Or – How To Fly South The Unconventional Way

Some of you might have noticed our absence (Jan and Simon) for the past few days. Well the answer is, we have decided to participate in the great Canadian tradition of Snowbirding. For those of you not familiar with the term it is what older, generally retired Canadians do when the snow flys in winter, they head for warmer climes, just like our feathered friends. Jan and I are not retired (although for the amount of useful work we do, we might as well be)!

Of course with the Barrett’s creativity genes working overtime, this was going to be no regular Snowbirding adventure, lets face it anyone can buy a $250,000 Airstream and drive it down to Florida. Where is the challenge in that?

The first mission in our mind was to try and secure a place to sleep in. This seemed like an impossible task. But Jan has a great family and it turned out that one of her brothers has and older 30ft trailer that he doesn’t use, and another of her brothers has plenty of space where it can be parked. Better still, all of the hookups for it are in place. Even the Internet, but more on that later.

Our next challenge was how to move ‘stuff’ from Calgary Alberta to the heart of the deep south. We flirted with using a moving company, but because they wanted an arm and a leg, plus the damn customs people require an act of congress to move anything other than the occasional birthday card to your aging aunt we looked elsewhere. I toyed with UPS but their rates were outrageous, our entire budget would have been blown just in shipping our computers. In the end we opted for the good old Canada Post/ US Post system. You can ship quite a lot of stuff for not an unreasonable amount. The benchmark I used was an 18x18x18 box that weighs 50lbs, the cost is about $75. That might sound a expensive, but you can get a surprising amount of ‘stuff’ in a box that size. So $350 in stamps later we had our ‘stuff’ ready to go.

Of course everyone has their own idea of what constitutes required Household Goods, for us it mainly revolves around computer oriented stuff. Three computers (guts only we ditched the cases, you can pick up a new case for $25, which is less than you would pay to send your existing piece of junk), An aging IBM Thinkpad, and our ‘sound system’ (The Somoro Cubo Alarm Clock/radio). We dumped the monitors, you can pick up used monitors for the price of a 6 pack of beer, everyone has moved to the LCd world, so monitors are everywhere.

I did pack a couple of keyboards, and a few mice, although in retrospect I suspect it would have been cheaper to replace them.

Not knowing what the Internet situation was going to be, I threw in a hub, a router, actually two, and an assortment of cat 5 patch cables.

As an afterthought Jan decided that we needed a few things that genuinely did constitute as household goods, bedding etc, we were all set.

The next problem to solve was how to get ourselves down south. Most people would take the wimpy route and jump on an airplane. But where is the challenge in handing over $1,200 and getting to your destination in 6 or 7 hours? We wanted to try something different. Cruising around the Internet we hit on the idea of Greyhound buses. For $350 we could get two tickets and really get to see the country.

What great value! $350 and you get 4 or 5 days of entertainment!

The pitfall of using the mail service for shipping was going to be the amount of time it take, something like 11 business days. This was way too long, a backup plan was needed. Clearly being offline for two weeks was not going to work for us. My solution? In a word – Carry on baggage!

Our emergency equipment consists of two aging but very light laptops running Linux, a DSL modem, two wired routers, a wireless router, a hub, a 300 foot cat 5 patch cable, various other sundry bits and pieces. Oh, and for writing articles on the road, an AlphaSmart Neo, this is basically a lightweight word processor that takes 3 AAA batteries that last hundreds of hours, and has a USB hook up system for uploading to a PC. In fact I am writing this article on my Neo while sat on a Greyhound bus traveling at 70mph somewhere in Mississippi.

Stay tuned for Part two of this article, I’ll take you on the adventure of a lifetime! The quest is to spend four days on the bus, crossing three Canadian provinces, and seven US states.

Simon Barrett


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