In addition to the beauty and serenity of Sincuidados, our community includes a variety of people with amazing stories and backgrounds. We call it Sincuidados Stories. In our fifth edition, we share the story of our neighbors Greg and Michele Ryan and their recent journey home.
Why did you face challenges returning to Sincuidados from your home in Canada?
The Canada/U.S. land border is closed . . . in both directions. It has been closed since the spring and the current closure runs until January 21, 2021, and it is expected to be extended. Only “essential” traffic is allowed which is largely commercial goods and essential workers. We would typically drive in order to have the benefit of two vehicles while at Sincuidados and to allow us to safely travel with two pets. In addition, an obvious concern was/is the sheer volume of COVID-19 cases in the U.S. and specifically Arizona. “Frying pan to the fire” comes to mind. Canadian friends would say, “Why would you consider going? COVID is out of control in the U.S. You’re nuts!” To which we’d respond, “Yeah . . . but it’s beautiful and the people are great!”
To return to Sincuidados, what travel ideas did you consider and how did you ultimately end up in a helicopter?
Strangely enough, although the land border is closed, Canadians are permitted to fly to the U.S., but Americans cannot fly to Canada (unless they are deemed essential). Crazy, we know. We looked at various options to travel south. In normal times, there are at least two direct flights per day (November-May) from Toronto Pearson to Phoenix Sky Harbor. We got our minds around the idea of putting our dog in cargo if we could get a direct flight but two things conspired against us. First, we learned the Airbus used for the Toronto to Phoenix run does not have a heated cargo hold, so they don’t recommend pets in cargo. Further, direct flights were cancelled and we’d have been forced to fly through Calgary or Denver and that would have meant 12 hours in a crate/cargo between planes for the dog. So that was a non-starter. Our trip south was at risk! Then about a month ago, we read in the Toronto Star about an intrepid young helicopter pilot who was helping his parents with the same issue we were trying to solve. The only difference was they were trying to get to Florida. He took the issue to his boss at Great Lakes Helicopter and, like many entrepreneurs are doing in this crazy time, he saw a business opportunity. They partnered with a local transport company and voila, a new business model was created. It was as simple as . . . send travel docs in advance . . . pack car . . . arrive at Hamilton Airport at 7am . . . give car keys to young man . . . board helicopter at 9:30am . . . arrive Buffalo/Niagara Airport at 10:00 am . . . retrieve car being unloaded from flatbed.
Tell us about your dog and cat and what they thought of the long journey home including the four-day drive.
One of our traveling companions is a one-year-old Bouvier puppy. She is the third dog of this breed we have owned so is named Silhouette des Grace (a copy/shadow of our others). Gracie wasn’t caged on the helicopter ride so spent most of the trip on Dad’s lap. However, she loves car rides and we didn’t hear a peep from her the entire trip.
The same could not be said of her cat brother, Jai Naa Keeper (Thai for “Ever Heart”). Despite having grand accommodations (a large, soft pet cage complete with heated sleeping area, food and litter box), he frequently expressed his displeasure with frequent loud Siamese meowing.
Jai Naa rode in the nose of the helicopter on his Mom’s lap in a Sherpa bag and, having no fear of heights, stuck his head out on a couple of occasions to look down at the spectacular Niagara country.
How were meals and hotels rooms during the drive back to Sincuidados?
We hate to admit it but, due to COVID, we ate all our breakfasts and lunches at McDonald’s. The restaurants did not permit indoor dining, so we utilized the clean empty bathrooms and drive-thru. We both put on weight! For dinner, we heated frozen dinners in our room.
The hotels were all very safety conscious, allowing 48 hours between visitors and stripping the rooms of anything that couldn’t be washed. Nonetheless, Michele entered first with her mask and gloves and wiped the room down with bleach cleanser, probably causing more lung damage than COVID would have!
The drive from Buffalo was about 32 hours . . . four days and three nights. And those great people in the U.S. we mentioned earlier? Well . . . at the end of the long drive on the fourth day, there was a beautiful basket on our doorstep filled with delicious food and a bottle of red wine to boot! All courtesy of our friends/neighbors here in Sincuidados, Carol and Randy Schilling.
As we start a new year, how happy are you to be back here?
As a starting proposition, consider the photo above which was taken at our home in Ontario about a week before we left. It would make a beautiful Christmas card, but we are delighted to have left the cold behind us. We are very active people, so we’ve been playing tennis nearly every day, hiking the community’s mountain, biking and threatening to go golfing. We are, of course, very concerned about the high COVID numbers in Arizona (about seven times the rate of our Province per capita), but we have hunkered down in our beautiful community leaving only for essentials. Our province of Ontario will actually be entering into a six-week lockdown on Boxing Day which will be very trying for people during the dead of winter. We are so much looking forward to the end of this pandemic when will be able to travel seamlessly, without the need for helicopters, between our two homes and get together with family and friends again.