It has literally been a week since I helped my youngest move to Denver, Colorado. For four days last week I drove a 20 foot U-Haul van from Tallahassee Florida to a small apartment in Aurora, a bedroom community of Denver. My wife and daughter were driving with me as well in a separate car. The days were long and the driving intense, at least for me. Here’s a quick blow-by-blow of that trip as I tend to remember it.
- Wednesday morning 29 April. My wife and I drive to Tallahassee to meet up with my youngest daughter. The trip is between three and four hours. When we arrive my daughter is still getting the van packed with goods from the apartment. She’s hired two local guys to help her get packed. We still have to clean out what’s left behind (not going to Denver) by making trips to the local dumpster in the apartment complex, and she has to turn in the keys to the apartment. The last thing we do is donate the old 1994 Volvo 940 to Goodwill in Tallahassee. Once all that’s done we hit the road again. It’s between two and three in the afternoon. We are in two vehicles; a car has my wife, my daughter, and her two cats Molly and Ashe and me in the 20 foot long U-Haul truck.
- Wednesday evening, sometime around 8pm. We finally pull into a La Quinta in Mobile, Alabama. It has to be the worst place I’ve ever stayed. Even though we’ve asked for no smoking, I can smell the smoke in our third floor hallway. What’s more all the rooms on the third floor have broken electronic locks. The front desk clerk has to let us in our room with a master key. One of us then stays in the room while the other two go and unload the car, bringing in the cats for the night.
- Thursday morning, we try to find somewhere for breakfast. My daughter sleeps in late because she’d just finished finals at FSU the day before. We finally get back on the road late morning. We drive through all of Alabama through Meridian and Tupelo, finally stopping in Memphis in the evening for a meal of BBQ at Central BBQ. When we’re done it’s still daylight. Gas up and head outside to Arkansas just across the Mississippi River. We spend the night in Blytheville.
- Friday is even harder driving than Thursday. We’re trying to make up time from the two days before, so we drive up the Mississippi on I-55, through St. Louis, then pick up 70 and drive through Kansas City and on into Kansas to Topeka where we stop for the night. We would have gotten farther but for the two-lane bridge that is currently one late while the Missouri DOT works on it. That caused a complete 45-minute stop of traffic (for whatever reason) somewhere between St. Louis and Kansas City, close to Kansas City.
- Saturday, our last day of driving. We drive across the rest of Kansas, past huge wind farms. The wind is so strong I’ve got the van’s steering wheel wrapped pretty far to the left trying to compensate and keep the van going between 60 and 70mph. We stop at a Conoco somewhere around Hays where a guy by the name of Bill gives us a bit of the history of the area. And when I say history, I’m talking geological. We find out that the undulating portion of Kansas was the part that was under water when North America had an inland sea during the mid- to late Cretaceous period. The flatter areas further west were once the beaches to that inland sea. We gas up yet again, and start back out.
- We pass into Colorado mid-day. I need to go to the bathroom, and make the decision to stop at Vona, Colorado, just over the boarder and a bit west of Burlington. Big mistake. What was once the town business center is completely boarded up. It looks like a set piece for The Walking Dead. We finish our impromptu tour and head back out to I-70. We finally make it to the apartment in Aurora by 4pm local time, and meet up with my daughter’s partner. He’s been there for some weeks working an engineering job he found after he graduated (a second time, in electrical) from FSU. We unload the cats and begin to help unload the van a bit. My wife and I then leave to find a place to stay for the night. We end our evening by eating at Joe’s Crab Shack. Yes, the same chain you’ll find here in Orlando near I-Drive and Disney. Those guys.
There wasn’t much time to stop and sight-see. The very few photos I made were at places to get gas, eat, or go to the bathroom. I was in a continuous state of testiness due to trying to maintain a reasonable rate of travel, and more importantly, because of how my wife and daughter would drive through traffic. A car is a car and a U-Haul van is not. Lane changes that a car can make with impunity have to be planned and then execute carefully with a large truck. More than once I seriously through I was going to have an accident trying to keep up. To add even more hilarity to the situation, my daughter was using a Garmin GPS tracker and it was giving out verbal directions my daughter would mis-interpret from time to time. The worst example of this was in St. Louis and Kansas City. Especially Kansas City.
My daughter is still mad at me over my testiness, and probably will be for some time to come.
But we got to Denver in one piece and I caught a flight back to Orlando on Southwest. The final insult from the trip was paying $51 for a cab ride from Orlando International to my home near Universal Studios.