The 1997 Blizzard of the Century

Blizzard that led to Flood of the Century started this day ...

I am installing a new solid state drive in my aging slow computer and in preparation I have been going through old archives and deleting stuff. I came across this piece I wrote back in April 1997, the year of the great flood of the Red River. Before the flood a huge blizzard, a monster Colorado Low broke all previous records for heavy snowfall and contributed greatly to the Flood of the Century. Grand Forks North Dakota flooded that year and then the downtown burned to the core and much of Fargo North Dakota was flooded as well. Winnipeg escaped flooding but it was perilously close. Here are my journal notes about the great blizzard of 1997.

The 1997 Blizzard of the Century

April 5th marked the beginning of the arrival of the blizzard of the century. By the time this one was over we had broken many of the old records. Most snowfall for a blizzard (43.8 cm of water in total equaling much more in terms of actual snowfall. ) Longest period of zero visibility at the Winnipeg International Airport (24.8 hours). Highest recorded wind velocity for a period with snowfall since 1965. Environment Canada warnings went out Friday and having lived through enough of these, when I heard the term “Colorado low” I knew we were in for it. When a “clipper” blizzard comes from Alberta it’s fast windy and over in a few hours. When one of those monster lows comes up from the US, well when Uncle Sam sneezes… as they say. On the way home I stopped off for extra milk and bread and checked my stock of Yarzeit and shabbot candles which can double very nicely for emergency heat in a power outage. I also made sure I had plenty of work to do bringing home stacks of books from the lab.

Normally we leave the car parked in the back alley but I put it into the garage. My eldest, Justin, 15 years old, passed me on the way. There’s a blizzard coming I shouted after him. Better dress warm or stay home. Yeah yeah, he replied.

The first forecasts were for the blizzard to hit Saturday morning. But a Colorado low is renowned for slow movement so we postponed a decision to skip shul until morning. We awoke to freezing rain which turned to tiny round pellets as we walked to shul. The wind was strong enough to make Main street (which is open to the bald prairie) a dangerous wind tunnel fit for astronaut training or jet engine testing. Walking up Main street against the ice pellets was out of the question so we took back alleys. It wasn’t cold though, so except for ice pellets in the face if we looked up, it was fine.

By the time we left shul the temperature had dropped and the cold cut through our warmest winter clothing. We watched the rain slowly turn to snow as the day progressed. By suppertime it was all snow and the freezing rain had stopped. Reports began coming in of highways being impassable. The R.C.M.P. were recommending no travel. Alan, twelve years old, had a sulking fit when we refused to drive him to his planned sleepover at his friend’s house. About then Justin called home. The buses have quit running. Could I drive over and pick him up? Alan started shouting in the background that if I can go and get Justin I can take him to Boris’ house. I laughed so hard at both of them that I almost dropped the telephone receiver.

We went to bed with the house creaking. Our home was built in 1939 and has survived floods, severe summer storms, and many winters. It had no trouble mastering the worst blizzard on record. I was comforted thinking of the original owner, a Jew who eventually moved to Israel, who had built this sturdy warm house for his family on lot 318. Would he be pleased to know it was sheltering another Jewish family almost fifty years later? Was it religious fervor, Zionism, or Winnipeg winters that drove him to make aliyah?

We woke up to an official state of emergency and a full scale blizzard. We are on a main road and our street is a designated ambulance route. The plows went by at least once an hour but they could hardly keep up. The snowbanks, which had been almost melted, were over a meter high by lunchtime. We saw ambulances, each one accompanied by it’s personal snowplow, pass by a couple of time. Police in their four wheel drives went by frequently too. The fallen snow was lifted from the ground to far above the rooftops with the swirling winds. About this time I realized I had miscalculated on one thing. I was out of cat food. I gave the three complaining felines tuna and rice. They didn’t mind the change.

At noon we heard that the hospitals were asking for more volunteers to move staff to and from their homes. They had enough drivers who had transported enough people that they did not need volunteers to work at the hospitals but those with 4x4s and time were asked to contact them. By 1:00 pm we heard that police had switched from their four wheel drives to their fleet of a dozen snowmobiles. Ambulances were having such trouble getting around that they were now being accompanied by a front end loader in addition to a snowplow. Response time was down from 5 minutes to fifteen, twenty if you lived on a back street. So far, all women in labor had made it to the hospital, though it was close in one case. Moms and babies were all doing fine.

