A few weeks before January 1st (2017) I made the decision to move from my home in the Seattle area back to my hometown just outside of Orlando, FL. To say it was a difficult decision to make is a complete understatement. I was leaving a huge piece of my business that I’ve worked so hard on over the last five years, my friends, I had to come to terms with uprooting my children from the life they’ve only really ever known and remember in hopes that I was doing what is best for them by moving us all closer to family. I hoped that by moving them back to the place I grew up that they would have a support system and stability.
I remember telling Nate I was moving back home. He was SO excited, but he also knew that I didn’t really want to move back home. I was nervous about moving back home, for many reasons. But, the more he and I talked about us coming back home I started to relax a little. I was starting to look forward to being able to date and do things with him without being 3000 miles apart and having to plan months in advance… I began to get excited about my children going to the schools I went to as a kid, how my children could be best friends with my best friend’s kids (totally selfish, I know), the new friends they would make, and just settling down and living a normal life outside of the military.
It was getting close to Nate flying up. I was so overwhelmed with packing the house (and the kids being home on Christmas break…) and the move in general that hardly anything got done. There was just so much to do and I didn’t know where to start. Nate told me one night that if I didn’t have anything packed when he got there, he would help pack. And did he. Without him, and my girlfriend Naomi, I’m not sure if anything would have made it.
January 1st we loaded the last few things we could fit in the U-haul, our two cats and teacup chihuahua and headed to Olympia to have a late breakfast with my brother and some friends. If you’re ever in the Olympia area, make sure you go to the Shipwreck Cafe. Best biscuits and gravy in the PNW. After hanging out for a little bit and getting food in our bellies, we said our “see you laters” and started the drive south.
The goal for the first day was to make it through Oregon. We had clear skies with a little bit of snow through Washington but the further south we got the worse the weather became. It seemed like as soon as it got dark the snow just started to dump down. We made it through the first pass in Oregon without issue. When we approached the second pass we started to see signs that chains were required. I didn’t have chains. We pulled up to the checkpoint and the person asked where we were going. I told him we were going to Florida, and were hoping to make it through before the snow really started to come down and we couldn’t get out for a few days. He asked, “Do you know how to drive in snow?” I told him I’d lived in Washington for the last five years so I was familiar… he chuckled, told us good luck and sent us on our way. When Nate saw signs that said “ROCK” he was asked what that meant… and when I told him that meant rocks fell in that area I thought his eyeballs were going to pop out of his face. It took us almost 10 hours to make it from Olympia, WA to Medford, OR. The snow just dumped and dumped and dumped. There was no respite until we arrived in Medford, and by the time we reached the hotel it had been about 10 hours since we started driving… from Olympia.
We somewhat took our time leaving Medford. We didn’t know what kind of weather was ahead… we just hoped it wasn’t like the night before. That day we drove from Medford, OR to Fontana, CA. A solid 15 hour drive. Northern California was cold and snowy, but thankfully not nearly as bad as driving through Oregon.
California gave us some beautiful weather. Northern California was cold and snowy, but by the time we reached the Los Angeles area we weren’t reaching for our coats or sweaters anymore. That was the longest part of the trip, but we were determined to make up for lost time the day before.
We made it to the kid’s cousin’s pretty late, but that didn’t stop her and the kids from having a little fun. The next morning we all got up, got dressed, and had breakfast. We don’t get to see this side of the family often, so it was nice to be able to hang out for a little while before we hit the road again.
The goal for our third day of driving was to make it from Fontana to El Paso. I was exhausted from driving so long the day before, so stopping in El Paso was perfect. I’ve heard from so many people driving Interstate 10 is aweful, boring, hot (it was a little warm in Texas in January going through the desert so I can only imagine how hot it is in the summer), and just a really long unenjoyable drive…
I actually didn’t mind the drive from California to El Paso though. We didn’t make it in to El Paso until a little later than we had planned, but we were welcomed with open arms by one of my friends I met when I lived in Germany. I hadn’t seen her since 2011, so it was a real treat being able to stay with her. She and the kids stayed up for hours after we got there just hanging out. Quality time well spent, I think.
We got up a little later than planned, but we were ready for another day on the road. We weren’t driving for more than a couple hours when I looked at Nate and said, “There’s no way we’re making it to Houston today.” Right then he knew my body had reached the point of exhaustion. We decided that we weren’t going to push it, and tried to enjoy the drive between El Paso and San Antonio. And did we! Yes, there was a lot of desert between the cities, but we thought it was just beautiful! I told Nate at some point driving through Texas that I’d like to make the drive from Los Angeles to San Antonio again one day just he and I. (It was fun driving with the kids, but we couldn’t stop and hang out like we wanted to without the trip taking days longer that either one of us could afford.) He didn’t disagree.
I remember feeling just so exhausted when we reached San Antonio. I think we were in the hotel for about 10 minutes before we were all down for the night.
We got up relatively early… about 7:30 or so. Got everything ready to go, the car loaded up, and the complimentary breakfast before leaving San Antonio for Chipley, Florida. I knew we had another long day ahead, but what I wasn’t prepared for was how boring the drive would be. We didn’t really take any pictures through the rest of Texas, Mississippi, or Louisiana. The roads were super narrow going through Louisiana, and nothing but police and swamp. Before we were out of Louisiana, one of Nate’s friends got in touch with him and asked if we could stop coming through because he was (literally) 5 minutes off the interstate. The look on Nate’s face when he asked if we could stop was total anticipation of a “no.” It was already late going through, and were supposed to get to a friend of mine’s home. But, really, he was just a few minutes off the interstate, so I couldn’t tell him no. I didn’t feel right telling him no. So. We stopped. And had a lot of laughs in about an hour’s time.
After leaving Nate’s friend’s, we headed to Chipley. We stopped for the night at one of my favorite’s. It had been about a year or two since I saw Diane last, and the last time I saw her kids was 2009. When I saw her daughter, I was like… “NOPE YOU ARE STILL 9 GIRL!” Yeah, she’s 17 now. This was also the first time that she got to meet my girls. She LOVED Noah when he was a baby (I mean, she still loves him now, but you know). It wasn’t long before all the kids were down for the night, and Delilah crawled right up next to Blakely and knocked out for the night.
The next morning we made the five hour drive home to St. Cloud from Chipley. No pictures were taken that day because we were just excited to be so close to home.
I never thought I would ever be one to drive from one end of the United States to the other, and I wasn’t sure we were going to make it one piece. But we did, and it was surprisingly a pretty great trip. We all miss Washington like crazy… except Nate, he’s glad to be back home 😉 , but it’s also been nice being back home and watching my children make a new home, new friends, and be around family made the move worth it.