The final days before the move were hectic and exhausting. I would get up before the sun and work until I couldn’t anymore. I moved my dog and cat into the trailer for the last two nights, which was parked in my parents’ backyard, so that I could focus on cleaning the apartment without worrying about them. The apartment seemed determined to keep revealing new things needing to be cleaned. After my final 12-hour day, car packed full, items loaded on top and tied so tight they couldn’t breathe, I drove to my trailer for my last night.
The morning of the move started at 5 a.m. I gave my pets a vet-prescribed sedative and put them in my car. I cleared things out of the way so that my bedroom and living room slide-outs could slide in for the drive. Then I started loading in all the final items, taking up every bit of floor space with my kayak, bicycle, cat towers, the panels for the pet yard and assorted lumber. Finally I unhooked the electricity and water and turned off the propane tanks.
My mom had brewed some strong coffee, and prepared a day’s worth of snacks and sandwiches for the nine-hour drive. My dad helped load in some of the bigger items, and with the final trailer preparations.
Promptly at 8 a.m. my hired driver arrived. Seeing the open gate to my parents’ backyard, he backed in his pickup with extra-wide bed with mere inches to spare, and had my 5th wheel trailer hooked up on the first try. I was impressed, and felt myself relax knowing that my home was in good hands.
The unfortunate thing about being so busy, and so focused leading up to the move, was that I was unable to really focus on the important farewells happening: my parents, sister, brother-in-law, niece, nephew and extended family. It felt surreal my final night saying goodbye to my sister and nephew; it felt more so saying goodbye to my parents. For the past decade I had been at most a few hours’ drive away, and I felt a pang of regret.
My big worry was that after several days of pushing myself so hard, the hours of monotonous driving and vibrations of the road would lull me into a stupor. My cat Gladys however had her own plans. Despite being given the larger dose of sedative, she spent the first three hours telling me loudly and non-stop how upset she was with me. Even during brief moments of quiet, I would look back and see her head up, eyes wide open. She never fully succumbed to the sedative, but after the first few hours settled down somewhat.
My dog Mags was far more relaxed lying on my lap, so much so that at one point I felt the sudden warmth on my right thigh of her peeing on me.
It was a perfect day for driving: occasional light rain but no downpours, overcast to prevent animals cooking in the sun. After crossing from Oregon into California, narrow highway 199 wound through the majestic redwoods which seemed to welcome me. I felt the air sink deep into my lungs, then release in slow sighs of appreciation.
After turning onto highway 101, along one stretch I saw what I believed were horses. I was puzzled, because two of them were on the wrong side of the fence. As I got closer I realized they were elk. Several dozen were grazing in a meadow. I drove on, and not five minutes later came upon another herd: perhaps part of the same herd, since elk herds usually have large territories.
I tried to let it sink in that I was returning to a part of the world where wildlife and humans were in closer proximity. It had been three long years of city living. I was grateful for the elk herd’s regal and awe-inspiring reminder that my wait was over.
I drove by several lagoons, places where dykes cut a line across the ocean to create small and calm bodies of water. I wondered when and why they were created. They looked ideal for kayaking.
Just miles from my new home, I saw the ocean. This stretch of the Pacific has its own look, dotted with misshapen sea stacks creating a broken horizon and a chaos of waves. I rolled down the windows and breathed in the salty air. I was home.