SnowbirdBy Suzanne Sparrow Watson


Well, it’s that time of year again – the annual migration of the snowbirds has begun.  “Snowbirds” for those unfamiliar with the term, refer to all the people from colder climes that come here in the winter just so they can call home to their friends and brag that they’re not having to shovel sunshine.  There are so many people here from the Midwest that someone once said that the definition of diversity in Phoenix is when someone from Chicago moves in right next door to someone from Minneapolis.


A quick trip to the grocery store this morning made clear that the snowbirds are on the wane.  I did not have to swerve coming out of my neighborhood in order to miss some “high flying” snowbird with his top down, talking on a cell phone, and smoking a stogie.


Nor did I have to endure people turning left, no, then right, no, then left again because they didn’t have GPS in their car and can’t figure out our complicated street system.  (I will say that having streets that dead end and then pick up again three miles down the road is a tad bit confusing)car transport


And best of all, I breezed into the parking lot, found a space up close and was able to complete my shopping without having to stand in a long line of people stocking up on gin, cocktail napkins and sunscreen.  Rest assured, the most beautiful sight we see this time of year are all the car transport trucks heading out of town.


The bad part about the migration is that most of my friends are snowbirds.  They return this time of year to the mountains or the Midwest, carry on with their lives at home and leave the rest of us here to sweat out the summer.  Just as they have their unique moniker, those of us who stay here are affectionately known as the “summer sluts”.  At least I think that’s a term of affection.


In any event, last week a friend asked me if I actually looked forward to everyone leaving for the season.  Since she was “migrating” back to Chicago the next day, I did what I thought was right. I lied.  I told her it was awful here in the summer.  And, of course, I do miss my friends.  But the truth is, it’s kind of nice once everyone clears out.  We can get into any restaurant we choose at 7 p.m. on a Saturday night.  We can arrive 10 minutes before the opening of a blockbuster movie and still get a great seat.  Oh sure, you can fry an egg on the pavement in mid-August but  that’s a small price to pay to be the first in line at the Nordstrom Annual Pre-Season sale.


But the best reason to enjoy the snowbird migration?  No more dinner invitations.  We control our schedule – from now until November we will not be on a social merry-go-round.  We will only go out when we feel like it.  We will not have to get dressed up.  We can sit on our sofa, wearing Bermudas and a tank top, and download movies from Netflix.  We can munch on junk food.  We can drink beer and vodka tonics to keep cool.


Come to think of it, maybe I am a summer slut. white trash

Road Trip Through the Continental Divide – Part II

by Bob Sparrow

     Just outside the city limits of Denver heading east the state of Colorado quickly becomes Nebraska – not geographically, but visually.  Here the world is flat.  There is nothing but miles and miles of nothing but miles and miles.  If in the world of ‘new energy’, corn is oil, then Omaha is the new Abu Dhabi.  Would have made better time, but a McCormick Reaper took 35 minutes to pass a John Deere tractor leading a herd of cattle crossing the Interstate – I’m having steak tonight for dinner, just out of spite.

     Weather is heating up and so is the car.  While I don’t know a great deal about cars, I do know that smoke coming out of the front is not a good sign.  I pull over, pop the hood and assume the requisite ‘guy’ stance as I stare vacuously at the engine even though I have no idea what I’m looking at, much less what I’m looking for.  As far as I know, there could be a nativity scene under there.  I continue to stare.  I see a bundle of wires and a lot of . . . parts, and just generally think that things look pretty grimy under there.  A middle-aged woman stops and asks if I need help.  Not wanting to suggest a lack of masculinity, I assume I can discourage her assistance with some manly ‘car speak’.  I give a knowing, Barney Fife sniff, a tug at my pants and nonchalantly say, “Nah, it looks like the rotator gasket came off the muffler bearing.  I got it covered, thanks.”  She stares at me like I’ve said something really stupid, shakes her head, turns and goes back to her car, returns with a container of radiator fluid and says, “When it cools down, pour this in that thing in the front of the car that looks like a washboard, then I think your muffler bearing will be just fine.”  She continues to shake her head as she drives off.  I make it to Omaha for that steak dinner and good night’s rest.

     Finally make it through Nebraska and into Iowa, which is just the same as Nebraska, but with museums, and more corn, if that’s possible.  In Iowa you’ll find a museum for the birthplace of John Wayne, the museum for former Cleveland Indian pitching great, Bob Feller, the museum of The Bridges of Madison County, the Herbert Hoover museum (be sure to watch the up-beat video, ‘The Great Depression’), the Buffalo Bill museum and somewhere I’m sure is a museum containing the world’s biggest ball of twine.  I drive through the iconic town of Newton, Iowa, long-time home to Maytag, whose repair people could never find work.  Now even the people who made Maytags can’t find work – they were purchased by Whirlpool.    Just outside of Newton is the ‘world’s largest truck stop’.  Top selling bumper sticker: “If it has boobs or wheels it’s gonna cause you trouble.”  I didn’t buy it, never been one for espousing my philosophy on the bumper of my car, but it gave me something to think about for the next several hundred miles.

