Cross Country Road Trippin' We had planned on finishing the build before hitting the road, but *things* got chaotic, to say the least, and we had to leave quickly. We packed everything from the house and storage, threw it in a Budget rental moving truck, and headed O.U.T.
Our goal was to drop our belongings off in storage in Wilmington, NC, then head back to California for the van... and vanlife.
Day One (Thursday, January 14, 2021) We left Chico at 5 pm. Although taking I-40 straight across the US might be faster, we headed south to 10 to avoid the potential for winter weather in the Midwest. I wasn’t planning on going far at all the first travel day, (maybe Sacramento or perhaps Stockton), but we drove for several hours. The adrenaline from the unnecessary final exit drama kept me going.
We made it to Coalinga and stayed at the Best Western. The room itself was nice. It seems as if they have tried to update and remodel. But the choice between shivering or listening to a noisy heater was no fun. We chose the latter. The last time I looked at the clock it was after 3 am. Ugh.
Day Two (Friday) Rough – and late- start. Four hours of sleep is never a good thing. And the internet was out at the hotel. We accidentally left the mobile wi-fi in the rental truck last night and I didn’t feel like getting it in the morning. The parking lot was full, so we had to park a distance and it was cold!!! Yeah, lazy. Lack of sleep makes me unmotivated. So much for getting any work done before hitting the road.
Today I wished that I had asked about cruise control (we don’t have it) and found out that ‘pedal to the metal’ gets only to 78 mph. Truckers have been passing us all day.
We passed the Arizona border before dinner! Woo hoo!!!! Now, it’s Interstate 10 through Texas, baby!
We ended at 16 hours of driving and made it to the outskirts of Tuscon. We stayed at a Hilton Garden for $169. Ouch!!! The front desk person said it’s Arizona’s tourist season so the prices went up. Geez, I guess. We are not tourists (yet). We are weary travelers. Who paid tourist prices.
I heard the Burn the Ships song for the first time today. It came out two years ago, but God in His perfect timing knew I’d need to hear it now. On repeat.
Burn the ships, cut the ties Send a flame into the night Say a prayer, turn the tide Dry your tears and wave goodbye
Step into a new day We can rise up from the dust and walk away We can dance upon our heartache, yeah So, light a match, leave the past, burn the ships And don’t you look back
Oh, I won't.
Day Three (Saturday) I got eight hours of glorious sleep and Katie got 10! We drove 11 hours to Pecos, TX. Texas is BIG!!! We stayed at a Hilton Garden for $109. Much better.
I kept thinking, "I'm going Through the Big D and Don't Mean Dallas. And, also going through Dallas." (Hence the cowboy hat.) This must be a lyrically healing trip.
Day Four (Sunday) I guess hotel sleeping is good for us after all, because we both slept well again. Katelyn finally started back up on school work. Unfortunately, we have misplaced her laptop charger, so she is unable to watch her videos for now.
I added some Jo Dee Messina to my “on repeat” healing playlist…
Bye, bye love, I’ll catch you later Got a lead foot down on my accelerator And the rearview mirror torn off Cause I ain’t never lookin’ back, and that’s a fact
We wanted to cross the border into Louisiana but couldn’t make it due to sleepiness. We stopped in Marshall, TX. We stayed at the La Quinta. The front desk worker and all of the guests we met were so nice. So nice!! I don’t know if it’s a La Quinta thing or it’s a being out of California thing. Probably the latter. Either way, it was a refreshing change.
I know there are plenty of people who make cross-country trips in less time than what we are taking, but it’s okay. We will get there when we get there.
Day Five (Monday) Another great night of sleep, then on the road again. We had high hopes of making it to Georgia, but I had to stop along the way to take phone calls and answer email. I also got tired early. So, we stopped in Birmingham.
Today Katelyn asked if our great sleep is due to the hotels or due to leaving the chaos. Out of the mouth of babes. I feel like a shitty parent for not leaving sooner.
Day Six (Tuesday) I cried tears of joy when we passed the South Carolina state sign. I knew that meant we were only one state away. And the name has “Carolina” in it. We plowed through till we got to the North Carolina state line. I pulled over and stared at the sign for a while. In awe. Our new home, God willing. Well, eventually.
We kept going until we got to the Great Wolf Lodge in Concord. It’s a splurge, especially since we were just there in October for Kate's birthday, but I wanted her to remember this trip as fun and happy. We got there at 12:30 am and the front desk person was resetting the day (apparently a term they use when they total out the financials and other data on the computer system), so we had to wait for the computer to restart at 1:30 am before she could check us in. She took care of us, though. We cannot complain. We finally hit the sack at 2 am.
Day Seven (Wednesday) We slept in, stocked our mini-fridge with a trip to the Walmart (this Walmart is much, much nicer than our former local one; it was actually an enjoyable shopping experience) and went to the hotel attractions (water park and challenging computerized scavenger hunt).
We skipped the bells and whistles this time, but they do have other fun things like bowling, an arcade, mini golf, Build-a-Bear, and a candy store that we have visited before. Even so, this is trip is costing more than I anticipated, but hopefully it will be worth it in memories created and in the long-term goal of settling down in our favorite state.
