This post has little to do with our ”electric travels” but after 15 months of no posts I felt it was time to reboot the blog.
Regarding the title of the post of course every year is ”like no other”, so what does that phrase really mean? And yet, at least for me and I suspect many others, 2021 included so many life-changing events that it will likely remain deeply imprinted in my memories for a very long time.
The year began on a very dark note: America experienced an unprecedented armed insurrection aided and abetted by it’s Commander-in-Chief, a man so unhinged and egomaniacal that he actively promoted an obvious lie (that he won the election) and urged his followers to break into the US Capitol building to try to overturn legitimate and verified election results. His delusional mob then proceeded to do exactly what he told them to do and he did nothing to stop them as they physically attacked police officers and ransacked lawmakers officers while loudly proclaiming their intention to find and assault — and even murder — those members of Congress who were only there to perform their Constitutional duty to certify the election.
The definition of sedition is ”a revolt or an incitement to revolt against established authority, usually in the form of Treason or Defamation against government”.
The definition of treason is ”the offense of attempting by overt acts to overthrow the government of the state to which the offender owes allegiance”.
It is clear that the President and the Capitol invasion mob he incited are guilty of both crimes. To date, no one has been convicted of either of those offenses. Over 700 people have been charged with various lesser crimes and some have been convicted. Many of them had stupidly broadcast their treasonous activities on social media. (Update, 16 Jan 2022: 11 ”Oath Keepers” members were indicted by the DOJ on charges of seditious conspiracy.)
The now former President has not yet been charged with any crimes related to the insurrection.
Prior to the events of January 6, 2021, there had been exactly zero incidents of an armed group of American citizens invading the US Capitol building, to say nothing of their being actively encouraged to do so by a sitting President. The Capitol invasion is just the tip of the iceberg; over a third of Americans believe violence against the government is justified and a majority of Republicans continue to believe the lie that Biden did not win the 2020 election. Outright civil war is not inconceivable and in many states Republican politicians are ensuring that partisans run state elections so they can control the outcome. Republicans no longer believe in democracy. Gun advocacy groups openly admit there are over 400 million guns in America (more guns than people) and heavily armed ”militia” groups are growing.
The day after the insurrection in Washington DC I received my first Moderna vaccination and my mother died of COVID at home, slowly suffocating to death.
The same President who told people attack Congress had spent 2020 repeatedly lying about the severity of the SARS-CoV-2 virus because — by his own admission — he did not want the US stock market to tank because it would hurt his re-election campaign. So his administration busied itself with manipulating the CDC so as to obscure the true impact of the pandemic, lying about the facts of the disease, and blocking government scientists from speaking the truth.
The result was that America, a country with vast resources, expert medical researchers and dedicated public health experts , became one of the world leaders in COVID infections and deaths. Not only did almost the entire Republican Party believe the lie that Joe Biden did not legally win the election, they also believed that getting COVID was “just like the flu”, that the most astonishingly safe and effective viral vaccines ever developed were too risky to take, and that basic public health directives like wearing masks were an attack on their ”freedom” (my wife and I were fully vaccinated by February and got our booster shots in early November).
Thus America had the “freedom” to achieve over 849,000 COVID deaths in less than two years, with no end in sight, currently ranking #18 worldwide in deaths per capita alongside countries like Mexico, Columbia, and Croatia. America has had a higher death rate than any other industrialized developed country in the world, and has triple the per capita COVID death rate of neighboring Canada.
In early spring my wife and I started discussing the various reasons why moving back to her home country of Canada would be a good idea. We loved living in our remodeled Eichler home, and as a native Californian born in the SF Bay Area I had a strong attachment to the place. But she was sick of living with wildfire smoke; in the fall of 2020 we had endured six straight weeks of terrible air, and in 2019 and 2016 there had been more weeks of horrible smoke. The years-long drought had increased the wildfire risk from the dense brushy forest that surrounded our neighborhood and that was a growing concern.
