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Ginny Packs for the trip from Dallas to Nova Scotia (in February)

[Most of the following ended up on the cutting room floor. Enjoy!]

Ginny rose late on Wednesday afternoon, helped herself to a snack, then laid the maps out on the dining room table, looking for possible routes from Dallas to Nova Scotia.

“You could take 35 north to 70, then east to Kansas City, then north on 29 all the way to Winnipeg,” her mother said. “It’s highway the whole way and not a lot of traffic.”

“I have three objections to that. One, it adds almost 1000 miles to the trip; two, it’s February and the longer we stay in the lower forty-eight, the longer we’ll stay warm; and three, there’s only one major east-west road in southern Canada. If we can’t use it for some reason, we’ll be stuck. I’m thinking we need a diagonal across the U.S., then pop over the border along this section, near Moosehead Lake. But I like your idea of avoiding the major metropolitan areas as much as possible.”

“You’re sure you can use your Texas driver’s licenses in Canada?”

Ginny started laughing. “Oh, yes. That’s the least of our worries. I found a site online that warns U.S. drivers to hesitate before proceeding on a green light due to the large number of Canadians who run the red; that rapid lane-changes without signaling and tailgating are common on the highways; and – this was the one that gave me pause – that emergency vehicles frequently enter the oncoming traffic lane to avoid congestion. I wonder how many head-on collisions that has caused! The good news is that Canada uses 9-1-1 for emergencies so I don’t have to reprogram the phones.”

She bent her head over the maps again. “There were also lots of warnings about winter driving conditions. Oh!” She looked up at her mother. “Did you know they actually create temporary roads out of ice during the winter months up there? They let the ice freeze, then drive trucks across lakes and over rivers.” She shook her head. “I’m much happier at the thought of merely sliding into a ditch and being buried by a snowplow in upstate New York.”

“Well, you’d better pack some warm clothes if you plan to spend the night in the car.”

Ginny nodded. “I’ve got sleeping bags, a tent, Coleman lanterns and stoves, and a generator on the list, if we can find a suitable one. The cold has a nasty tendency to sap a car battery and we may need to jump start the engine. I’m also going to take those heavy wool Hudson Bay blankets we bought years ago. And pillows.”

She picked up a pad and pencil and made another note on it. “I’ve got some shopping to do tomorrow. Do you want to come with me?”

“Of course.”

* * *


Ginny and Mrs. Forbes started by visiting all of the second hand clothing stores in the area. Ginny was an expert shopper, having learned the required skills from her mother. The two of them could go through the racks in an astounding one hour or less per shop, unless they found something worth trying on. In the current situation, Ginny was looking for some very specific items, which either were there or they were not, which speeded them up even further.

“What we need is whites.”

Her mother nodded. “So you will blend in with the snow. I understand.”

“And the heavier, the better.”

They were moving rapidly through the men’s department, pulling ski jackets and heavy sweaters off the rack and throwing them in the basket.

“What size does Jim wear?”

Ginny shook her head. “I don’t know. Extra-large at least. I’m hoping he won’t insist on things fitting too well. I have layering in mind.”

“What about this one?” Her mother held up a 3X winter camouflage ski parka.

“Nice!” Ginny took it and looked it over carefully. The zipper worked. There were interior pockets and both elastic and drawstring closures, as well as snaps, a removable liner, and snow plackets. Obviously well made, it was equally obviously over-kill for a Texas winter.

“I wonder where the pants are that went with this?”

Fifteen minutes of searching had discovered the pants, three turtlenecks, and one virgin wool sweater made in Scotland which looked as if it would fit Charlie Monroe.

“And that’s all in the men’s department. Any luck in the women’s?”

“Nothing white, but here’s something.” Her mother held out a powder blue cable stitch sweater in cashmere, very heavy and extremely elegant. It fit Ginny perfectly.

“Oh, this is too pretty to wear in the woods!”

“It’s too heavy to wear in Dallas. You might as well take it.” Usually cashmere in the thrift stores meant the moths had been at it, but this one was perfect. The tag indicated it had been bought at Neiman-Marcus, which probably explained why it was in Dallas at all. The high-end retailer brought in luxury goods from all over the world.

“Twist my arm.”

Her mother laughed. “You can wear it with white pants.”

Ginny nodded, smiling, stroking the soft fiber. You never knew what you were going to find in a place like this!

“Upward and onward!”

Once they finished with the thrift stores, they visited the Army-Navy store, picking up wool socks, three balaclavas, and a dozen MREs (meals ready to eat) to stash in the car. Then it was on to the mall.

