Sunday, February 3, 2008

Oregon State Road #42

Oh, man! Talk about a wearing day! From a rest stop just north of Grant's Pass, Oregon to a rest stop just north of Eureka, California. The long way around, though. When Raymond got up early, the 511 DOT report recording said it was still snowing at Grant's Pass, but worse than that was the truckers' reports that the road from Ashland to Redding, California remains closed. We cannot go farther south on Interstate 5, the main north-south freeway on the West Coast.

By 11 a.m., the weather was turning for the worse, so it was "stay" or "find another route" decision time. Since we had to meet the moving van, which was probably way past us already, we decided to "find another route." We doubled back on our tracks, turning north to pick up Oregon State Rd #42, which leads west to Hwy 101, and come south Hwy 101 until there are no mountain passes to contend with. Longer; grueling—Oregon State Road #42 is NOT built for twenty-eight foot RVs, what with its two cramped and narrow lanes with curves banked up against steep drops to tree-spiked waters, and NO guard rails! If one has acrophobia, that road isn't the most relaxing drive, though safer than snow-and-ice-bound freeways, I guess. Raymond gave me what-for for making him turnaround and take this shortcut. However, remember this: he was driving a powerful truck towing a car, while I was driving a top-heavy, lumbering RV. You tell me who was the worse for wear by the end of that interminable road. It did have one highly redeeming factor: beautiful scenery, such as mist floating, Douglas firs, mercury-bright and still waters. The quintessential Pacific Northwest scenery. I shall miss it.

We stopped at a turn-out over the Oregon coast, and I took some photos of Raymond and Tika, and of the rocks and sun low over the water.

The RV is great, but when the road is rough, it wobbles, because it's top heavy, so I have to take rough road much slower. We averaged 45 mph if we were lucky, but Raymond left me behind many times—we had agreed we were going to end up in the same place eventually, but it would not be good to block the road with both of our vehicles. Up hill; down hill; sharp curves. Luckily traffic was lighter than light. Super Bowl Sunday might have had something to do with that.

Tonight, we reheated the leftovers from our Hunan Chinese meal from Gig Harbor and planned our route for tomorrow. Raymond had his GPS, though no internet; I had the Road Atlas my parents gave me for Christmas. What can I say? I'm a writer, I love paper; he's a man, he loves gizmos. To get to North Carolina by Friday evening, we must average 600 miles per day. That means tomorrow, we need to get past Bakersfield, nearly to I-40. There is a rest stop about 30 miles this side of the I-40 intersection, where we can stay the night in the RV. We'll be tired doggies, no doubt.

Speaking of tired: cats slept all day, and I suspect they'll keep us up with their night prowling.

Wonder where the moving van is by now. Probably through California and into Arizona already.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

On the Road: First Day

Oh, this is fun!


Since all our belongings have been loaded on the truck from Allied Van Lines, we slept in the RV in our driveway. Raymond slept in the foam bed at the end of the RV; I slept on the over-the-cab bed to be near the cats for their comfort. This morning, I have more sore pressure points than I have blood pressure points! Plus the cats' litter box and food are up there for their convenience, so I had to contend with those objects at my feet. However, that keeps them out from under foot, and where Tika (our collie) can get to them.

We woke frequently, partly because we had set the thermostat too low and I only had the blue blanket Vic made for Raymond two Christmases ago. And cats are nightprowlers, so they began their plaintive "let me out" routine. Oliver even learned to use his nails on the screen on the door, which I hist at him about—and bless his heart, he didn't do again. He crawled under the covers with Raymond several times. Just walked up to Raymond's head, who lifted the covers and he'd scoot under. Raymond would wrap his arms around Oliver and scritch him. Oliver would chew on his knuckles, sleep a bit, then leave.

I got up early, since there was no reason to continue to try to sleep. Went in the house, upped the heat so it would be warm for Raymond; took a looooooooong, hot shower, knowing full well that in the winterized RV, it was going to be my last for many days. After drying my hair, I began the sorting process of those few things that were left. We had breakfast, then one last inspection of the house, and we left. I was tempted to call Raymond on the cell to say "let's go home," but I was afraid he'd think I was having second thoughts about leaving Gig Harbor!!

