Thousands of Canadians, many of them snowbirds, eagerly crossed the U.S. border as it opened to non-essential travel on Nov. 8.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced on Oct. 29 that land ports of entry and ferry terminals would be open to vaccinated non-essential travellers from Canada at 12:01 a.m. Eastern Time on Nov. 8, marking the first time in roughly 20 months this was possible.
Trips to Florida have been part of Michelle Cormier-Cowle’s life since she was a child. The Oshawa, Ont., resident and her husband, Rick, had no competition at the Rainbow Bridge crossing at Niagara Falls at 2:30 a.m. on Nov. 8 as they headed to Lakeland, east of Tampa.
“Friends of ours purchased in Lakeland and we fell into a good opportunity to buy a mobile home. … Unfortunately, we only got to experience about six weeks in 2020 before the world imploded. This is our first time back to our place since March 2020 and will be our first winter staying three-plus months,” the grandmother said in an interview.
“The [mobile home] park is very particular about the appearance. We had to hire someone to take care of edging, weeding of flowerbeds, washing exterior of [the] home itself. Inside, well your guess is as good as mine—which is why we were eager to get back.”
Golfing takes most of couple’s free time when in Florida, though the beach is a great fallback option.
“The other good thing about mobile home parks or 55+ living communities is there is always some activity going on. You can be as busy or as relaxed as you like—pickle ball, cards, crafts, golf, shuffleboard,” Cormier-Cowle said.
The motto on Bernie and Shirley Parchoma’s Facebook page says: “Dream as if you will live forever. Live as if you only have today!” The retired Alberta couple camped at Coutts, Alberta, before crossing the border the morning of Nov. 8 on the way to Desert Oasis, California.
“We had our first taste of being snowbirds in February of 2020. Unfortunately, due to COVID [we] only had a six-week adventure [and] ended up in California near Palm Springs,” Shirley Parchoma told The Epoch Times.
“We are excited to be headed back this year. We missed the sunshine and desert breezes, markets, concerts, activities, and most importantly the wonderful people we met at the RV park.”
On the morning of Nov. 8, more than 60 motorhomes parked at a Tim Horton’s on the 401 Highway near Brockville, Ont., waiting for the Thousand Islands Bridge to allow them into the State of New York. The ramp to the crossing was closed later in the morning to prevent further lineups.
The Ambassador Bridge that joins Windsor and Detroit waived its toll fees as a welcome-back gift. Snowbirds who crossed in the early hours reported wait times of 10 minutes or less.
“Ambassador Bridge is the busiest crossing. We have never left this early before but thought that there could be a lull between the 12:01 am group and the regular essential commuters [of] snowbirds,” Janet Balmer told The Epoch Times.
Ontario residents Ken and Wendy Madigan live full-time in their recreational vehicle. On Nov. 7 they were in Oliver, B.C., 25 kilometres from the border.
The border openings at midnight Eastern Time allowed for 9 p.m. Nov. 7 passage in B.C.’s time zone. The Madigans estimated more than 90 vehicles were already lined up by 5:30 p.m.
“It was quite astonishing how many were waiting. We haven’t crossed yet, in a few days we will cross once all the hoopla is over, lol. We are so close to the border,” the couple said in an online interview via a shared Facebook account.
The Madigans will head for Phoenix in the latest instalment of their lives on the open road.
“We are from Ontario and found ourselves in B.C. for winter, waiting out the opening of land crossing. We alternate warm climates yearly—Florida, Texas, Arizona, California—except last winter where we held tight on Vancouver Island,” they said.
The couple said they welcome being able to head south “after a nightmare winter last year in Metchosin, B.C., with monsoon rain, snow, and COVID restrictions banning us from any non-essential travel outside our health authority.”
“We are gleeful and can’t wait to be in Casa Grande Arizona!”
Judy VandenHoek and her partner also gave a hard pass to the first day’s lineups, and instead decided to leave at 4 a.m. on Nov. 9. The couple live north of Peterborough or on Wolfe Island, Ont., in the summer months but have wintered in Cape Coral, Florida, since their retirement from teaching in 2018.
“Absolutely love it there,” said VandenHoek. “Beautiful weather, lots of natural vitamin D, golf, and beaches.”