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The Finish Line: Our Oregon Adventure Part XV

It was raining that morning. It never rains in the desert but somehow that morning the skies opened up and water poured on us as we finished packing and loading the vehicles. Possibly a little preview from the universe of what our new coastal home would be like. It was December 30th (the day before New Year’s Eve). The morning of the big move, we were still packing things up to the last minute. My dad and step-mom and Dennis’ mom and dad were meeting us at our house at 9am. We were hustling to be done by the time they got there. We couldn’t believe how much there was still left to do after we had stayed up every night until midnight packing the week prior plus several weeks prior to that packing and sorting. We were so exhausted that I think we were too tired to be nervous. I was filled with excitement that morning about our adventure and it felt so good to have some of our family with us for the big move. Our four adorable cats didn’t know what to think of the situation. I kept cuddling them and telling them that we weren’t leaving them behind. We weren’t fully ready when the family arrived but they helped us quickly finish the rest of the load up. Meanwhile, Dennis’ cousin dropped off her son so that he could help us as well. We were rushing in and out of the house with boxes and my paintings and all of the last minute things that hadn’t gone into the vehicles yet. We looked like a mad rush of ants trying to carry tiny bits and crumbs back to the ant hill. It was hilarious! I wrote a big note on a poster board for the new owners welcoming them to our home and neighborhood. I left them 3 of my paintings as she had complimented them and had gifted me some of her beautiful pottery in hopes that I might trade her a painting or two. I left them as a sign of gratitude for having someone loving and artistic move into our house that we cared for for so many years. Our awesome real estate agent showed up to wish us well, give us hugs and send us off – which was super sweet because she had a three hour round trip drive to do so. She’s amazing! Dennis and his dad packed up the kitties into the back of his dad’s truck. He has a camper shell and they could ride back there with a little freedom – all while not driving everyone crazy with meowing. His dad had set up the back of the truck so nicely. He filled it with blankets and food and water and a potty box. They each had a kennel to sleep in. Once they had all four cats in the back of the truck, Dennis carefully climbed in while his dad shut the window. Dennis opened their kennel doors and showed them the food, water, and potty box. He gave them some cuddles and told them it would all be okay.

With the kitties loaded up, we were finally ready and on our way. Pulling away from our house felt surreal. I had grown very attached to our home but I was excited for our new adventure on the lake. The rain was light now and we needed to stop for windshield wipers for one of the vans. Wipers do not last long in the desert. We typically need new ones every time it rains as the sun rots them in the long months between storms. I pulled into the auto parts store and Dennis stopped in our other van and ran in and got them for me. He put them on in the rain. We were all in communication via text and cell phones, but we were limited since two of us (Dennis and I) were driving alone. We decided to caravan as much as possible and make stops along the way to let everyone catch up.

The wipers were on and working great. We drove out towards the west part of the desert to Highway 138. The desert was so pretty with the gray clouds covering the sun. I was filled with hope, anticipation and excitement for our arrival at our new home. We had a handful of stops along the way once we were on the 5 Freeway. I needed to stop and give one of my dear friends a box of decorations she had loaned me for that year’s Henna Retreat. I also gifted her children a very large Muppet style puppet that I had named Fred that I made in a college puppetry class. We stopped for gas a couple times as the smaller truck needed it more often. Our vans have 35 gallon tanks so they can make quite a long trek on the highway before needing gas and my dad’s truck is a diesel with two big tanks. We stopped for lunch and then drove on as late as we could stand it – about an hour past dark. We got hotel rooms for the night. Dennis and I went to bed without dinner. We were so tired.

In the morning we had a really nice complimentary breakfast at the hotel. I had hard boiled eggs, orange juice and a sourdough muffin. It helped fuel us for another long day of driving. The day prior, we had a pretty event-less drive. Only one strange occurrence when we encountered a giant tumbleweed - the size of a small sedan. We each had to swerve to avoid it – it was that big! It was no easy feat for the three drivers with trailers on the back. I was pretty grateful it worked out that I didn’t have to pull a trailer. We were hoping for another event-less day of driving for day two as we knew it would be a lot of hours on the road again.

We made fewer stops that day. Only for gas and a really quick lunch. There was snow on the ground on the 5 Freeway through Mount Shasta and past Shasta Lake. We were all nervous that there would be ice on the roads and we took it really slow. My poor dad had the largest trailer hooked up to his truck as he had the largest truck with diesel power and four wheel drive but that really slowed him down on that steep portion of the drive through the mountain range.

I cried when I saw Shasta Lake. It was so beautiful. I hadn’t remembered the rich blue of the lake, surrounded by the gray rocky mountains tipped in snow. I was in awe of its beauty. Eventually we all made it through, thank goodness! No ice on the road and no incidents other than a few cars honking at us for going too slow. Something I would not miss about leaving California. Drivers are incredibly rude there – as if a switch of self-importance flips on when they get inside their automobiles. There was also more traffic than normal because of the holiday weekend which always makes everyone a little extra aggravated. My dad was lagging behind pretty far so we stopped at the top of the mountain to wait for him for a few minutes and use the restroom. When he and my step-mom arrived, we made a plan to stop for lunch up ahead at the next town. We ate at a little Mexican restaurant and got back on the road. There was a snow warning for that night and we did not want to get stuck in it or stuck in a town for a few days until the highway opened up again. We pushed on through the inclement weather. It was much colder at the higher elevation. I continued to hope for no ice on the roads. As we approached the Oregon border, I smiled from ear to ear. I have very rarely in my life felt that level of excitement and nerves and butterflies all at the same time. It is a glorious feeling. That feeling washed away all of the weeks of hard work – our rarely eating, rarely sleeping, zombified selves. It washed away all of the frustration of selling our house. That moment was filled with possibilities and the confidence that everything was falling into place as it should be.