The drift across our front yard reached two meters in height by 3:00 pm. The snow eased up a bit. Telephone calls to friends showed everyone was fine. Justin was still stuck at his friend’s house. Their mother had left her storm stocking until Saturday night and ended up not being able to get home. She stayed at her grown son’s house leaving my son and her two younger boys to make due alone. Justin reported he had been reduced to eating dry cereal. I suggested he come home. He replied he had no winter clothing with him and so it was too dangerous to walk in an 1950 windchill. I refrained from saying I told you so.

Just before supper Alan left to walk to our friends David and Hadass’ and help shovel them out. He was in his warmest things and we outlined his route in advance. Hadass called as soon as he was there safely. He had made good time, taking only twenty minutes to do it. I was worried about him the entire time he was gone but it was the worry of a mother who knows her kids can handle it but isn’t quite ready to handle it herself. He came home a few hours later utterly exhausted, ate a huge meal, and toppled into bed early. He slept 12 and a half hours but was so very proud of himself. His first day of being a man doing a man’s work. Just before he retired he said he had decided we were right about cancelling his sleep over. He liked his buddy Boris but not enough to spend 48 hours with him.

More news. The schools would be closed the next day. Weather records were falling and this was now the worst blizzard since 1965. The airport was closed, volunteers were still needed for the hospital staff. Taxis were nonexistent. More requests. Stalled vehicles were making it difficult for ambulances even with their escorts. Please stay inside. All highways in the province were reported closed and a mall in the western part of the city had been converted into an emergency shelter. Three reports of collapsed roofs due to snowfall and ice accumulation. So far, our electricity was fine but many people in rural areas were without power. Telephones were out too, in some of the tiny communities. For the first time in history the Winnipeg Free Press was not delivered.

Monday morning we awoke to calm. The blizzard was over. I lay in bed and noticed first that the creaking of the house was gone and second the sound of an airplane. After that I could hear the neighbour’s slow blower. I looked out our back window and the snow was so deep that the tops of cars I could see were level with the snow. There were a few suspicious mounds that were likely more than drifts if I remembered rightly from last night.

Canada geese had started arriving last week. As I looked out at the back alley turned to a farmer’s field there was a report on the radio about a huge flock spotted heading south again. We got dressed and went outside to shovel off our walk. The drift across was shoulder height. Another drift by the garage was halfway up the door and alley was waist deep with snow. Most of the snow was light and fluffy, easy to shovel, but there was a three centimeter layer of ice at the bottom of the new snow. Dick wrenched his wrist using a spade to dig out the back door enough to provide us with a fire escape if we needed it. We shovelled out the garage door and the path to the alley. The boundary between our garage pad and the back alley was up to Dick’s hips. What will that plow leave when it finally goes through? The roads were still impassable on all but the main routes.

I walked to the Safeway store to get some more milk and cat food. Drifts made even pedestrian travel hard. My ten year old daughter, Lana, went behind me in my footprints to keep from falling over. She was wearing old boots and mitts her brothers had outgrown. She forgot her winter things at school on Friday. She hoped out loud no one she knew would recognize her in her seriously fashion impaired state. She was dressed in a very uncool way, which in Winnipeg can often a matter of life or limb in winter. I used the opportunity to prod her about the changability of Canadian weather and the importance of assuming nothing, especially in April and October.

We passed two semi trailers parked in the Safeway parking lot. They had managed to get off the highway sometime during the night and parked at the first safe place they found. The store manager said the drivers were at the A&W across the street. A policeman in the store was telling stories about his adventures and the few shoppers there were gathered around to listen. He was picking up some milk and a loaf of bread on the way home from work in his 4×4. He told us the new police chief (a nonWinnipegger) had wanted to retire the fleet of four wheel drives and snowmobiles as being too great an expense to maintain. We all laughed at that one. He has changed his mind, the officer added with a chortle.

There is only one cashier and the manager but the number of customers is light and no one was getting more than a few things, since we are all walking, so the wait wasn’t too bad. The parking lot was empty except for the semis and the white and blue police 4X4. The entrance to the store is a parking lot of sleighs. Funny how much our plastic purple sleigh with the crack in it sitting among hardwood toboggans and the molded speedsters reminded me of our beat up old station wagon in the lot on a regular day.

On the walk home we passed a crew of eight First Nations men who were walking around looking for people to rescue. They stopped and freed a woman with a stuck van. We shared a few jokes as we passed them and the woman drove away shouting thanks before I watched them move on to the next vehicle.

My eldest stumbled in, cold and very hungry, about 2:00 pm. He vowed next time I say blizzard he will listen as he headed for the fridge. Milk he shouted with delight and polished off two liters in two long gulps. Does he look like he got frost bite he asked me? No I assured him after checking his ears. What a pain walking home in this weather in only a spring coat he said between gulps. Well you looked cool, I replied. He was not amused.

