Sunday, February 1, 2009

Part One - the drive.

Much has happened since we last spoke. I've moved halfway across the country. The country has moved into a new age of ...well, we'll have to wait and see, won't we? And something else has moved, because this type of literary construction works best in threes. The funny thing is, both of the first two things started on the same day.

We set out for Portland from Tulsa on January 20th in a rented moving truck and a station wagon, our goal for that day the city of Albuquerque, New Mexico. My dad had a guide to finding NPR stations all over the country, so we wouldn't miss the inauguration. He and my partner were in the truck; I was driving the car, with the dog in the passenger seat, the cat in her carrier sitting basically on the console, and the Betta fish in Tupperware on the floor of the back seat. We switched drivers and vehicles frequently during the trip.

I quickly realized that the broken antenna on our station wagon would cause me to lose stations rapidly. At one point I found myself, in disgust, listening to a right wing AM station that was broadcasting the Fox News coverage of the inauguration - because that's what I could get. Eventually, I found another AM station that was broadcasting ABC news coverage, and I stuck with that till we got to Oklahoma City and I could get their NPR station. Anyway, I heard the bizarre, improvised, and altogether meaningless invocation by right wing demagogue Rick Warren, followed by the botched oath, and finally, Obama's good, but not spectacular, inaugural address.

I could make a parallel here between the change that the country is seeing and the change that my partner and I are making in our own lives, but such a comparison is not only obvious and predictable, it also does a disservice to Obama's profound achievement. On the other hand, one could argue that not much has changed for the country - yet - while my partner and I have profoundly changed not only our surroundings, but the way we interact with them.

We made it to Albuquerque with nary an incident, though every night on the trip we had to wrangle the animals and all of their stuff into our motel room, which was always interesting, and then getting the cat back into her carrier in the morning was a difficult and painful experience. I still have some battle scars.

The next day we set out for Barstow, California, traveling through some truly breathtaking desert and mountain scenery. It was a long drive, but not a difficult one. We were disappointed that we didn't have time to visit the Grand Canyon, only about eighty miles north of our route, but if we were to make Barstow by a reasonable hour, we couldn't deviate.

At the California border, we had to go through an agriculture inspection, which I've never done. It was pretty quick and painless. The guy just had me open up the back of the truck, inspected our house plants, confiscated our Florida oranges, which are apparently verboten, and sent us on our way.

Let me pause here to give some free advertising to Motel 6. Both the Motel 6 in Barstow, and the Motel 6 in Weed, California, where we spent the next night, were clean, comfortable, and well located, with friendly and helpful staff, at ridiculously low prices. They also allow pets. We stayed in Barstow for $35, and Weed for $48 - with three adults, a dog, and a cat. You can't beat that.

Things got a little bit interesting on Day 3. If you look at a map of California, you'll notice that it's a very, very long state. We had a goal of making it all the way through California and stopping in Medford, Oregon. Needless to say, we didn't quite make it.

We got to Redding at about sundown, thinking, hey, it's only another two to three hours to Medford - let's go! Sure, that would have been fine, but again - look at the map. We were about to hit the Cascades.

We suddenly found ourselves driving, in the dark, up and down steep grades and tight curves. It was also raining. And then the fog started to move in. My partner was again driving the truck and I was driving the car. He got behind a pickup truck to use its lights to help him see the curves in the road, and we started going about 35 miles per hour. At that rate, Medford was a long, long way away.

Finally, my partner and I pulled off in a little town called Weed, California. In a happy coincidence, there was a Motel 6 at the same exit. I made an executive decision that we would stop there for the night, and we changed our reservation.

That's when things got interesting.

Back in Redding, I had noticed that I was having trouble getting the steering wheel of the car unlocked to start it. My partner and I had finally gotten it started, and we had been able to go on our way, but in Weed, the damned thing wouldn't budge. The car was stuck, with a locked steering wheel, at a gas station in the middle of Weed, California. Thankfully, my Dad had AAA, and we had the thing towed to a service station.

The next morning, we heard the bad news that the car would have to be serviced at a dealership - the nearest of which was in Medford, more than 80 miles away. My partner, who has this uncanny ability to get things out of people on the phone (he once got us a new, free laptop computer from HP when the cat's claws pulled some letters out of the keyboard of our old one) spent an hour with a phone to each ear arguing with AAA that they should tow the car to Medford for free. He finally got them to agree to it. So we gathered our things and went to the service station to meet the tow truck.

At which point my partner got into the car and said, "I'm just going to try it."

Well, the car started.

So we were on our way to Portland. My partner decided that he would not turn off the car for any reason until we got there, for fear of locking the steering wheel again.

Long story short, we made it to Portland at about 6:00 PM on Friday the 23rd, unloaded the truck in about three hours, had some delicious pizza at a place across the street, set up the bed, found sheets for my dad to use to sleep on the couch, and collapsed into bed.

I'll do another update later and tell you about our first week in Portland.