We stopped for gas one last time inside the Oregon border before getting off of the main freeway and onto a smaller, two-lane highway towards the coast. The highway followed the Umpqua River. It was called the 138 Highway – super serendipitous as we left via the Highway 138 back in California and now it would help us cut over to Highway 38 to the coast. It was dark out now and the road was pitch black. Between the dense forest, almost no moon, pounding rain, and zero street lights, it might be one of the darkest roads I’ve ever traveled. It was unusually busy for the holiday – it was now New Year’s Eve – and it was a very windy road that kept turning back on itself. It felt like a very long time between getting on that highway and arriving at the 101 highway on the coast. The rain would lighten up and give us a reprieve and then it would pour so hard again. I was so nervous driving a new windy road at night in the pouring rain on a night when more drunks are on the road than ever. It was all I could do to concentrate and just keep begging the universe for a safe arrival at our destination. We reached Highway 101 (the highway on the coast) in Reedsport and a wave of relief washed over me. I could feel all of the tension leave my body and my smile came back. I was giddy! We were so close I could taste it! I knew once we hit the coastal highway that we were only about 15 minutes from the little town of Lakeside and another 10-15 minutes to the house out on the lake. We drove the bit of coastal highway together and reached the town of Lakeside. The highway and the town were quiet. Very few cars out – even on the night of a holiday. We stopped at the hotel to get our parents checked in and settled. There was a small New Year’s Eve party in the lounge of the motel. It felt so odd that it was a holiday. We were all too spent to worry about any sort of festivities. The cats were still in the back of Dennis’ dad’s truck, so he suggested that we take his truck up to the house so that they could finally get let out of the truck and we all could get settled in on our first night in the house together.

Thank goodness Dennis is so good at directions and such a brave driver. The drive through the forest to our new home was covered in low clouds and I could barely see a few feet in front of us. Dennis maneuvered the truck with ease and we got there safely and without getting lost. I couldn’t believe he remembered how to get there after only having gone there twice back in October. When we pulled into the driveway, I got butterflies. I was so excited and happy. It had stopped raining but the trees were still dripping here and there. It was dark and I could barely see anything but somehow it was still so beautiful. Dennis and I walked down to the house, used the code that our real estate agent had given us to get the key out of the lock box – smart thinking on her part! We brought our few things in for the night. I started wandering around the house, looking at everything, getting reacquainted while Dennis headed back up the steps to the driveway to gather up the kitties. It was quite easy to bring them inside as one kitty was in a cage by himself but the other THREE were all packed into the smallest one together. So funny and adorable. They had huddled together for safety. I can only imagine what their tiny minds were thinking about this crazy adventure in the back of a truck, driving down the road for two days. Of course, with Dennis checking in on them at every stop, hopefully they knew that we were with them. The cats ran all over the house, smelling everything and checking out their new space. Dennis and I were exhausted but also so excited that we couldn’t sleep just yet. I pulled up the instructions for starting the pellet stove to heat up the house and read them to Dennis as he started it up. Thanks to the previous owners, there were already pellets on-hand! The stove put off a beautiful orange-yellow glow across the living room and warmed the house quite nicely. We sat on the couch and enjoyed our new home for a bit. Then a huge BOOM filled the air!! It echoed and ricocheted off of the mountain sides. We looked at each other with wide eyes and almost in unison said “what was that?” We looked out the windows and couldn’t see anything. Dennis decided that it was likely a gun shot in celebration for New Year’s Eve as shooting guns out on the lake was perfectly legal – and we were living out in the wild now. Shortly after, we heard another boom but this time looked out the windows immediately. Dennis spotted the source – fireworks! So fun!! Our neighbor up the lake a bit was shooting off big, show-sized fireworks out over the water. It was a magical welcome to the neighborhood. The fireworks would boom and then light up the sky and fill the lake with color and shimmer. I couldn’t believe we had found this magical place and that we were here, sharing this space that we would now call home. We stayed up watching the fireworks until they seemed to be done. Then we made up the beds (the home came furnished) and slept so peacefully. It was so dark and so quiet. Truly amazing.

Over the course of the next couple days, our parents would help us move in. Thank goodness we had the help. We don’t know how we would have managed it without them. Just as we finished getting the last item out of the trailer, it began to snow (read more about it here). Yes, on the coast, at less than 100 foot elevation, we had snow. It was absolutely stunning. One of the prettiest snows I have ever experienced. It snowed all day with big white lofty snowflakes. We got about 4-6 inches over everything. It stalled Dennis’ parents out a bit as they couldn’t get out without four-wheel-drive on the icy road with the trailer. It turned out to be a nice visit though. We continued getting settled in, had a nice dinner, played cards, and enjoyed the beauty of the snow.

All the while, Dennis and I both knew that our move was meant to be. With an unexpected welcome of fireworks on New Year’s Eve and snow a couple days later, it all felt like a wonderful omen.

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Illustration by Blume Bauer ©

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