Sunday, June 1, 2014

How we made it this far

The end had been coming for a long time. A long, long, long time. Maybe even from the moment we first set foot in St. Louis. We made spreadsheets of where we thought we might like to move (okay, I made the spreadsheets), we read everything we could, we visited (multiple times, in multiple seasons), we made our decision. We found a place to live.

But the actual moving, the logistics of picking up and going, that was hard.  And the reality of moving, especially across the country, is that it is very expensive. Even the lowest prices we could get from moving companies made our eyeballs roll back into our heads.  It made me understand how hard it is to get out of a bad situation and how this is not an option many people could realistically have. I am very, very thankful for this opportunity. I understand how lucky we are.

In large part because of the cost, we decided to do this whole thing the Ragfield Way, which is to say, on our own.  First, we set a moving date.  Then Rob rented a 26-foot U-Haul and arranged to tow his car (the station wagon) behind on a dolly. We got information from the U-Haul place about hiring two guys, for two hours, to help us lift the heavy stuff. Rob's parents also came down for the day.

At 7 in the morning, Rob left to pick up the truck. He was back by 8, and he and his dad began loading. Meanwhile, I went to the grocery store to get coffee for everyone (we were out of coffee, and the coffee maker had been packed anyway). It was a beautiful day. Low 60's. Not humid. I think the weather helped to put everybody in a good mood. At the grocery store, I wanted to hug the cashier I paid for the coffee. This was the last time. The very last time I would be here. We were leaving St. Louis. We were going to the mountains. We would not be back.

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Thanks for coming. We didn't realize that we couldn't have done it without you.

At 10, the guys Rob had hired arrived for the heavy lifting. They were amazingly efficient, and they were happy too, as happy as we were. Everyone was joking and laughing. I highly recommend moving on a day when it is 60 degrees, with little humidity. Every other time I have ever moved, it has been July or August and sweltering. I distinctly remember when I was 9 and my family moved to Dunlap during the great drought of 1988. The heat was unbearable. My grandma drove down from the farm with barbecue in a crock pot. By 10am, we'd all been working so hard that she ordered us to stop for lunch. This time it was different. Rob's mom and I walked to CBW to get everybody burritos. We wore jackets because it was so cool out.

By noon, Rob, his dad, and the hired guys had all the big stuff (furniture, heavy items) loaded. We took a break for our lunch burritos. Then Rob's mom and I continued to pack the last minute things--the things you can't pack up ahead of time (like some kitchen and bathroom items, some clothes) because you're still using them. It turns out, there are a lot of last minute things.

It also turns out that there are are a lot of things that don't fit in boxes, and these are the hardest to pack. Floor lamps, coat trees, wall hangings. The stuff that was in the garage. Houseplants--what do you do with them? When we moved to Nicaragua, I gave all my houseplants to Martín. It seemed the thing to do. He's good with plants. But now Martín is back in Argentina (I miss you so, Mt), and I had no one to entrust with my houseplants. Everything became a bit muddled at the end.

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Photo of photo


Saying goodbye

Late in the day, Rob drove back to the U-Haul place. They loaded his station wagon onto the dolly. He had to take a leap of faith and hope that they'd done it right.

The next problem we had to face was: Where do you park a 26-foot U-Haul with a station wagon attached to the back? It's not like we lived on a sprawling ranch with acres of land and free space. There was just enough room from the edge of our east neighbor's driveway to the edge of our west neighbor's driveway (completely blocking our own driveway, but that didn't really matter) to make it fit.

The vacuum cleaner was the last thing to load, as I finished up vacuuming the dirt that had gotten tracked in throughout the day. By then it was dark out.

We slept on an air mattress (that we realized, in the night, must have a pin-hole leak), and Will slept on his own mattress (to be loaded in the morning) in our room.

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We didn't have a firm plan for our departure time. I thought we'd be lucky if we made it out by noon. But we woke up and only had a little bit left to do, and we were on the road by 9am.

We drove. Rob went in front, I followed behind in Esmerelda, our Prius. The U-Haul barely fit on the narrow roads in the city. We made it to 64, took the exit to go west. It was a Sunday morning, but there was more traffic than you'd ever believe.

