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A Long Strange Trip (part 2)

Cross Country Travel

On my last blog I wrote about how my wife and I managed to escape from the Peoples Republic of California. Judging from all the news coming out of there, it seems like we left just in time. Just when you think it couldn’t get more insane, the state government says “wait, hold my beer…”. The latest being the complete and utter stupidity of mandating all electric cars by 2035, I’m not going to get into that piece of absurdity however, at least not at this time.

Moving from California, was one of the hardest, most stressful undertakings my wife and I have ever attempted. With that being said, there were moments of excitement and anticipation about embarking on what we realized that at our age this was probably going to be our last great adventure. We were moving to a place where we didn’t know anyone, leaving all our friends and both of our daughters and our amazing grandson David behind, but we were moving into a home that is completely paid for, in a great neighborhood. One of the most comforting things was that when we originally looked at the house we were buying, we were astonished at how nice and friendly people are, for the most part anyway, in North Carolina. Everyone either waves or says hello. It was so different then California, where I think people are suffering from a form of P.T.S.D. because of the state government, high taxes, the high cost of living and all the Covid nonsense they have been subjected too.

After selling our old home and packing everything up, (it took 2 16 foot PODS and a 15 foot U-haul), the next step was to plan our trip from Ca. to N.C. Luckily, I wasn’t in charge of everything. My wife’s idea of getting AAA was a life saver, they set up our entire itinerary, booked all the pet friendly hotels and were all around just fantastic, I would recommend them to everyone considering a move like ours. The other thing was my sister-in-law who suggested we get walkie-talkies so Marie and I could communicate without the hassle and possible illegality of using our cell phones on those long stretches of highway. That was an absolute godsend of an idea, kinda made me feel like a trucker, lol. With the help of AAA, I planned the route we would take, choosing the southern one because we didn’t feel like going over the Rockies. That route took us from the Bay Area to Barstow on the first day. That first day was a real eye opener for what was to come in the next 6 days. It took us about 6 hours just to get to Bakersfield, which, no insult to the people you live there, is not a place that I would ever consider living in, it came across as very depressing. After stopping for lunch and to give the doggoes a much needed break, we tried to leave, but even with Google maps it took us over a half an hour to get out and back on the road, it was like we were trapped in a loop of motor vehicle hell. When we finally got back on the highway we started to play a game, counting the U-hauls and moving vans on their way out of the state. When I rented the U-Haul truck, it cost somewhere in the neighborhood of 4 grand. I was told that if I had rented in Arizona it would be a fraction of that. The people at U-Haul said the reason for the price discrepancy was because so many people were moving from Ca that they had an overabundance of trailers and vehicles in other states. Between pitstops we counted all the U-Hauls and moving vans leaving California. It was never less than 20 in a 2 hour period!

We arrived in Barstow around 5 pm. We had left Sonoma County about 7 am, so it was a nice relaxing 10 hour day on the road. (It was kind of funny, it didn’t matter how many hours Google maps said the drive time between cities was, it always took at least 10 hours.) Barstow actually seems like a quaint little town, the hotel was nice, the people friendly and finding semi decent food wasn’t a problem with a nice little, restaurant attached to it. I thought to myself, “well this isn’t so bad”, if the rest of the trip goes like this it’ll be what I like to call "pizzacake". I should have kept my thoughts to myself.

The next day took us to Flagstaff, Arizona. There is no other way to say this, other than God saved us. I never thought there could be roads worse than those in California, but Highway 40 going to Flagstaff has to be the worst maintained road I’ve ever been on. If these potholes were in Ca people would be lining up to live in them. And then there was the wind, one gust sent my U-Haul completely into the next lane, I hate to think of what would have happened if I was towing something. Driving up the mountain into Flagstaff was to say the least, a total white knuckle experience, and I know the only reason we made it was Gods protection. It wasn’t just the road conditions, it was the other drivers out there, mainly the truck drivers, which surprised me, until I realized that with all the supply chain issues and gas price issues, a great many of the truckers you see on the road these days are rookies with not a lot of experience or training, very scary indeed.

As with Barstow, the hotel in Flagstaff was fine, AAA did such a great job in finding good hotels that would accommodate our 4 pets. One of the things that was really cool about our whole journey was seeing towns and places in the southwest that I had read about in some of the Tony Hillerman novels from years ago, towns like Flagstaff. That would especially come true as we drove through Arizona to Albuquerque, New Mexico. Marie implored me to detour off our route and see the Grand Canyon, and while that is something I really want to see, I felt like spending an hour just wasn’t enough time to do it justice, so I made a promise to her to visit it sometime in the future.

Albuquerque is an interesting town. The hotel, called “The Querque” wasn’t bad at all, it just wasn’t very user friendly, the layout was strange and convoluted, the service was fine, it just had sort of a weird Steven King Overlook Hotel feel to it. I had to find a place for dinner and went to a local pizzeria that the gal at the check-in desk recommended. As I waited for my pizza, I struck up a conversation with a couple of locals there, and I asked them what kind of town is Albuquerque, is it liberal, conservative, is it a nice place to live, and stuff like that. They said that for the most part, Albuquerque is a pretty liberal town, and like most democrat run cities has a big problem with the same things that are issues with seemingly all democrat run cities, crime, homelessness and out of control drug use. It surprised me somewhat, I just figured New Mexico wouldn’t have the same problems as California, but when I thought about it, it made sense, it’s yet another liberal college town.

