An Editor's Epic Journey, by Katie Toomey
My shoes are squishy and soaked. I'm holding up the biggest umbrella I own and using my phone precariously like a flashlight. At 3AM, the sky is dark and pouring rain. I had peeked outside the stained motel curtains in exhaustion right before venturing out and spotted rain. It wasn't merely raining, it was actual torrential pouring rain!
The kind of rain that overwhelms at the thought of trekking out - not only because it doesn't care to fall straight down, but that it gushes rivers on both sides of the steep road with such a force which I've never seen before. It's exactly the kind you never want to venture out into.
The cats are hiding under the bed inside the motel room, if you can call it that, and I'm worrying how the heck we're going to back up this monstrous moving truck from this narrow, small lot. You see, it's facing the way we came in, and now there's barely any room to move it, let alone turn around. I'm not a seasoned mover. An egregious mistake has been made... we're going to have to back this beast up.
Accurate depiction of my expression.
But, pardon, this isn't the start of my adventures...let's do that part first.
This is the story about my move from east coast North Carolina all the way to west coast Los Angeles.
5 days. 3 cats. 2 people. A big moving truck with car in tow.
We had barely enough budget and a lot of scrappy solutions. I'm sharing all the real deal details some stories might happily discard in favor of the beautiful clouds in the sky, the wind in your face, the sun shining. Not here, not mine.
This was one of the hardest moves I've ever made. It'll be a long time before I look back on the trip without a ton of memories flooding back in, good and bad.
I've moved between sides of town in state, as well as moved countless people. Then, four years ago, I moved out of state for the first time from Indianapolis, IN to Winston Salem, NC for my job. A job that I got before I even stepped foot out the door. They were helping with relocation with a moving company, which included people to come lug the heavy furniture, washer/dryer, and any big bulk boxes that I wasn't taking directly in my car. Moving places that bring it from and into your new apartment. I'd never had help like this before.
Was it great? Oh yes! I marveled as they managed to get all the big stuff down the flights of stairs at my old apartment while I dealt with all the other things to do for an out of state move.
Why even move at all if it's so hard? I had to. I got laid off from the job I had relocated for to begin with after four years of employment. The company is winding down, and I was among the first out. It was a random Tuesday late January this year. It happened days before my birthday and the first month into the new year.
"And... this was supposed to be a better year", I thought in pure exasperation.
Fast forwarding to present day - the second to last day before Move to LA or Bust Day - it's a hot afternoon, and myself, my twin, and her boyfriend are attempting to get a rather large, heavy couch down the narrow, iron fenced off stairwells that make moving big furniture nightmarish. How did they even get this up here? I'll never know. As I sweated and huffed, pulled and tugged with my might, I thought back to that tiny moment in time that didn't feel real at all.
BUDGET AND GOFUNDME
This time moving? Absolute chaos. This time, I emptied my 401k I had just only started earlier in the year, gathered every last savings I could pull in or things I could sell off, and with a lot of hesitation thrown to the wind, I set up a Go Fund Me. That wasn't before trying every last avenue I could think of first.
This time, I didn't have a moving company happily welcoming me into a new city and job to walk into the following week, and I didn't have any tactical plan left.
The only plan was get out west and start right away into post. I must have been crazy.
I might still be.
I didn't have enough to cover all the moving costs on my own, and getting together an exit plan was the order of the night. I knew, despite the fear, that the time had come. I had to get out of North Carolina to continue surviving doing what I love - editing. Could I find another job somewhere else, maybe in Washington or some other state than Cali? I actually tried. I applied to many out of state jobs before coming to the conclusion it was a bit of a loss, given the longer I stay where I was, the less money I'd have to even move. North Carolina was an island with no other opportunities, so if I wanted to stay in the business I would need to act fast.
Everything takes time. It takes time to find somewhere hiring, get your cover letter crafted, send out your information just so and play the waiting game. If you haven't done it for awhile, you might not recall how time consuming it is and how much energy it takes.
Maybe they're not even actually hiring right now. Maybe the project fell through. Maybe they had to post the job but they intend to fill it internally. Maybe they bluffed too much about the project's needs, and I once had a position completely vanish into thin air.
There were so many dead ends I hit before I felt the way I did before posting that Go Fund Me video.
Did you know out of all the jobs I contacted since the first day after my lay off, almost NONE got back with me? Not even a no? No?? Well, there's the harsh reality of that. I don't take it personal. It's not. Only rarely is it ever.
Maybe a few I was a bit underqualified for perhaps, but I was also applying to many things I was quite qualified for. I did a 2 hour long interview one stormy night as part of that "oops, this isn't at all what it was supposed to be" job interview kind of moments. I accepted that I got one of a few actual steady jobs there in NC.. at least, far as I could tell.
With the help of friends and kind innernetz souls, I managed to gather the last of what I thought I'd need to plunge into this move. My pre-budgeting wasn't perfect. Everything seems more attainable and in your grasp when you are theorizing what costs would be without knowing for sure.
There was a lot I just couldn't know or didn't know about LA specifics, but I did my best to put a number to it and held to that. I had stayed up all night working on the video idea and re-shooting my terrible attempts to talk on camera until I finally said enough on my last take. I admit I even had a bit of fun doing this because it was a small creative project, even though I was cringing how the main star was me! I'm using a selfie stick and an iPhone, so it was laughably bad. I know.
I spent the late evening writing up ideas, awhile working up my courage, then shooting b-roll and finally myself. I spent all the early morning editing everything together.
I posted it late that morning and crawled into bed, wondering what I'd done and calmed myself down thinking, "I'll just delete it when I get up."
I woke up to tons of messages from friends excitedly watching the monetary total grow hour by hour.
