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  • Pamela McCord

My Journey from California to Tennessee

JOURNEY TO FRANKLIN - A long one, but a good one!


The day is finally here. Time to hit the road for the over 2,000-mile drive to Franklin,

Tennessee.


After more than a year, of consideration, my sister Sheila and I made the decision to

move out of California to Tennessee, to join my sister Michelle and her family. Many factors

went into the decision, not the least of which was being close to Michelle and Barry.


California has arguably the best climate in the United States, but it’s also experiencing growing problems of homelessness, crime, bad government, extreme gas prices. At the time we were leaving, the price of gas in California was north of $7.00 per gallon. Sheila and I had made a few prior trips to Tennessee and stayed with Michelle and Barry. We visited numerous open houses and, when we became more serious about moving, hired a real estate agent and visited dozens more houses, some suggested by our agent and some that we found on Zillow or Redfin.


Mornings at Michelle’s were spent with me, Sheila and Michelle all huddled around

Michelle’s iPad checking out what new options might have become available since the day

before. Once Sheila and I solidified our decision to move, we became more selective in what we wanted to see. We wanted more than one bedroom on the main floor…we’re not getting any younger, you know. We wanted to be very close to Michelle. We wanted a good school district even though we don’t have any children. The school district could be important for resale value. I felt adamant that we needed a basement or storm shelter, since the South has a history of tornados, and I didn’t want to have to worry about whether we were safe or not.


We both hoped to have a nice backyard with trees and a screened-in deck. There were emotional ups and downs as we found houses that seemed to be what we wanted. One memorable house early on had a lake view. It also had tiny little bedrooms and a stairway to the second floor that could give you claustrophobia. But, as I told everyone, it was like buying a house in Laguna Beach…tons of tourists, traffic jams, very high housing prices, narrow streets, but it was LAGUNA BEACH! That’s how we had to look at it if we bought that lake house. So, we stretched our budget and placed an above-asking offer, then sat around on

pins and needles waiting to see if our offer was accepted. When it wasn’t, a little bit of gloom

settled in. There were more offers and more rejections to follow. We put in offers on five houses before we got the house of our dreams. I admit to a tiny lack of faith after the house on Sydney, which I was totally in love with, went to someone else, and I declared I didn’t care what we ended up with. I wasn’t going to fall in love with another house and have my heart broken. And I meant it!


Just a day later, we set out to see another house or two, and you could find me standing

around glaring, arms crossed, refusing to become excited about anything, although I did apologize and say that if Sheila and Michelle liked the first house we saw, then we should just buy it. Maybe I’d learn to love it. Some friends of Michelle’s who were ex-agents had found a house online that they wanted us to look at. It was in a less than wonderful school district, but at this point we decided we shouldn’t be so picky. It wasn’t going on the market until the weekend, and it was currently Thursday, but our agent called their agent and managed to get us in to look at it. Love at First Sight! For all of us! We hadn’t ever seen such a perfect house, and it seemed like God wanted us to have this house because the owner decided we were just what she hoped the new buyers would be, and despite the seller having an open house on Saturday, during which she received many indications that offers would be coming in, we made an offer. Just at asking price, even though most of the houses we made offers on went for over asking, but the owner cancelled her Sunday open house and accepted our offer. And we all lived happily ever after…


Now that that particular hurdle was behind us, it was time to begin in earnest wrapping

up things in California. I’d sold my condo a month or so earlier, and my cat, Allie, and I moved into Sheila’s condo. Sheila and I began the grueling task of packing up the kitchen and bathrooms and everything that could be packed. Brenda, our agent, suggested moving all the furniture and letting her bring in a stager, which is what we decided to do. I’ll leave out the details of actually getting a four-bedroom home all packed and ready for the movers. That’s too gruesome to go into, so we’ll skip ahead to moving day. The moving company had come the two previous days and driven away with all our belongings, and our plan was to spend one more night in the house and then leave the next morning. Here’s where it gets

interesting. We’d gone to AAA to map out our route to Tennessee, which would take us through Flagstaff, Arizona, Amarillo, Texas and Conway, Arkansas via Route I-40. My sister Diana and her husband, Dan, and Michelle had been studying the weather and proclaimed that snow was expected in Flagstaff, and we needed to get away from the house by noon or shortly thereafter to beat the snow. Did I mention that as I was getting out of the shower that morning I wrenched my back or something and was suddenly useless? Our friend Viki was kind enough to drive me to our chiropractor to see if he could help. He did his best, but we all realized that there was no instant fix.


