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PRIME TIME: Snowbirds flock to the call of the southern sun

So came the fall season, when almost all the birds in the North Country respond to the approaching winter by flying south where the warm sun shines brightly almost every day.

Art Lee

Another form of "birds" respond in the same way, i.e. Snowbirds, northern citizens who respond the same way as soon as the white stuff starts falling from grey skies. At that event, many Minnesotans head for any place south of the Mason-Dixon Line; with winter favorites being Florida, Arizona and Texas.

Perhaps the Pioneer’s own headline on Jan. 5 easily explains the motivation to head for the Southern Exit Door; it reads "'MINNESOTA WINTERS RATE THE WORST IN THE U.S." Nuff said. By coincidence on that date we joined the long migration to Arizona and the first hurdle encountered was making the first flight out of the Bemidji Airport, where the airplane leaves at 5:15 a.m. Uff da.

A problem, big or little, depending. Flying off to Minneapolis at that unearthly hour -- the middle of the night! -- involves a number of hurdles, headed by lack of sleep. Making that plane on time requires tired bodies being at the airport at least by 4:15 a.m., which means getting up by 3:15 a.m. or before, and for some travelers it means not going to bed at all that night. Weariness waits and wins. The passenger waiting room at the airport at 4 a.m. is one quiet location. There we all sat glumly, poker-faced, yawning and sometimes mumbling incoherent words to our partner -- while often looking at watches. Bored. Tired. We passenger resembled a zombie convention.

The flights out (Bemidji to Minneapolis to Tucson) were pleasantly uneventful. What was eventful was nearing final destination and the plane descended lower and lower so that the ground became visible, and with it the observation that Tucson sits in a wide valley in a much wider desert, the Sonoran Desert, the city surrounded by mountains. That view explained the tired old joke that we were now in Arid-zona.

The most pleasant surprise came -- even as we were expecting it -- came while walking out the exit door into the blazing bright sunlight and 70 degree weather, noticing scurrying people in shorts and sandals who were half dressed (at the most) and busy seeking several forms of transportation (included many convertibles with the tops down), travelers who seemed not the least impressed by the green grass and the lovely flowers. Ho hum, all the boringly same-old same-old to the locals, but hardly that to folks who that same morning had left high snowpiles and 26 degree below and wind chills near 40 below.  Somehow at that moment we concluded that most likely we could soon get used to this new and different part of the world.

Maybe we could even learn to talk right, maybe go to a restaurant and not order “pop” to drink but properly term it “soda.” Maybe we would not mention a forbidden concoction called cocoa but indeed call it hot chocolate. Maybe. But whatever, it will be fun trying.

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