So this is a wee bit late. When I first imagined our drive across the country to California, I thought I’d get a ton of reading done, I’d feel some sort of solid transition to this new adventure, and I’d have tons of pretty landscape photos to show you. Instead:
1. I got next to no reading done. The US is pretty, everyone, and even I couldn’t bear to crack open a book when tumbleweeds were rolling across the freeway (!) and salt flats were morphing from sand to glassy water in front of my eyes.
2. I still don’t feel like we’re actually living here. This feels like one expensive vacation.
3. One triumph: I do have tons of photos–all expertly taken from the passenger seat of a moving car, so you know they’re quality.
…I slept through the boring part of Nebraska because we woke up early, I was exhausted from getting ready to move, and I was numb from crying. Sleep was the very best option.
Tangentially, it’s so easy to be fooled by Nebraska. You start driving across it and think, yeah! We’re making good time! And then you keep driving and realize you will be 30 before you hit the western border.
So! We were excited when we saw this sign:
And I promise you, the moment after we passed this sign and turned the nose of the car toward Cheyenne, the tumbleweeds started. The West rose up to greet us. And pretty soon, really cool rock features did, too.
Please note the storm clouds gathering beyond the plateau. We were so high on the tumbleweed sighting, we laughed in the face of those storm clouds. They looked so distant! So majestic and beautiful. We were outrunning them!
Then this happened. The rain turned to sleet turned to snow. Out of the snowy beyond the WEIRDEST bit of industry Brad and I have ever seen appeared. We have no idea what this is, but when the lights began twinkling through the snowflakes and the spidery towers rose, we looked at one another and said, Whoa. We’re in a movie. I got chills.
Pretty soon, the snowfall turned to whiteout conditions. We crept slower and slower down the highway, determined to make it to Evanston, Colorado, for our first night. It was about 10:30 at night and semis kept looming over us as they passed. The worst was when the wind whipped the snow across the highway like waves, again and again. Whenever that happened, I gripped the steering wheel tighter and waited for the road to reappear. Nevertheless, we didn’t stop (mostly because we were in the middle of nowhere, Wyoming).
Out of the blowing snow, we saw flashing lights and I thought for sure a semi had jackknifed. But don’t worry! Nothing of the sort! As we got closer, we saw state troopers had just closed the gates blocking the freeway.
I’ve always seen those gates and wondered under what conditions they actually used them. Now we know.
We were diverted to Fort Bridger, Wyoming. In case you’re wondering, 345 blessed souls live in Fort Bridger. There is a historical fort there and by looking up that link I just realized we stopped at the same place pioneers on the Oregon Trail stopped!! (!!) I was following in the footsteps of women who packed all their belongings in a Conestoga (or a Chevy Malibu, really), risked life and limb in terrible weather conditions, and successfully avoided dysentery before finally laying their heads to rest in Fort Bridger. This is fantastic news to me, as I’m always trying to be more like a pioneer as long as it doesn’t inconvenience me.
Right across the street from the fort is the Wagon Wheel Motel (that name suddenly makes SO MUCH sense to me). Brad knocked on the door, woke up the poor proprietress of this fine establishment, and got us a room.
He is wonderful.
The next morning, we waited for the highway to open back up, then hit the road again. It was smooth sailing from here.
I love trains on road trips. Don’t know why.
We descended into Salt Lake City for lunch and wow, those mountains are storybook mountains. Jagged, gray, purple, steely, and topped with snow.
…I interrupt this synopsis because I succumbed to carcolepsy at this point and didn’t wake up until we were in the salt flats west of Salt Lake City…
As I opened my eyes, I almost didn’t believe I was awake. My mind knew we were in Utah on Planet Earth, but my eyes thought alien planet for sure. Look:
On either side of the highway is a white, smooth expanse continuing all the way around you to where the mountains jut sharply up again in the distance. It looks like snow, then white sand, then the most quiet, still lake I’ve ever seen, then sand again. But I think it’s all salt. I’m not sure if any part of it is liquid. After all, this is a desert. It was magical. Hands down my favorite scenery of the trip.
