Friday, July 12, 2013

Our big move

Now this wasn't my first cross country road trip, and I really don't think it will be my last, but I hope to never have to do it THIS way again! It went fine. Really it went great. I couldn't have asked for a smoother trip, but man is it stressful to have everything you own (AND the horse and dog) with you on the journey.

Asking my high mileage truck to get us all the way out here was actually asking for a miracle, and we received it! We are fully grateful for the blessing it is that we had no car trouble at all despite the fact the truck was probably past its recommended capacity. We also had nothing ruined, all dishes arrived intact, and no water damage even with the few summer showers we hit.

Basically my husband drove our new car (fully loaded and with bikes on top) and I drove the truck and trailer. Here's how the trip played out...

Friday, June 28th- Last day of work- Load up- Wait, there's still more stuff to pack????
Both my husband and I worked over have the day, then worked on packing/loading/etc. Insane, right? I had at least two emotional breakdowns that night, which seems quite reasonable looking back on it!

Saturday, June 29th- Destination: Wells, NV- Total miles: 440
States driven: California, Nevada
After a very brief night of sleep we set off to pick up the horse bright and early. This is where my first doubts hit! The truck's bed was fully loaded, and the trailer tack room was stacked floor to ceiling with our boxes. So even without the horse, this was the heaviest the rig had ever been! It took a few adjustments on the break control, a stop to shorten the trailer chains since the hitch was SO low, and a few hundred miles under my belt before I felt confident about the truck making it!

My fearless travel buddy (and my audio books) helped take the stress out of the drive. She wasn't concerned about the hitch being inches from the ground. Over the first couple of hours I got used to the excessively heavy feeling when braking, turning, accelerating, etc. and started to relax.

We did make it through the mountains just fine, and stopped for gas/breakfast/horse & dog check.  I still couldn't believe just how low that hitch was to the ground.

We, of course, stopped again for gas and check-in later on. The heat wave combined with Nevada desert temps meant that we were dealing with about 108 degrees by 2pm. We did not make as good of time as I hoped. AND Miss Lola decided she wanted nothing to do with the water offered her, or the wet food put in front of her at stops. GAH! So the worrying started up again. Then we had an unplanned stop because we had reached our original destination and I had been trying the horse hotel on and off for a few hours with no luck. I finally got a call back that she didn't have me on the books (I had scheduled in March so I can understand why it was forgotten) and she was super nice about it. She tried to find a way to make it work, but bottom line we were actually 10 miles past. Mentally I could not back track 10 miles. We found another horse hotel only 20 miles ahead, which turned out to be much more conveniently located. So it all worked out for the best.

 Our first night stop dropped us in Wells, NV where Lola stayed over night at a wonderful place with a large paddock. She got a good hose down of course, and she happily drank water and ate her wet food once she was OUT of the trailer. On the owner's recommendation we had dinner at Bella's which was a great find!

Aside from the unexpectedly great food, our priority was sleep, and that is what we did!

Sunday, June 30th- Destination: Rock Springs, WY- Total miles: 365
States driven: Nevada, Utah, Wyoming
We had to go back to Bella's for the yummy looking muffins we saw the night before, then we were out to the barn to pick up the truck, trailer, and horse. After a tire pressure check and fill up on air (I'm sure some of you were worried after the picture above!) we were on the road. We wandered along through Nevada, into and out of Utah, and a good ways into Wyoming before our day was up.
We stopped in Utah to marvel and the vastness of the salt flats and salt lake. 

And Piper got herself a lovely portrait at the Salt Lakes! 

Then we were back on the road, for more of the same...
Again Lola resolutely refused to drink what I offered her, or eat the wet food I put in front of her. So we made the best of it and tried to keep the day as short as possible.

That night we were all set up to stay at a cabin at the KOA in little Rock Springs.

Lola had a lovely pen right behind our cabin. We were very lucky to have a few other horses staying that night, so she felt right at home. We got her settled in, and again she ate and drank and seemed just fine.

The view from our cabin was spectacular, especially after so much flat nothingness from our drive!

After dinner we took a lovely sunset hike up the bluffs behind camp to stretch everyone's legs. Then I spent an hour with Lola doing a massage on her. I figured I would rather be safe than sorry, so it was more of a preemptive measure against her potentially tying up on this trip. Happy, healthy muscles with plenty of blood flow was my goal.