I called my parents just as we were getting ready to go, but it was a hard conversation. No matter what the reasons or necessity for moving, it's still hard to move away from much-beloved family. Hard to realize we're no longer "just down the road" from each other.

We had decided that in order to get across country in winter, we needed to drive two vehicles: Raymond drove his Chevy truck and towed my Honda Accord; I drove a twenty-eight foot, Class C rental RV with our collie (Tika), our two cats (Ceci and Oliver), and my angel-wing begonia, my arrowhead vine, my Christmas cactus, and my Ali-Rosemary bush. Since the RV was winterized—no running water—the shower served me well.

Tika was excited, stressed, voicing her concerns for the first 30-45 minutes, and if you don't think that's a long time, try it. The cats yowled for the first 15 or so, then quietly protested from time to time. (I think they were afraid of losing their voices.) I was fearful of losing the cats out the window of the RV when I stopped to pay the toll on the Narrows Bridge, but I guess they were too jammed in the corner of the over-the-cab bed.

Raymond stopped at the first rest stop below Olympia to check the towing rig for the Honda, but since Tika and the cats had just settled down, I called him on the cell to say I wasn't going to stop. He caught up with me down the road a bit. When I finally stopped at a rest stop to use the facilities, it was snowing!

What a lovely send off from Washington!

At each "pit stop," Raymond walks Tika, to stretch her legs and give her a chance to pee. We have to guard against cats getting loose when we open the RV door of course. That's one of the reasons we have the halter on Oliver (and would on Ceci if the packers hadn't snapped up her harness and packed it); also one of the reasons we updated Oliver's chip and had Ceci chipped. They both scan, and the HomeAgain database has our cell phone numbers and our address in North Carolina.

By noon, Oliver had crawled under the passenger front seat and refused to budge. Ceci would settle with him, then sometimes emerge and settle with Tika, who has made her home on the floor between the driver and passenger seats. Her doggie bed is there, and she lies there, her head up for the most part, although dozing. Ceci had a chance to crawl up into her ruff, do the "ecstatic kneading" in her fur, and then actually lie down next to her and go to sleep. Ceci also spent part of the day on my lap, but I had to move her off so I could drive.

The RV was cold, and no matter how high I turned up the heat, I couldn't get warm. Wonderful problem to have when going 3,000 miles in winter, yes? Found out at the end of the day that I had opened the vent above the over-the-cab bed, and it was pouring cold air down on us. Once we closed that, it got cozy quickly.

I'm tired of McDonald's. We have the RV, which means we should be able to cook, but we neglected to buy bread or a five-gallon jug of water. We stopped shy of Grant's pass to snatch a brief nap. I was getting too sleepy to be safe. So we dozed about 45 minutes.

Of course, we'll never know if we could have gotten through had we not taken our nap, but as we got on the road to Grant's Pass, there was a flashing advisory: Chains REQUIRED ... plus some other narrative we didn't catch. The RV cannot even TAKE chains—and even if we had them, CruiseAmerica forbids the use of them, since they tear up the underside of what is essentially a summer vehicle—and Raymond's truck, while he has studded tires, does not have chains. So as I write this, we're hunkered down in the rest stop before Grant's Pass (no, no internet access; just writing on my laptop for later upload). A couple of truckers were talking, so I wished them a good morning (it was dark, raining, freezing, and late evening), and we got to talking. They said the pass isn't the problem. It's Ashland, and the road past Ashland to Redding, California. Closed. So even if we had chains, they'd be no use. The road will be closed until midnight, possibly even later. So we'll call 511 on the cell phone, and get the conditions. Then get on the road tomorrow.