Pretty soon, we were in desert scrub territory.
And THEN, we passed what we are SURE is the truck bearing our shipping crates. (We don’t actually know that.) But what sweet poetry to whiz by your belongings on your trip out west, right? Let’s say we did.
We laughed at this sign because we are dorks.
I put on my cowgirl hat as you do in the West.
See that mountain just ahead of the road?
We went under it! (I also love tunnels on road trips. Or any time.)
This was about three hours of really pretty.
In case you all think I was the only one who slept–or who wore that awesome hat.
We stayed in Reno the second night. We didn’t take pictures, but imagine neon lights, dark mountains everywhere, and more neon lights. That’s Reno.
I’m really glad we had to stop an extra night because if we hadn’t, we would have driven through the Tahoe National Forest at night, and it was way too cool to miss. (By the way, I missed the “Welcome to California” sign I’d been waiting the whole trip to take a picture of because I was reading a magazine. So lame.)
What do I like more than trains on road trips? Rickety wooden train tracks on road trips!
There was a lot of this:
And then suddenly, the smoothest ripples of green green hills studded with trees. They looked fake, frankly. Fake and beautiful.
We stopped in Vallejo (between Sacramento and San Francisco) to take a breath and look across the water to our new home. Actually, we really really had to go to the bathroom and this was the last rest area before hitting the city.
But it was cool to take a moment before driving in.
After sitting in bridge traffic for an hour (welcome to the Bay Area!) we drove onto Bay Bridge and we had done it. We had moved to San Francisco.
Then we parked to eat at this hippie salad and juice place and carefully nabbed a spot where we had the least danger of the car getting dinged only to watch as a FULL-SIZE DELIVERY TRUCK delicately parallel parked just behind us. We were still in the car at this point, jaws on the carpet floor of the Malibu, as the driver expertly went back and forth and fit in a space I PROMISE YOU was not big enough for my old Taurus. It was like something out of Harry Potter. The expanding parking space. I would have taken a picture, but I was astounded.
After lunch, we drove toward Lombard Street like the tourists we are. It is just as steep and just as windy as the pictures show. The weird thing is, there is a short driveway on each of the turns. People live there! And they drive down the street, no big deal, and park in the middle of it at their homes. So bizarre.
And that’s that! We drove down the peninsula to the room we found on Airbnb (an experience in itself) and started hunting for an apartment. Within a few days, we found the one we’re in and put in our application. Then there was nothing to do but walk around, eat tons of organic frozen yogurt, and look at the cool trees.
An obligatory ocean shot. The only thing that makes me feel less homesick around here:
Except for maybe this guy, peeking out from under the Batman mask to see what this Skype thing is all about:
Loved the pics and commentary. For some reason it makes you feel closer to home seeing you drive so far away from home.
loved the commentary! when i first drove across the country, it took 3 days to cross TX and i cried. the second time back across the country, i broke the trek down and visited with college friends in houston, to keep the tears at bay.
that pic of the motel you guys stayed at? i admit, it kinda scared me! eek!
This is fantastic! it almost makes me feel I was there with you on your trip. Beautiful pictures and commentary. Thanks for sharing.
Let’s talk about the house with the orange tree in the front. Was this your Airbnb? Did you pick the oranges and eat them when you woke up in the mornings? AMAZING.
(PS So fun to read this post!)
Loved reading your blog. What a colorful city. Gotta love palm trees and fruit trees! ! ….and you definately worked that hat.
(Sigh) Your words & pictures are so beautiful. I am so happy for you both. Miss you, but I’m happy for you. (sigh)
This was actually in a sort of arts and crafts and fancy lunch spot compound. We thought we wanted to get lunch there, but it was very fancy, so we passed. But not before getting a shot of this beautiful tree.
There were orange and lemon trees at the place we stayed, though. And yes! We got to pick them!