After three hectic and extremely stressful weeks back in Montreal: selling the car; selling all the furniture in the house; selling the house; dealing with documenting the boat in Canada; preparing all the things presumed needed for the boat; shovelling snow after a late but abundant snowstorm; saying goodbye to all friends and neighbors, we are ready to head back south.
My last glimpse of the house as we drive off is blurred because of my tears. The vision of Luke, our neighbor, smiling and waving at us from a window is still stuck in my mind. I cannot explain how it feels to leave home: a miniature death. Only emigrants could relate: people who have left all dear and known to them hoping for a better life, for their children, going to a faraway land, unfamiliar and uncertain. It is the second time we are emigrating…
We cross the border again. Secondary inspection as usual because of our previous immigration issues in the United States. Half an hour later we are cleared without any problems, and we spend a cold night in front of a Walmart in Plattsburg, NY. The only way to heat Baba Ganoush without having to run the generator all night is to keep the door of the propane oven open, blue fire burning inside. I can’t really sleep imagining Maya’s blanket catching on fire so I stay alert almost all night.
The next day we travel across hills covered with wet trees and snow.
When are we going to get in Summer? Maya asks. Tomorrow we will be in Spring, and the day after tomorrow we will be in Summer. But right now we are still in Winter, I explain after thinking with amazement for a few seconds about the strangeness of her question. How many kids ask questions like this with a neutral expression? But Maya and Viktor have been travelling almost all their lives in the truck with Ivo and me, across changing landscapes and climates. We would get from Montreal to Los Angles in 45 hours. We would make sand sculptures in May at Folly Beach, South Carolina on the Atlantic Ocean, and three days later we would spend an afternoon in the waves of the Pacific Ocean in California. We would drive slowly on snow covered roads in Michigan one day, and with full speed across a burning desert populated by giant saguaro cactuses in Arizona the next.
So Maya just wants to make sure.
We are heading towards Key West, the southernmost point of Florida. From Montreal , it will take us three or four days to get there with Baba Ganoush, only Ivo driving during the day, sleeping at rest areas during the night. It is the end of March and convoys of Snowbirds (retired Quebecois couples with big campers like busses who spend up to six months per year in Florida’s campgrounds escaping the Canadian winter) are reluctantly heading back north in impressive flocks of ten to twenty vehicles. They look with disbelief at Baba Ganoush who is peacefully flying south with 50 mi/hr. Tabarnak, they are murmuring, unhappy with the situation, cold and snow everywhere. It almost feels as if we are doing something wrong, going the wrong direction: disoriented Snowbirds. But sure enough, as I promised Maya, we get to Summer in four days and just in time for Easter at Oceanside Marina, Key West where we have to sign some more papers with our broker.
Here, we get invited to a Bar-B-Q Easter party at the docks; we make many new friends all living on sailboats, all full of stories; we snorkel next to the boats; a group of about six-seven manatees with two babies lazily pass by us in the water; I get frightened by a huge tarpon fish who swims under me going somewhere as I am looking through the goggles someone lent me at a school of groupers eating barnacles from the pier; a guy teaches Ivo how to lobster-dive and catch lobsters around the docks with a stick and a small net with a handle (it’s the last day of lobster season); they catch a dozen lobsters and we grill them and eat them (these are some weird lobsters with no claws, resembling more gigantic shrimps, the size of a lobster); besides the lobsters, there is ham cooked on the grill in foil with maple syrup, salads, beans, and mashed potatoes; there are six different kinds of pies for desert, my favorite (key lime pie) among them; there is reggae music of course; and there are two coolers full of beer and rum. And that is pretty much how we spend our first day in Key West, still having the fresh memory of snow. It feels so weird.
Tomorrow, we are going at the 3D boatyard where our broker Vanessa will bring our boat and we will start moving aboard.