Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Last Day...Of Driving: Day 7

We woke up pretty early on Tuesday morning because Amy had to leave for work at 9:00.  Being a school teacher, Jason was already long gone but we had gotten a good visit in during the time we had on Monday night.

The last leg of our trip would take us all the way to the Pacific coast to my brother and sister-in-law's place in Hermosa Beach, CA.  Google said that it would take about six hours but at only 400 miles we thought it should be closer to five (assuming we maintained our pace from the previous few days).  Garrett and Nicole wouldn't be home until after 6:00 so we thought we'd spend a little time in the Scottsdale/Phoenix area.

We took a drive up north to see Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesen West.  Since it is still a private residence, you can't do a self guided tour and the shortest organized tour they offered lasted an hour.  We really weren't in the mood for a long tour so we looked around the bookstore and left to find somewhere to eat for lunch.  After driving around aimlessly for a little while, we wandered into old town Scottsdale where we found a nice bistro for lunch. 

After lunch, we started the drive across the desert.  On our way out of Phoenix we stopped for gas and were so overwhelmed by the heat.  The area is really pretty but it is just too hot!  It was great between the hours of 8 pm and 8 am but by mid-day the temperature was well over 110 degrees.  Phoenix must be really nice in the winter for so many people to endure the heat.

The drive was going well until we hit the California state line and the speed limit dropped way down.  That coupled with lots of road construction dashed our hopes of making it to Hermosa Beach in five hours.  The slow down and anticipation of completing our drive really made us weary.  For the first time in a week, we were suddenly fed up with driving. 

As we got closer to the greater Los Angeles area, our progress was further impeded by an increase in traffic and multiple highway interchanges.  The last seventy or so miles was the roughest.  It seemed like it took us two hours to drive that last stretch but by 7:15, we were unloading all of our luggage into Garrett and Nicoles apartment in sight of the Pacific Ocean.

At 2,261 miles, our drive was complete!  We've come a long way: only one week earlier we were doing our final packing in Memphis and beginning this journey.

Garrett and Nicole's freezer had stopped working the day before and they were forced to cook their frozen Cajun food that they had acquired on their last visit to Louisiana.  Darn!  We ate some fantastic chicken sausage, crawfish and crab pies and crab cakes.  It was a great way to end our trip!

After dinner we were understandably exhausted.  Garrett and Nicole had work in the morning and we had some final business to take care of Wednesday so we went to bed knowing that our time in the car was over. 

Day 7: Gilbert, AZ to Hermosa Beach, CA, 414 miles

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Longest Day: Day 6

The next logical stop after we left Fort Stockton, TX would have been Tucson, AZ.  This would break up the 24-hour trip from Houston to Los Angeles into three 8-hour days.  However, our good friends Amy & Jason recently moved from Memphis to a suburb of Phoenix so we thought we could drive the extra two or so hours to get us there. 

It wasn't a bad drive although it was a long time to spend in the car.  It helped that in the process, we changed time zones twice at least making it feel like we weren't in the car for ten and a half hours. We had to make several stops along the way for gas and just to take short breaks, but thanks to the 75 mph plus speed limit along the way, we made it to Gilbert, AZ by 6:30 pm Pacific Time (Arizona does not observe daylight savings time).

Jason had some late work meetings, so we spent some time visiting with Amy and prepped for a cookout by the swimming pool.  Amy and Jason have a butcher shop nearby so they had gotten four beautiful steaks for us to enjoy for dinner.  After Amy cooked up a few sides, we took the food and some beer out to the pool.

The desert heat is definitely different that the southern humidity heat that we are used to, but it is still hot.  Even after dark, it was still warm enough that pool was a welcome respite from the heat.  Jason made it home around 9:00 so we grilled up the steaks and did some more swimming. We had a great time with our Memphis friends, but are sad that we only had one night to visit.