By the next day, the goal had been reached! I couldn't believe my eyes!! I'd... I'd done it? Did this seriously happen? Oh. Oh no. I better start on the logistics and get the moving truck arrangements sorted. No, wait. I better find somewhere to live now!? An assorted array of emotions hit me square in the face, and I was completely humbled and excited that so many believed in me enough to even share or watch, let alone contribute. I don't think I'll ever forget the feeling.
And thus began the longest, most trying apartment search I have ever endured. It became my full-time job, or well, my other full-time job on top of searching for jobs. If you want actual specifics and are looking to move to the LA area, I'm happy to get into the nitty gritty with you down below. For the rest of my dear readers, you can skip through the weeks of pure hell that it was - except to say, I learned many a things I didn't know beforehand, and it was every bit of a struggle as you'd imagine or know.
I used all sorts of ways to find apartments while still living in NC. Most people will tell you it's better to come out and look around for the week yourself, but hahah. Ohhh. Hey. If you have the budget to do that, by all means, fly on out.
However if you're like me and need to save every last penny, I'll link this guide which told me a lot of what I really actually needed to know. It lists off the sites I used the most throughout the weeks of hunting. You're gonna lose a lot of time on any of them, just a forewarning. I know you probably know how to apartment hunt, but I am seriously warning you that whatever time you'll think it takes to start sorting apartments for whatever LA area you're moving into, just double it. No, triple it. I had pets included in my search, so that always narrows down and makes it harder. Of course, maybe it goes better for you!
I spent a lot of time on Padmappers, Hotpads, Zillow, For Rent, Apartments.com, Craigslist, any kind of "apartments for rent" googled website trying to pinpoint areas I might end up landing. I looked all over, from Glendale to Burbank to Koreatown to West Hollywood to Santa Monica to anywhere in the San Fernando Valley. It was a very wide radius.
Sometimes, late at night when I'd have enough of reading listing after listing talking about their "sparkling pools" and other bs'ery, I would pick an area and use Google Maps street view to travel down the roads looking at what else was around. Did it have a "For Rent" sign out? Hey! Maybe they've got vacancies now. Sure, it was a little while ago this picture of the area was taken, but you never know?
If you discover somewhere managed by a bigger company that has multiple different apartments around the areas, go to their main website to see what else is lurking. That's actually in the end how I found the place I'm living at now.
Anybody living here is probably wondering, why did I not include Westside Rentals yet? You should know that Westside Rentals requires a membership (costly enough that I avoided it) to get any vital contact info and some of those listings are so barren of important info anyway, it's a small wonder how anybody finds anything. If you can, borrow someone's account and good luck there. I don't consider it an essential place to find a listing though.
Trying to hang on, feeling defeat.
MANAGE EXPECTATIONS, MISCHIEF MANAGED
Admittedly, my search was sometimes unfocused because I figured I'd just live anywhere I could get into. Kind of a bad way to approach it, but it was the only way.
When I thought I had an apartment nailed down initially, a multiple bed bug report or something else really bad about the landlord or apartment complex being fishy would crop up (whether by me, my sis, my friends, between all my helpers) and I would get that sinking feeling this was a bad idea place to live. I had a few needs I wanted preset in my mind.
Let me reiterate: You have your own needs and threshold to contend with, so don't let anyone else define those for you. Be realistic. You're not going to have fancy new appliances and modern lighting or an ice maker fridge in certain priced apartments or areas. Realize no matter where you coming from, there's compromises to make and tradeoffs. Still, do not let other people tell you what you should and shouldn't settle with, especially the ones tacked on with, "well, I did it and it was fine for me!"
Even my tale isn't something that should define how you personally do your own search and journey. Just a guide. I heard a lot of stories from people of their own journeys, and that can be a very helpful thing.
Grain of salt. Trust your own gut.
What do you actually need to stay sane and surviving? For me, I couldn't imagine living anywhere with multiple problems with bugs or mold. That is my own threshold.
I wanted at least a window AC unit. Some have nothing at all, and they won't let you put in any units in windows because electric is included so it won't cover the cost. I don't want to risk my cat or me overheating because I wanted to save a few bucks.
I hoped to live somewhere with options for public transport. I know parking here is crazy, so I wanted to protect myself and have the use of when I needed it. I wanted to keep a level grip on the round trip timing of travel. Depending on the area of where I might be living to where I thought I might find work, I was looking at a hefty drive. Sure, it was total guestimates since remember, I didn't have a job lined up. What chaos! Did I really want to do this insane drive on an everyday basis? Maybe short term, fine. The last thing I wanted to do was come in and run down my just fixed only car.
The apartment I moved into happened to have a fridge, but a lot won't so you'll have to rent your own, possibly even pay someone with a truck to help haul it and get it inside. That stuff adds up quick. It may not even be a full size fridge. Even worse, watch out for those kitchenette listings unless you like ramen, takeout, and microwave fare for your dinners. Oh. Sorry. I presumed it had a microwave. A lot don't! I happened to have already a microwave, and the one I moved into included one so now I have an extra... seriously, does anyone need a microwave?
Fridges definitely don't always come with apartments, and that was a new thing for me. What in the world is up with that? No really... this is the first place I've lived where it's acceptable to have a devoid kitchen of any appliances but charge as if it was an actual kitchen? So confused, I'll never understand it.
I learned how difficult it was to find an affordable apartment that let you have pets without 50 strings attached.
I learned how finicky and fickle finding a sublet could be and gave up on that idea. Please, do yourselves a favour and never bother looking at a sublet listing on Craigslist... unless you enjoy hearing fake stories about traveling nurses and landlord's sick daughters out of state all leading to why you can't have someone view it in person, or being asked to wire money in advance, etc.
Even with friends looking, everything seemed to turn upside down just when it seemed to be promising.
My mind was made up and absolute - I was not going to leave without my cats. I had to find a way.
