When we left Omaha, I was apprehensive, to say the least. What we had signed ourselves up for was well outside of our comfort zone. Were we really going to drive through two mountain ranges with fully loaded cars and expect to make it to Seattle safely? Had we really just sold our home we spent almost our whole married life in? Was it going to be OK that we left our friends, co-workers, and relatively close family behind to move to a new city over 6 times larger and 2 timezones away?
The shock of all of the questions above and more made for a very torn few weeks leading up to the move. Throughout the final weeks, we did a lot of “lasts,” such as our last bingo night at Infusion with Pat & Wayne. As more and more of our furnishings disappeared and our home emptied to just what would fit in our Nissan Sentra and Subaru Impreza, it sank in further that we were making the move. To say the least, we were a bit scared of what was to come. My wife, Kaylynne, had several nightmares including axles breaking, our dog getting hit by a car at the gas station, watching me die in a fiery crash; very final destination-esque kind of stuff. Needless to say, it didn’t set us up to be excited for what was to come in the upcoming few weeks.
We left our home for the last time on the 16th of August. Cars loaded to the point where our suspension was almost fully compressed; we made our way to Ogallala. There was a surprising level of nostalgia that hits as we head to get gas and drop off an air mattress. Taking roads that have been our lives for 6+ years for, perhaps, the last time is harder than I expected. Even the roads that were the bane of my day, such as Maple, brought up memories.
After our stops, we mozied our way onto I-80 west, an act we had done dozens of times. We passed all the familiar (albeit boring) towns along the way. As it turns out, a bike rack on my Sentra brought the gas mileage from the normal 38mpg, to about 25. Our first stop was in York as a result! Not necessarily the speed I wanted to leave at, but we were in no rush as we were unemployed and homeless. Even an almost hour long stop at Sonic didn’t bother me too much (though the trucker at the other table was clearly upset).
To say the Nebraska leg of the trip was uneventful would be unsurprising. A few extra stops along the way because I kept thinking we’d run out of gas, but that’s it. We then proceeded to spend 3 days with Kaylynne’s family at the usual stops in town. Hitting up Open Range for a burger (twice), A&W for a root beer float with the grandparents, going to North Platte for a beer at Pal’s with Kaylynne’s grandmother. She would slap me if she found out about this, but considering she’d have to travel 27 hours by car, I feel safe…Kaylynne’s grandmother, the same woman who punched me (jokingly) when I talked about wine, “tried” our 3 beers while at Pals!
It was certainly worth taking 3 days to make sure we got in our goodbyes with family along the way.
Our next leg of the journey involved visiting Kaylynne’s mom in Fort Collins, CO. Thankfully, it was a short hop of only 3.5 hours to get there. Again, uneventful. At this point “uneventful” is basically a synonym for good, as Kaylynne’s nightmares had not come to fruition considering most of them ended with me dead!
Similar to Ogallala, our trip to Fort Collins was doing some of the same things we’ve always done. We got some tacos from Torchy’s, checked out a new brewery (Pröst in downtown Fort Collins), did a little grocery shopping, and walked the dogs. Having 6 total days of routine visits was actually, kind of nice. In a swirl of life changes, it was good to have a few constants thrown into the mix. This is especially true considering we were about to drive through completely new territory.
On the morning of the 23rd, we headed North on I-25. If you ever want to drive through a surprisingly beautiful and desolate state, try Wyoming. On the trip we saw a few dozen herds of antelope grazing on the hillsides. There was almost no traffic and even fewer towns. It is very likely the most desolate interstate I have ever driven on. At this point, we noticed the Subaru wasn’t needing as much gas per fill up, which lead us to move the bike rack to it. Now we could both do 80 mph and the Sentra stopped struggle bussing. As it would turn out, that was really important for Montana.
We got into Billings, MT at around 3pm. After moving the bikes and all of the important baggage into the hotel, we went and found a brewery. If you’re looking for cheap, delicious beer in a state with no sales taxes, check out Thirsty Street Brewing! $3 beers during happy hour? Yes, please. Later that night we really came to realize how stressed our dog, Ellie was. She’s normally pretty bad in hotels due to the new noises, but this was unusually bad. In addition, she didn’t eat much of her food, which is extremely odd for her. Ellie’s stress was probably the worst part of the move, to be honest. It’s tough dealing with a dog that is barking at nothing while you’re trying to sleep after 8 hours of driving. There’s no reasoning with them! After a week in the apartment, I’m happy to report she’s doing much better. In fact, she just watched somebody walking down the road without growling, a big improvement.
From Billings, we headed out for our longest leg of the journey, Billings to Spokane, WA. Montana was another fun state to drive through. We took I-90 the entire way (funny enough, I-90 takes us to my hometown in MN, too!). Unfortunately, due to wild fires in Canada, our drive was obscured by haze the entire trip. I-90 runs through valleys between the hills of Montana for most of the way, which creates a pocket of clear air under the haze of the smoke. It’s extremely noticeable when you come out of one of those valleys.
Western Montana is where we hit our first mountain range. If you haven’t driven through mountains yet, you really need to find your nearest mountain and do so. It is an impressive testament to the engineering and cartography that went into the interstate system back in the 50s. It is, however, a bit disconcerting when your vehicle is pushing over 5,000 rpm for a few miles! Also scary: going down the other side of the mountain with your cruise control set to 80, only to see that you’re actually doing 93! We got to experience that joy a few times during the day.
