It was an early morning in July… we had our whole lives packed into a 5′ by 8′ Uhaul trailer and we were ready to begin our first major journey as husband and wife.
The day before we left consisted of a lot of packing and a lot of goodbyes. This was the hardest part for me because my family and friends are a very important part of my life. Although I was excited about finally beginning this new adventure, I was also scared. This would be my first time living anywhere other than the city that I had lived for my whole life and I wasn’t sure if I was truly ready for it. What I came to realize once we made it here and settled in, is that we are never really ready to do the things that scare us, were simply thrown into new situations and forced to learn how to live with them.
Now, when you think about a road trip across the country, you probably think that there are a plethora of cool places and things to look at along the way but this was not the case.. at least for us. Sure, we could have stopped at the grand canyon or the petrified forrest, but this would have taken us an hour off course meaning we wouldn’t get to our hotel until after check-in time. Unfortunately, our trip was mostly filled with wide open ranges and long stretches of road. This was not all bad though, because when we did finally reach a big city or anything more interesting than cows and grass, it made it even more exciting and we would look around at everything that we could possibly see to try and take it all in. As much as we would have loved to stop and explore different cities, we were also eager to get to our new home and we were trying to keep from spending too much money on hotels along the way. Originally we had planned on only stopping two nights, once in Albuquerque and once in Memphis but we quickly realized that this was not a very realistic plan when we began to experience the time skipping ahead an hour each day we drove. If we stuck to our original plan we would have made it to our new home the night of our third day of driving with no bed or keys to enter our apartment. So, in our better judgment we decided to reserve a hotel for the third night as well.
It took us four days to reach our destination and each day was filled with many different sights and emotions. The bulk of my post will be split into four pieces, (one for each day) and I’ll describe what kind of things we experienced.
Day 1: California, Arizona and New Mexico.
Back to that early morning in July, we got in the truck and headed off with our Uhaul filled to the brim, our bag of road trip snacks, and our dog Skippy. We were headed to New Mexico for the night and we were just a few miles away from Arizona when we got a speeding ticket, unfortunately if we would have already been in Arizona we wouldn’t have been speeding since the limit is higher there. The CHP wouldn’t give us a break but we wouldn’t let his $300 speeding ticket ruin our trip, so we kept going and ignored the ticket… but did NOT ignore any of the speed limit signs from that point on. We passed through Arizona and into New Mexico as the night began to fall. About an hour before we got to our destination in Albuquerque, we drove right through a lightning/thunder storm which was quite possibly the most frightening part of the whole trip (aside from the cicada bug that attacked me while I was trying to find a place to pee in Arkansas). The worst part about the storm wasn’t that I was scared of it but that at that exact moment it began to hit me that my life was about to change drastically. Blake must have seen that I was uncomfortable because he took my hand and comforted me, letting me know that he was proud of me because he was fully aware that this was something I would have been way too scared to do if it were only a year ago. This was what gave me the strength to continue our trip confident that I was embarking on an adventure with someone who was sure to take care of me.
Day 2: New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Tennessee.
The second day was the longest, consisting of about 15 hours of driving. New Mexico and Texas were nothing but wide open ranges. We stopped once in Texas taking a very risky lunch break at a gas station/burger joint near the freeway. The service was slow… like really slow, but I assume that’s because there was only one lady who must have been been in her late 60’s cooking the burgers. It turned out that she was a master griller because those burgers were delicious. We stopped in Oklahoma for an oil change which added another hour or so to our trip, this was when I started to realize how drastically different the weather was on this side of the country and how spoiled I have been my whole life for being raised in a place where humidity is a rarity. As we were waiting for the oil change to be done, we walked to a nearby Starbucks and it began to rain. I felt sticky and sweaty and at that exact moment that I knew I wouldn’t be spending a lot of time outside. We approached Arkansas as it got dark and stopped for gas as we would every couple of hours or so. The place we stopped did not have a bathroom and neither did the Taco Bell/KFC that was across the street. As I was searching for a large bush to hide behind I started to hear bug noises.. but not just any bug noises. These were noises I had never heard before, noises that sounded like they should be in the background of a suspenseful scary movie. Just as I was headed towards a bush, the most terrifying creature flew right at my head making the loudest clacking noise I’ve ever heard from a bug and once I got a good look at it, I decided I would be better off holding it in for the next two hours. I later came to find out that this was a cicada beetle and unfortunately they also reside in North Carolina, right in our backyard. (I still freak out when I take Skippy on a walk and hear one of their creepy noises in a nearby tree.) We ended our second day of driving in Memphis, Tennessee. This was the night we realized that the time change was taking a toll on us and we needed to sleep in the next morning and extend our trip another half of a day.
Day 3: Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia.
On the third morning we took our time getting back on the road and also stopped at a nearby Starbucks as we had every morning since we left thanks to my brother who gifted us a very generous amount of Starbucks gift cards. We weren’t in Tennessee very long as we only drove through the southern west corner of the state, soon we were in Mississippi and driving through a rain storm that would pass just as quickly as it began. Rain was another thing I realized I’d better get used to since it occurs much more often over here than on the west coast. Mississippi was pretty but for whatever reason it was Alabama that really stood out to me, everything was so green and beautiful. We thought about staying the night in Atlanta, Georgia but after a quick internet search of the crime rate in the area, we decided to go a little further and stay in Augusta, thus shortening our final day of driving. By the third night we were both on edge, the only thing we had eaten that day were bagels from Starbucks and the time flew three hours ahead of what we were used to. Traveling with an animal is never easy, even one as small as Skippy. Having him with us made it hard to stop anywhere to eat a good meal since I wasn’t willing to leave him in the car, especially with the increase in humidity. We were starting to get on each others nerves when we couldn’t agree on a place to eat OR find a place that was open after 9pm OR that had outside seating so that Skippy could come. Finally, we agreed upon takeout from a nearby buffalo wild wings. We got to our hotel, ate our food, watched a funny movie and all was well again.
Day 4: Georgia, South Carolina and FINALLY North Carolina.
Our final day of driving was the shortest, but it still seemed to take forever for us to reach our new home since we were so excited to get there. We quickly noticed the endless amount of pine forests stretching along each side of the freeway. Pine trees are the new Palm trees! We finally got to our new apartment and it was just as nice as we could have hoped. We quickly ran out to find a mattress so that we wouldn’t have to sleep on the floor our first night. With help from our roommate and his wonderful family we moved all of our belongings into our apartment in no time. And then… we were finally able to open all of our awesome wedding presents.
This trip was an experience I will never forget. It was the longest period of time I had ever spent in a car and the farthest I had ever traveled from home. But most importantly, it was a great bonding experience for Blake and I as a newly married couple, somewhat of a testament to our relationship with one another. There are very few people I could stand to be stuck in a car with for even a few hours of driving. Luckily I married someone who keeps life interesting and there is never a dull moment.