Monday, July 1st- Destination: Denver, CO- Total miles: 357
States driven: Wyoming, Colorado
Leaving Wyoming and heading down to Denver was much more mountainous than I thought it would be! We hit a really high pass, and a storm at the exact same time. I have to say that the various climbs in our trip always put me on edge because I would literally be pedal to the metal and still loosing speed. It is a weird feeling to not have any power left just in case. I tried to breath deeply and keep on trucking along at 35 mph, and would breath a huge sigh of relief when we hit the top. BUT a storm at the same time? Well that is a whole different level of "edge", as in "over the edge"! So the first sigh of rain I pulled off to a rest area. I was SO relieved that I did, because the hail hit with a vengeance, and the temps dropped to the low 40's! Crazy.

 Lola was glad to have a blanket thrown on her, and we moved on. Crazy to have gone from fretting over the 100 degree heat to hunting for a sheet. Overall that day was probably the hardest. We tried to stop for lunch in Cheyenne only to have the "Food ahead" signs direct us toward downtown. So after a fruitless 4 mile detour through the not-so-horse-trailer-friendly city streets we got caught in a construction detour, and then finally got off at the next exit which was the truck stop we wanted all along. However, it was apparently the truck stop that EVERYONE wanted. We must have waited 40 minutes for food at Wendy's. So much for fast food! All of this lost time meant that we hit Denver in traffic. Another least favorite thing to do with a horse trailer... traffic in an unfamiliar city. So at the end of the day, I had REALLY earned this:

Well, one of them was my husbands... but he earned it too since I was so on edge from the drive that I may have been more than a little unreasonable in my anxious back seat driving while he drove us to the downtown that night!

Our Yeti drinks at a local brewery was followed by a roof top restaurant...

with some really yummy food! Thanks Denver for feeding us well! We then took a quick walk around the area and found the Rockies stadium. Sadly no game that night.

Lola's accommodations were not nearly as good.  Well, our actual accommodations were awful too. Denver was lovely, Aurora was NOT! The goal was to be on the east side of the city because the next day would be the longest by far. I had no idea what I had gotten us into. 

The barn was ok, just that it was a HUGE boarding facility. Turnout was only and option if you were there on site to move them. Otherwise she had a tiny dark box stall. No one was there to tell me where to put her or park. I got bad directions by phone and had to ask for help from a rider. The only option for the trailer was on the street so we opted to take the trailer and truck to the hotel. This turned out to be a worse idea since the hotel was the most ghetto place I think I have ever (or will ever) stay in. Really! Thankfully, nothing was stolen, and we got ourselves up and out of there at 4 am.

Tuesday, July 2nd- Destination: Kansas City, KS- Total miles: 593
States driven: Colorado, Kansas, so much Kansas
This day was our LONGEST drive by far. We knew this going in, and we did have a back up plan to stop earlier if needed, but we really wanted to stay in Kansas City. So we were counting on the flat straight drive down I-70 to help us out. So I was out at the barn before 5 am. I wanted to let Lola stretch her legs and eat a little before getting in the box. So I turned her out in their indoor arena for a few minutes and packed up. I loaded her up with the very first rays of daylight, so we were on the road before sunrise.
And sure enough... it was flat...
and straight...
and very welcome after our adventures in the mountains!
Lola had a great place to stay that night. This pasture stretched down to the end of the trees, and gave her plenty of room to stretch her legs after such a long time stuck in the trailer. She ended up taking full advantage of it because she was trying to run away from the biting flies. Welcome to the mid-west honey! They don't make flies like this in California! She got herself plenty of exercise and the very nice barn owner sent me a text to confirm that she had stopped running once the sun went down and the fly went to bed!
We headed out for real Kansas City BBQ! They had a feast for two option, so obviously we had to get that!