Day 6: Fort Stockton, TX to Gilbert, AZ, 657 miles

On The Road To Nowhere: Day 5

We had a leisurely Sunday morning continuing our visit with the family but we had a long day of driving ahead of us.  We had so much leftover barbeque, Roxi and I made some sandwiches for the trip and packed up more of the leftovers for a couple of days worth of lunches down the road.  We gathered our things together and began our drive at noon.

Texas is a big state and proud of it; upon entering the east side of the state on I-10, the road sign happily announces that you are 880 miles from El Paso on western end of the state.  Driving across the state in one day takes an enormous amount of stamina and several drivers.  We decided it would be better for us to break things up unfortunately there isn't a lot of civilization between San Antonio and El Paso on I-10.  We had made arrangements to spend the night at a hotel in Fort Stockton which is apparently a popular stop for travelers making their ways across the Lone Star State.

Google Maps told us that the drive would take eight and half hours but it did not account for a speed limit increase once we got past San Antonio.  The posted limit went from 70 to 80 MPH and it made quite a difference.  With only a few stops along the way, we arrived in Fort Stockton at 8:00 pm.  The town is a dingy, dusty town that only survives because of travelers like us.  Thankfully there is a place to stop during the long cross state drive, but I will be happy to spend the rest of our nights of this trip with friends and family.

Day 5: Cypress, TX to Fort Stockton, TX, 502 miles

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Short Drive to H-Town: Day 4

After two days in Lafayette, the day had arrived for us to continue proceeding west.  Luckily, we were in for a short trip as we only planned to go as far as Cypress, TX northwest of Houston to visit my parents and my youngest brother's family.

After packing up the car and getting Jupiter set up for her four month stay with Roxi's parents, we got on the road.  We had one more stop to make in Rayne, LA on the way to Houston to visit Roxi's grandfather and some of her aunts and cousins.  We spent about an hour and half visiting and then hit the road once and for all for the day. 

Lafayette to Houston is a short drive that we have made many times over the years so it was an easy afternoon.  We arrived in Cypress at about 5:30 to find that my family had planned a Hawai'ian themed birthday/going away party for us.  I'm not one to make a big deal about my birthday and this year I was especially preoccupied with all that has been going on with our move, but it was nice to be with family for the afternoon.

We had some great barbeque brisket, turkey and chicken with all the sides.  Throughout and after dinner we were thoroughly entertained by my nephew, Caden, including his modeling a grass skirt.  Driving across the country is no small task, but getting to visit with family and friends all along the way makes the journey much better.

Caden Models His Luau Attire

Day 4: Lafayette, LA to Cypress, TX, 245 miles

Saturday, August 20, 2011

A Brief Sojurn in Louisiana: Days 2 & 3

After a full day of packing and traveling on Wednesday, we were excited about the prospect of getting some rest at Roxi's parents' house for a couple of days.  Our original plan for the move was to be packed up and out of Memphis on Friday August 19.  Thankfully, we finished packing on Wednesday which gave us the opportunity to leave early and spend a few days with family before continuing our journey.

We spent much of the day Thursday recuperating from the busy Wednesday but we also did a little work.  We unloaded a few small items from the car that would be staying in Lafayette.

There is a much more direct driving route from Memphis to Los Angeles, but our motivation for the detour was to visit family before we moved.  Besides getting two days with Roxi's parents, Roxi's sister's family made the trip from Florida to see us before we left.  Before they arrived on Thursday afternoon, we had the chance to visit my grandparents as well.  So Thursday ended up being a very relaxing family day.

Friday was much the same although Roxi and I did take some time to go through our luggage and make sure that everything we had packed was really essential.  We were both able to remove a few items thus lightening our load.  I took care of my to-do list arranging things for the rest of our trip (hotels, car shipment verification, etc.)  and then focused on family time the rest of the afternoon and evening.

Roxi's brother's family drove in from western Louisiana to visit and Roxi's dad made a fantastic seafood gumbo for dinner.  We had a very nice family meal and the first of my two family birthday celebrations was capped off with an assortment of deserts that Roxi's mom and sister made.