Ginny concentrated on the racks of outerwear on display in each shop. “I need some sort of white jacket or windbreaker for myself, to put on over the sweaters.” She got lucky, finding a heavy, water and wind proof jacket with many of the same features as the ski parka she had found for Jim; interior pockets, plackets, snaps, and hook and loop closures to snug down the edges against the wind. This one was edged in faux silver fox fur, which was a nice touch.

“And that is all I can do without the man himself and he’s still sleeping.”

“What about Monroe?”

“We’ll have to take him shopping for clothes, but Himself has entrusted me with a rather special job on Charlie’s behalf.”


“You’re going to love this one, Mother.”

They drove to Ginny’s favorite ‘kept’ jeweler, a man who had done work for her many times over the years.


“Ginny! Mrs. Forbes! What may I do for you ladies today?”

“We need some loose gems. Can you help us out?”

He could. By closing time, Ginny had assembled several thousand dollars’ worth of small gemstones, suitable for turning into cash or barter on either side of the international border. She tucked them carefully into a black velvet bag and tied it shut, securing it in her purse.

“Thank you, Elmer.” She waved goodbye, then turned to her mother. “I think we’ve earned a nice dinner.”

“I certainly have. As much as I love shopping, it’s exhausting.”

“Your choice. Where shall we go?”

They settled on barbeque and Ginny thought rather wistfully of the unlikelihood they would find anything like it in the far northeastern United States. Pulled pork was special and had to be cooked correctly to bring out all the flavor. They were just finishing when her phone went off.

“Ginny? It’s Jim.”

“Oh, good! Can you come over and try on some clothes this evening?”

“Yes. I want to go over packing lists with you, too, but that can wait until tomorrow. The reason I’m calling is because Himself wants to know which of the homesteads to contact. He needs to arrange payment.”

“I have a tentative list, but he’ll have to tell me if I’ve chosen the right ones.”

“Okay. Are you at home?”

“No, we’re having dinner, but we can meet you there in about twenty minutes. Will that do?”

“Perfectly. See you then.”

Ginny hung up and smiled over at her mother.  “Jim. Twenty minutes. Our place.”

Her mother nodded. “Assuming those clothes fit, we’ll have to take them to the cleaners in the morning.”

“Yes.” She smiled. “But we can handle that.”

* * *


Ginny sat on the floor of the den, a suitcase in front of her, clothing in every direction, and a fat legal pad covered in notes. Having completed her own packing, she was now packing for Charlie. She marked the items already in the bag. They were undoubtedly going to have to do some shopping. She had no shoes for him.

It was possible that Reggie had been able to find a pair that fit from the assortment stashed in the caverns. She wouldn’t know until they picked Charlie up at the entrance on Tuesday morning. Reggie was incommunicado. They couldn’t take a chance that anything he said to her or Jim or Himself could not be intercepted by the police. She would just have to wait.

She finished doing what she could with Charlie’s new stuff, then closed the bag and set it aside. Jim was arranging a suitable car rental. She could hear his end of the conversation.

“I understand that. What do you suggest? Should we change vehicles in Pittsburgh?”

There was a pause.

“Yes. I know it would be more expensive, but if you can’t supply us with snow tires and chains, then we can’t use you.” Another pause. “Well, how about you call them and see if you can arrange a swap? Yes. You can call me back at this number.”

Jim looked over at her and made a face. “I’ll wait to hear from you. Thank you.”

Jim put his cellphone down. “There is nothing like threatening to take your business elsewhere to focus a merchant’s attention on problem solving, but I had to talk to the manager to do it.”

“Always go to the top!”

“You look as if you’re going to Antarctica.”

“This is shelter to 30 below, batteries for the lights and weather radio, a beacon so they can find the bodies buried under the snow drifts, food for five days, ditto water, a pot and a one-burner stove, mugs, plates, utensils, paper and cloth towels. Do you have a down sleeping bag?”


“Okay.” She added it to her list.

“Here are fire starters, if we can find something to burn. I also have tools for digging, chopping, prying, and smashing.” She pointed to each in turn. “If we get stuck, sanitation may be a problem, but I’ve got an idea about that.” She tossed several rolls of toilet paper onto the pile, then looked over at him again. “You’re bringing the first aid kit?”

He nodded. “Yes, and remind me to ask Himself for the morphine he promised me.”

Ginny’s eyebrows rose. “Morphine?”

“I’ve got topical anesthetics already. Also nitroglycerine, albuterol, diphenhydramine, naloxone, ipecac, activated charcoal, glucagon, atropine, and two auto-injectors; one epinephrine, the other midazolam.

