I was up before seven, packing. I emptied the fridge and packed stuff I wanted to keep in the chest freezer, figuring it would act as a nice cooler. I woke Joel up around eight fifteen and we started ripping apart my AV system and computer setup. There was no time for finese: everything just went into large boxes. I ripped out the cable modem since that needed to be returned today. I got a phone call from someone interested in the fridge, so Joel and I heaved it onto the porch. Then we went to Dave’s for breakfast, where he treated us with fresh crepes. He’s been into those since returning from a visit to France last summer. I had a package of frozen Oregon Marionberries (the best berry in the world) which I’d partially thawed and brought with me. We nuked them and they were delicious on the crepes.
Dave had planned to help us during the day but unfortunately there was an emergency with a client at work and he could only help until one o’clock. We made decent progress. Joel unloaded the truck and we began bringin in my furniture (most bookcases), and figuring out how to transport stuff. TV’s and computer monitors we placed face down onto chairs and sofas, surrounding them with pillows and blankets. Then we were able to pile other stuff on top and fill in the spaces with boxes. Dave took off about 12:30 to get ready for his client meeting, so then it was just Joel and I. I’d hoped to be on the road by mid-afternoon, but that was obviously not going to happen. By three o’clock I’d given up any thoughts of packing trash into bags: I just had to leave junk where it was. There just wasn’t any time. At about four we had the truck loaded, but again faced the same dilemma we’d had in Fresno: we still had my storage locker to come but the truck couldn’t be packed too efficiently without those ingredients. So once again we were faced with a pack, then unpack, then repack situation. We ran to the cable company to return the cable modem and close my account, then we stopped for some sodas as we needed refreshment. Then it was off to the storage locker. That is when the going got hard. My 5 x 10 storage locker was packaged to the ceiling with boxes, most of them heavy. After an hour of hauling boxes out to the truck it looked like I hadn’t started emptying the locker yet. I kept urging Joel to pack stuff efficiently as there were tons of boxes to come. We hadn’t even gotten to my books yet! We kept working. I was getting physically weak. A banker box full of books that was heavy was now nearly impossible to lift. A hand truck loaded with five boxes of books was barely managable, and I had trouble getting it up the ramp. I had to take a running start and sometimes I ran out of juice half-way up (or more crushingly, inches from the top) and would roll back down. Once I misjudged the run-up and crashed into base of the ramp: the hand truck just stopped dead, the handle digging hard into my mid-section. After that, I didn’t use the ramp any more. It was safer to park and lift the boxes one by one into the truck and let Joel store them. During this process I was getting depressed for it really seemed like we wouldn’t make it. I was worried because I couldn’t tell if we’d be able to fit everything, and because we were so far behind schedule. Then there was our first casualty: one of my bookcases was busted. We removed it, since there was no point in taking trash to Oregon. A glimmer of hope dawned when I finally saw the back of the storage unit, then reached the final row of boxes. We were running out of space in the truck but had reserved some room for some of the awkward furniture pieces we’d removed to make room for boxes (such as my gas barbeque). Finally, it was done. At about seven-thirty, we got on the road (after a quick stop for more caffeine).
Unfortunately, our exit proved short-lived. I’d been debating the best approach to take going home. Originally I’d figured we’d be heading north through the Bay area during rush hour (3-7) and traffic would be a nightmare, so I’d thought that maybe going south to Watsonville and over to I-5 near Los Banos would be the longer but faster approach. When we didn’t get on the road until so late, however, it seemed fastest to go through the Bay Area. But just before leaving Scotts Valley traffic on Highway 17 was stopped dead. Obviously there’d been an accident in the mountains. It had to be recent, too, since the signboard hadn’t indicated anything. That would be a least an hour delay, perhaps more. Many people were turning back and I made the decision to take the Los Banos route. I was driving my car, Joel in the U-Haul. He followed me as we took the exit, looped around, and headed south. Going was slow in the truck, but we plowed ahead. In the mountains of the Pacheco Pass I lost Joel for a while. He was going so slow he kept dropping further and further behind. Finally I pulled over and waited and he eventually showed up. Going downhill wasn’t a problem at all and he actually passed me! Shortly after that he put on his blinker indicating he wanted to exit. We got off at a truck stop in what I learned was Santa Nella, about a mile from the I-5 junction. I thought he wanted to eat or something, or perhaps he needed gas. But no, it was a truck problem. A red light reading “brake pressure” had lit up and was buzzing. I called U-Haul’s 800 number on my cell and got through and explained the situation. I had to do it twice, since the first guy didn’t put me on hold correctly or something, and someone else came on and began asking me all the stuff the first guy had already done! Eventually, though, the story got explained, I figured out where we were (I had to ask someone at the truck store), and U-Haul said they’d send out a mechanic to check on the truck. Someone would call in 30 minutes to let us know the schedule. Joel and I decided we’d eat at the truck stop. I’d originally thought of stopping at Anderson’s, the famous split pea soup place, which I knew was on nearby I-5. When Joel went to park the truck, however, the red light was off. About ten minutes later U-Haul called to say a technician would be out within 90 minutes. But when I mentioned that the light was now off, the U-Haul guy retracted his offer and said he wouldn’t send anyone out. “But there could be a serious problem,” I said. “Brakes are not something to mess with.” He countered that the light was off so there was no problem. But why did the light go on? Shouldn’t it be checked out to be safe? What if the light came back on a few miles down the highway? “Then call us back,” he said. So the bottom line is we’d be back in this mess again, starting from scratch, down the road a bit. Nice.