The next day was probably the longest one in terms of drive time. At this time, I have to mention the almost super-human strength Marie exhibited during this whole adventure. My wife suffers from chronic back pain and has had her shoulder surgically replaced. So naturally, the thought of having to drive over three thousand miles by herself was a daunting one. While she did have some issues, we had to stop every couple of hours, something we had to do anyway because of the dogs, she soldiered on, fighting the pain and fatigue all the way. The drive from Albuquerque to OK City was a really long drive, but also the most beautiful. The painted desert is indescribable, a tapestry created by God that is unequaled anywhere. My sister lives in New Mexico, and I’d always wondered why she chose to live there. After driving through the painted desert, I came to see very clearly why people love it, and it brought a fresh respect for the Native Americans who lived off the land before the white man came. Texas was a truly a sight to see, instead of oil wells, there was acre after acre, mile after mile of those almost completely useless wind farms. These bird Cuisinart’s were everywhere, stretching into Oklahoma, and while the scope was impressive, it also pointed to how “green energy” is taking over, and we all remember the problems Texas had just a couple of years ago when their grid shut down in freezing temperatures and people died.

One of the things we noticed as we drove through the southwest was the number of trains that were just sitting there, not moving. Over and over, we saw idle trains with hundreds of cars. It reminded us that the supply chain issues our country is facing are created issues, purposely done to create shortages, especially food shortages. It blew my mind to see it, and it looked they had no intention of getting moving any time soon.

When we arrived In OK City we stayed at the downtown Hilton hotel. The hotel was fantastic, or would have been if we didn’t have the pets, we were on something like the 20th floor, and I had to park the U-Haul in a lot across the street, because it was too tall for their parking garage, which was the same issue we ran into when we stayed at the Sheriton in Memphis. Having bellboys and checking your vehicle is cool, but when you have to lug all of our luggage, pets and their stuff up to the 20th floor it gets frustrating to say the least, especially when you have to take the dogs out for their nightly constitutional. It was very cool though when we crossed the Mississippi on the way into Memphis, that memory will always stick in my mind as one of the highlights.

From Memphis, our next stop was Knoxville. This was the only hotel AAA really missed on. All the others were 4 star in my book, but this one would only rate a 2 at best. We had to book 2 rooms because their policy was 2 pets per room, max. My room was ok, not great but serviceable, but Marie’s was so bad we had to request another room, which, thankfully they had no problem with. After a semi-miserable night in Knoxville we headed out for our final stop, the Candlelight Suites in Rocky Mount, N.C. which is about 15 miles west of Tarboro.

During our trip we were in constant contact with our real estate agent, a truly wonderful woman named Belinda. Belinda led us through every step of the process and facilitated all of the repairs that needed to be done under the sellers disclosures, she also arranged for a flooring company to measure the house for the laminate flooring we were going to install, she truly went above and beyond to help us. The issue was that we didn’t actually become owners until day 4 of our trip, so while it was a pretty sure thing, there was always that smidgeon of doubt, until everything was finalized. Still by the time we arrived in Rocky Mount there was still quite a bit of work going on at the house, so we decided to stay at the hotel for another couple of days, before we unloaded the truck. I was so glad to return that truck to U-haul, it was great, drove great, had no problems with it, but after 3000 miles my hands were pretty sore.

So our 7 day sojourn was over, we all arrived safe and sound in Tarboro North Carolina, (although for a moment we thought we had lost Pixie the cat). There were so many instances where it was obvious that God was on our side. One in particular was in New Mexico on the way to Ok City. We had just stopped at little roadside store to pick up a couple of souvenirs and pulled into a gas station to refill, I went to check on the load in the U-Haul and the key to the padlock broke off. The gas station didn’t have anything I could use, but recommended a shop that might be open down the road. As I was walking back to the truck, I noticed a local cop parked on the side of an overpass. I flagged him down and asked if he had any bolt cutters, he didn’t but called another officer who showed up with a set, but his weren’t big enough,(no laughing) so than a state trooper came along, and he had bolt cutters big enough to do the job. There just happened to be a Walmart a couple of miles away so while these guys were helping me, Marie went and got a new lock. It was just a little hick-up, but the way it happened, the first cop that had a bible scripture tattooed on his arm, they fact that we were only delayed maybe an hour, that the 2 other cops just happened to be in the vicinity, all of it was to much for it to be mere coincidence. That was just one of many examples of God watching over us. Just surviving the road with all the lunatic drivers was proof positive of that.

Tarboro could not be more different than Sonoma County, it’s not like just moving to another state, it’s like moving to another country. The town was settled in the late 1700’s and has a lot of history, you can feel how old everything is. All of the small southern town clichés apply, (bless your heart). It’s a distinctly different culture, a culture that embraces it’s past, warts and all, yet is comfortable in the here and now. It’s been a real eye-opening experience for us, a whole lot to get used too. That’s not a bad thing at all. With all the stuff going on right now, I am so grateful that God has blessed us with this house, our house. I’m so grateful to be here and not in California, and although I miss it, and get homesick every once in a while, I would so much rather be here. North Carolina is an incredibly beautiful state, with as diverse of an ecology as California, we’re 2 hours away from the coast and about 3 hours from the Smokey Mountains which are incredible in themselves. In future blogs I’ll get into the societal and cultural differences between the 2 places, and my thoughts about being a long-haired country boy from California living in a rural town in the deep south and some more tales from the road. I promise it should be very interesting!

Rock on y’all!

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