Alan walked to the video store to return an overdue video and rent a game. They didn’t charge us an overdue fee. Requests were still coming over the radio for drivers with four wheel drives for the hospitals. Now that the airport is open there were also plenty of newly arrived passengers who can’t get out of the airport so they need volunteers there as well. Twelve taxi drivers are on the street for the whole city.

A neighbour with a 4×4 stopped in to borrow our tow ropes and make sure we were all right. He was pulling people’s vehicles out of snowbanks and delivering groceries. We gently suggested the hospital or the airport but he just snorted with disbelief. He was too busy with neighbours, been going since 7:00 am and no end in site.

It’s evening now and the sound of snowplows is constant. The snow blowers have quit for the night. No sign of a plow for the back alley. I finished that paper I was working on. I got the upstairs bathroom cleaned. I even finally got that grungy build up off the toilet. My diet is blown for today because the kids made chocolate chip cookies and there is nothing so tempting as hot chocolate chip cookies when you’re snowed in. I must have eaten at least a dozen. All the laundry is actually washed, folded, and put away in one day. This is a record for me as great as the record of the worst blizzard in Winnipeg history. I watched the Sally Jessie Raphael show on TV. Tomorrow is supposed to be better but no school for the kids and since no parking is available at the university and we’re supposed to take the bus in, well I’m skipping class. Besides, tomorrow’s Sally looks great and I wouldn’t want the downstairs bathroom to feel I was playing favorites.



The Great Turtle Release

The weather had warmed and it was time for all the rescued turtles who came through the cold stunning without secondary issues to go back to the sea. As always, the turtle release became a grand show for the public, an opportunity to encourage love of turtles and do a little education. The release was advertised by various means and by the time we arrived with Jack Rudloe, the line into the park was long. We spent 35 minutes in line. We were ahead of the turtles and a good thing we were. I was also grateful we drove in the same vehicle as Jack because by the time we got there, there was no parking left but space reserved for Gulf Specimen Marine Lab staff and guests. It was a huge relief when the vehicles from GSML and Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission finally got in, escorted by park staff down the wrong side of the highway. Other staff and volunteers had arrived ahead of us and set up. There was also a huge and impatient crowd. Traffic meant the turtles had arrived almost an hour late.


Dick and I were among those honoured with releasing a turtle. Somewhere in the mix was our own rescue turtle #36. The honourees were gloved and lined up and and each of us were given instructions to carry the turtle to the water and watch and make sure the turtle actually swam away. It was so exciting! The vehicle were emptied and then turtle after turtle was delivered to the FWC staff to be carefully ticked off the roster and then handed off to the honourees. There was no time to find #36. We got the turtle we got. I didn’t care. I know #36 was in there somewhere.

Two turtles went ahead of us. Dick got his turtle first and then I got mine. Dick went first. His turtle swam off sideways into the crowd before heading out to sea. I had to wait while the other turtles left the beach as each turtle had to go one at a time. During the wait I posed the turtle for his admirers in the crowd.

My turtle didn’t want anything to do with being a celebrity and as soon as he hit the water, he was gone like a shot. I was so happy! How exciting to be blessed with a chance to release a wild thing back to the wild.

Many more turtles followed. Some were big turtles. One special great big turtle had been a “guest” at GSML at the last cold stunning. FWC found her tag when they checked everyone for new tags. That really gave the staff a big high and measuring and weighing her meant all kinds of new data on turtle growth.


Smiles all around and everyone who was on the permit got to release at least one turtle.

And then it was over and the crowd dispersed and a few of us hung back. The volunteers took down everything and then folks paused for a few more pictures and a few more interviews with the press were in order. And finally we left and went to celebrate with dinner at a local bar. It was a very fine day for turtles. GSML released a video linked below. Dick can be seen in the video. I am there too but only in a drone shot. Just as the last turtle left the non waterproof drone dunked in the water and was fried. GSML was talking about a new drone that was water proof but they still had this one and so it wasn’t really time to spend the money…..  Poor drone sat smoking on a picnic table as the crowds departed. Maybe it is time to buy that waterproof one that can take of and land on the sea.

This will be one of my favourite memories of all time!

Our Fred Crosses the Bridge


There are dogs and then there are those dogs who have so much character and life that they make an indelible impression on your life and you never will forget them. Fred was such a dog. We got Fred when he was one year old. Our dog Trusty got out and somehow Fred got free and they were both playing in our yard. Fred had been living down the alley tied up outside and he cried and barked constantly. This had been going on for a week or so. Fred’s then owner came by later that day and reported he was not a dog person. He had been at a party out in the country and Fred had been tied up and was barking and the owner said Fred was a huge nuisance and he planned on shooting him. This man decided that was wrong and had taken Fred home with him but he was no dog person and worked long hours and Fred was clearly unhappy tied in his back yard. We agreed to let Fred stay with us until a proper home could be found for him. I was thinking maybe a week.

