California to North Carolina-2800 miles
The First Day
June 17, 2006, 8am. I hear the diesel engines of the enormous moving van in front of my house. The moving company is right on schedule. My six children, two dogs, two cats, one bird and I are mostly ready. We are moving from Sacramento, California across the country to Henderson, North Carolina. I will drive my Dodge van with five children one dog and 2 cats. My Dodge van is a fifteen passenger with a 3500cc engine. We removed one three person seat and moved the four person seat forward; this had to be done by a professional for safety reasons. As a result, I have a vehicle that can safely transport twelve passengers, lots of cargo and go up a hill with the air conditioner on full blast. In this situation, I am very well equipped. One of my daughters will drive her Ford Focus with our other dog, two friends, and her bird.
Just as the movers are putting the first boxes on the moving truck, my oldest daughter informs me that she and her cat will stay in California with her boyfriend. The moving crew is not happy about unloading the boxes of hers that can be found. Now, I will have four children, a dog and a cat making the trip in my van. I am disappointed that I will travel without my more mature child, but the moving process continues. We are anxious and energized as we start the first day of the greatest adventure we have ever undertaken as a family.
The first leg of our expedition is to go south on interstate 5 to Bakersfield and then east to Barstow. Interstate 5 is special to me; I remember when it first opened and there were no gas stations for two hundred and fifty miles. The California Aqueduct appears numerous times on this section of interstate 5 and it is especially striking as it flows through the endless brown fields. The water of the aqueduct is a beautiful, deep sapphire blue due to its thirty foot depth and the cloudless sky of the central valley of California in the summer. The pristine concrete banks of the aqueduct make it seem almost like a fairy tale. The only place I have ever seen a two hundred foot pink cactus cleverly concealing a cell phone tower was beside interstate 5.
At Bakersfield, we turn east toward interstate 40 which will take us all the way to North Carolina. We see real oil derricks and many fast food restaurants. Animated discussion ends in agreement and we pick a restaurant. Back on the road toward Barstow, our route takes us through the Mojave desert. Joshua trees and cacti dot the landscape. Passengers are quiet, the geography, although flat, is vastly different from the Sacramento Valley. As we approach Barstow, conversation turns to a swim in the motel pool and the next fast food restaurant. As it turns out, we swim until the manager brings it to our attention that we are disturbing the other guests. We return to our rooms as quietly as possible and order pizza.
Once everyone is settled in the room, I go to the van to check on "Shadow" the cat. Shadow is not in her carrier. She has escaped as a well meaning child opened the door to comfort her. We have never discovered her hiding place. I call to her and she responds with a "mew". I can see the tips of her ears poking up from behind a seat, she comes to me and I hold her and put my lips on her head and she comforts me. I leave a litter box, water and food and I do not see her again until we arrive in Flagstaff, Arizona.