Today will be a hard day for us: we say goodbye to our cat Jupiter for the next four months.  I was never really a cat person before Roxi and I started dating, but Jupiter is my adopted pet now and I will miss her so much.  She is in good hands here in Lafayette, but she doesn't like it when one if us is not around.  I only wish there was someway that we could make her understand that this is in her best interest.  Despite all the other things that we have to do to get to Hawaii and get settled in, I think that this will be the most emotionally difficult.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Go West, Young Man...Far West: Day 1

Three weeks ago today, Roxi was offered a teaching position at Hawai'i Pacific University in Honolulu. Of course we were excited but there were so many things to plan for: Roxi is required to be there by August 27, we had to figure out what to do with everything in our apartment and we had to figure out where we would live on Oahu.  The prospect was exciting but extremely overwhelming to say the least.

This didn't exactly come out of the blue.  Roxi and I have been scheming on how to get to Hawai'i for a while now but didn't expect it to happen so soon.  We spent our honeymoon on the island of Oahu three and half years ago and of course we loved it; it is paradise after all!  As long as we've been together, Roxi and I have never really agreed on where we would to settle down.  I don't care for extremely cold winters and after years of life in south Louisiana, Roxi is tired of the endless summer heat and humidity.  I would prefer a Stateside life while Roxi has dreamed of living abroad.  Six or eight months ago, we discussed the possibility of Hawai'i.  It seems that the islands offer everything that we want: a moderate climate and an idyllic setting that is part of the United States but feels foreign thanks to the cultural differences and the fact that is in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

It is a daunting task to try to make such a major move given several months notice but it is even more extreme when you have about twenty-eight days. This process has been stressful but it has also been extremely liberating.  When we moved to The Netherlands a few years ago, we stored our things in a POD and arranged for them to meet us in Memphis when we returned to the States.  When we opened the POD and saw our things after nine months overseas, we couldn't believe that we had actually paid to store so much junk.  We decided that we would not repeat our past mistake this time.  It made more sense to sell everything and only take with us what we truly need.

The process of letting go has been a very rewarding and freeing experience for both Roxi and I.  We have come to realize that so much of what we have are just things, many of which we don't use often enough to keep.  What's more, nearly everything is replaceable if we want it again.  Of course there are a few items that have sentimental value and those will be saved and graciously stored by our parents, but everything else is just stuff.  I've always tried to be a practical person but now, if there isn't a frequent and practical use for an item, I will not be buying it.

After three weeks of planning and several moving sales, yesterday we loaded up our remaining things along with our cat Jupiter, and left Memphis, our home for the last two years.  Although we have gotten rid of nearly everything, we are taking a car to Hawai'i because it will be a useful thing to have plus it is a convertible and what better place to have one than a tropical island?  Very practical if you ask me!  We are shipping our car from Long Beach, CA but to get there, we are taking a trip through Louisiana and Texas to see our families.  The full trip will take us 2250 miles but we are fortunate to have friends and family along the way who we will also be able to visit.

Sadly our cat Jupiter will not be able to travel with us to Hawai'i.  Hawai'i is rabies free and there is a strict protocol for any pets entering the state.  After proving that the pet is rabies free by blood test, there is a 120-day quarantine period that can occur either Stateside or in a facility in Honolulu.  Neither option is great but it is better for Jupiter to stay with family for four months than to stay locked up on the island in quarantine.  As of today, Jupiter passed her blood test and the clock has started so she will be able to join us in four months.  It will be hard on us and her but it is in everyone's best interest this way.

We left Memphis at around 4:30 pm yesterday afternoon, several hours later than expected, but we made good time and managed to arrive at Roxi's parents' house a little after midnight.  It was a long day of packing and driving but it was nice to get the trip started and finish the first stage of the process.  We will be spending the next two days here in Lafayette getting Jupiter acclimated to her home for the next four months.  Stay tuned for daily updates as we make this trip and begin a new life in the 50th state.

Day 1: Memphis, TN to Lafayette, LA, 443 miles