Sheila had a ton of things she needed to do before we could leave the house, and we

didn’t end up leaving until 2:30. After much back and forth with the sisters, we decided it was

safer to go the southern route through Phoenix, so that’s what we did. I booked us a hotel at the Hampton Inn in Peoria. Of course, since we couldn’t cancel 24-hours in advance, I still had to pay for the Flagstaff hotel.


I should back up a little. One major consideration of our move was going to be how we

got Allie to Tennessee. I had many sleepless nights worrying about that. Allie, who some of you may remember had her own episode of the TV show My Cat From Hell, wasn’t your ordinary not-happy-but-will-go-along-with-what-needs-to-happen cat. As I’d experienced in prior moves with Allie, sometimes it took two days to get her into a carrier. Teeth and claws. Murder.


Anyway, we were all dreading trying to get her into a carrier and into the car, especially me with my back problem. However, no one but me would ever be able to take care of that particular task. Allie had been shut in Sheila’s bedroom so we’d be able to find her when it was time. Sheila carried the carrier into the bedroom and found her hiding on a shelf in Sheila’s closet. Sheila was picturing that I would pick Allie up and stuff her in the carrier, but when I approached her, my cowardice showed its ugly face. Remember, teeth and claws. She was already freaked out and we had no other option but to lift the carrier up and trap her so she had no other option except to go into it. After much screeching and yowling, and a few choice F-words from me, the deed was done. Just so you know, the carrier was large, something like three feet long and two feet wide, maybe even bigger. So, there was room for a litter box and food dishes. She actually spent the trip lying in the litter box. Not optimal, but her choice. And I should mention that she dutifully used the litter box the entire trip without an accident.


With Allie (and everything else) packed into our stuffed-to-the gills car, we set off,

expecting Allie to be screeching and meowing for the whole trip. Allie…surprised us. She didn’t make a peep the entire trip! The car couldn’t have held another thing, so I had a few things sharing the front seat with me, like bunched up coats. Remember, it was November and cold. There was a bag of rolled coins on the floor at my feet, along with my purse and tote bag, which weren’t the most comfortable to travel with. When we got to the first hotel, poor Sheila had to move all our luggage, plus the cat carrier, by herself since my back wouldn’t allow me to lift anything. We discussed with the sisters and brother-in-law whether we should try to make our way back up to I-40 since we had a hotel reserved in Texas for the next night. But it was a mountainous route through Payson, and snow, so we instead stopped at the local AAA and had her map out a southern route. We wouldn’t be spending the night in Amarillo, and it was too late to cancel that hotel, so, you guessed it, I had to pay for another hotel we wouldn’t be staying in.




