The day dawned bright and sunny, a perfect California moving day. We were bound for Oregon, with the promise of closeness to family and a new, better-paying job. We had found a house under construction and were committed to purchasing it. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky.
I picked up my friend and we drove to the local UHaul dealership. I requested the truck I had reserved over a month prior.
“Well,” said the cashier, “it looks like we don’t have any trucks available for out-of-state one-way moves today.”
“What? I made the reservation over a month ago, and confirmed it last week!”
“I’m sorry, sir, we don’t have any trucks available to go to Oregon.”
We went back and forth like this for a few minutes, and I realized that I was going to either lose my temper and possibly regret my actions, or we were going to have to go elsewhere.
I felt cheated. How could a company do business like this? We made some calls and finally ended up with a great big, yellow Penske truck that drove like a Cadillac. The only problem was that it had to come back to California. So many people were moving away from the Bay Area in 2001; the truck rental companies had insufficient inventory to supply one-way movers.
My wife had gone on ahead with the kids in the minivan, and I still had a car to bring. My father agreed that he would bring the car and meet me halfway, when the time came to return the truck. Our great friends loaded the truck and wished me well. I rolled the door closed over all our belongings and set off. As I wished San Jose well, I adjusted my 34-year-old buns in the seat, and hunkered down for a 17-hour drive into the night.
I-5 is a trucker’s paradise. These loud and long behemoths dominate the night, often trailing two or three boxcars in their wake. My majestic Penske, so bold in the daylight, became a doddering nuisance among the rightful rulers of the roadway. As they rumbled by, often at speeds over 90 miles per hour, I wondered at the lack of police presence on the open road.
Being graced with a relatively small bladder, I was forced to stop every 100 miles or so to relieve myself. I sensed an uneasy camaraderie with the truckers, once we were out of our vehicles and exposed like so many turtles without shells. They walked upright and urinated like men, although I knew they were human avatars of metal gods, released to earth for only a moment before being chained back into their thundering cages.
I drove through the night. When I felt drowsy, I pulled off the road and slept for 20 minutes at a time, grateful to be moving along without a real schedule. The next day, I pulled into Portland with bloodshot eyes and a fresh perspective.
My impression of long-distance moving does not mean the same as that of someone moving, say, across the country or around the world. But for me the move to Oregon rises among the memories of my life for a number of important reasons.
First, it was at a time that I had lived half my life in California and half elsewhere. I romanticized my early life in Oregon, hoping I could one day move back to my childhood home at the base of Mount Hood. But California represented freedom, and sunshine, and it was there that I sobered up for the last time to date. So it wasn’t easy.
Second, this was the first real opportunity we had as a family to make a big move that would change our whole lives. Sure, we had enjoyed some success with jobs and homes, but this meant a whole new community and a different experience of family. My wife was ready to leave her matriarchal family and launch in a new direction. We had a false expectation of being able to connect with my mother on a longer term (she passed away a year after we moved) but a church family stepped into the void, and we have enjoyed deep and meaningful relationships with friends.
Third, it was the physical separation of my son from me (born to my girlfriend in 1990, the year I sobered up). I see him now on scheduled visits (and he has achieved frequent flyer status on Alaska Airlines) but there is an open wound on both of us from that separation that may never heal. My girls sometimes forget him in family prayers or wishes, and for that I am sorry.
But overall, the move has been positive. We have enjoyed increased health and vitality as a family, and have been able to address some long-standing issues with debt and emotional maturity. I recommend that type of move to anyone.