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This delightful book is dedicated to all of
the risk-takers who heed and respond to
the call of the nomad in themselves. This
seems to paint a fairly accurate description
of Canadian snowbirds, who make the
annual migratory pilgrimage to Florida
or the American Southwest in search of
warmth, sunshine and new experiences.
The Trailer Diaries is really two journals
in one. Alternate chapters describe
how Canadian snowbirds Rhona Davies
and her partner Peter (who were not
trailer fans) came to consider renting in
a seniors-only trailer resort in Arizona.
Rhona’s daughter, Anna Johnson, writes
from Australia in the alternate chapters.
Anna suddenly quit her high-paying job
in Australian TV production, sold her
pretty house in Melbourne and took off
to the rough, Australian Outback in an
old, poorly converted motorhome bus
with her beloved pets. They were Honey
– the enthusiastic dog who made friends
wherever they stopped, and two cats –
Smoky (the Zen cat) and Sooty (mysterious
and unpredictable) who got off the bus in
Finders Ranges. (OK! Read the book – it’s a
great story!)
Maps of North America indicate Rhona’s
entries, and maps of Australia indicate
Anna’s adventures on the road. The
writing style is warm and conversational,
with some funny and ironic asides. Some
observations may bring back memories
and make you nod in recognition, i.e.
Rhona’s, “Nothing can quite match the
unspeakable bliss of flying into instant
summer.”
Then there’s Anna’s irreverent descriptions
of entering Port Augusta, “Where town
planners thoughtfully greet visitors with a
scenic bridge over a water treatment pond
called ‘Lake Knockout’ (Roll the windows
up, that smell ain’t the dog).”
Anna also makes creative use of print and
smart-phone jargon to illustrate emotion
and translate for her pets. As she was
saying goodbye to her friends, her internal
panic attack looks like this – “Oh my God,
I sold the house! I’m living in a bus! Oh my
God, I sold the house. I sold the houuuse…”
Smokey (the Zen cat) followed Anna to
the beach. On seeing the water for the first
time, his reaction was to sit howling at the
ocean – Anna’s translation “WTF is that? I
meanWHAT IS IT? andWhy are you IN it?”
I really enjoyed Rhona’s accounts of their
decision in 2012 to head south to the sun,
“while we still can.” She perfectly captures
the pleasant buzz of anticipation in settling
into a new location and checking out the
possibilities.
Rhona and Peter are very serious about
keeping fit in their 70s; they stood out in
the departure lounge at the Vancouver
airport because they were the only
snowbirds wearing hiking boots, zip-
off pants and special shirts. They are
also intellectually curious so, during the
month of adventure in Arizona, before
they decided to buy their own unit, they
share their diary entries, a lot of the flora,
fauna and history of Arizona as they
were learning it. All through their time in
Arizona, Rhona and Peter were pleasantly
surprised at the open helpful friendliness of
all of the Americans whom they met (even
the bank manager at Mesa). They figure
that Americans get a lot of “bad press.”
They also found their Mexican reno crew
to be the hardest-working people they
had ever seen – contrary to the tacky “lazy
Mexican” lawn ornaments all around the
resort.
For people who once had a rather
derogatory view of trailers, they were
impressed with “the efficient use of space
in the little trailer home” and wondered
why they needed 1,800 square ft. back in
B.C.
Back inWhite
Rock, when
they tried to
wire money to
the owners of
their new winter
home, Rhona
and Peter found
that all American
banks are not
created equal. It took days and many
agonized phone calls to transfer the closing
payment to an Iowa credit union. Rhona’s
comment, “and this is a country that put
men on the moon years ago!”
I particularly enjoyed the diary entries for
the three days driving from B.C. to Mesa; a
terrific and thoughtful travelogue.
If a trip to the Australian Outback is on
your bucket list, you might reconsider
after reading Anna’s diaries – “Hundreds
of kilometres of nothinnngg” and terrible
roads that led to flat tires and fuel-line
leakages. Fortunately, Anna’s motto is, “The
best things happen when things go wrong”
– and there was always someone eager to
help when she needed it. There were also
idyllic times – swimming with dolphins and
sea lions, several romances and, finally, a
house in the Outback town of Meekatharra.
Anna had been so preoccupied with
making a living that she felt that she was
not “getting a life.”Now she has a stress-
free life in Meekatharra and she loves it.
Meanwhile, Rhona and Peter are back in
Mesa, working happily on their tennis skills.
The message? “In the grand scheme of
things, nothing really matters…except for
human kindness and an appreciation of
how interconnected all living things are.”
The Trailer Diaries is available from
Amazon.ca
and
Amazon.com
. Price on
Amazon.ca
is in Canadian dollars; $9.44
for paperback and $8.86 for the
Kindle version.
By Rhona Davies & Anna Johnson
Petrona Services Ltd. 163 pages
Willa McLean
is a
freelance writer who
lives in Brampton.
The Trailer Diaries
How We Ran Away From Home
Book
review