My Newspaper Article:
Subject: There’s no bird like a Slowbird
By: John Segalla
For the past two months, I’ve been riding my motorcycle around the vast expanses of desert in Southern New Mexico and Southern Arizona trying to stay warm and everywhere I go I see the slowbirds. This is the term used for people who migrate south to the arid climates of this region. Most are retirees but there are many others who fall victim to their wanderlust, those who have sacrificed everything for the life the road offers.
Day by day as the temperatures plummet the migratory routes become more congested with motor homes of all descriptions. The size and cost of these coasting castles would boggle the mind. Some of the more luxurious liners can run into the million dollar range. If the size alone doesn’t define the owner’s economic status, then the vehicle in tow will offer more clues. I’ve discovered by a close study of their habitat that there’s a pecking order among these slowbirds.
At the top of the food chain is the motor coach crowd who primarily will settle close to golf courses having their meals at fancy eateries with catchy names like “the nineteenth hole”. This particular species will cringe if their home is referred to as an R.V. (recreational vehicle).
Next on the list is the R.V. crowd who make up the majority of the slowbirds. This species is so diverse that they’ll have to be divided up into several categories.
First, we have the motor home, a close relative to the motor coach, only differing in the amount of gadgetry and cost.
The next class is made up of four kinds of travel trailers which include 5th wheelers, double- axel, single axel/pop ups. All are pulled by a separate tow vehicle which can be as elaborate as a big rig tractor or as simple as a plaid pick-up truck. The vast majority use expensive diesel engine pick-up trucks with all the bells and whistles because when they park their trailers the tow vehicles become their primary source of transportation. So when granny says, “fetch the truck, Jethro”, Jethro returns with a forty-five thousand dollar truck.
Next is the pick-up truck camper class which is basically a vinyl sided tree house that’s jammed into the bed of a truck. The next species of slowbirds are closely related to the Partridge family. They take decommissioned Greyhound buses and old school buses and transform them into private homes adding everything from homemade curtains to roof mounted solar panels with massive storage batteries below for electrical independence. But the species of slowbird that I find most interesting uses none of the above mentioned modes of travel, they are a stranger breed of bird, perhaps one that dropped out of the nest as opposed to leaving in a timely manner. These birds are on a slightly different flight pattern going a little slower than the rest of the flock. They’re easily identified by the amount of gear tied to the outside of their rigs in a less than safe manner.
Often times they have more pets than family members aboard. Their vehicles puff smoke as if propulsion was achieved by one or more coal burning stoves. These birds don’t feed at the nineteenth hole or stay in fancy resorts with names like Sunny Vistas or The Trail’s End, they’re more likely to be spotted somewhere in the desert between Yuma and Quartzite, Arizona where their nearest neighbor can be reached by smoke signal or ham radio. Nobody will ever ask these folks to pass the grey poupon, but more likely the duct tape. Perhaps I seem harsh in my description of this class but, let it be known, I belong to this group as well. This, of course, would be the slowbird class and their motto is “easy does it”. These species travel in old cars, trucks, vans, bicycles, motorcycles, on foot and last, but not least, the motorcycle/sidecar combination.
This category I have created on my own. With three wheels and close to 1400 pounds of bike and cargo, I consider my rig an R.V. of sorts. I sleep in a tent, cook on a propane stove and use a mess kit that’s all stored aboard. I carry enough food and water for both myself and my dog and so I call it my home. In the lowly slow bird category there’s a strong camaraderie and appreciation that exists for each others resourcefulness and perseverance.
Usually being a member of the slowbirds means hardship and complete reliance on mother nature as well as owning every tool known to mankind. I talk with many people who are members of the other categories as well because after all we are all birds of the same feather. We love to travel and we enjoy people and who we talk to is often as close as we will get to having neighbors. In the future, I hope to write more about all the wonderful people that I meet as I continue to ride for the next 18 months in and around our beautiful country.
Starting in Montreal the slowbirds near their desert destination. Victor, Natalie and Little Robin have traveled for three (3) years across five continents with their little boy to pass out crayons at third world schools.
Posted by Donna Connell at February 23, 2002 11:21 PM GMT