Fred’s rescuer then backtracked Fred’s history and found Fred had had several one month or less “homes” until he was traced back to the formal adoption by a woman who had taken him from the Winnipeg Humane Society. She was still his formal legal owner but she immediately passed on all of Fred’s assorted original paperwork and a transfer of ownership document. It was quite a bundle. We found out Fred’s official birthday was exactly one week after our Trusty’s. We also found out he had originally come from some place in the USA and was supposedly a purebred Australian Shepherd with AKA papers which was of course utterly preposterous. There is some Aussie in there but he’s no purebred. He had been purchased from a pet shop and then somehow ended up as a puppy running loose on a northern first nations reserve. He was rescued from the reserve as a four month old puppy the day before dog shoot day. Going through his paperwork we discovered Fred had been passed through at least nine owners before coming to us. We took him to our vet. Our vet told Fred that he was one very lucky dog to have landed where he did. We contacted the Winnipeg Humane Society and they were more than happy to have Fred officially transferred to us. It was then we realized Fred had become our dog.

Fred was a delightful fellow but he had no manners. He as too old for puppy class but we started him in obedience classes and he completed all three obedience levels easily. We found he was a food driven dog and would do anything to get treats. Treats were far more important to him than affection and praise. Unlike Trusty he had no interest in agility. This whole leash and behaving thing as strictly about treats.

Fred soon settled right into our household as if he had always been around. We had only one bump. When he first came into the house and spotted one of our then three cats and he charged. I grabbed him and gave him supreme hell and told him in our house cats were part of the pack. I won’t ever forget his face. I’m sure he was thinking “Oh please, it’s a cat. You don’t seriously expect me to treat a cat like a pack member!” However in spite of Fred’s obvious bewilderment of our love of cats he immediately decided the cats were part and parcel of the package and he had an obligation to protect them. He never chased one of our cats even again but he would take joyous delight in chasing strange cats. If any dog or other animal pestered our cats he would ferociously charge out to defend them. His attitude was if he had put up with these damn cats, he was going to make sure no one else was going to get any pleasure or joy out of chasing them either.

Fred had one major behaviour issue. He loved to go roaming. Every chance he would get he would take off and go exploring the area. He had an invariably good sense of direction and he never seemed to get lost. He was also expert at making friends. We put a tag on him with his name and address and our phone number and it also had the name and make of our trailer and that he was from Canada. He would take off and there was no catching him. Eventually he would wander back or someone would contact us to come get him. One time we found him bumming cheese dorritos in a bar. Another time we found him perfectly at home at a family gathering after making off with some spareribs from their barbecue. Once he got away at a music festival and he was “arrested” by security when they caught him helping himself to their hot dogs. Another time Fred was returned riding in a golf cart, after he went visiting a golf course next to our campground. Once we got called by the City of Winnipeg Animal control to report Fred was waiting by the door for them when they arrived to work expecting his free ride home. Fred’s galavants were a constant source of amusement and aggravation. He was the absolute master of sneaking out of a partially closed gate or dashing away at an opportune moment. He pulled this stunt at least once a week. His last run was a few days before his death and he only got a few blocks from home before I caught him. He could no longer outrun me or go far.

Fred’s favourite  thing to do, besides eating, was chasing a ball. He loved the ball. As a young dog my husband would throw the ball with a ball thrower 40 times to wear him out. Over the years the number dropped. In his last few months he could no longer chase the ball because his hips got injured. He would carry the ball instead and if we were at a beach he could fetch the ball as long as he had to swim to it. He loved to swim. He loved going in the canoe too, but he preferred swimming beside the canoe as often as he could.


Fred playing with two boys he befriended in Georgia. Fred would later save the younger one from drowning and be rewarded with a whole steak. Fred loved kids.

Fred once saved a four year old boy from drowning. We were staying at a campground on a river in Georgia and I was out walking him. A little boy got in over his head and was being carried away. He was floating at his hairline. We adults didn’t notice but Fred did. He charged and tore the leash out of my hand, leaped from a wall into the water and raced to the child going like a motor boat. As soon as he got to the child, the little boy pulled himself up gasping and Fred turned and swam back to the child’s father who was now on his way out. Fred took the child straight to him and met him halfway. That evening the grateful father stopped by with a barbecued steak that was so big it hung over the plate. He asked for permission to give it to Fred. I, of course, gave it to him and a bewildered but delighted Fred had a few moments of heavenly happiness wolfing down this huge steak.