Ginny nodded thoughtfully. “Okay. I’ll bring my own kit as well. It has over-the-counter meds, bandages, triple antibiotic ointment, eye drops, aloe gel, ace wraps, and my stethoscope, blood pressure cuff, and pulse oximeter.”

“Sounds good.”

“I need to do some more shopping. Do you want to come?”

“Yes.” Jim picked up his phone and slipped it into his pocket, then offered his hand to Ginny. He pulled her to her feet and took the opportunity to wrap his arms around her and give her a hug. She returned the favor, thoroughly enjoying the sensation and aware that they would have to avoid this sort of thing while in front of Charlie. It wouldn’t be kind to remind him of his dead wife.

They drove northeast to one of the Dallas suburbs, then located a little known gem of a shop that carried ski wear.

“This place has been here forever,” Ginny explained. “My parents bought ski equipment here when they were in college.”

The stock was varied and the service excellent. Ginny found insulated ski pants in white and wool blend slacks in brown and black. Jim found wool slacks and socks and a set of long johns in pure silk.

“Get a load of these!”

Ginny nodded. “Silk is an excellent insulator and lasts forever.” She dimpled. “Mine are pink.”

He lifted an eyebrow at her. “Are they?”

She smiled, then turned to complete her purchase.

They drove from there to two specialty stores, both with a camping focus. Here, Ginny knew, she could get water purification equipment; Jim’s cold weather sleeping bag; a nifty little toy with a compass, a whistle, a thermometer and a magnifying lens for each of them; absolutely guaranteed not to leak plastic bottles; the pop-on toilet seat to go with the five gallon air tight bucket she had gotten at the garden supply store; hand and foot warmers; and thermal pads to insulate the sleeping bags with.

The more mundane items she could pick up at the local super store, including ropes, non-perishable food stuffs, a manual can opener, duct tape, glow sticks, lots of garbage bags; non-breakable mirrors, and two sets of walkie-talkies to use instead of cell phones, from the toy section.

Ginny moved down her list, marking off the items they had found and reflecting that they were going to be in civilized areas for most of the trip. They could shop, if needed. Right up until the blizzard buried them.

They were in the super center when the car agency called back.

Jim nodded into the phone. “Yes, that will be acceptable. As long as you can guarantee there will be a winterized all-wheel drive vehicle waiting for us when we get there.” He listened for a minute. “I’m not kidding. If they give it to someone else, I will sue and there may be bloodshed.” He winked at Ginny. “In writing. Have it ready when I come to pick up the car on Tuesday morning.” He listened a minute longer. “All right. See you Tuesday.” He put the phone away and shook his head. “They seem to think it won’t make a difference.”

“Most people in Texas have no idea what can happen in the frozen north. I run into that every time I go skiing in Colorado.”

Jim nodded. “Well, all I can do is hope I made an impression on him. Are we done here?”

“Almost.” Ginny completed her shopping and headed for the car. They had a lot of unloading to do and both of them had to work tonight.

When they got back to the house Ginny found her mother had been in the kitchen. It smelled wonderful.

“Will you stay for dinner, Jim?” Mrs. Forbes asked.

“Yes, please!”

Mrs. Forbes was familiar with the schedule adjustments necessary to accommodate the twelve hour night shift. The main meal of the day was on the table at four p.m. and all three of them enjoyed it thoroughly.

“I hate to eat and run, but I’ve got to get changed and get back over to the hospital.” Jim’s shift started an hour earlier than Ginny’s. He turned to her. “Lunch tonight?”

She nodded. “Yes, please!”

He grinned. “All right. See you later.”

Ginny closed the door on him and turned back to face her mother.

“Are you ready for the trip, dear?”

“Heaven only knows, but I hope so. We shouldn’t need most of this. I just like to be prepared.”

“I know, dear. That’s why I don’t worry about you, much.”

Ginny smiled then gave her mother a hug.

“I’ll be fine. We’re going to be taking advantage of the Homestead’s hospitality the whole way up and back. The only real danger is getting Charlie across the border and Jim has it all planned. Cross your fingers.” She gave her mother a kiss. “And pray for us.”

“I always do, dear.”

Ginny gave her another hug, then went upstairs to get ready for her shift. She’d be gone approximately two weeks. She’d promised to phone home and let her mother know how they were enjoying the trip and her mother had promised to relay any messages to Himself, if needed. The tricky part was going to be remembering not to mention Charlie. She had a feeling he was going to be hard to forget.

* * *

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