost depth of that trunk. The trunk was opened, the agent took a quick look and closed the trunk. A sigh of relief from my side of the car. Then, the agent asked my wife to open the trunk again. “Oh no, what now?”, I thought. Just wanted to check that it had closed properly the first time! That was a relief. No long process of unpacking and repacking would be needed. A few minutes more and we were on our way again.
Temperature about 0C (+32F).
As we drove along, we could see many birch trees bent over from the experience of being heavily laden with ice from a freezing rain storm that had passed through the area only days earlier. Many trees had the far worse fate of breaking rather than bending and broken tree branches littered the ditches in some locations. The roads were clear though as we drove to our first night’s destination and indulged in some MacDonald’s fries. Not a gourmet meal LOL) but the two large fries for $3.33 special was the perfect treat, especially since it was the only eating establishment in easy walking distance from our hotel.
The next morning, we crossed over into Pennsylvania with me doing the driving. At almost precisely 9:30AM, we switched drivers just as it began to rain. When driving in winter months and early Spring, rain is always better than snow or freezing rain so we weren’t complaining.
As the day progressed, the temperature slowly rose. By the time that we stopped for a break we were enjoying more pleasant +50F temperatures and wife enjoyed her pot of tea. (Bigelow’s spiced orange tea in Carlisle, Pennsylvania at Kimberley’s cafe – a nice place to stop for a quick bite to eat)
Our destination for the day’s travels was Charlotte, North Carolina so once we had stopped for our lunch break in Carlisle, PA, we were on our way again. Our travels would take us briefly into Maryland and West Virginia, though Virginia and then into North Carolina. Our trip options for this leg of the trip were I-81 or I-95 and we chose to follow I-81 to avoid the heavy traffic loads of the Washington area. As we travelled south along I-81, the temperatures continued to rise, the grass continued to get greener and by the time that we got into the valleys of Virginia and West Virginia, Spring flowers were beginning to appear and flowering fruit trees dotted the landscape and the edges of the roadway forests. Temperatures were in the low 80’s by the time that we turned south onto I-77. We left the I-81 near and headed south along the I-77. This section of the road took us to higher elevations and as we climbed the temperature dropped into the low 70’s. Definitely not unpleasant, but Spring was not as far advanced in these areas and the trees hadn’t begun to flower yet. We reached our destination of Charlotte, NC that evening and we were able to walk outside in high 70’s temperatures surrounded by green grass and flowering fruit trees. Definitely different than the snow-covered lawns we had left behind only a day and a half ago.