An Exodus from California to North Carolina
Our trip from Los Angeles, California to Albemarle, North Carolina was a long one. Amazingly enough, it’s pretty much a straight line across this enormous country of ours and the changes from state to state are truly amazing. If you’ve never gone on a long road trip, I highly recommend it. It’s really cool to see how environments change from place to place, deserts, mountains, forests, plains, it is quite something. In a pick-up truck with your most valuable belongings that you don’t trust to the moving truck, a dog, and two cats is not something I will recommend though. It’s rather nerve wracking to tell the truth and doing it in the dead of winter is also not the best laid plan. The safety of our much loved pets was really important to both of us, if any of them had gotten loose and out of the truck on the road, I would have had to be sedated right there and then, that’s for sure. The cats road mostly in a large dog crate and Fred had a safety harness but every now and again for long stretches of road, we would let the cats out of the crate so they could move around a bit more. Sophie was born a warehouse cat and came to us because she had an accident when she was just a little baby kitten that resulted in her losing her tail. She remained undaunted in spirit though and she’s just the bravest nutter of a cat you’ll ever encounter. She actually loved the trip and her favorite thing was sitting in Carboy’s lap while pretending to drive the truck, although I don’t think she thought it was pretend. She was equally amazed and impressed with everything going by our windows. At each stop before a single door was opened, I would crawl back into the back seat and put the cats back into the crate, ensure that it was locked and that Fred’s harness was attached. Only then could we get out to get petrol or go to a rest stop and never did we leave the truck out of sight. Fred, of course, got to be walked as often as we could manage it. He did really well on the road especially considering that freeways sometimes make him carsick. The real challenge came after day 3 on the road when he suddenly became constipated. I can totally related, my body often refuses to cooperate in places where public toilets are my only option, like airplanes and trains. Don’t even speak to me of port-o-potties. Nope, not happening. Each rest stop was a challenge of waiting for Fred to poop. And when he did it was time for celebration! Fred pooped, good job, Fred! It was ridiculous.
It gave us time to contemplate what we were doing, all that walking and waiting for Fred to poop.
Monday, December 21st, we went to work for the last time, at end of watch went up to the 9th floor to say goodbye to the Chief, and then rode the elevator down to the basement level. I kept fingering the LAPD ID card hanging around my neck, the one with my photo, name, rank, serial number, the one that allowed me to swipe in and out of this building every day. We walked out the security doors, hearing them click hard behind us, up the ramp into the sunlight and out the glass security doors for the last time. As we rounded the corner headed for the truck, we squeezed hands and looked at each other. Was this real? We stopped for just a moment to take it all in, the sun shining against the glass building, the steel barricades, the dog park at the back of the building. Here we were, last time, on our way out.
“Are you okay?” he asked. I let out a breath, not quite fully but enough, “let’s go.”
Retirements are a big deal at the Department but due to the pandemic all retirement parties had been canceled. It really sucked because so many people were retiring and it seemed like so many friends were just silently drifting away. Carboy didn’t want one, in fact, he didn’t want too many people to know that he was retiring, he wanted to just say “later” and ride off into the sunset. I wanted something though. I wanted an old fashioned steak-fry. When I worked a specialized division, we used to have ‘the steak-fry’ all the time. It’s just an outdoor BBQ up at the Academy in Elysian Park with friends and family, people bring their kids and their dogs. It’s just grilled steak and tortillas to make tacos, nachos and guac, beer or Diet Coke. Some music and all the friends you can fit into the BBQ area for stories and jokes, laughter until you can’t breath and watching the sun go down over Dodger Stadium and the stars come out over the hills. I wonder if there will ever be the opportunity to go back and have my steak-fry or if I did go back will I already be forgotten?
Tuesday, December 22nd, the moving truck came. With the exception of a few pieces of furniture, we had staged everything in the driveway under our enormous metal carport that we had lovingly dubbed, the hangar. The movers were literally giddy with how prepared we were and loaded us up in record time. The driver was taking the same route and gave us some tips for the road. Never start out too early in the day, wait for the sun to come out to melt any ice that may be on the roads. Never drive too late into the evening when the ice starts to form. He also mentioned to good truck stops and rest stops and then they were ready to go. Our moving truck headed out and we spent one last night in a nearly empty house.
Wednesday, December 23rd, we finished loading up the last remaining things into the back of pickup truck – we had a camper shell put on it especially for the trip. We put the cats in the carrier and Fred into his harness. We walked around our house hearing our footsteps falling loud and with an echo from the emptiness despite the small space. The tiny kitchen that Carboy remodeled for me as a surprise when I was away on a trip. The dining room with the built-in cabinet that I loved and the wonky draws that I never got around to fixing. We looked out to our little backyard, magical with all the trees, cacti, and flowers that Carboy had planted. He doesn’t have a green thumb, he has green hands. The fig and the plum trees had been amazing in the summer and the hummingbirds had built nests in the grapevine. We stopped in the living room, that ridiculously small living room, I couldn’t help it, my heart broke a little for leaving this stupid, perfect place. The girls were starting to complain about being in the cat carrier and so we picked them up and taking Fred by the lead, we left. We closed the door, got everyone settled in the truck and drove away. With the kids, we had no idea how long it would take, if everything would close with the new house by the time we got there, where we would stop along the way, we just got in the truck and started on our adventure to a new life. All we had to do was drive and wait for Fred to poop.