The tales go on and on.
I knew roommates were pretty much out of the question for my particular situation, although perhaps that does work for one person with no pets or hardly any items.
If you can do that option, it would have been a good place to land off the bat and possibly made things easier yet harder in other ways. Use caution, but there are some good people out there just looking to split rent and let one another live in peace. Hopefully you'll find them! Plus, there'd be no worrying about setting up utilities or any other hassles of renting your own apartment. Being able to split costs is one reason I was even curious about it, but soon I gave up after each one had its own list of peculiarities and rules, mostly all including NO pets. Time was ticking. Welp. Alas, no love for the cats.
By the way, why do apartments hate cats so much, LA? I see dogs everywhere, all over the streets, restaurants, cars, even the stores, so what's the big deal with well-behaved cats, ask you!?
As if by some miracle or total dumb luck, a suitable apartment was found down to the wire and finally approved days before moving. D A Y S. I was about to give up, ten minutes before canceling my moving truck, when they called me back.
It really was that close.
I remember going to the UPS store to get the paperwork notarized and faxed over while I was covered in dust and sweat and bruises from hauling so many boxes and items down. You can't plan this part happening the way it does. Stay persistent, keep looking until someone says yes. Be careful in your relief and excitement not to accept something too far above your budget and means, because the first few months can/will be mayhem on your wallet, as everything will cost more than you might be used to.
Try to double check all the paperwork, but know that a few kinks or errors will occur since you aren't there in person or the apartment manager might fail to leave something of importance out.
THE TRIP PREPARATIONS
Oh hello! So, you're ready to gear up and make a full trek across from coast to coast?
Did you get everything all packed up, labeled at first and haphazardly tossed into boxes by the end? Ran out of box tape 3 times over? Budget all planned and truck with a full tank? Frazzled and wondering how this adventure might go? Okay. Grab some coffee or a drink, settle in, let's get this journey going.
Here's how I planned out my move, with motels and any other stops you might need to make.
As you can see on the map I made using the Roadtrippers app, I had a few stops pre-planned for motels because traveling with pets really manages your driving time out. I had to flex around the motel situation as the days had unexpected events and thus took more toll than expected. No sleeping at rest stops in this case. Maybe if you have a watchful dog, you might sneak one in.
Originally, we were supposed to be stopping in Vicksburg, Dallas/Ft Worth area, El Paso, Phoenix, and possibly a small stay if tired in Palm Springs. It didn't go like this. Instead, we stopped in Birmingham, AL onto Canton, TX, then Las Cruces NM, and a final night stay in Casa Grande, AZ with my boyfriend's family. So be ready to change on the fly.
For the most part, driving was done during the very early morning into daylight hours and stopping by the dusk wherever possible. Although stay as flexible as you can on it, because you can't predict how overtired you'll be or if you need to stop mid afternoon vs. evening, if there is bad weather, truck trouble, etc. so it might make the next day longer to stay on track or you might need help figuring out a new motel reservation.
We had zero truck issues the entire way. No popped tires. No dead battery. Nothing. We did get coverage that assisted with this kind of thing or low on gas, or any other issues, but we didn't once need it. No matter how planned and on target you stay, there is no glamour to maintain in driving that far of a distance.
Hook in truck is good for banana hanging.
As for preparations to reduce costs on food, there was a cooler in the car that was up on the tow which was packed with an array of easy to maintain, fridge or no fridge style foods: water or other drinks, sammiches (pb/jelly), variety of chips, lots of green grapes, nuts, granola bars, and some prepackaged stable-without-fridge style protein drinks (I liked the Premier banana 30g protein ones). I kept a bit of the snacks up front in baggies inside a big cloth bag, hung some bananas on a hook and kept a few waters for us and the cats for ease of grabbing. In my head, I figured the rest could be gotten out during rest stops like craving a certain snack or drink (and it was a good system).
The most you have to remember is to drain water out of cooler before taking off and hit up a gas station for ice on the way to interstate.
You wanna bring the kind of meal that's easy to eat, won't easily spoil, and that you can stand to eat over the next many days wherever possible. I consider this a huge win to have pulled off. Even on the first night stay over, those extra food items came in handy to eat in the motel for dinner and saved me a trip to store, the not very nutritional vending machine fare, or cost of ordering out. Even if you have some decent funds, save those for other things because the worst that happens is you order out for your dinners and save some on your breakfast, snacks, or lunch.
PET TRAVEL CARE
If you have pets, you need to also plan their comfort needs. You need to have a big bag of treats, familiar toys, leashes (if applicable), and a few bowls for food and water. Mine ate treats consistently, their food maybe once or twice while mobile, and definitely would take water on rotating intervals. Obviously, you need their carriers. Litter boxes/trash bags. I brought a backup fold flat carrier case, in case of any issues with the others ones happened. I was extra paranoid, what can I say.
Since I had Momo kitten with me, I had two special bowls put aside for her wet kitten food. That way if one got dirty, I could use a fresh one until I reached the hotel where I cleaned both out for the next day in the sink. It was a lot of bowls in total for all of the cats, but they all stack and fit up in the dashboard area for storage. The mini bowls you can find at any dollar store pet section work perfect here for that purpose. There's lots of handy but more expensive items like folding water cups and other traveling pet bits and bobs, so do whatever works best for your pets and your budget.
You might also consider some natural calming drops to put on treats for your dog or cat, especially the flighty ones who don't love car travel. I found those off Amazon along with a few recycled material litter boxes with baking soda infused, made for travel and disposing.
I'll mostly speak about cats specifically since that's what I had with me.