We spent the day driving to Van Horn, Texas, which was, per AAA, the best next stop for us. I called Hampton Inn in Van Horn to see if they had any rooms. I explained that I didn’t want to make a reservation until we were closer, since I’d already paid for two rooms I didn’t use. I was assured they had several rooms available. So, three hours before we were to arrive, I called to make a reservation and was told they were sold out. Bummer! I jumped on my iPad to find another option and called the Holiday Inn. They had a room and I booked it. Three minutes (and I’m not exaggerating) later, they called to say their elevator was broken and they only had rooms available on the second and third floors. Of course, we had to cancel, since Sheila wouldn’t be able to carry the cat carrier up the stairs. Not because it was too heavy, although it was very heavy and unwieldy, but because it had a soft bottom and needed one of those hotel carts to hold it level since the litter box was in the carrier and lifting it would cause the litter to spill out into the bed of the carrier. Which had already happened, by the way. It wasn’t that easy to cancel. This caused me to have a meltdown. Not pretty. I have a tendency to get pushed too far and then my repertoire of swear words comes out and poor long-suffering Sheila has to listen. Diana happened to call at that exact moment. Poor Diana. I owe them both big apologies. The Holiday Inn lady recommended El Capitan Hotel, so I called there and got the very last room. The El Capitan lady said she might have a guy to help with luggage. She also said no restaurants would be open by the time we’d be arriving, which would be 10-11:00 p.m., so we should eat something on the way. Unfortunately for us, it was night, and we didn’t know where anything was, so we stopped at a gas station and mart to see if we could find some cheese or peanut butter, but they had neither.


I remembered the El Capitan lady had mentioned there was a Wendy’s and a Subway in Van Horn, so we decided we’d wait for that. We found the hotel about 10:45. It was kind of in a strange place. On a small-town road that looked like it could have tumbleweeds rolling down the middle, and no parking lot, but we drove on by and decided to look for the Wendy’s, which turned out to be attached to a minimart. We went in to find that the Wendy’s was closed for maintenance. All we could find to eat at the minimart were packaged cheese and crackers and peanut butter and crackers. Yum. We pulled up out front of the hotel and went in to see where we should park. It was catch-as-catch-can, but luckily the El Capitan lady said she was going home, and we could have her spot. We also found out that the guy who might help us carry things had left at ten.


El Capitan was a cute place. Old but picturesque, so not a bad night. In the morning, when we were going to check out, there was raging wind. Super windy, and poor Sheila had to

manage to get the cat carrier all the way out to the car, and then, with the wind strong enough to keep trying to slam the car door shut, she muscled the carrier into the car, while I held the door and tried to shield her from the wind. It was exhausting!


On the road again. We planned to spend the night in Dallas. I’d called the Conway, Arkansas, hotel the night before to cancel our reservation, which I hope happened, except I did see an invoice come through for them, so I probably paid for a third hotel room we didn’t use. As we got within a couple of hours of Dallas, Dan and Diana called to say there was a tornado warning in Dallas, which threw us into a frenzy of trying to figure out what to do. We tried to find a room in a town called Weatherford, but nothing was available. We kept driving and decided to stay in Fort Worth instead of Dallas as it was closer. By this time, our GPS was warning us about the tornado which could cause injuries or loss of life. Great. I called the Hampton Inn, but it was pretty expensive, over $200 so I said no and hung up. Tried calling a Holiday Inn in the area, but it was sold out, so I called the Hampton Inn back and asked if they allowed cats. They said yes but it was $75 extra. Did I mention this was the only room they had available? I said no, but then started to worry that the tornado warning could mean lots of people were going to need rooms, so I had Sheila call Hampton Inn back as I didn’t want them to recognize my voice after I’d rejected them twice. Anyway, Sheila got us the room and we checked in. To a beautiful hotel with underground parking and a room which the desk clerk kept calling a studio, which I thought meant it was minuscule, but it actually was more of a suite. Gorgeous. Best room of the trip. Of course, their restaurant was closed for the night, but the clerk gave us a list of restaurants which were within a ten-minute walk from the hotel. No way was either of us willing to venture out late at night on foot in a strange city. Lucky for us, they had a little area they called the sweet room or something, which we expected to only have candy or donuts, but it turned out they had frozen dinners and our room had a microwave. And there was a really nice bar, so Sheila and I each ordered a glass of chardonnay and carried it, plus our frozen dinners, back to our room and had the best night of our trip.


We had to decide whether to drive ten hours the next day and get to Franklin or split the drive into an extra night on the road. We ended up biting the bullet and driving straight through. We got to our new house at 9:45 p.m. on November 5, 2022. Welcome Home!


More adventures followed, but this is enough for one story.


Happy Reading!

- Pam

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