Fred also intervened on four occasions when human predators were out to mug us. He was the sweetest dog and loved everyone but on those four occasions he was transformed into a snarling growling killer dog ready to kill for us. I don’t know if Fred would have actually attacked but the four possible muggers didn’t want to take the chance and left us alone and went searching for easier prey.

Fred and Trusty were inseparable buddies for eleven years. Fred was hubby dearest’s dog and Trusty was mine. The two dog played together, slept together, cuddled together and rarely had even a doggy scrap where one or the other growled and snapped. There were two exceptions. Fred got first dibs on any food unless we forced the situation. Trusty got first dibs on sleeping location. Other than that they were perfect together.

Fred loved kids. Visiting kids meant food and fun. He would play endlessly with them. In addition to ball, one of his favourite games was to try to snatch the water coming out of the hose. He was often totally soaked while kids laughed and laughed as he played with the hose. He never got upset with or snapped at a child. If they got mean or hurt him he would simply shake them off and leave.

At the age of eleven Fred developed a funny black lump on his foot. We took him to the vet and the vet checked him and found several more lumps and bumps. We decided to just remove the lump on his foot since it was interfering with his ability to walk but otherwise do nothing. As time passed the lumps and bumps grew and proliferated but Fred was still happy and enjoying life so we did nothing.

When Trusty passed I was worried Fred would mourn. He didn’t seem to. Dogs live in the moment anyway but Fred even more so than most dogs. When we got the new puppy, Misty, Fred fell head over heels in love and instantly began mentoring her. When he figured out if she went out to do her business they both got treats he made her housebreaking his personal mission and she didn’t have an accident after the first week. He played with her constantly, slept with her cuddled to him, and adored her as much as he had Trusty. He also stole her puppy chow every chance he got.

A week ago Fred started whimpering when he jumped up the stairs into the trailer. He started scratching his belly a lot. He also seemed to be having trouble getting into a comfortable sleeping position. Two nights ago something dramatically changed and it was clear he was in terrible pain. He was awake all night and even the pain killer we had for his occasional back trouble did nothing. He kept looking at me with his big eyes begging me to do something. We took him to a vet that day, one here our friends used and the vet agreed it was time. One of the lumps and bumps had caused his liver to enlarge and it was pressing on his diaphragm and Fred was suffering horribly. I was with Fred when he departed. He was frightened, the pain was bad and he didn’t like the vets handling him so he struggled. I went to him and I held his head and looked into his eyes and talked to him, calming him enough for the vet and the tech to do their thing. As the drug took effect, his eyes filled with relief and gratitude. They said “You did it, you made the pain go away. I knew you would. Thank you.” And then Old Fred was gone.


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I am a fan of Lacy J Dalton and my favourite song of hers is Old Dog Blue. Fred knew it was about him and he would come over and put his head on my knee and give me doggy love eyes. I called him Old Fred even when he was a young dog.

When I get to heaven first thing I’ll do is shout

“Hey, Old Fred!”

If there are no dogs in heaven I don’t want to go.


Afterword: About a week later I had a vivid dream. I was outside and Fred suddenly came running up, happy, full of life, and young and healthy. I was astonished and said “Fred! What are you doing back here? You’re dead!” Even as I gave him a pat and a greeting, an angel came flying/running to us. “I’m so sorry, I just turned my back for a second and he got away on me.” She snapped on the leash and led Fred off with me laughing. Yup Fred would do that.

Turtle Rescue

We do get involved in some crazy things, no doubt about it. There was a mass turtle stranding in our area of the panhandle in Florida where we were staying. The last time this happened was in 2010. All the sea turtle people around Florida were out seeking cold stunned turtles due to the bizarre cold weather from the polar vortex. The turtles get too cold and then end up unable to move, floating on the surface. Many drown when they can no longer move enough to even lift their heads up to take a breath. Some end up washed up like debris on the shore where certain death awaits. If the cold doesn’t kill them, predators or dehydration will. Any turtle that could be found would be brought in and warmed and saved to be released when the cold spell passed.

A call went out for folks who could walk the beaches to look for stranded turtles. We were among those who answered the call. Here we are, with other volunteers and staff from Gulf Specimen Marine Lab, getting our marching orders from Cypress Rudloe and “how to help a cold stunned turtle” safety information.IMG_0965

We then drove off to Appalachacola with our crew to meet Captain Ron and his Mrs, Cynthia, of Dream On Charters at the boat dock there. I really appreciated my long johns and Canadian style layering as we raced across the gulf to a small island called Cape St George Island Wildlife Preserve. Hubby dearest and I were assigned the northern side of the island an area with some white sand beaches and lots of muddy tide flats. We were given a folding wagon to transport any turtles we found.


