Moving Across the Country Part 1: The Long Haul

I promised myself I’d make a post about the journey driving across the country and moving to Arizona, so here it is. I’ve been here a little over a week, but better late than never, right? Right.

Day 1 (8/10/15): We woke up early to have breakfast at the Wellsboro Diner with Grandpa Bair and Steven’s French cousins. We said our heartfelt farewells to our families, and then we were on the road by noon. Our start was a little later than we had hoped, but our goodbyes took precedence, understandably. I was anxious to get on the road, and my eagerness powered me through the first few hours of the trip. My anxiety gave way to excitement. We were finally doing it! I couldn’t believe it was actually happening. We were going to be over 2,000 miles from home. Freedom, renewal, and a fresh start awaited us in the mystical desert destination. Then suddenly a tsunami wave of homesickness washed over me. I cried. I felt like that same little girl who dreaded having  to go to kindergarten every morning. The children were loud, boisterous, and downright barbaric, and my parents were warm, loving, and nurturing. I cried for my mommy and daddy just like before, and suddenly I was that vulnerable 5-year-old again, shoved out into the world and into life’s classroom, unprotected and without rules. I was exposed. Aside from being emotionally wrought from realizing the gravitas surrounding the move away from my friends and family, I was admittedly a tad hungover from the night before. So, that didn’t help either. I was tired and sad and frustrated, the perfect storm for a full-blown tantrum. The first hundred or so miles of the trip flowed with a river of silence parting Steven and I sprinkled with a few small white rapids of irritated outbursts on my part.

“Drive faster! Stay on the road! Why didn’t you stop at that rest area? You know I have to pee!”

Steven in his infinite patience and understanding withstood it all. By the time we reached Columbus, Ohio I was feeling much better. My protective prickly pear exterior had dissolved into a kinder, soft peach fuzz (Side note: you can find both prickly pears and peaches growing abundantly in Arizona). By the end of the day, I was once again overcome with excitement for our new adventure. After all, I couldn’t expect to learn and grow in leaps and bounds if I stayed in one spot. This was what I wanted.

Day 2 (8/11/2015): The second day of travel was spent driving through the rest of Ohio, into Indiana and Illinois, and eventually we ended up in Missouri.  Aside from endless road, there was nothing of note that I saw in Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois. The constant droning and deafening buzz of the cicada had me thoroughly convinced it must be Missouri’s official state bird. In Missouri we had the pleasure of seeing the Mississippi River once again. We crossed the Mississippi River six years prior when Steven and I drove with my mom and sister across the country to Colorado for a family vacation. It was a little different this time, because we weren’t going to be returning home. We circumvented St. Louis out of concern for the protests around the area. The day was rounded out with a beautiful Missouri sunset over the Missouri River.

Day 3 (8/12/2015): The rest of Missouri was mostly flat, but Kansas was even flatter. I couldn’t believe people actually live in Kansas. The whole time I kept wondering aloud, “What do they do here? How do they get anywhere? How are people still sane here?!” It’s miles and miles of farmland and cows and corn, lots of corn. We passed through maybe three towns at most. The Midwest just goes on forever. It is so flat it’s maddening. If hell exists, it’s in the Midwest, and Satan lives somewhere in Kansas. This actually makes a lot of sense to me since Monsanto reigns supreme in those parts. After taking the longest route through Kansas, we finally made it to Colorado at the end of the day. Needless to say, I felt incredibly relieved.

Day 4 (8/13/2015): Thursday was the best day of the trip so far, especially aesthetically. As the brownish, flat topography of the endless Midwest gave way to purplish cloud-like lumps in the distance of the vast Colorado landscape, my heart jumped to my throat and I let out an ecstatic “EEE!” which startled Steven so much he nearly veered off the road. My heart was so full that it was set to burst. We eagerly carved our way through the jagged Rockies in the cumbersome U-Haul . I’m definitely a mountains person. Nothing makes me feel dead inside quite like monotonous topography. At the four corners monument, we had the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be in four places at once. The view was sublime. We proceeded into Arizona and it was like we were back in the Red Centre. The sandstone rocks reminded us of the Australian monoliths of the same type. I couldn’t believe my eyes. It was all too much. In those moments I didn’t have enough eyes to soak it all in to my complete satisfaction. We ended up staying the night in Flagstaff which is like the Arizona version of Ithaca. What a beautiful town with lots of old hippies!

Day 5 (8/14/2015): Oh my God, Sedona! I could’ve stayed there forever. How could such a beautiful place be allowed to exist? The views were overwhelming to say the least. We walked through town and stopped at a hidden cliffside restaurant. There we were inundated with the views of the magical red rock formations. I can understand why people visit Sedona for spiritual reasons. There’s a mystical, metaphysical energy there that cannot be put into words. I’ll definitely be making frequent trips to Sedona during my time in Arizona. Sedona is magnetic.

We made our way down out of the mountains and into the greater Phoenix area. The landscape was starkly different, but still beautiful. I saw saguaros for the first time ever, and I was positively ecstatic! They’re such an iconic image of the desert. The temperature was 117 degrees when we moved in, the hottest day of record for the entire year! Move in went smoothly with the help of some awesome friends in the area.

I have yet to get used to the oven-like environment and having to stay indoors for the most part in the summer months. It seems counterintuitive to be cooped up with the shades drawn on such a sunny, cloudless day. Maybe it’s not the smartest thing to do, but I can’t help but go out and explore a little in the evenings. I’m just grateful we have some friends and family in the area to help if need be.

Some things I’m looking forward to in the near future: witnessing a haboob, seeing javelinas and scorpions, hiking the mountains in the area, exploring, and getting back to school.

It’s hard to believe tomorrow is the first day of grad school classes! It’s a strange mix of being super excited to be back in school and being super overwhelmed to be back in school. Wish me luck! I’ll be sure keep everyone updated regularly on how the rest of my strange, new Arizona adventure goes. Until next time!

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