I dragged Oliver out from under the seat. He was so limp that I thought he had died! God, that upset me, but he was just listless. So I held him, comforted him, rocked him, stroked him. After a while, he began to purr, then stretched his paw up to my shoulder and fell asleep with the tip of his nose just a few inches from mine. When I finally had to get up, I put him in the chair, and he stayed -- it was warm from body heat. A bit later I draped the blue blanket over it, making a den for him, which is where he is now.

Ceci is on the cab-bed, in the round, green cat bed. She had been hunkering down IN THE CAT LITTER (which is clean, but even so!). She ate a bit tonight; Oliver hasn't eaten or drunk, so I am worried about him. We'll see how it goes in the morning.

It's raining, it's cold, but we're together. This time next month we shall be in North Carolina, so I'm not going to hassle where we are tonight.

Friday, February 1, 2008

The Moving Van Cometh!


Before the moving van came, we hustled the cats out to the RV. Well, Raymond hustled Oliver, and I guess it was a good thing Raymond had on his thick outer shirt. When he got inside, he hoisted Oliver to the over-the-cab bed, where the poor cat promptly went to the farthest corner behind a pillow I had put there and cowered.

We could not find Ceci in the house for love nor money, and the moving van came and I still had not found her. So I started upstairs, going from room to room, closing the door to the room when I was absolutely positive she wasn't in there. Finally came to the family room, and I actually started turning over the furniture! Then I realized she had probably gone behind Raymond's bookcase, because the back on that bookcase does not come all the way to the floor. She came crawling out, miserably terrified. I felt like a heel, but I caught her, put her in the cardboard (and therefore blind) cat carrier. Plaintive doesn't even begin to describe the cries she let out. I put her in the RV on the cab-bed, too, and she promptly joined Oliver. Throughout the day, I'd come to see them, even going so far as to clamber up there and snooze for a bit with them. Those two guys were cozied up to each other so tightly; something you'd've never seen at home, since Ceci tended to be bratty toward Oliver, and he'd back down. We prefer to think of him as a gentleman, but in truth, he's a wuss.

The mail forwarding is working. The carrier came past while I was in town getting our lunch from McDonald's, and Raymond said she wished us well, and that all the mail is now being forwarded. It'll get to North Carolina before we do, of course.

The van driver was much later than anticipated, but of course he had to weigh the truck at the scales before we loaded, then weigh again after loading today. There were three movers in addition to the driver (and his wife). Even with the extra hand—I gather they normally only have two movers—it was still evening before the van could close its doors. Despite my pointing out to the driver (and he pointing out to one of the movers) the three boxes in my office that DO NOT GO on the moving van, my MFA rolling tote was loaded, and by the time I realized they'd done that, it was far too late to snatch it back. It's not as if I can't work without it, but I'm uneasy about it being too far from me. It has all my annotations, my critical theory work, my first semester evaluation, etc. At least the box of my second semester books is in the trunk of the Honda.

We got some bad news toward the middle of the afternoon. All passes going east on the northern routes are closed. We have to go down through California, then turn east on I-40.

The house echoes, and it seems a sad place, with bits of dust and dirt, and odds and ends of string and fur in forlorn corners. It is really helpful to us that the family is coming tomorrow and Sunday to clean the house inside and out. We've asked our realtor here to hire steam cleaners to get the carpets in the bedrooms done. We'll send her a check to reimburse her for the carpet cleaners once we know the amount.

Christopher's Room

Lindsey's Room

I went to Hunan Garden to get Take Out of some of our favorite Chinese dishes. Saw Angie and Anne, our favorite waitresses, and said good-bye.

Went to bed early. Don't know why. (See 2 February)

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Rent an RV WHEN?

We had a huge, last-minute snafu with the closing on the house in North Carolina. Raymond received an email this morning that the closing costs are $1,000 higher (the cost of the fuel in the propane tank). Even though we had the funds, there was NO WAY we could wire that money in time for the closing, and the seller was not only antsy, but adamant about getting his money by Friday. Our realtor, bless her heart, offered to pay the additional monies, and we could reimburse her when we got to North Carolina. However, Raymond (or his attorney, I don't know which) suggested that Raymond simply put the check for the propane in the overnight priority package with the other closing paper to the attorney. This was after Raymond tore into him about having more than ample time to get all the data needed for closing, and that we had not only done our part from 3,000 miles away, but all the parties involved 'back there' are within a few miles of each other! Indeed, the mortgage lender is in the same building with our realtor!! She rode herd on the process, but apparently someone wasn't doing his job.