After a truck stop dinner — large volumes of mediocre food at cheap prices — we decided to take a little nap before getting back on the road. We slept for an hour, a much needed break, then got started again. It was about midnight and we were just reaching I-5! We still had an hour or so to get up near Tracy and be leaving the Bay area. Depressing. Then the rain came. It poured, an almost blinding sheet of water, and traffic, which was surprisingly heavy for that time of night, slowed. The conditions were horrible for mechanical problems and I prayed the truck would be okay. The pitch dark was also making me sleepy and I struggled a bit to keep away. My cats, which were in separate carriers in the back seat, had finally stopped meowing to be let out and were sleeping. We drove on and on and on. About one-thirty we passed through Sacramento. I’d forgotten that I-5 went over that way as usually I come over via Vacaville and by-pass the California capital. That was depressing because we still were so near the Bay area. A sign revealed we were still two hours from Redding. In the past I’ve left San Jose and gotten to Redding in four hours, so by now we should be in Redding. Of course the truck is slower than my car but even with that we should be closer than two hours. Perhaps my detour south had been a mistake? I was also falling asleep and knew I had to stop soon. Plans of driving all night seemed impossible now. It was two in the morning when we stopped north of Sacramento. We found a gas station that was closed but well-lit and a couple semis parked on the roadside. We parked and slept for a couple hours. It was good but I was still depressed at the distance left. It was like we had just started. Then I began doing the calculations. If Redding was two hours away, we’d be there by six. Redding is like three hours from Medford, so that would be nine a.m. Now obviously the truck was going to be slow going over the mountain, but maybe we’d be in Medford by ten. I told this Joel and suggested we plan for Medford for breakfast. Perhaps things weren’t so bad off. We dawn arriving we both woke up more, the glorious sun perking us up. The day was gorgeous, a stunning sunrise of purple and pink and orange. We drove on and on. Redding passed, then Weed, Yreka, and finally Ashland and Medford. It was ten-thirty. We had breakfast at Elmo’s. I had the eggs Benedict and Joel the Belgian waffle. Delicious. After getting gas (a length process with a car and a huge truck to fill), we were on the road again. Doing the math, I figured we’d be arriving at Lafayette about four o’clock. The walkie talkies I’d brought had proved useless (the truck was too loud to hear them even on max volume and there was frequent interference), so we communicated with cell phones instead. Even that proved only occasionally successful as once I called Joel several times and he didn’t answer, only later telling me he never heard the phone ring!
During the long drive that afternoon I had a couple interesting experiences with cops. The shoulder strap for my seat belt was cutting into my neck with the shirt I wore, so I’d slipped it under my arm. A cop was passing me on the left (I was only going 50) and suddenly he slowed down and began motioning to me. For a moment I was nervous, wondering what he wanted, then I saw him snapping his shoulder strap against his chest. I pulled mine back up and he waved and went on. It was good thing I was wearing my seat belt or it would have been a fine. But I did think it odd that the shoulder strap was so significant. But at least he didn’t pull me over. Later, though, I did get pulled over. I was sleepy and I kept zoning out. I don’t know if I actually fell asleep, but I would sort of tune out and then pay attention when I hit the bumps along the side of the road. The endless driving was just so boring and I had to go slow to not outpass the truck. In this instance, I was following Joel (that was easier than trying to lead, since he defined the pace). I was a mile or so behind but not worried, since I could catch up easily if needed. All I remember was suddenly seeing the rear of a cop car poking onto the highway (he had pulled someone over) and I swerved to avoid it. I overdid it a bit, fishtailing around a bit, and I worried the cop would think I was a drunk or something. Sure enough, seconds later he was there, lights flashing, pulling me over. He was a bit upset, claiming I could have killed him. I explained that I’d just over-reacted. I hadn’t seen his car until the last second and thought it was in my lane only later realizing it wasn’t, just on the side of the road. He told me I’d drifted on to the shoulder and that’s why his car was in my way. I’m surprised I didn’t appear drunk or something, with my lack of sleep, but apparently my answers satisfied the officer. After he ran my license he let me go without any penalty (no damage had been done and I suppose technically I hadn’t broken any laws). I was wide awake after that, though.
When we reached Salem, there was another dilemma: which way to Lafayette. There’s no direct road there, but you can get off at southern Salem and go west and north, or go north of Salem and go west and south. Though the latter appeared farther, I’d done it before and it was what Phil had recommended, but now I wasn’t so sure. In the end, we decided to go with the route I knew. I didn’t know what kinds of road or hills we’d find the other direction, and it was foggy with low visibility and we were making good time on I-5. We arrived in Lafayette at 4:30 p.m. My mom was already there (I’d given her a key) and was glad to see us. I could hardly believe we’d arrived in one piece with the truck intact. For the past twenty-four hours I’d doubted we’d arrive at all! We were still way behind schedule, as I’d hoped to have the truck unloaded on Saturday, but it was almost evening and we’d just arrived. We decided to go ahead and get started unloading, moving stuff into the garage for now, then we’d clean up and go to Ruby Tuesday for a nice dinner. That worked well and went until seven and managed to get a good quarter of the truck unloaded and I got some stuff settled into the house as well. I hauled boxes marked “kitchen” inside and my mom began unpacking them, putting stuff into cupboards where I’ll never find them again. A hot shower was heavenly and dinner was excellent. Then it was time to crash.