Several extra trash bags are handy for transporting the box (no litter everywhere) and include inside a lil scooper and you're set. I cannot stress how easier this made travel. I think I got 3 of the litter boxes as a pack for around 9$, and most importantly, it was big enough for the adult kitties but not giant and unwieldy. Throughout the trip, I was able to toss out the two and keep the last one for using in apartment until I got out for a real one. Additionally, you could consider getting one of those Litter Genie devices for scooping/managing litter because those work amazing (I later got one as a house warming gift). It helps store the litter without smells until full and it's so handy once in your new place.
To make the list summed up, here's a little rundown in an easy copy format:
Disposable litter boxes
Litter, Trash bags (scented even better!), and Litter Scoop
Bowls (the more, the merrier!)
Bag of toys, petromalt, brush
Any documents you might need
Calming Drops (if needed), medicines, nail clippers
Bags of their dry food - I used larger ziplock bags and left the giant bag in my car up on tow
Wet kitten food (and extra bowls just to accommodate that) - If you have a kitten, definitely don't change what you feed them during moving trip!!
Carriers - I like to use small fleece blankets or shirts as padding that they've laid on before so it smells familiar/calming
Although I wished for a magical teleportation device to teleport in every friend and family I'd ever helped move -
- which is actually a whole lot total when I think back on it - I was able to secure some great help from friends and family all the same. People find a way to rally around you to help when you least think it possible. I don't think this was the kind of task I could have accomplished alone. No way.
Thanks to the help of everyone who came, I was able to get things done just in time for moving day. I know it was hot, sweaty, dirty, heavy work. I was up some set of stairs and down narrow pathways. Nothing about it was easy, and I am grateful it wasn't managed alone.
It's really important to make sure that you physically pack the things that matter the most first when your brain is fresh and you have lots of packing materials to select from. One of the other first things I did was put aside anything I'd need in-between the move. I packed up anything precious or heirloom or memory items so that there's no risk of someone else accidentally packing it in a random box or anything breaking or getting lost.
I say it every time: when I move, I lose stuff.
I either go through a huge purge and toss things (check) or give away/sell items I know just aren't being used the way they could (check) and finally, there's always a mysterious force in which a few items you didn't know you wanted to find but suddenly now do post moving, they're just gone! (check) Who knows if it accidentally got trashed or nudged into a box that you can't locate or what. It happens. Just know it'll happen and tackle the important items you own first.
Help will come to those who ask.
I have learned this more and more this year.
HANDLING CAR TOW
The day before leaving, we went back to the rental place with a mostly packed truck to fetch the tow component and finally drive the car onto the tow as the last part of preparation.
Make sure everything is done errand wise because once you do this, you're locked down to driving a huge beast of a truck with tow which isn't easy to navigate as your car is.
It was so big and long with the tow attached that I had to park it kinda far from the apartment in an emptier part of the parking lot, lock it up, and walk back to my building. Your apartment or house area might be different, but it is vital to think about those logistics. Don't forget to also check in to where you are moving to and find out about their parking situation. Mine wasn't so lucky here. I'll get into that later. So we parked it further away to not be an inconvenience for others, and then the early morning of leaving, drove it right in front of the apartment building and bum-rushed everything leftover hoping no one would need to leave or get angry that we were blocking things a bit. It went fine!
Before the tow was attached, we were able to park it backed up into a parking spot by the sidewalk, marked off by the maintenance crew with cones. It stuck out a bit but nothing bad. I alerted the apartment office ahead of time to tell them I'd be doing this, and that helps out more than you'd think. If they're cool like mine was, they might swing by and make sure you're doing alright or keep your spot marked off with cone if you need to leave.
Don't underestimate using whatever help you can get to manage parking. It's a tricky thing overall for sure, you'll figure it out because you have to.
DAYS OF TRAVEL BEGIN
After loading up everything left, grabbing the cats, any last minute stuff, and the vast bags of trash gathered up to be dropped unceremoniously into the dumpster, thus begins the adventure into the sh-tstorm that is known as moving.
You might notice the immense relief settle in your shoulders as you no longer have any boxes to haul or anything left to label. That all you have to do is sit on the seat and navigate forward.
Enjoy the sunrise, feel the fresh air, and come to realize you have just cleaned out and locked the place you called home for awhile.
There is no going back. Only forward.
I must admit the sleep over the weeks leading up to all this was in small shifts, other times nights were spent awake full of feels and worries. I was under a lot of pressure and stress, and it has a way of catching up to you.
The night before we left, I woke up several times after attempting to go to bed that night at around 6 or 7pm. I was exhausted beyond all exhaustion, and there were still things to do. Woke up once to make some sammiches for cooler. Another time I finished gathering up every last cat toy. The final time I triple checked what I had packed to bring in the truck with me. The original plan was to get a good night's sleep before having to start the trek, but things in moving take longer than you think and very rarely go as planned.
DAY ONE: April 2nd, 2017
The plan was to get from my city in North Carolina, through all of Georgia, and over to Birmingham, Alabama for the first day. Originally, we would have made it to Vicksburg - but it was way too ambitious.
We left early in the AM, probably was around 5am by the time things got loaded, but started around 2am.
Let me preface this by saying, if I could do this day over again, I would not have stayed anywhere in Alabama. NOPE. I think I would have stayed somewhere in Georgia and driven STRAIGHT through Alabama into Mississippi or beyond. Anyway, this is a tale that's already happened, and here we ended up stopping by exhaustion in Birmingham, AL to stay the night.
The cats weren't exactly happy about being cooped up in a loud moving truck, but Spazziecat and Meatie had been through traveling before so they were, for the most part, very well behaved and calmer the first day. Poor Momo wasn't a seasoned traveler, and she had a rough time of things.
I mostly kept her held in my hoodie with my arms around her for many portions of the trip. She was scared, but there were times she'd settle down and take a nap in the sun in her carrier. We'd let her sleep as long as she wanted. She panted a little bit and shook from nerves, but I kept a close eye on her and comforted her the best I could. Usually during rest stops, I would get out and open all their doors up and offer water or let them stretch. Sometimes I had to dole out food or water while we were moving, which is sometimes unavoidable. Keep a towel handy, is all I can say. Hah.