Crossing into Idaho, you’re greeted with a sea of pine trees. It is an extremely beautiful part of the country. There were a few towns that popped up out of nowhere among the trees in the valleys. As it turns out, the state of Idaho that far north is only 60-something miles wide. Our stop for the night was in Liberty Lake, a small town near Spokane. We attempted to find the “Welcome to Washington” sign, but all we found as an indicator of the state change was the Spokane River. We enjoyed some Rogue Brewing Hazelnut Brown Nectar & pho from a shop up the road in the hotel, and called it a night.
Our final leg of the trip was into Seattle itself. Our apartment wasn’t ready until the following Monday, meaning we needed to stay in a hotel over the weekend. Eastern Washington along I-90 is…Nebraska-like. It was relatively flat and barren. The smoke from the wild-fires was even worse here, too. This was kind of disappointing considering I hyped up the state to be full of natural beauty in my mind by this point. It is surprisingly how quickly the landscape can change, though. After Ellensburg, the drive became exactly what I was expecting. Tall pines, hills, water and mountains. The next hour and a half of the drive was well worth the 26 hours we had already had in the cars over the past two weeks.
Coming down the mountains, mist floated through the air and the road wound through the mountains (sometimes dropping to 35 mph to make it through the turn). It was a truly awesome sight to behold. One downside of this particular stretch of the drive was the fact that we were surrounded by other cars. It was a dramatic change in traffic from the previous legs. One driver, for instance, felt it was necessary to join me in my lane! Friendly reminder: stop texting while you’re driving.
One interesting fact we learned: I-90 abruptly ends in Seattle. It spat us out onto the I-5 bridge our apartment now looks at, which is always packed with cars. After the I-5, we were greeted with Google Maps weaving us in and out of streets, avenues, tunnels and more as it lead us to our destination. All of which looked extremely foreign, but, as it turns out, it was an area we had already been in before when we were looking for apartments!
Our hotel was in the University District, right by the University of Washington. We walked about for awhile, trying to wear Ellie out in order to get her to sleep well. Our hotel staff told us the “pet relief area” was a “grassy area” to the south. Said grass was a dead section about 30 feet by 5 feet. Poor Ellie! Luckily, “Peace Park” was a few blocks to the west. Turns out, that’s just a clump of unkempt bushes and trees on a rocky hill. All of this was a shock of “what the hell were we thinking?” Our dinner that night consisted of Trader Joe’s frozen meals out of the hotel microwave.
The next day went much better. We walked to our new apartment in the afternoon to do the walk through of the unit. While we had seen the building, amenities, and other layouts, we hadn’t seen our type of unit yet. This had been a point of apprehension for us before the move. Going from 1600 sq. ft. to just under 700 was going to be rough. However, once we got into the space, it actually was rather nice.
After we viewed the apartment we game-planned how Kaylynne would go about moving into our new home, since I would be at my first day at Zillow (I got the better deal)! We ended the night with a pizza from a shop down the road and a bottle of wine, a tradition in our household.
My first day was quite the adventure. Taking a bus to work for the first time and arriving nearly 2 hours early (in true Evan fashion). After finishing up work, I did a new-to-town thing and went to where I was dropped off, thinking it would take me back the way I came…only to realize “the way I came” was not where I wanted to go, anyway. Two missed buses later, I was on my way home.
Walking in the door I was greeted with organized chaos. Kaylynne had done one hell of a job moving everything in and getting the vast majority put away. Unfortunately, without having any furniture, a bed, etc…some of it just didn’t have a home yet. The tortellini we had brought with us from Omaha had gone bad, so it was Ramen & wine (thanks Brady!) on the floor in front of the TV for the night.
As the week went on, more of our Amazon packages arrived. Our bed got there Wednesday (thank goodness), couch on Saturday, two trips to Ikea over the weekend got us a table & chairs. It’s really coming together nicely. One point on Ikea: don’t ever go there on a Sunday. Over 2 hours were spent in line checking out. It was a total crap-fest. The day before we had gone to buy some dishes and I was able to sell the Sentra in less time than it took Kaylynne to finish her shopping trip!
We’re settling into our new norms. I’m getting used to the bus routes, my schedule is pretty consistently 7 to 5, Ellie goes for walks 3 times a day to burn off her energy, and we’re back to being mostly vegetarian. It’ll be awhile yet until furniture stops arriving, the sounds stop spooking Ellie, and we get used to the sheer number of people here.
I’m writing this now as the sun rises over the tree studded hills of Eastlake, Cascade mountains visible behind the ever constant stream of cars on the I-5 bridge, gulls and geese can be heard from Lake Union a block away. I can’t say for certain how this story unfolds, or whether it will be worth it in the end, but I can say that it seems worth it as of now.
A few final thoughts about the move:
- On the drive we saw 41 out of 50 state license plates. It was a long drive, ok?
- Podcasts are a lifesaver on long drives by yourself. Download them.
- It’s funny to think that this whole experience may have originated in a single pintrest post about Oregon. That post got Kaylynne to bring up Oregon as a vacation spot, have us go there, enjoy the PNW, and take the interview!
- A huge, huge shoutout to my father in law for making a few trips to the house to take furniture and other large items that would have never fit. In addition, for his legendary packing skills that got us here with nothing broken or left behind. Lastly, the Spotted Cow & Coffee stout were a great way to bring a touch of home to Seattle.
- I really think anybody who is able to do so, should drive across country. Most people have only the stereotypes of areas in their mind and experiencing it for themselves can really broaden their understanding of the extremely differing areas of the country.
- I’d like to thank everybody who was supportive of our decision, which was everyone. When I gave notice at work the immediate reaction from people was excitement and congratulations, followed by good natured ribbing about leaving the project. Making the move would have been much harder had we not had the people closest to us being positive about the decision.