     As I near Chicago it starts to snow and although the trip was book-ended with storms, the weather for the rest of the trip could not have been better.  I considered the light snowfall just as I entered Chicago as a ‘ticker tape parade’ welcoming the end of my journey.

Factoids of the trip

  • It’s exactly 1,000 miles from my driveway to the first Irish pub in downtown Denver
  • One-third of the time was spent listening to great CDs, one-third of the time was spent listening to the soybean and hog futures on ‘local radio’ stations and one-third of the time was spent in silence ‘listening’ to what I saw.
  • There are about three times as many trucks as cars on the Interstate between Denver and Chicago.
  • A Corolla gets 37.4 miles to the gallon cross country – even Al Gore didn’t feel the globe warm on this trip.
  • There is a North Platt, Nebraska, but no Platt.
  • I passed through three time zones on the trip, four if you count going back to the 50s while driving through Nebraska
  • Driving time: 30 hours.  Gas: $177.27.  Coffee: 2.6 gallons.  Delivering my daughter’s car to her in Chicago: Priceless


by Bob Sparrow

     When my daughter, Dana moved to Chicago she needed someone to drive her Toyota Corolla there from southern California.  That road trip had my name all over it, so I happily volunteered.  I kept a journal of my thoughts and observations along the way – here it is.

     It’s early, it’s dark, I’m invigorated by my planned road trip across two-thirds of America as I shower and get dressed.  Did I leave the shower on?  No, I look outside, it’s raining.  It will not dampen my enthusiasm.  I set out.  Where’s the windshield wiper lever?  More importantly where’s some coffee?  Gosh, these Corollas are small.  I fumble to find the cruise control in the dark, unsuccessfully.  OK, I’m serious now, what happened to the Starbucks on every corner?  Discover that Corollas don’t have cruise control!  Limited music on the radio at this time of the morning.  Didn’t realize we had so many Spanish-speaking stations – Mariachis at 5:00 a.m.?  My gosh what are they so happy about at this time of day?  Got coffee and finally out on the open road, sun starting to peek over the mountains.  I’m hungry.  Find an ‘Open 24 Hours’ truck stop.

     Wishing I still had that ‘TruckMasters Graduate’ ball cap as I feel like I’m not really fitting in here with my Bermuda shorts and Tommy Bahama shirt.  I sit at the counter and order my coffee black, like the rest of the truckers – I’ll put some cream and sugar in it when I’m back in the car.  I listen to the truckers’ stories and am reminded that I’m happy I have all my teeth.  Back on the road.  Soon the smell of rural American comes wafting through the car.  I see horses and cows and acres of farmland.  I see a little town ahead and slow down to read the sign . . . ‘Norco’.  I’ve traveled nine miles.  I’m thinking this could be a very long trip.

It requires significant will power to drive past Vegas; I didn’t even know there was a ‘past Vegas’ until now.  But on through to St. George, and after 700 miles, pull into Grand Junction, CO, for the night.  While it is a junction of sorts, I didn’t really find it all that grand.

The next morning’s drive was a ‘religious experience’ for me.  There are few, if any, more scenic stretches of road in America than the one from Grand Junction, through the Rockies to Denver.  The Colorado River has carved the most beautiful path through the mountains, and man has tunneled, cantilevered and laid his road next to the river.  It makes one of the most beautiful blends of nature and man’s work that I’ve seen.  I drove this road in the early morning hours, just as the sun reached the rim of the Rockies, providing a soft light to the freshly fallen snow.  It was a quiet, cold (7 degrees at its coldest), breath-taking experience.  I put in a John Denver CD, but decided that no sound was the best sound.  The winter panoramas were purely magnificent.  I pass the town of Rifle, the turn off for Aspen, Vail.    I stopped to take ‘communion’ (a cup of coffee and a doughnut) in the village of Eagle.  I parked the car, got out and just looked at the beautiful winter scape around me and listened to the quiet.  The cold air fills my lungs and while it was unbelievably invigorating it was also damn cold.  Back in the car and back on the road.  I remind myself to tell anyone that has the opportunity to make this drive, particularly on a clear winter’s day, to do it.

As I emerge from the Rockies the city of Denver unfolds below me.

(Next post: Part II – Denver to Chicago)