The trip was not at all bad as we had an easy route to follow for now, no mountains to really contend with, and plenty of provisions to make for an easy traveling day. One thing we noticed was gas wasn't costing as much as we thought, and we weren't using as much as we thought. Cool! One good thing happening already.
By the middle afternoon, both of us were kind of dragging and feeling like we were good and ready to stop before our first planned stopping point. This is where having a good friend or family member available to help if plans change is handy because you can have a level headed person to discuss change of plans with, who can help reserve or change things on reliable signal (mine went in and out of decent to terrible signals).
After avoiding no less than 4 different accidents through Birmingham (seriously, why!), we couldn't wait to get off the road. We reached the motel... ahhhhh. Ah. Hm. This. Wow. O_O This isn't what I thought it'd be, at all.
The motel was pretty terrible by all standards here. No one could have predicted how bad it was.
To give background, I was staying cheap as possible at Motel 6's because they fit the budget and are cat friendly, so I wasn't expecting much to begin with, but this one... this one takes the cake.
Inside the room, it reeked of baby powder (a spray?), which didn't mask the stale odd smells it had anyway. Scanning the room, there were holes in the comforter from cigarettes and stained curtains. It looked kinda dim and grim. I had a sinking feeling. The cats all immediately hid under the bed and wouldn't come out for anything. Still, it was somewhere to shower off and let the cats out and choices were limited. There was lots of people just hanging outside their doors sketchy, watching as you went to the car and being quite loud. Let's just say it definitely wasn't a great area, and I would NEVER stop there again. Not ever.
Worst of all, the motel was up a super steep hill, which was not at all good for a heavy moving truck. The lot was more long than wide. Argh, this was no good, but it would have to do.
We managed to get quick showers, shove down a sandwich from the cooler, and feed the cats. I checked to make sure all of them were drinking water and using the litter box. They were okay, so I was okay for now. Eventually they came up on the bed, and I tried to watch whatever was on TV. I slept with a hoodie up over my head in kind of a discomforted state. I kept repeating to myself internally, "this is only temporary..."
Sleep was terrible, but somehow I slept. It was sufficient, but I woke up suddenly to loud sounds of rumbling thunder and flashes of lightning. I was all disoriented. What time was it? What's going on? I could not go back to sleep, everyone else was awake and the cats were nervous bundles of fur.
And now we come back to the stormy tale of the beginning of this blog. Scroll back up if you like. Refresh thyself!
It was very late evening or very early, depending on how you view the 3am+ type hours.
DAY TWO: April 3rd, 2017
The goal for day two was to travel from Birmingham, AL across Mississippi and Louisiana ending into Canton, TX. (IE: before the long stretch of Texas...) We were in for a rough ride of a day. The worst of the lot, in my opinion.
It's torrentially raining hard, and we're so absolutely done with this motel between the noises and smells and just giving out bad vibes. Not very relaxing or rejuvenating.
It's so bad, in fact, that I am willing to go out in said rain and help get the truck turned around or backed out so we can get the hell out of dodge way before check out time. Turning around was a no-go. Backing up the truck was the only option, no easy feat with a tow wanting to go left or right as it pleased. I don't know how we did it. Sheer will. It didn't take long for me to give up attempting not to get soaked. It was impossible! It was dark and hard to see, as there wasn't very good parking lot lights there. But determination and persistence eventually led us to maneuvering the thing towards the street. We had a little audience of randoms outside their door watching the whole while as a bonus.
At this point, the wheels were nearing the little road, and it was quite scary. There were two gushing waterfall rivers on either side of the street from all the water coming from the top of it. As the truck moved into one side, it was just piling up and crashing around the tires. I was worried it was going to somehow push the truck or slip it a bit more down the hill, which would have been disastrous with all the weight in the back of that thing. With a good quick move, it got through that and into the next set of water gushing, and finally lined up into the right side lane of the tiny road leading up there.
Thankfully because it was so early, there was next to no traffic so we could do this safer. Because of all the water coming down, we couldn't just leave it parked there with the brake on for fear we'd come back and it would be toppled down the hill. We couldn't drive it back into the lot because we just spent forever getting it out. How the hell were we going to get our stuff and the cats!?
The only answer (at least in our rain-soaked stupor) was to drive the beast all the way down the hill, leave the blinkers on, lock it up, and walk back up the long sidewalks to the motel. Eff it, we were already soaked and cold and gross. What's a little more wet, by this point?
It took two trips of back and forth to load the car and truck back up, and I used a motel towel to cover the carriers to get the kitties back out. No one was in a laughing mood at this point. I'm sure the cats HATED me for having to walk them down in pouring rain to the truck - which I did very last of course so they weren't alone in there. They hated the motel room, too, and I was putting them back in the truck - a place they definitely weren't going to like. It was a very 'down in the dump' feels kinda moment. I felt awful for them, felt awful for us, but it had to be done.
I was never more relieved seeing that crummy, trashy motel disappear into the rainy horizon as we navigated to the nearest coffee in sight. GOOD RIDDANCE, vile place. Hrmph.
I put in coffee into the GPS to see what was around, and luckily one popped up in the area. We still had about 45 minutes until they opened, and it was the ONLY one around without going way off course :( It's also still pouring down rain really hard and glooming the atmosphere.
So to take stock of the situation, I'm under-caffeinated, grumpy, wet, have to pee, hungry, unhappy, sleepy, and it's all out of my control.
It me. 10000% feels that morning.
