Week 21: Packing Up and Our Great American Road Trip

These two weeks were doozies. Over a span of four days we had two different sets of movers pack up our things and take them to either a storage facility or to be shipped off to Turkey. In short, it was exhausting. Even though we had movers that took care of packing and actually loading everything onto the trucks (a service we have decided we will never do without again), spending four days trying to keep things organized for them and ourselves, cleaning behind them with limited supplies (our others were packed), and making sure we tied up every loose end was just tiring…especially when you’re five months pregnant I learned. I thought I was doing ok until I was hit by a crushing tension migraine, followed a regular migraine. And at one point I found myself laying down for a quick cat nap in the middle of our scattered room designated to the luggage and things were were taking with us. Needless to say it felt like a weight had been lifted when we finally checked into TLF (temporary lodging facility).

The poor dogs had to spend the first night alone in our completely empty house because the pet friendly TLF rooms were booked full. I don’t think I’ve ever felt worse as I closed the door on them to leave and heard Jeannie’s scared little bark. They survived, but I hope we don’t ever have to do that again.  The following days were met with lots of goodbyes. Looking back now, I’m very glad to be out of South Dakota, but I miss our friends there more than I can say. Part of me keeps continuing on as if things are normal, then every now and then I’m reminded just how far away they really are, and that I really can’t know when I’ll see them again. It’s a hard realization to accept.

That Thursday we packed out my little car and pulled out of Ellsworth caravan style. In the whole two years we lived there, we only went east on I-90 twice. It was odd turning onto the interstate and seeing the Black Hills in our rearview mirror instead of spread out in front of us, but it was exciting. So much can change in a second’s time when you’re in the military. Orders get changed, orders get cancelled, orders get postponed. I didn’t want to allow myself to really get excited about going home until our tires were spinning down the highway in route to the South.

It was really long drive. The first two legs to Omaha and St. Louis were done with us driving separately. We also hadn’t done a good job of securing entertainment like a good audio book, so we were dependent on the sometimes scarce and staticky radio stations that popped up along the way. Jeannie rode with me and Jim rode with Will, a plan we later figured out was not ideal in their opinion. We never realized how much better they ride when they are together. Seven hours to Omaha, a quick late dinner at Ruby Tuesdays and a very early wake up call at 5:00 the next morning, followed by a 6.5 hour drive to St. Louis and a mid afternoon car drop off, we finally started to relax a little. Our hotel in St. Louis was really nice, and sat adjacent to the famous Arch. We took advantage of the free happy hour and snacks at the hotel, then strolled by the Arch before trying some of St. Louis’ “best BBQ” at Bogarts, then finished the night appealing to my insatiable sweet tooth at Ted Drewes Frozen Custard.

The next morning the hotel offered an awesome free breakfast, and with tummies full we set out on the final leg of our trip. Riding together made the time pass so much easier. The dogs were settled, we were happy to be able to talk, and the weather was just perfect.

I had noticed the second we crossed over the South Dakota state line into Iowa it was like trees and greenery magically appeared everywhere. But nothing prepared me for the breathtaking scenery that we saw as we passed through Tennessee. My eyes had forgotten there were so many shades of green. I know I must have annoyed Will with my frequent exclamation, “I just can’t get over all this green!” It was beautiful, and it looked like home. I could feel the happiness and relaxation building and settling into every fiber of my body. If you’ve never moved away from home, you can’t know what it feels like to return and feel every part of you being drawn to a place. We still had five hours to go at that point, but the road looked so much like home that I expected to round each corner and see the Candler exit waiting on us.

By the final 30 minutes, the dogs were absolutely DONE with being in the car. Jim had resorted to sitting up in the back seat with his head hung and a look of utter defeat on his face. We tried to assure them we were almost there, but we were also feeling the effects of 23 hours on the road and were mostly saying it to ourselves I think.

And finally there it was. Exit 37…Candler. We pulled into Will’s parents’ driveway, unloaded and spent the evening soaking in the fresh mountain air and savoring the unbeatable view of Mount Pisgah before dining on a delicious steak dinner. Three days, 23 hours, and 1,500 miles and we were home.

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