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To avoid getting completely tangled up in layers of complexities, here’s a sort of outline presentation of what we’d hoped for versus what has happened so far.

I won’t blame you for skipping this chapter … it may only interest people who know us already, who can’t look away from train wrecks, or who might be looking for weird plot ideas. Sorry it’s so loooong … but, well, you’ll see why.

The Opportunities

Me – To discover whether New England is as congenial, supportive, beautiful and soul satisfying as I’ve always believed it could be.

Julia (my daughter) – To get close enough to easily explore the most promising masters and Ph.D. neuroscience programs for migraines in the U.S.

Sheba (80 lb wolf dog), Basserina & Sneakers (cats who are NOT best friends!) – to leave behind warm sunshine, a yard, familiar surroundings and a comfortable routine to travel in cramped conditions for a month or more while being uprooted (just after getting comfortable!) almost daily.

The Original Plan

To pack up the household and put most of our possessions in storage in California, to be brought to us after we found a place to live in New England. And then, to make the trip across the continent a vacation, taking up to 2 months to explore places like Washington’s Olympic Peninsula, the Canadian Rockies and so on. And to check out various universities on the way.

The Known (prior to July 1) Challenges:

Home Environment – In addition to my general difficulties with Bay Area air quality, pollen count, and so on, there were several really serious problems with where we lived. First, although we didn’t realize it at first, there was something terribly toxic in the back yard. Whether it was from the auto body shops just on the other side of the back fence, or asbestos in older construction, or old and new toxins released during the massive renovation which was announced and commenced about 4 months after we moved in … the cumulative effect was bad enough that it affected not only hyper-sensitive me, but also got to my daughter on the days when she didn’t spend 8-10 hours in an air conditioned lab. Bottom line, as long as we lived in the apartment, I would have to function in spite of both physical and mental challenges, and so would she.

Food – Julia and I are both on highly restricted diets, so, no eating in restaurants. Also, most of what we can eat can only be found in health food stores, requiring extra effort for successful travel arrangements.

Environment – For me, intense urban environments seem to generate too many toxins to be tolerated for even a day without extra meds, and after 16 years on the Northern California Redwood Coast, I had been spoiled by endless clean air, water and low population density. Even an hour or two of freeway driving requires extra medication to prevent backlash, affecting travel plans as well. My doctor thinks this will largely clear up in a different environment (!!)

Multiple Disguises and Varied Accommodations – We need clothes for travel, hotel stays, camping, job interviews and making a good impression on potential landlords. We also need cooking utensils, food storage and health support items.

Space – We’re traveling in a Ford Escape and towing a nifty little PulMor trailer so the fuzzy family members would have at least a little space.

Fuzzy Family Members – See above in Opportunities.

The Unanticipated Challenges

Earlier Moveout Deadline – On July 1 it was announced that the interior renovations on individual apartments in our part of the complex would begin on August 1 rather than the anticipated September 16th. Since I was basically bedridden for 6 months the last time I had prolonged contact with construction/renovation materials, and was already in some trouble due to allergies or intolerances, that meant we had to be completely moved out before they started tearing up the interior and exterior of our apartment. We finally negotiated an 8/12 moveout – thank goodness!

Mercury Retrograde – In case you’re not familiar with astrology, Mercury retrograde periods occur 3 times a year for 3 weeks each time, with an additional week’s residue on either side. These periods are famous for screwing up travel, scheduling, communications, computers, contracts and so on. There’s a deeper intent, of course, but we’ll save that discussion for another time. In this case, if one were cynical, one would say naturally Mercury retrograde would be heaped on top of the rest of the complications! How else to give me an opportunity to fully explore the challenge of meeting chaos and uncertainty by staying centered and present in the moment?!?

Personnel – Julia was working full time in the Stanford lab until August 1, which meant that any work requiring physical strength and stamina had to be accomplished (by her) in the two weeks between then and our moveout deadline, since I literally could not do it.

Last Minute Complications

Trailer – Rather than being able to work with the nifty little trailer we’d found to plan our travel supplies, we didn’t receive it until 5 days before the moveout, at which point we were working so hard on packing that there was no time for thoughtful preparation.