We parked out in the parking lot, accepted the ill fate of things, and opened up the back of the truck. First things first, get dry. We shut the trailer door and changed out of all our wet clothes. The only pair of shoes I had on me were sopping wet and had to be placed in the top of the truck windshield to hopefully dry out when the sun came back out.
Remember how I said a few things got lost in the mix? My little box of extra shoes I put aside somehow got lost in the pile of boxes or misplaced into the truck. I couldn't find it. I had to put on a pair of my boyfriend's shoes because he found his box hilariously, and in this moment, after everything bad happening, I had but one choice left. I could either breakdown and cry or laugh myself silly. I chose the latter. PS: his feet are a lot bigger than mine. Still, they were dry shoes and in those moments, you just don't care anymore.
After getting caffeinated, attending to cats, changing, bathroom break and eating some breakfast, we headed back out to the interstate and steeled to get through the rain. I had checked the radar, and we realized after so long we'd make it out the end of the storm and be back on track.
Momo and kitty company mostly slept through a lot of this day, rightly so! They had a very bad long morning, and by mercy, it tired them out so caring for them was a lot easier this time. With the help of my awesome twin sis, she helped me get set up to a much better Motel 6 over in Canton for our next stopping point. I tried my best to stay positive, remember I had a way better motel situation at the end as a reward.
We passed over the Mississippi River, and I sort of felt like Sam from LOTR. It’s hard to describe, those who get it, get it.
Somewhere in Louisiana, we made a pitstop for one thing as promised, but before that, ended up having to stop for even longer. My brain suddenly had enough of everything, and I was feeling very anxious.
In one of the smallest gas stations I've ever seen, we managed to find a big enough parking space off to the side to stop the truck so I could get out, stretch my legs, and mostly try to calm down. Thank everything I was with a travel partner who didn't make it worse. I was feeling light headed, anxious, heartbeat racing, sweaty, tunnel vision - it's like all the stress of the last few weeks came crashing down on me at once. I called my twin sis right away and broke down admitting how bad I felt. That I'd been feeling like I couldn't go on. To get reassurance that I wasn't having a heart attack or something. To say that maybe all this was a bad idea, maybe I wasn't meant to be able to pull this off, maybe finally I'd just had too much bad happen to me.
It was not a pretty moment. I feel chilled still thinking about it.
I hit my limit, and there is no plan but to get through that moment. The panic and anxiety can feel overwhelming. You may have heard this before and wondered, what's an attack feel like? You suddenly feel ill. Sweaty. You can't control your heart beat. You feel off. Everything seems too bright or too loud or too hot or cold. It's an uncomfortable feeling that can only get worse sometimes. I've had a collapsed lung, and it was nothing like that pain. It's a terrible, different, and dire feeling.
This is a part I could have left out from all knowledge, but then this wouldn't be the real whole story? By sharing this, I hope it continues to make talking about mental health and its struggles a bit easier for the next person. That we all don't have to discard the dark times in favor of only lighter moments, all of them are valid -- the things that didn't go right, the times you felt like it might fail, when you didn't feel like you'd make it (and despite that, still tried) -- all this needs to be said more often and out loud. Life isn't perfect. These tales are worth telling. Don't hide yours.
Anyone might be worn down enough for some kind of trouble on a haphazard journey like this, but I've been putting myself under extreme pressure and stress for so long, ever since the lay off. All I could do was take a deep breath in and back out. Repeat. Listen. Look around to ground myself. Remind myself why I was going through all this discomfort. That it's only temporary.
I drank a bunch of cold water, ate a little fruit, and after an hour and more of talking through things during their worst, I started to feel like it had passed. I began to feel a little better. I don't know how else I would have made it through that moment, if my twin hadn't stayed on the phone and helped me through that.
Once more, I realize that asking for help is the only way I am where I am now.
Before we heading out, I remember looking over and seeing a poor Sonic sign all slumped over like it fell a bit, maybe from the earlier storms?? It was a poignant moment. If the sign could still hold itself up, even with a bit of help, maybe I could too. You'd be surprised the connections you can make in moments like that.
Onward and forward! It was hard, and I didn't want to be in the truck still, but I couldn't stay where I was either. Time has a way of passing and that last hour left seems to have a way of slowing down.
Eventually we arrived into Canton, though it was much later than planned. It must have been 10pm I think by the time we made it. It was entirely my fault.
The motel was brightly lit, clean, quiet, and more welcoming than the last one. They had a very large dirt/grass area the lady helpfully pointed out to us for parking the truck. It let us park it in a way that wouldn't be hard to get out of in the morning. Right before arriving, we made a quick pitstop to get something other than PB for dinner (this really made our night and was well worth it), and unloaded into the quiet corner of the motel room. Saw a decent pool that I would have used if I haven't been so exhausted. I can't speak enough about how much night and day difference this Canton Motel 6 was compared to Birmingham.
The kitties, upon being let out, didn't once go hide under the bed. Instead, they freely explored and seemed way less stressed out. They used the litter and had hearty appetites. In turn, I was more relaxed. I could have fallen straight into bed in relief, but I was too tired and hungry and busy thanking my twin for doing such a stellar job of finding this gem.
It was amazing how the little things made such a difference.
We had a little nook to sit down and eat comfortably in. They had wifi so I could check on things. Nobody was yelling or being sketchy outside. It was a huge turning point in the whole trip.
Everything just settled down a few notches, and we slept a lot later into the morning the next day. I needed it.
DAY THREE: April 4th, 2017
The goal today was make it all through Texas and into Las Cruces, NM for our next stop. Since we woke up a lot later than planned, we knew it might be a later day before arriving to Las Cruces, but that's okay. Just roll with punches.
Wow, Texas is LONG. Really long.
Did I mention windy!? And through most sections of this part of the route, it was filled with smells of oil and gas. We were heading the southern interstate route of course towards Cali, so it took us right by the border and through all the oil fields. Big long stretches of interstate were ahead. Towering, but beautiful wind mills were everywhere.
