My husband is driving a twenty-six foot moving van towing a sixteen-foot trailer on grueling nine hundred mile journey from California’s Santa Cruz Mountains to Bainbridge Island, Washington. His cousin has been sharing the driving, and a family friend kindly volunteered to drive my mini-van, towing our outboard motor boat, which is doubling as a trailer, hauling our thousands of Christmas lights. Our heavy trucks have only been able to drive the mountain passes at thirty to forty miles an hour, making the estimated sixteen hours of driving closer to twenty-six.
This is our first cross-county (up-country) move. We are native Californian’s, possibly even naïve Californians, thinking we could easily pack up our stuff and go. It hasn’t been easy. It’s been time and thought consuming, a test of creative thinking. Our move was a domino that required us to finish moving my mother-in-law’s things from our property, which meant my husband had to build a storage area under his sister’s house. Our move also meant finding a place for my sister, who has been living with us, and will remain in California. We decided to move her into a fifth wheel on property we already own. This meant asking a current tenant to move his trailer. Now he has to decide whether to remain in the area and work, or retire to Texas where he is buying a home. His adult son who has been working with him will need to find different work. And so it goes. I know we aren’t responsible for everyone else’s circumstances or happiness, but I recognize the very changes we are embracing are causing changes for others that they didn’t necessarily choose.
Clearly we aren’t pioneers, but like pioneers, we’re leaving behind family, community, and the familiar, and doing it ourselves––packing, navigating, building (remodeling) a home, with livestock (ok, three cats) in tow, and by in tow, I mean tucked under our seats on Southwest Airlines in two days. Speaking of wrangling our cats, who must endure a ninety minute drive to the airport, check-in at the ticket counter, security, and a two hour flight, before Kevin meets us outside of baggage claim with a litter box, I have squirreled away a drink coupon and am going to order rum with my complimentary Coke midflight. I’m sure some pioneers swigged from the whiskey jug after a particularly perilous river crossing.
We, especially my husband Kevin, are do-it-yourselfers. There was a moment when we thought he’d get a job offer before our move that would include a relocation package and we imagined professional movers transporting our possessions for us. But how would we survive for the ten days the POD company toted and barged our beds, pots, pans, litter box? Or even the three days United Van Lines estimated. And how would they know what to toss, donate, recycle? I didn’t want to transport every item we owned. I did a lot of downsizing when we listed our house, but I hadn’t finished. Wouldn’t it be easier for us to pack everything? And if we packed it, why not load and drive it?
The job offer hasn’t come—the hiring manager is travelling internationally and then vacationing for the holidays, so we were freed to follow our natural bent. We rented a truck, bought boxes and packing materials. I spent sixteen days sorting and packing and with lots of help, two days loading our vehicles. We followed the rules––leaving behind our potted roses, fertilizers, solvents, paint, propane, and everything else on the Do Not Move list.
Given the cost of gas, two nights lodging, and return plane tickets for our auxiliary drivers, and being hassled at a truck stop for not parking properly and not being a proper truck, I don’t know if moving ourselves was worth it. But at this point, our decision is water under the bridge on the Columbia River––which Kevin just drove over. In a few weeks, once he’s moved my sister, he’ll have to repeat the drive with his pickup truck hauling a rented trailer filled with our patio furniture and the many items I’ve discovered in cabinets I overlooked.
I do know that moving ourselves has given us something that hiring professionals has not––stories. My husband has his hands on the steering wheel, his foot jamming the accelerator to the floor as the truck vibrates, engine grunting, up and over the Siskiyous descending into Oregon. He thinks he is driving, but he’s also writing, narrating through the prologue into the first chapter of how we came to Bainbridge Island.