This will be the third time we’ve headed south for the winter; the third time we’ve packed up the car and turned the key on the front door for five months; the third time we’ve abandoned family, friends and hearth to take up new digs for the season.

The preamble to this abdication is  twofold; viz., a reflection upon the vacancy in the rearview mirror and a corresponding focus upon the ensuing rigours.  Our household insurance agent tells us that routine inspection of the premises (once every three days) is mandatory and we have thus arranged with our housekeeper to do so.  We’ll unplug almost every appliance, device and lamp.  The internet and cable TV provider has been instructed to “suspend” service during our absence. Arrangements have been made with our physicians and pharmacist to produce a 5-month supply of prescription drugs. We’ve expedited our flu shots. The Post Office has been alerted to redirect our mail. All required paperwork (passports, Nexus cards, health cards and driver’s licenses) have been renewed beyond any expiry date arising during our absence. We will initiate roaming add-ons for our respective mobile phones (and concurrently cancel existing data plans). Our Landlords have been notified; and we’ve rented our underground parking space. The necessary travel insurance is in place (pointedly observing uberrimae fidei – namely, disclosure of the latest physical conditions diagnosed by our respective physicians). For several months we have incrementally augmented our US$ account. Of course a US credit card is already in place. Insofar as possible all exigencies anticipated for my elderly mother have been attended to or arrangements made to have the staff at her retirement residence do so during our absence.


All that remains is packing.  Packing has become a relatively simple task.  The attention is upon less than more.  For one thing we take nothing of a formal or even semi-formal nature (except perhaps my Tilley Raffia hat for which I am unashamedly biased). Our wardrobe (if I may distinguish it by calling it that) is strictly casual – golf shirts, bathing suit, walking and sport shorts and deck shoes; a few sweaters, sweatpants, a windbreaker and of course smalls, undershirts and several silk scarves (for those blustery days on the beach). More important are the feather pillows and down duvet. The devices include iPhones, iPads, MacBook Pro computers and portable Bluetooth speakers (Bose and Harman Kardon). Oh, and also a scanner to deal with emails in which I throw back to the accountant our various income tax documents. I always bring more pairs of eyeglasses than I really require but I have at least learned to limit the diversity of bling to a minimum (basically what I intend to wear regularly).  I bring along two watches – one, a sport monitor (mainly for tracking my bicycling); and two, a normal watch fitted with a rubber strap for “athletic” use (appropriate to casual dress). At the moment there are scattered about our apartment many luggage bags and other containers of stuff all waiting to be loaded into the trunk of the car. We’ll perform that duty progressively over the next few days.

One notable difference this year is that I have decided to forgo bringing my electronic keyboard. I suspect there will be moments when I wish I had done so but on balance I am inclined to leave it here in situ. It would require a degree in psychiatry or psychology to decipher the mental processes which have led me to this conclusion. I may discover somewhere en route where I can exhaust my musical yearning, a lonely grand piano in some hotel or even a floor model in a music store. Until then I shall be obliged to exhaust my artistic expression through creative writing and photography.

In what is largely a “stuff-and-go” project requiring little if any engineering talent, there is however an element of discernment which attends the packing of a bag specifically for the 3-day drive to South Carolina through the Shenandoah Valley and over the Blue Ridge Mountains. The distance from here to Hilton Head Island is about 1,800 kilometres (calculated to consume 17 hours of driving in total). We stop overnight twice, once in Harrisburg, PA, then in Johnson City, Tennessee. Naturally we’re sitting in the car each of the three days so our appearance is hardly critical.  But when we finally arrive at the hotel and take a shower before going for dinner, there is a degree of concern. Plus we like to have fresh clothing for the next day.  After all, there’s breakfast and dinner to consider. In addition to the fresh clothes for the day we organize our toiletries, pills and bedtime wear (including of course slumber masks). We generally limit our computing devices to the iPhone and iPad for our overnight stops.

Central to our venture – at least from my point of view – is our automobile. Although I do “all the driving” I consider it a distinct advantage.  I wouldn’t have it any other way.  The long trip is to me like ice cream to a child – nothing but tantalizing!  Once again this year we have the benefit of a brand new car (a ceremony I repeat every September). So far there are 8,423 kilometres on the car so I have already taken it for its first scheduled maintenance.  A few days ago I had it detailed.  Last night I refilled the windshield washer fluid reservoir. One last car wash before we leave, then we’re set to go!