The day was cool to start but we were warmed by the sun. We had been told to especially check the grass and debris at the high tide line. Our trip was set to coincide with the low tide. We were also told to watch the surf but there isn’t a lot of surf on the inside (mainland side) of the island where the water is shallow and filled with the kind of grass beds green sea turtles love to graze in.

The island is a preserve so there was no one else beyond our team on it and we saw no signs of human life. The island is hardly deserted though as we found bear scat and coyote tracks. We didn’t see any of those.


We arrived far too late for this poor little turtle. But them a miracle happened! We saw a flipper moving weakly in the air above a clump of seaweed.


We found one poor turtle barely able to move from the cold. We carefully moved the turtle into the transport wagon and continued looking for more survivors.

In total we walked 10 kilometres (or six miles). We only found one living turtle but we were so happy to be able to save even one. As we walked, we kept the turtle in the sunshine as much as possible to help warm him. The more we walked the warmer he got and he began moving around. If only it had been warmer we could have let him go right then and there instead of lugging him around but the water was only 45F and he needed to be brought in for a vet check and full warming at GSML. Finally, when we had gone 5 kilometres in one direction we hit an inlet where the water was too deep to continue on. We contacted our team’s fearless leader and discovered the boat could not come in close so we would have to return to our starting point for pick up. I tried not to have a good cry and only just succeeded. Then we started back. By now the tide was coming in and the flats were getting wetter and the ground softer. We went as fast as we could to get off the rapidly vanishing tide flats and back to more solid beaches. We had a rest for a bit once we were back on the stable beach and then we continued our slog. Whenever I wanted to stop I looked at the little turtle and carried on.


Finally, taking turns with the wagon and encouraging each other and breaking for water and snacks, we got back to our starting point. We had company as we waited for the boat.


The heron is kind of a family symbol often appearing at significant and important events in my husband’s life. We only half jokingly refer to the Great Blue as his totem so we took the presence of one at the landing area to be a sign of karmic approval. Now that we were safe and secure and just had to wait for the boat, we felt a lot better. It also helped that we didn’t have to walk anymore. After about a 30 minute wait our ride back to the mainland came. I passed our turtle guest up to Captain Ron and we all felt great pride that we had succeeded. By the time the boat arrived the little turtle had warmed enough to flap and struggle. That made us all feel better. The turtle then went into an insulated box and since the sun was rapidly setting, he got covered with an insulated blanket.

Rescued Green Transfered to the boat.

As if to confirm karmic blessings we were escorted all the way back to the mainland by several dolphins who put on a fine show for us, playing in our wake and giving us dolphin laughs. I enjoyed the show a lot. Dolphins

When we arrived at the dock we were delighted to pass custody of the sea turtle to one of our team members, Brian, and let him take the turtle back to the lab. Hubby Dearest and I went for pizza on St George Island before heading home. We were REALLY hungry and REALLY sore and REALLY tired. Neither one of us have walked 10 kilometres in a long time. But we were so happy and we felt so good. It had been a grand adventure and so worth it!


The next morning I got to the lab to check on “our” green sea turtle and I arrived at the lab just in time to see the turtle go into the tank and swim about, fully recovered. The turtle was designated #36 (of 48 rescues). He or she (you can’t tell at this age) got a clean bill of health from the vet yesterday. As soon as it has warmed up enough to be safe for the little turtle to go back to the sea, it will be released.

And we saved him!


Top Ten Great Things that Happened in 2017.

It wasn’t a perfect year (Oh Trusty Dog!) but we had a lot more good than bad. I like to be cheerful and positive so here is a list of my top ten happy things for 2017.

Stranger Doing an Act of Kindness award goes to Kelly Maes of Aztec New Mexico who found my keys and who then so mailed them on to us here in Florida. The world has many good people and we count Kelly among them.

So here is our countdown of the top great things for 2017.

10. We saw our guy get inaugurated and he has not yet pushed the nuclear button and the world has not ended after all, in spite of all the dire predictions of our leftist friends and family. Some are even beginning to concede he isn’t entirely evil and horrible. MAGA!


9. We made a dramatic change in how we travel and now, whenever possible, we stay two nights when we stop. This allows us to have one day in between each driving day to rest, recuperate, and see some local sights. It does take us a lot longer to get there but we get to enjoy the journey a lot more.


