We've arrived

We’ve arrived in The ‘Ville.

I’m having to wait until Wednesday to get my cable, though, which means Kates and I are set up in a local coffee shop and sucking free WiFi to check e-mail and catch up on what’s happened in the real world while we’ve been traveling the countrysides.

From our family finale at the farm, we left Phoebe with the grandparents and returned to K-Town on Tuesday evening, heated up our leftover Christmas burgers for supper and went on a mad dash of packing. In between all the goodbye lunches and dinner and the holiday celebrations, Kates and I barely had time to pack a dish. That meant we had mere hours to box up as much as possible Tuesday night before we picked up our truck Wednesday morning and began to load it up.

We made it until 11 Tuesday night before we could no longer stay awake, and then we slept almost two hours longer than we planned on Wednesday morning. … By 11 a.m. our rental truck was parked in front of the house, and Kates and I were loading furniture.

I had ordered a 10-foot truck, but we ended up with a 15-footer at no extra charge because no 10-foot trucks were available on the lot. I wasn’t so sure about getting behind the wheel of a 15-foot truck, but the extra room meant we could move more stuff.

It wasn’t easy hauling some of that stuff to the truck (Kates and I did all the moving ourselves), but we cleaned out our guest room and the basement den. The bed, the dresser, couch, chair, desk, stereo -- they all were sent with me. And with the guest room cleaned out, Phoebe now has an upstairs playroom.

Grabbing and packing all of the extra stuff was a little more time-consuming. With a stack of old boxes I pulled down from the attic, we were packing, taping and carrying things out as fast as we could -- amid a wet, drizzly snow falling outside.

As we gobbled down sandwiches and stood amid the chaos of our kitchen, we decided our goal to hit the road was going to be 2 o’clock. But that came and went.

And then it was 3 o’clock.

And then it was 4 o’clock when I finally closed the back of the truck and locked it. Flurries flying around us, we locked the doors on the house and boarded our vehicles. Kates led the way, driving my Little Green Machine, and I chugged along behind her in a 15-foot box truck.

We stopped around 6 o’clock at a McDonald’s in Beloit and then rolled through Illinois with light snow flying along most of the route. Throughout the week, the biggest story had been the wet weather moving across the country, and Kates and I had fun musing about The Weather Channel playing on every TV we saw between Tuesday night and Friday morning. Seriously, it was on in the restaurants, the gas stations, the hotel.

We crossed the mighty Mississippi around 9 on Wednesday night, and I got the chills again. It happens every time I drive across that long bridge, although when I told Kates about it later she admitted the crossing doesn’t have such an impact on her. Perhaps it’s that I’ve traveled the route so many times and that bridge symbolizes the threshold between my multiple lives in Missouri and Wisconsin.

But as we approached Iowa City, the snow had grown thicker and the roads were getting treacherous. I lost count of the number of cars we saw in the ditches, and the Interstate had thinned to one lane of pavement. We were fighting with snowplows for control of the road.

Kates and I had decided hours earlier that we would stop in Iowa City to fill up on gas and take a break. We had hoped to stop for the night in Des Moines, figuring we’d reach a hotel there around midnight. But when we hit Iowa City, I’d had enough of the snowy conditions and I knew Kates was exhausted. When I asked Kates how she felt about calling it a night, she didn’t object and we found a hotel to park ourselves for the night. … When we got settled in out room and switched on the TV, the first channel to come on was The Weather Channel.

When we woke up Thursday morning, we were assured we had made the right decision to stop. Now, the sun was shining brightly, the roads were clear and there wasn’t a flurry in sight.

Once we hit the road, we were cruising … “Don’t Look Back” came on the radio as we drove out of Iowa City and brought a huge smile to my face … We stopped at a Target Pizza Hut in Des Moines for lunch and some small items … Kates and I got a good kick out of passing through What Cheer, Iowa

And I watched a near-disaster in front of my eyes when a block of snow fell from the top of a semi truck … The semi passed me, and as it did I saw the basketball-sized block balancing perilously on the back edge of the semi’s trailer. Oh by, don’t get behind that truck, I immediately said, envisioning the damage it could cause if it fell on someone’s car. … No sooner had the words left my mouth, a couple cars pulled dangerously close to the rear of that semi. I watched closely and tried to remain a safe distance behind, anticipating the fall. Then, a minute or two after the semi passed me, the block fell … and exploded in a huge cloud of white snow when it hit the concrete. Thankfully, it missed any windshields.

Inside Missouri, we turned onto the back roads to make our way through a dozen small towns, tracing the rolling hills and winding roads. The route probably would have amused me a lot more had I not been driving a 15-foot truck.

Finally, at around 3 o‘clock, we landed in town. For the record, Fleetwood Mac‘s live version of “Don’t Stop” was playing on my iPod at that moment. Perfect.

Kates and I took a few minutes to rest and I checked in with my parents who were anxiously waiting to here we had arrived safely. After that we had to hustle to get the truck unloaded; the temperature was in the single digits and the sun was setting …

Luckily, it took a lot less time to unload the truck than it did to pack it. We unloaded the last piece around 5 p.m., just as the sun had fully set.

It’s still tough to predict where we’re heading from here, but we’ve arrived.

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