As we left the city behind, it began to feel like an adventure. A road trip to a new life.

The miles ticked by. I had my phone all blue-toothed to the car, so if Rob and I needed to talk, we could do it hands free. This helped a lot. But mainly, we just stayed together. It was difficult the first time Rob needed gas. We realized we couldn't just stop at a regular gas station, because the U-Haul (with the station wagon behind it) wouldn't fit. We needed a truck stop, but we were in rural Missouri. After passing 3 gas stations that were either 1) not open - 2) out of gas - 3) or too small to accommodate the U-Haul, we finally made it to a place where we could fill up. Luckily, the rest of our gas stops went much more smoothly.


I had packed us PBJs, baby carrots, and sliced apples for lunch, so we were able to eat that on the go. I had also packed Will a lot of snacks in his backpack and made sure they were accessible to him. The result of this was that he had eaten all of his pretzels and animal crackers by around 10am (1 hour into the trip). But he was happy, and that made it work.


I also came up with a strategy during this leg of the road trip that may just be my contribution to the world. This: Caffeinated Clif Shots in the car. No time to deal with coffee or the inevitable bathroom breaks that would accompany it. Clif Shots work for running marathons and ultras, they also work for keeping your wits about you when you are embarking on a 900 mile road trip with your 4-year old and no one to entertain him. Road trip Clif Shots are quite possibly the smartest thing I've ever done.

We ate more sandwiches in the car for dinner and just kept driving. I was probably the one who wanted to go on what I thought would be more lightly traveled roads and avoid both Kansas City and Denver. We wound around on 4-lane highways most of the day and got on I-80 at Lincoln, Nebraska.

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Does it look like the U-Haul might be tipping to the right? Dear god, don't let the U-Haul be tipping to the right.

We made it to Lexington, NE before we decided to call it quits for the night, at a Super-8 motel that had a large parking lot for trucks in the back. My arms and neck hurt from gripping the steering wheel so tightly all day. We'd been 12 hours on the road just to get this far. We couldn't go as fast with the U-Haul-- 65mph was about the limit.


The next morning, there was nothing much to do except throw down a caffeinated Clif Shot, and hit the road.


We drove, and drove, and eventually, Rob called to say, "Mountains!"


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You're the only north star I would follow this far.

Finally, we were in Fort Collins. We drove to the U-Haul place here in town first and had them detach Rob's station wagon (otherwise, we wouldn't have been able to unload our stuff).

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On our way to the house, that was the only time Rob and I ever got separated throughout the whole trip. The light turned yellow and he went on, but it was red by the time I got there, and I waited. It didn't matter. I knew exactly where we were. We were home.

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At 5pm, we had 3 guys come to help us unload. They were young kids-- barely out of high school. They had all of our stuff out of the truck in about 45 minutes.

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Rob went to return the U-Haul, pick up his station wagon, and get us potato burritos at Big City Burritos on campus.

We were exhausted, but we had made it.

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When we went to bed that night, the only sound we heard was the crickets chirping outside our open window.

The next morning I got up, stepped out the front door, and ran on a dirt trail towards the mountains.

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Thanks, everyone, for thinking of us, for sending a wish or a prayer. I felt it, I felt it all. That's how we made it this far.

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Anonymous said...

Awesome story!!! I felt like I was riding along with you the entire trip!!! Sooooooo Thankful and happy you arrived safely!! Loved the pictures!! beautiful place to call HOME!!! your grandpa and grandma would be sooooo proud of you and happy you are where you want to be!!! Sorry you didn't have any HOT Barbeque to make the day!! :). I so remember that !! thanks for sharing your latest adventure!! Now. Relax and enjoy the mountains!! luv and hugs~~~ mama141

Tyme said...

Yay!!!!! So so happy for you! Don't you feel as though you can breathe again?

Unknown said...

So happy that you're happy!!! Great 'trip report' ... and neat pictures!! love and hugs, auntie

Melissa said...

Thanks mom. I think of grandpa and grandma a lot here.

Melissa said...

Thank you so much Tyme. Yes I do! Breathing more freely than I have in years :)

Melissa said...

Auntie: hope you can come visit soon and help me decorate. Where do we hang the picture of the farm?