My primary reasons for leaving were (see all of the above).
On April 22nd my father died in the board & care home he had been in for over two years after a fall at home resulted in a femoral fracture that never healed properly. I think with my mom gone he just lost interest in living, and I certainly don’t fault him for that.
In these COVID times it was of course not possible or wise to hold any kind of memorial service where friends of my parents could gather and celebrate their lives. But they had outlived almost all the members of their generation that knew them and some of those that remained weren’t mobile enough to attend such a service even if it had been allowed.
This post will no doubt strike some readers as overly gloomy, and to quote Rick in Casablanca, my own problems “…don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world”. Obviously.
So on to the good news…
There is reason to believe that 2022 will be the year that the pandemic ends and SARS-CoV-2 becomes endemic. The now dominant Omicron variant, while far more transmissible than Delta, is less deadly and for the vaccinated and boosted is usually more like an annoying cold than a disease requiring hospitalization. But for the vast number of people who are still unvaccinated, whether they be Americans who simply refuse the shots or those in other countries who do not yet have access to a vaccine, Omicron is causing serious illness and even death, and it will soon infect everyone. At that point the virus will be endemic, like the various cold and flu viruses that circulate every year, and annual booster shots will be the norm in many countries.
That assumes that another variant does not appear that can evade the vaccines and that cannot be ruled out. In addition, SARS-CoV-2 has infected a large proportion of deer in North America and has been found in other mammals like cats and mink. It does not kill them but it will mutate and then could make the jump back to humans. So careful monitoring of those animal populations will be required.
After deciding to move to Vancouver, which we had visited for three weeks in 2019, we worked furiously to prepare our house for sale while every day scanning real estate listings of condos in the North Shore area, looking at what seemed like hundreds of possibilities. We connected with an agent in Vancouver who was very helpful and ultimately decided to ”take a flyer” (as my wife’s father would have said) and bought a two bedroom unit in West Vancouver based on a real-time video tour and one phone call with a very helpful resident of the building who has now become a good friend.
We listed our house for sale three days after signing the papers for the Vancouver condo and it sold for 25% over asking to the first person who viewed it. This astonished even our California real estate agent who had been selling houses in our neighborhood for decades! We then had to prepare for an international move while simultaneously preparing my parents house for sale. Fortunately it sold in less than two weeks.
Two months after signing the papers on our Vancouver condo we left California driving our two Teslas and towing our trailer (and there is the ”electric travels” tie-in!). We had prepared in advance all the necessary and quite detailed documentation for crossing the border into Canada. When we arrived at the border customs was almost empty; very few people were crossing in those days due to COVID restrictions. The Canadian customs officials were very friendly and didn’t even bother to inspect everything we had packed into our cars and trailer.
Then it was on to our West Vancouver AirBnB quarantine apartment for two weeks. Rosemary kept busy with her ToTheWeb online marketing consulting business. I had retired in April and amused myself by taking beginning guitar lessons online and running up and down the short steep driveway at our rental place. The time went…slowly.
But then it was over, our household goods shipment crossed the border, and we could move in to our new condo. It literally was new, as the building had only opened in the fall of 2020 and our unit had never been lived in. Now, at the end of December we have almost completed various minor remodeling projects and the condo really feels like ”home”. We now that we are enormously fortunate to have a wonderful new home in a safer and saner country, that we are in good health and have each other. And we found storage for our trailer just 15 minutes away!
We choose the North Shore area of Vancouver in part because it is so close to mountains that offer a network of hiking trails and many months of winter sport activities. The altitude of our local peaks is not that high, just 1200m / 3900 ft, but because we are at latitude 49N the snow can persist into early June at that elevation. On one of our first hikes here last June, it was a warm sunny day at sea level but on the mountain we soon found ourselves in thick snow and lost the trail!
With the winter snows now here we are enjoying snowshoeing and working on learning the basics of cross country skiing. It’s not as easy as it looks! Some falling is involved…