“Dave wants the house back,” our landlord’s mother told me. In those five words, my life changed.
Only an hour before, I lived in blissful ignorance, planning the coming months as I sought to rebuild my fortunes after a hard six months of helping family members (specifically Daughter #2 and her partner). Joy and sadness have been previously documented in Why Do Terrible Things Always Come in Threes? They would be moving in three weeks, and then, I would step on the gas and start to pull ahead. My illusions shattered.
Scrambling for a place to live in thirty days is tough enough at the best of times, but right now, was the worst. A place was found in Knoxville, Tennessee. Never spent much time there, except to pass through, but I had friends in the area so it was good enough. I took the car – lovingly named The Purple Plum – into our local mechanic to make sure it could pull a trailer over the Smoky Mountains, and he found the front brakes were in a dangerous state. We could have been killed. It was an unexpected expense, but safety first and all that. The packing began in earnest, the trailer was rented, and all seemed like it was falling into place. Woohoo!
In case we go up Shit’s Creek, we have a paddle!
The trailer was packed. Then, it was unpacked, when I realized not everything would fit. Decisions were made about what was valuable and what could be sacrificed. As Daughter #1 was loading, she injured her arm. That night, her arm swelled to triple its size and resembled a pale sausage, while her hand turned purple. Worrying. Still, we had no choice; we had to keep going. To make things more fun, it took two more unloads before the contents were properly balanced. I was doing most of the lifting, but D #1 was better at Tetris-ing the boxes into the small space so she kept working with the injured arm. In the end, we were forced to leave a great deal behind.
The cats (Milo and Rory) were on edge for weeks. Milo, who is fourteen, has been through many moves over the past seven years. He’s gone from Wisconsin to California (including two smaller moves within that state) to Delaware, then to Kent Island in Maryland where we had been for three years. Milo knew the signs. However, our poor, seven month old kitten had no idea, but he knew he didn’t like it.
A couple of days before we were set to pull out, Knoxville fell through. There was no way we could make it work. A friend had been offering us a place to stay until we could get settled, but she was in Nevada, just outside of Las Vegas. Could we impose upon her? It seemed too much, but there weren’t any other choices. We asked ourselves, “Could the car travel that far pulling the trailer? What about over the mountains?” There are two ranges between us and her: the Appalachians and the Rocky Mountains. Since we had to leave the house in only a couple of days, we had no choice. We (D #1 and I) would drive south around the first set of mountains and come up through the Rockies at their lowest point just south of Las Vegas. The cats were packed in the car, hugs where made and tears were shed, saying goodbye to D #2, and off we went into the biggest storm of the year. We played our road mix of songs and sang our way through much of the night. If Milo began to cry, we sang ‘You are My Sunshine,’ and soon he would stop.
A Nor’easter – as they call the most furious of Atlantic storms – came chugging in, with winds of seventy miles-per-hour pummeling the side of the car the entire way to Florida. Add to that the cars trying to illegally draft off the trailer to save them gas and pull hard on our engine. The Plum was strong. She kept going, and I kept shaking each of the offending vehicles off our tail. Because of the wind’s strain on the car, we had to stop often, and although we tried to drive until eleven or later at night, we weren’t making good progress. The terrible wind followed us across the south as we headed west.
The cost of gas was murdering the budget, and hotels were getting more and more expensive as we went along. Many didn’t accept pets so it became ‘beggars can’t be choosers,’ driving the cost higher. We still had plenty to put down a modest first month’s rent plus deposit and a bit left over so we were okay. Then, we hit the roads in Louisiana that pounded our poor Plum’s suspension near to its limit. The cats’ nerves began to fray as the car rode the waves of the road. Up and down, up and down we went. The meowing turned to mild screaming and not even ‘You are My Sunshine’ stopped it, but at least we were still moving.
What stopped us dead was an exit ramp of a La Quinta hotel in Wichita Falls, Texas. Something popped, and there was a horrifying whomping sound as we drove. We pulled into a mall parking lot to make a call to U-Haul to ask what kind of choices we had just over mid-way on our journey. Luckily, there was a U-Haul hub just a mile away. We made it there, and the manager worked with us to give a good price, but even with this savings over normal cost, our finances were devastated. He did save us about $700 total, but he only had a 20-foot truck to give us. All our belongings didn’t even cover the bottom of the space. We’d make it to our destination, but we wouldn’t have much when we got there. Gas for the behemoth truck – in the wind – was outrageous.
On, we went. Two women (5’ 3” and 5’ even) in this big truck, pulling The Plum on full-car trailer with two quite unhappy cats in their crates along for the ride. Neither snuggles, nor choruses of ‘You are My Sunshine,’ moved Milo to stop shouting or Rory from echoing his big brother’s angry frustration. They did not like the rumble of the truck.
We journeyed on through New Mexico, Arizona and finally up into Nevada through the mountains and over the Hoover Dam. After a full week on the road, we arrived into our generous friend’s arms late Thursday afternoon, on March 8th, we nearly collapsed from exhaustion. Where our journey will take us from here, we are unsure, but for now, we are safe. We need to remake the money we lost during this rough journey quickly so we can find our new home.