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Karen and Sandy’s Excellent Adventure

Transparency is all the rage, and a couple of friends have urged me to share all the details of our move to Tallahassee.

I would never do that to you.

Moving is gross. It’s dirty, tiring, and irritating. As someone pointed out yesterday, pretty soon after you start packing you get into this weird displacement problem where your stuff, in boxes, takes up far more room than it did put away in its cubbyholes.

I wrote about moving in an essay I plan to shop around–one of those essays that hitched on board my MFA ride and every semester got a little better–and spared no details, from the food you end up eating the last week of the move, to the way some utility company always screws up something, to the dark nights of the soul as you tussle over what to keep and what to throw away. (Last night I tried very hard to get a former parishioner to take a large Pez dispenser.)

But when we moved to California from New York in 2001 (for a job I was told I wouldn’t stay in more than a year or two–fooled them, eh?), we had a lovely, lovely cross-country adventure that was a delightful interlude between Yoke of Life A and Yoke of Life B. After crossing several large squarish states, we picked up Route 66 and did the old motels and the classic tourist stops, from Merrimack Caverns to the Grand Canyon, tootling our way across the country; I drove while Sandy crocheted, both of us talking, talking.

Our plan was to do something similar to that for this trip, but as often happens, you can’t go there again. First, there is the simple matter of the calendar. The MFA second-year readings are on the 23rd and 24th of August; Sandy starts her job on September 5; the house closing (oh… did we mention buying a house?) is on August 31. We learned we could monkey with the closing date by signing yet another form, but then I found out that to get on one of the better health plans in Tallahassee (Sandy’s denominational insurance is our expensive fall-back; she needs to be on that plan, but I don’t), I need to be there in August, for the enrollment period. Sandy’s health plan is triple what I would pay on any plan I can get on my own, and I’d have to wait until next August to get on another plan.

So I will still drive and Sandy will still crochet (for reasons best kept within our relationship, that dynamic works great for us), and we will talk and talk… but the goofy side-trips that made the 2001 adventure so fun are pretty much off the table. It will be on the order of “Let’s see how many miles we can make in a day!” and “I’ve always loved Marie Callendar’s–how about you?” (Actually, we both love Marie Callendar’s, particularly the odd gift shops; I hope you don’t feel less of me for that.)

We are hoping to stay in the same motel outside Amarillo we enjoyed in 2001, which featured a Texas-shaped swimming pool and a restaurant where you got a special prize if you ate a 32-ounce steak (though I don’t know that I’d particularly care what you gave me after I ate that much meat in one sitting), and we will pace ourselves, taking lots of stretches, stopping before dark, and so forth; but this is more of a utility trip.

(The west-east route is up in the air. Google encourages us to do I-40 until Slidell; Yahoo and AAA nudge us toward I-10 the whole way. Thoughts?)

Then I will fly back, and the cats will take Delta to TLH on their own, on the red-eye, for comfort’s sake, while I do the final prep for the movers, who arrive on the 7th, and I’ll get the place cleaned and hand it over to the landlord, and I’ll… I’ll… well, here’s where I don’t know what I’ll do.

My car. What do I do with it? I am torn between shipping it–expensive and uncertain–and flying back on a round-trip ticket (the same one that will get me from TLH to SFO), or driving to TLH myself the whole lonely way, which would also involve a lot more lost work, though maybe not too much if I found wired motels en route, and they are becoming standard.

We think we can swing the car shipment within the whole household move budget, or at worst go over a small amount affordable to us. But beyond the cost, I read story after story on that had me slightly freaked… long, vague pick-up periods… slow delivery… bad service… and all at about triple what it would cost me to drive to Florida, staying in Super 8s, making my own coffee, and having simple road meals or picnicing en route.

But would that be any fun without Sandy? How many books on CD can I listen to? Could I get people to call me (I have my Bluetooth headset, for safety’s sake)? Should I get an iPod?

Back and forth I go. I don’t have a super-special car; it’s a dear old 1993 Honda Civic with 160,000 miles, and the fact that it runs like a champ and I take good care of it made my MFA possible. But I’d like to see it again, in more or less the same shape it was when it began its road trip.

I also gulped at the car-shipping stories that recounted ten-day “windows” when the car would be picked up… windows that these companies sometimes missed. I am not sure I could spent ten days in Palo Alto without my car; I suppose I could rent one (ca-ching!), but Palo Alto is a car for people with vehicles. At the other end I’d be fine–as I wait for the movers, catch up on MPOW, and handle the utility installations, I may not even notice I haven’t left the house. But at this end, it’s a little hairy. (The company recommended by one mover had fairly emphatic one-star ratings on, for whatever that’s worth. So I don’t even know where to begin, or what to trust.)

In any event, you now know my central tsuris (aside from getting our condo sold, and the natural nervousness that accompanies a new house purchase). Recommendations? Car shipment companies? Divine wisdom? People looking to hitch a ride? Prayers? Dark chocolate?

In all of this, I remember, if this is my biggest problem in life, how blessed I am. It will all work out. It will all work out!

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