Health – As anyone with allergies can tell you, moving can create problems, starting with exposure to accumulated dust and so on. One of the big surprises was that anything which had been kept in the back yard (lawn chairs, bike, etc), as well as the expensive Uhaul boxes we’d saved from the move last year, had somehow soaked up whatever toxins were back there, making both Julia and me sick. Everything in the back yard, and everything in the storage unit (which had carelessly been filled with 30 to 40 year old roofing debris during the earliest part of the renovation) had to be trashed.

Day-Of Surprises

Things went really well with the movers. In fact, the lead guy suggested that we could work for Bekins any time, our packing was so professional.

You probably know that the last part of any move, when you have to decide what to do with the dregs and the stuff you need to keep available to use till the last minute on moveout, and first thing when you move in. We had a lot of it, and I – the Virgo in charge of lists and space planning – had not spent much time considering what went where. Nor, as mentioned, had I been able to work with the trailer.

Picture this:

It’s 2 pm and Julia and I are standing in our apartment parking area surrounded by a clutter of bags and boxes containing clothes, cooking utensils, and miscellany left behind by the movers. Within 6 to 15 feet of us, above and parallel, are at least a dozen construction workers, ripping off 30 year old shingles, revving skill saws as they cut pressboard to replace the shingles, rat-tat-tatting with nail guns to put the pressboard in place, and generally filling the area with sawdust, construction chemicals and bellowing  male exuberance.

I’m standing there in my allergy mask (which makes me look like Miss Piggy) and Julia is drooping under the combined pressure of hard manual labor and chemical exposure. And the critters have been waiting impatiently in the car since 8 am.

We have just discovered that we have approximately twice too much stuff and must make some instant, difficult decisions, because staying another night in the apartment will only make us both less able to make coherent decisions (the HEPA air purifiers have been packed, so all allergy protection is gone), or to act on them.

We ended up dumping all our new camping equipment, tent, sleeping bags, air mattresses and cooking equipment, and at the same time completely eliminating what had been an important part of our plans to manage the food part of our travels. (We did leave behind some pretty happy campers among the apartment complex staff, though.)

By the time we finally pulled away from the apartment complex at 3 pm, Sheba was cramped in a postage stamp place in the back of the car …

the cats were howling in their carriers, and Julia and I were poleaxed and exhausted.

Fortunately, I had made reservations two days earlier at a hotel about half an hour away!!! All that remained was for Julia and I to carry everything in the car and trailer into the hotel room – the equivalent of about a block in each direction from car to room – settle the critters, and sleep for as long as possible.

But Wait! There’s More!

Poor Julia woke up in the middle of that first night with a ferocious, full-body case of hives which is better now, 5 days later, but still giving her fits.

We spent 3 days at the first hotel, inventorying everything, rethinking our plans, and giving away things like my favorite cast iron pan to hotel staff. By the time we left we still weren’t rested or recovered, but at least the critters had enough room to travel in relative comfort.

Oh, and the wonderful ironies!

Remember that we raced to get out of our apartment to avoid the renovation? Our first day in the hotel someone knocked on the door midafternoon. There on the doorstep was the desk clerk with two huge construction guys who needed to come into our hotel room right then to measure and tap and examine in detail for – you guessed it! – renovation!!!

The next day we went to a nearby Whole Foods Market to pick up stuff for our fussy food needs. You of course, have guessed what we found … the market was completely torn up and chaotic, hung with visquine (sp?) throughout, and right in the middle of … renovation.

More than one friend has speculated that the Universe was just making sure we didn’t dawdle on our way out of the Bay Area.

And, once we left the Bay Area things did begin to clear up, almost miraculously.

There was time and space to feast my eyes on the rounded, feminine shapes of the land in the Napa Valley area, to soak up the sight and smell of Redwood groves, to smile over memories of my many years traveling up and down California Highway 101.

When we got back to the Eureka-Arcata area, aside from having to troop in and out of the Red Lion lobby with tons of stuff in tacky old boxes and grocery bags, including a litter box, things got easier and easier. Our favorite old Co-Op had all the food we needed. The scenery got more and more beautiful. Driving became the pleasure it usually is for me, and we all (including the critters, I  think) began to get into the spirit of our adventure.

So, here we are in Coos Bay, Oregon, finally getting rested and caught up with organized and presentable packing, blogging, accounting and travel planning, fulfilling fantasies and dreams of staying in the Olympic rainforest and riding ferries around Puget Sound.

Next, I’ll post a couple of “Fond Memories.” We’ll start traveling again Saturday …

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