As Raymond and I were in my Honda on our way up to Everett, Washington to pick up the CruiseAmerica rental RV (winterized), he had a phone call from our realtor. Since he was driving (his hands-free ear piece for his cell phone was ALSO packed), I answered and talked with her. She was apologetic, but stated that [someone] was investigating why this closing went so badly, especially right up to the last minute, which was complicated by our being 3,000 miles away. Not because we weren't doing our part, and that includes anticipating and getting the arrangement done far in advance of deadlines. So much for professionalism.

Long story short, the house is ours, but I have NEVER seen Raymond in such a rage.

The rental RV is beautiful, and even though winterized, it'll make us more comfortable going across country. Winterized simply means that the tanks for water are not filled, and cannot be filled because freezing weather might freeze the water and crack the tanks. So no running water, but we're going to carry a few gallon jugs of water, buying more as we need them. We have a convection microwave oven, a three-burner propane stove, a refrigerator-freezer, and lots of storage overhead for groceries, etc. There is even a closet for clothes, with hangers, etc. Besides, the shower is a great place to put my angel-wing begonia, my Christmas cactus, my arrowhead vine, and my Ali-Rosemary plant. See? All things work out for the best.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

A Day's Rest, Unexpected

A down day for us, not meaning depressed as much as not high activity, although we just about blew our gasket at our financial guys early in the morning. Despite our coming in LAST WEEK to get all the money transfers straight -- how much, from where, to where, by when -- the money for the closing was NOT liquid, and they were saying it wouldn't be until Friday (the 1st). Raymond told them to get the money transferred on time, that they had more than enough notice to get the transfers complete.

We ran errands all over town; in the evening, we played Freecell and Spider Sol on our computers, since we were surrounded by boxes. I tried to write the annotations for the first four novels of my second semester (Great Expectations, babel-17, Lord of Light, and Madame Bovary), but doing critical theory work based on character (rather than narrative structure) is difficult for me. I might not get them done in time for my packet, which paradoxically is going to my advisor several weeks early. If anyone tries to tell you that a low-residency MFA program is easy, send them to me. It's intense and enlightening.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The Packers


Packers arrived: four gentleman, courteous, well spoken, very attentive listeners. We thought we had pointed out everything they were not to pack and that we had grabbed up the rest, but by that evening we found our error. Good thing I had my sneakers in my office, where I was working. I had gone down to get a pair of shoes to go out to get the mail, and the hall closet was empty! Already!!

Of course, Ceci's cat harness—which I had delayed putting on her, because she was so stressed with the tranquilized visit to the vet on the 16th, and then the every-other-night oral meds (which I got smart and ground up and served in tuna oil), and then the strangeness of boxes everywhere—was packed in a blink of an eye. Not only my shoes and Ceci's traveling harness, but Raymond's iPod, his multi-tool, my underwear (which I had to rescue). These guys were efficient, that's for sure! They only took one day, where they were supposed to take two (I had said I didn't think there was enough left in the house for two days of packing).

Thursday, January 10, 2008

The Decision

When one lives in God's country, why leave it? What would force two people—one of whom had lived in the Pacific Northwest since 1954 and the other since 1977—to dig up their deep ties to family and community and move three thousand miles away?

One word: sunshine.

Getting older has its advantages—a certain permission to speak one's mind, for example—but the ability to feel energetic in a country known for its rain forests diminishes. The decision became a choice: live with diminished energy and feel old or move into sunshine.

We chose to move, despite leaving behind family. There are regrets, of course, and even a sense of estrangement. However, like water on a dying bush, sunshine and clear skies have brought energy to grow and be alive.

This blog is a record of our decision, our trials, and our triumphs.