8. We finally got that last state on the list, Utah, and now we can say that we have traveled in every state in the lower 48.


7. We got all the new windows into our house at last! We got a lot of renovations completed this summer and we have more to do, but this is a real milestone in terms of our comfort and quality of life.


6. I did not have one single bad bout with my asthma. No antibiotics, steroid, trips to the hospital or days where I wondered if today I was going to die. Good health is such a blessing never to be taken for granted.


5. Misty joined our household! A year of grief accompanied by great happiness for us as dog owners.


4. We actually managed to have a really great and expanded encore family and friends vacation/reunion at Rushing River. We’re a blended family so some were missing but all my five biological grandkids and three kids and spouses were all in one place for two days (although no one stood still long enough to get a picture). We are hoping to make it an annual event and get even more of the family and friends involved this year.

3. Our book got many excellent reviews. Our science is having a real impact and we’re happy.


2. Our son and daughter-in-law and the two youngest grandsons moved much closer to us so we get to be much more involved in their lives now. I can dash off to do babysitting and spoil the grandsons with only one hour of driving. Yay!


1. We got two new family members to love. Our son remarried and his wonderful new wife not only makes him very happy (which makes us happy), but as a great bonus, she came with another delightful grandson (with the red tie) and our first grandchild who is actually really interested in our science. What’s not to like about that?


Honorable Mention:

Our daughter, our youngest, seems to have ended 2017 on an exceptionally high note. We hope to have some really good news to announce for 2018. Stay tuned!

Happy New Year everyone and go forward with our wishes for the best year yet in 2018!


Florida Panhandle and Georgians.

We rolled into Florida at last. We had two stops. I have always loved St George’s State Park on the lovely island with its endless white sand beaches and little tourist costal town. Unfortunately, so it would appear does everyone else and the place is impossible to get into without a reservation. We decided to try some of the other coastal state parks instead.

We first stopped at Big Lagoon State Park. The park turned out to be both a pleasant surprise and a disappointment. It was a big disappointment because it is literally in a big lagoon behind a barrier peninsula and so there was no surf to see. The only beaches were small narrow brownish sand ones on brackish brown water side with signs warning about gators. Maybe I am a coward but I simply don’t like swimming where there are fellow swimmers that might eat me given a chance. However, we ended up really enjoying our stay because the park has a two mile trail along a dune that ends up in a lookout tower. We walked the trail with dogs and it was really pleasant and we had a lovely time. The other pleasant surprise was the constant display of fancy military aircraft. More than once we saw dazzling flyover formation of up to four military airplanes at a time so close they were almost touched. I love seeing airplanes which always seemed to me to be the pinnacle of human engineering achievement. In the end, in spite of the lack of surf, Big Lagoon was great fun and well worth the stop.

Big Lagoon

We left Big Lagoon and continued east along the coast. After a quick stop in a laundry mat, we rolled along the coast enjoying route 98 until we reached T. H. Stone Memorial St. Joseph Peninsula State Park. The highlight of that was seeing wild dolphins sporting in the ocean. I do love seeing wild dolphins.


When we first arrived there were many sites for a single night but since the second night included a Friday and weekends are busy, there was only one site available for two nights. The campsites were all very close together and every spot near us had Georgians in it. A great gang of them had apparently all fled the recent snowfall. The site was a rather awkward tight back in. We had to ask a fellow to move his truck and I had to drive around again to get the rig lined up just right. He was very nice about our request and moved his Georgia state licensed truck for us with good cheer. Once I was in the right spot with enough room to maneuver, it was easy. I carefully and slowly back into the perfect position in one roll and then to my utter astonishment, I got out of the truck to a hefty round of applause from the folks all around us.  Apparently they found a female driver competently backing in to be astonishing. Several of them made comments like “Well done!” and “He let’s his wife back in?” and “I’ve never seen a woman do such a fine job backing up.”

I did a little bow for the audience and smiled broadly and shrugged and said “Farm girl married to a city boy.” And of course, as usual, that made perfect sense to them even though the real story is far more complicated. We chatted briefly with our friendly neighbours. My husband immediately lapses back into his midwest American English as soon as he hears it again but they commented on my Canadian accent with delight. I deliberately used the world “about” a lot since that is when it is most obvious. We had to give the usual explanation of where “Friendly Manitoba” is, (north of North Dakota) and how cold it is this time of year (-40 is where the Fahrenheit and Celsius systems cross.)