Wednesday, July 3rd- Destination: Aunt's house, Cape Girardeau, MO- Total miles: 353
States driven: Kansas, Missouri
I was so glad that this was the last haul before we got a break. Although Cape Girardeau took us off our direct route a bit, we had made plans to stay with my husband's aunt for the 4th of July. We figured we could use a break, and how often do we happen to be in Missouri for a holiday? We also had my mother-in-law fly in to St Louis to meet up with us. Now this created a few problems. First, we had to split up because I refused to drive the trailer to the airport, I do many things that scare me, but sometimes you just have to put your foot down! Second, we had packed both our cars full to the point of bursting. So figuring out room for a whole human being and her luggage put our Tetris skills to the test! We did manage to squeeze the contents of the car's passenger seat into new places in the truck and trailer, but we are lucky the his mom is tiny, and able to pack light.We split at St Louis, but I hit so much traffic that they easily caught back up with me.

On the 3rd and 4th Lola stayed at the most glorious facility I have even been at. It sat on top of a huge hill with rolling green pastures surrounding it. All the horses stayed out in pasture full time, so Lola had the barn to herself. With extra gates open, she had the choice of four stalls, and two huge paddocks to wander through.

I found a little time to get back out on the 4th to get her out a little. They even let me borrow a saddle out of their lesson tack room since I had boxes packed in the trailer blocking mine. We had a lovely hack around the open grassy hills.

She got a nice cool hose down too. After several days of being hot in the trailer, I'm sure she enjoyed a day off every bit as much as I did!

It was wonderful to stay with family and relax a bit after so long on the road.  Our highlight was the fireworks. Being west-coast born and bred, we had no idea what fireworks could be like. Everyone out there has access to buy and set off their own huge fireworks. The REAL kind that shoot up in the air and explode! The ones that I always thought were only ever set off by professionals. We bought fireworks that afternoon, and my husband lined them all up and started to map out how he'd set them off that night. Waiting for it to get dark was like waiting for Christmas morning as a kid! I zipped out the the barn quick just before dark to pack a few things up, and check on Lola. All the horses had been pulled out of the pasture and were locked up tight in the barn, every door and window shut, and despite the fireworks starting all over the area, they were all calm and safe. The drive back to the house was a little crazy because huge loud fireworks were starting up EVERYWHERE!

Friday, July 5th- Destination: Columbus, OH- Total miles: 480 
States driven: Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio
One last day... then home sweet home. We dragged ourselves out as early as we could on our last day of travel. It was long, and surprisingly eventful!

My husband had to drop me at the barn since the truck was there, and then go back to get his mom (only one seat still!) So I was waiting for him to catch up to make a stop for gas and breakfast, and suddenly the cell signal dropped, GPS signal dropped and urban dumped into total rural countryside. Of course that is when I realized that I needed gas! We had been stopping for gas at or before I hit the 1/4 tank mark, so we usually had plenty of wiggle room, but we must have pushed on to the barn instead of stopping for gas one last time, so I didn't realize how little I was starting with. I eventually pulled off when I found a large enough place. (Figured if there was no gas to be found, I'd rather wait for roadside assistance in a nice large dirt lot than on the country road without shoulders!) I finally got enough signal on my phone to map the closest gas station, and decided that we would indeed make it that far.

At our next gas stop road construction left us unable to get back on the freeway the way we came, so we had to take a detour to another freeway on ramp.

Our third gas stop was the most interesting by far! We pulled into a rather shady looking neighborhood and found a battered old gas station with three police cars. Of course with the tiny gas station and little choice with a trailer I end up parked right next to the car being searched, and from the inside of the bathroom I could hear most of the conversation between the officer and the woman being arrested! No, we DIDN'T get pictures!

Hitting the Ohio state line was one of the most glorious feelings ever! Part of that was that I had been shaken, jolted, and pushed around by terribly grooved roads, road construction, pot holes, etc in basically every state since California. Construction through several states had shifted the lanes to drive on the rumble strip, and in all the rest it seemed light the far right lane (the one I had to be in!) was just about ready to crumble away from the other much nicer lanes! I don't know if this really was worse in Illinois and Indiana than the other states, or if I was just at my wit's end with bad roads, but they were driving me batty that last day! When we crossed the Ohio state line, the road immediately turned to smooth new pavement! Ahhh...

We made it safely, our tarp and net wrapped boxes in the back of the truck were fine, we never had anything worse that fried nerves happen the whole trip! So while I see the whole trip as a total success, and we saved a ton of money doing the move ourselves, it will take a LOT of convincing before I do that again!

The old truck has more miles, but hard work is behind her.