Road trip shakedown
May 21, 2007
|Before we left our jobs, we took a trip to Oregon to visit old friends. A good old fashioned road trip, and the first real step in loosening the roots we'd established in California. We stopped in Eugene, Oregon, to see my old coach and my old running team, moved there from Stanford. They are in the heart of Nike country, getting ready for the 2008 Olympic Trials. We stayed with my old room-mate Rob (he's "Big Rob" cause he's 6-foot-3), and went out for dinner with cousin Kathy on the riverfront. Big Rob was there at the beginning - when I went on my first date with Colleen. The next day I went to watch a track workout with Gag, my old coach.
The same scene, I could watch it a hundred times and not get bored. Scrawny runners, Gag shouting directions, cracking jokes, telling stories, grinning and pacing, his hands folded behind his back. It was a hot day and a good workout. Some days I miss the running life, and other days I like being fat and slow. I always miss my running friends.
We pushed on to Portland, to visit Rick and Kris, old friends who made San Francisco an adventure and became like a second pair of parents to us. We grilled food, watched the hummingbirds at the feeder, and hiked up a canyon off the Columbia River Gorge. We ate well and took naps on the couch. They live just twenty minutes outside Portland, but it feels much more remote. . One day we drove past a pasture on the way to town and saw a cow on the ground, pushing out a calf. On the way back, we saw the calf stumbling to its feet.
Then we said our goodbyes and turned south. Too many goodbyes.
It was seven years in California for me, four for Bean - that's what I call her, because when her younger sister was a little girl, she couldn't say "Colleen." So Bean she became. For a while I called her "Bleen," which is Russian for pancake, and also what they say when they are surprised, but Bean stuck.
We stayed up late at night after we had made our decision and told our jobs that we were leaving.
"Are we making the right decision?" we asked each other, as the sounds of the city came through the window. San Francisco is an adventure in itself. One night we lay in bed and listened to a group of birds outside our window, chattering and whistling in the dark. They barked like dogs, mewed, gurgled and made noises like human speech. We listened, a little freaked out. In the morning we looked at each other and worked out that the wild parrots had paid us a visit. That kind of thing doesn't happen everywhere.
But we come from Vermont, and that is where our family is.
We just couldn't figure out how to get there. Drive our car? Maybe not - we were driving a 1982 Mercedes diesel and a beat-up salvaged Hyundai. Rent a U-Haul? Way too expensive. Hire movers and fly? Way, way too expensive. Shipping containers, train shipments, we researched everything.
The solution was a trailer from Tractor Supply Company, and the help of the U.S. Postal Service. We began shipping boxes home, rotating post office branches so the workers wouldn't revolt at the sight of another batch of 50-lb behemoths packed with books and clothes. We enlisted Colleen's father Tim to help us find a trailer (after considering some old Econoline vans on the market in San Rafael), and he located the right one for us. We decided to use Elmo, our Mercedes, to tow the trailer. Elmo had been a problem child until we found the right mechanic, Dave Ball, the greatest Mercedes expert in California. Dave took him away for a week and discovered everything, fixed most of it, and won a place in our hearts forever. Instead of grumbling when she got into Elmo, Colleen began to smile.
Finally, we invited Tim along with us, and he booked a flight into San Francisco on June 26. We'd install a trailer hitch I'd ordered, go to Woodland to pick up the trailer, load it up, and be on the road by morning of the 28th. My last day of work was the 22nd, and we had a wedding to go to in Bolinas on the 23rd.
The day before my last day, we chased a fire in the hills of downtown Novato, and watched a CDF water bomber knock it down as it burned into the lawns of a group of houses. I left work the next day with tears in my eyes - the Novato Advance had given me so much - and raced out to Bolinas, where we partied and danced for two days.
Then we returned to San Francisco and resumed packing.