We continued to unpack and settled into our trailer while having a private laugh together about silly sexism and how generally delightful, charming and open hubby dearest’s fellow citizens are, especially those from Georgia. There really is no reason at all a woman can’t learn to back in a trailer properly and now they know Canadian farm girls can do it. It’s not a task that requires that brand of “superior male intellect” meaning brute male strength, as one of my female friends (a physicist by training) likes to say. Interesting how southern women have apparently arranged things so they never have to back in a trailer, bless their hearts.

At last! Ocean and rolling surf. I have been on the Pacific and Atlantic coasts but the Gulf of Mexico is really my favourite. The waves are pretty and roll about waist high. On the Pacific the waves are so huge I quite feel intimidated and on the Atlantic, it is unpredictable, small one day and rolling monsters the next. The Gulf of Mexico waves are almost always just the right size for my taste. The beach was endless stretches of lovely white sand, far longer than anything I could walk in a day. The park is set at the end of a long long peninsula so that the shoreline is natural dunes and plants. The only down side was no dogs are allowed on the beach so our faithful companions had to wait back at the trailer. Even so, we took a long long walk along the beach soaking up the feeling of sand and surf. A cold wind finally drove us back.

We went out to the beach at night once too. It was blacker than black and being cloudy there was nothing above either. The wind was ferocious and cutting cold and we had not thought to wear our Canadian winter gear so we didn’t last long. It was quite the experience, feeling utterly alone in the black. Eventually, refreshed and ready after four nights experiencing the coast, we left early morning, waving a cherry goodbye to the lovely Georgians, to arrive at our final destination in Florida, the charming little coastal town of Panacea where our friends were waiting to welcome us.

Lousiana, Mississippi, Alabama

We spent four days going from Texas to Florida. We were now in travel mode and out of tourist mode, since we had done this route before. Our preferred travel mode is to drive no more than 600 km (372miles) and often less for a day, stop for a meal at a restaurant with internet where we get caught up with the world, park at a nice campground for two nights, spend the day in between nights hiking, canoeing if suitable water is available, relaxing, walking the dogs, and writing. The break from the internet is so refreshing. We both get a lot of writing done on stop days. We restrict shopping to travel days combining shopping with washroom breaks. The two biggest expenses of travel are gas fill ups and the fee for campgrounds. This mode also drops our fill ups to every other day and since national forests cost us about $10 a stop with Dick’s senior Passport America so it is a cheap way to travel.  This relaxing mode of travel means we don’t get anywhere fast but we enjoy ourselves as we go.

Our first night was the picturesque small city of Alexandria. We camped in the Kincaid Lake Recreation area in the Kisatchie National Forest. The spot is an exceptionally nice transition zone between deciduous forests of oak, maple, sycamore and cypress swamp pine and slash pine forests. We took a long long walk along the beach area which was technically closed but no one chased us away.

From there, we headed to Mississippi. We soon found ourselves dealing with the reason I absolutely HATE Louisiana travel. I don’t know what they spend their money on down there but it is not their interstate. The I10 interstate was in horrible shape, just as I recalled it from last year, and that part of the trip consisted of bone rattling whomp-whomp-whomp-whomp for miles and miles punctuated by many bridges where the road did not match the bridges, leading to massive bangs, clangs and jerks. Add to that more truck traffic than I have ever seen on one place, including Boston, and it sure was a relief to get into Mississippi and hit smooth pavement. The only good thing about that trip was that by cutting across to Alexandria we avoided 75% of the nightmare drive we endured last trip.

We stopped at another National Forest campground, this one called Big Buloxi in the Desoto National Forest. Wow has the Gulfport area ever exploded with life. We saw new businesses popping up everywhere and not a single foreclosure sign. We had a very relaxing stay before heading on to Alabama.IMG_0934

Two years ago Dick and I had the pleasure of traveling Alabama from north to south and we have crossed it at three points. We love Alabama. Highways are great and there are many wonderful campgrounds and lovely sights to see. However we were not doing Alabama this trip. We drove the interstate towards Florida, took that big tunnel through Mobile for the third time and after a brief stop for lunch in Daphne Alabama (which is as pretty as it sounds) we left the interstate and started traveling Rt 98 along the coast. Rt 98 is one of the loveliest, most picturesque routes in the USA with long stretches following the coastline and gorgeous views of the Gulf of Mexico. It also passes through every little fishing village, town, and shopping centre in the coast so stretches are packed full of busy people going about their lives. This means lots and lots of miles with traffic and noise and 35mph zones and red lights. You also have to really watch those speed limits signs because speeding tickets are a major source of income. (We haven’t had one yet but I am extra careful.) Still, we felt very much at home. We crossed into Florida absorbing the sights of the panhandle with relish and relief. We had finally reached our southern winter home.