Little vid of the mills as I passed by.
It was extra taxing because it was so noisy and windy, and the cats were a little unsettled but fell into routines of sleeping and eating. We kept the AC blasting on and off to keep us all from melting. It was a bright and sunny hot day out. We were relieved for no pouring rain, but the super high winds really sucked.
It was going to be a very long drive, so we were thankful to get a good night's sleep. I almost didn't want to leave Canton and wanted to risk staying another day, but you can't hide from the length of the trip. Due to all the winds, we spent more gas and time through Texas because it took a lot longer to make it through. I'd heard it was windy prior, but I think this is a consistent state. Something to know if you go this route, plan for several extra hours and more gas budget here. Get ready to iron grip the steering wheel, too. :(
We stopped several times for gas, a different snack here or there, and to stretch. At one gas station, I even saw a tumbleweed that had gotten stuck to the car tow!
After a long portion of driving, we were running low on gas and had to make a weird little stop. This gas station was so old that I saw pay phones still there. There's a fun little story that goes along with this:
Creepy gas station, pay phones gone, RUN train. Ok. We run. Bye!
I would not miss going through that interstate again, but it was bearable. We didn't hit any border checkpoints as we expected until nearing Cali funny enough, but planned to leave a little time for that just in case. We started seeing some fun little lights and shops by El Paso. The traffic is CRAZY through there, but given we did happen to arrive kind of during prime evening driving hours, I suppose it was gonna happen. We probably should have either stopped right before there, or not slept as late to avoid it. That was a tense situation because we can only move so fast, and lots of people like to drive a bit nuts to get around and past your truck. That made things more on edge.
Towards into Las Cruces, we saw this hilarious, cool space themed car wash. I stopped to get a good pic of because I'd never seen anything like that before. There were little moments of neat things along the way.
The kitties were very behaved throughout the day, and they deserved to have a shorter day if I could have given it to them. Even Spazziecat, who's the most calm, started fussing and meowing. I knew we pushed the time a bit too long. She probably needed a potty break and some stretching. I felt so bad. Things got tense again as we neared that last bit of road stretch to the motel. We were tired and hungry and everything had amped up again. I was starting to feel the effects of not eating my usual schedule of food. I really really wanted something fresh, anything fresh like a salad or soup or things with veggies and protein - anything like that. I hoped for the best.
Getting the truck maneuvered into the lot wasn't awful, but we had to park kinda far back and lug everything up in a few trips. This time, all the rooms were inside! We had to use an ancient elevator to get the cats and other things set up, then go back down for our own things. The poor kitties definitely needed out, so the tension went down when they were able to use litter box and grab fresh water. Whew.
The motel itself wasn't bad - it was clean and for the most part, everything I expected it to be for being Motel 6. The tub was nicely sized and the room was just enough to get by a night in.
As for us eating, it was pretty late. I think almost 11pm when we got settled in. I saw menus by the phone and happily grabbed it thinking, "OMG, I can get real food? A salad!? YES! Oh... oh wait." It's shut by now. Crap. Nothing is really open nearby or would cost way too much to order/deliver. Time to pick through the now becoming sad contents of the cooler and maybe supplement with the vending machine fare.
Blahhh. Bad planning and just kind of one of 'those' nights. We took baths and both had enough of the day by bedtime.
Tomorrow was a new day.
DAY FOUR: April 5th, 2017
Las Cruces, New Mexico. Our goal was to make it from there and a shorter trip over to his family in Casa Grande, AZ. I was actually feeling pretty good about the day because it was a short trip, FINALLLLYYYYY.
A fresh day - that's always a good time of a trip. I could not contain my giddiness at the thought of not being stuck in the truck all the day long.
By this day into things, you will certainly feel the weariness of the traveling routine. Packing things back up and cats corralled into carriers, the long stretches of roads and what not. The longing to stay in bed and teleport into your new apartment.
We slept in a bit later and begrudgingly packed things up to head back out into the world. It was nice to see New Mexico in daylight. I noticed all kinds of features about it that were so different than what I'd seen or been past before. There were really neat plants and flowers I could see on the side of the road.
We located a Starbucks and headed over to get something hot for breakfast and a nice big coffee, and all of us settled into a clear day on the road. This was a more interesting part of the trip in that we could see a lot more locals and shops on our way out of town and along some stretches. We passed over Rio Grande! I saw neat street art and felt glued to the window for quite some time.
Along the way, right by the interstate was a little shop called the Old West Trading Post. I couldn't resist. I didn't stop for anything hardly all this way, but the idea of finding a few little treasures in the trading post and stretching my legs was too tempting.
There were all sorts of cool bits and bobs hiding inside. The one that struck me as the neatest (and cheapest thrill) was getting a bag of mixed polished stones in a little bag for 5$! All you had to do was be able to shut the top closed, and I pawed through the giant bin. All the rocks were pretty neat, and after a short while I had found some really nice variety ones.
I used those in my decor around the new apartment, and it was neat to have a physical item I could look at and remember something good about the trip. They had dreamcatchers, all manners of jewelry with turquoise, pretty art, figurines, sculptures, wall art, clothing, pillows, blankets, all sorts of handcrafted stuff. It was so fun that we shortly stopped by TWO of them along this stretch to see if they had any different rocks in the bins.
Spirits were good, and I kept pawing through the rocks and admiring them in the sunlight. I know the kitties appreciated the shorter drive.
Before long, we were in Casa Grande and able to get the cats back out, eat some dinner, and attempt to get some decent sleep for the last long stretch.
Stealthy arrival pic is stealthy!
DAY FIVE: April 6th, 2017
Today was the final stretch of the trip. Casa Grande, AZ to Los Angeles, CA. We planned to arrive sometime in the early afternoon since we got up nice and early this day.
It was a sunny clear day out. Sleep was pretty good, better than it had been. The worst part was that we couldn't find any coffee shops around our route for some time, so I was pretty sleepy. I think in hindsight bringing a few VIA packets or instant coffee could have been a helpful thing in a pinch. Note to self.
Day five was the best because there was an end in sight. Traveling through AZ and into Cali had only one border stop, checking to see if we had any live plants - which we didn't. The view started to change from desert to a lot of very intense greens and flowers scattered among the side of the road. Still desert in some areas, of course. Lots of hills and mountains in the background. We stopped to take a cool panoramic, and I saw a little lizard. Probably the first wild life I saw the whole trip, in fact, apart from birds! Not one deer, fox, bear, nothing. I was a little disappointed.
It was an easy enough drive for the most part, and by now all the cats had settled into some routine of dealing with the road. Which is good because things started to get congested on the 101 as we neared the city and through downtown. It gave us time to look around and get our bearings on the area. I was really quite tired, but also excited.
Finally the moment arrived where we were minutes from finding our apartment area. Now things were going to get interesting even further!
We found a little side road right by the apartment where we could park the truck. For the first time in days, I was able to get in my own car again. It felt so strange because I'd been so high up in the truck for so long. I drove the car down off the tow and loaded the kitties inside. It was time to head over to the office and get paperwork together and get our key!
The apartment itself seemed alright. It was much smaller than my last apartment, but I knew that going into things. Still, facing it and wondering how you'll fit everything is a little daunting. The lovely discovery of there only being one laundry room (one washer/one dryer) for the entire floor was also a little bummer, it was probably from the 80's or 90's and coin operated. The gym wasn't anything, very small and basically useless apart from a few items in there. There was a pool we passed by on way in. Some garden and plants in little areas.
The way the apartment works is that the parking area is gated off underneath a stone archway which is a part of the apartments. Unfortunately, this meant we could in no way ever drive the truck up to our apartment to unload. It was pretty terrible seeing it in person - it was a sinking feeling. We had hoped somehow the smaller truck we went with would fit, but it just was too high for the arch. Instead, we found out we'd have to pull the truck up near the front entrance (off a busy road too) and back it up into the little entrance drive and offload everything from the gated area into the car and drive said car back around the corner to get hand carried around another bend to get inside. LOL. Lost yet? I know I was.
The best part was having to hit the gate unlock button constantly. That thing would shut right as you were dealing with a heavy item, and I'm sure it was comical to try to watch us as we rushed for the remote to keep it from shutting every 30 seconds. Ugh.
It was probably the most inconvenient part of the whole trip, honestly. Instead of worrying about getting all these items inside, not even the mattresses, we left it all locked in the truck parked a street over and only grabbed a few things for the moment. It was just a lot of stress and activity and big things happening. I felt like I had zero energy left to handle all the logistics, but I had to anyway. At the least, the cats got set up, and that's honestly all I cared about right then.
Of course, it wasn't without a hitch.
Between the chaos of trying to deal with the new area/new apartment stuff, my phone signal began acting up or not working (ie: dropping calls or texts not working) with the apartment complex being suspect but me totally clueless and too tired to fully understand. Cue a long while of dealing with this terrible phone signal crap for the future, by the way. Friends were trying to stop by to help out and couldn't reach me properly. I couldn't even answer the phone to unlock the door because the call would drop before even picking up fully. I had tried calling my sister to update her that I made it inside, but the stupid call kept dropping. Stress levels rising!!
And in the midst of all this, Momo started to choke on her water!
It was so sudden and scary, and it took the last bit of anything I had out of me. I was so rattled and upset because she was seriously choking, and I was an idiot blanking out so it took me some seconds to register what to do aside from immediately freaking out. (ps: there is a kitty version heimlich) Garrett sprung to the rescue and cleared her airway using that method. Wow. It was the last straw that I could handle, and I felt like a person capable of nothing further. I slunk down to the floor in disbelief, thinking anything bad like that happening after all the rest of what we put her through… Well, it was awful feels. Pure awful.
She's okay, and it's fine. I just wasn't fine for the rest of the evening after that.
I don't even think I was able to fully pull myself together when friends did arrive. I was fiddling with my phone because I had to hurry up and pay rent on this website they had before 5pm. The hour was growing nearer, but with my signal acting up, I was struggling to get it to load. All my stuff was all over the place, between the truck, my car, and in random bags or boxes. There is a feeling of discord and chaos that you can't avoid.
Magical fridge of noms!
The great part is the cinnamon bun magical beings that my friends are, they flitted about and filled the fridge and cabinets with some very thoughtful selected nice foods and snacks and drinks. I couldn't process them all in the moment, but I was so grateful to open the fridge later and find actual real food or fruit or water. I can't say thank you enough, truly.
It turned out that I was able to get my rent paid and chat for a bit about things before I realized just how tired I was by that point - that I wasn't going to be able to unload much of the truck tonight, after all.
I'm pretty sure the cats were beyond relieved I wasn't shuffling them into any more carriers.
Passing out on the floor in total exhaustion.
LA - DAY ONE/TWO: April 7th and 8th 2017
Wait, how did we get back to day one again? Well, this is the first real day of being in LA. The two days that followed were unpacking the truck, unpacking boxes, and arranging things.
The goal the first full day here was to get at least half of the truck, if not more, unloaded and into the apartment. With some help and the amazing gesture by another magic friend of hiring someone with a truck to haul big items from Task Rabbit (an app) and a lot of sweat, we managed to get most of the important items into the apartment, to the point of the poor studio filling up and being juuust barely able to move around. haha almost too good!
We realized at that point we had to stop and arrange furniture, get things put together like beds, etc. and th