Day Eight (Thursday) I am convinced that we belong here. There is something about North Carolina that is just so comforting and healing. I feel it every time I'm here. Since I first visited over 15 years ago, I felt like the land itself is calling us home.
We grabbed a beachfront room on the sixth floor at some expensive hotel because it’s off season and covid. This is the only time we could afford it.
I swear to you, we either saw comedian Trey Kennedy and his beautiful wife Katie Byrum or they have dead-ass doppelgangers. We didn’t say anything because they looked like they were having a nice, quiet, romantic get-a-way and we didn’t want to be obnoxious fan-girls. But, we did go back to the hotel room and stalk his recent Youtube posts- and wouldn’t you know it, there is a reference to wanting to go to the beach less than 10 days ago. Coincidence? I think not!
So, Trey and Katie, you’re welcome for not busting in on your second honeymoon lovefest. We hope you had a wonderful get-a-way. We expect tickets to your next live show. And by the way, our Katie was born in Oklahoma, so we are extra connected.
Day Nine (Friday) January 22, if you haven’t been keeping track. We dropped our belongings off at CubeSmart Storage in Wilmington. Russell (I think he was the manager) was SO HELPFUL and just a really nice guy. The facility is super clean and extra secure. I’m glad I chose them. (You never know making reservations from thousands of miles away, sight unseen.)
Day Ten (Saturday) Turns out, the Wilmington Budget Truck Rental does not have an after-hours drop-off and Budget’s off-shore customer service department is less than helpful. (Edit: Don't base your travel plans on this; the story changes later- grrrr). I was told that they cannot do that; I needed to find a location that had after hours drop-off, contact that location, then contact my originating location, and make sure everyone agrees that I can change my drop off location. (What? Why are you even there?!)
The Raleigh location agreed, but the Chico location looped me back to the off-shore number. The different off-shore rep told me I could just change my drop-off location online. I went online and the system didn’t recognize my confirmation number. I tried three times. Even Kate verified I had typed in the correct number.
The third call to the Truck reservation place told me I would have to drop the truck off at the original location since I could not change my reservation. He blamed the hassle on the fact that it is a weekend. I told him that it’s sort of common for people to move on the weekend, so their lack of after-hours drop offs and lack of support regarding weekend drop-off didn’t make any sense. (Why I tell customer service reps the obvious is beyond me; it never helps.)
I did more searching on the internet and calling around to find a drop-off location. I eventually find one on the far side of Raleigh. That local manager confirmed his after-hours drop-off and told me to call the main reservation line to confirm that he would accept my truck.
The fourth call to the main line suddenly they had the ability to not only change my drop-off location, but also confirm that said location does in fact have an after-hours drop-off. Wow. Just like that, huh?
Somewhere in there, when I thought I would be able to drop off at Wilmington, I had reserved a car from Budget. The plan was to drop off the truck and drive a car to our next destination. It was only a few hours after the car reservation that I canceled and they charged me a $50 cancelation fee. I told them I had just spent over $2,000 with their company on a rental truck that I can't return yet and I also don't have the ability to drive a truck and a car at the same time. They did not care. I will let you image how maturely I handled that. (Not at all.)
Update: The Wilmington Budget truck person called me on Wednesday, two days after the truck was due and said she in fact had an after-hours drop off at her store. Wow, way to go. Budget. Never again. You took an extra $50 from me plus I paid $81 for a taxi from the new drop off place to our hotel room all because you have sucky customer service.
(Edit: Budget actually took the full rental amount from my card, $117, not the $50 cancellation fee they said they would. I disputed the charge with my bank. They are ridiculous. )
Day Eleven (Sunday) We drove the beautiful, tree-lined, two-and-a-half-hour drive to Raleigh, talking about how much we love North Carolina and how much we don’t want to leave.
We arrived at our drop-off location, collected our belongings and trash (there was no trash receptacle), videoed the location and van, and put our keys in the mail slot. My uber app repeatedly told me there was an error with my request so I called a taxi. An hour and $81 later, we arrived at our final North Carolina hotel.
It was the Double Tree in Raleigh, close to RDU. We were thankfully and pleasantly surprised. The staff were amazingly friendly, welcoming and kind. The room was more of an apartment than a hotel. It was such a wonderful experience. We no longer had transportation, so we hunkered down for the night – at 4:30 pm. It was a much- needed slow down and rest.
Day Twelve (Monday) Fly Day. We got a friendly free shuttle over to the airport from the Double Tree. (Yes, we always tip those shuttle drivers!!)
We spent all day in air travel. Our flights involved a layover (same plane) at Baltimore and a change of flights in Los Angeles. I can only guess this pong-pong travel route is due to covid. Our first flight had the standard no middle seat capacity and our last two had only about 40 people per flight. Most people got a full row to themselves. I suppose we could have spread out, too, but we stayed together like a good mother-daughter travel team.
We arrived late and found out (opposed to what the main reservations person had told me) that our hotel does in fact NOT have airport shuttle service). So instead of paying for a taxi or uber, we headed over to the Enterprise desk (quite a trip itself at SMF) to see if they could change our reservation from tomorrow to tonight. They could (Kudos to Enterprise!! Woo woot!) and we drove over to the hotel for our (hopefully) last night of cushy hotel travel.
PS- I told the Enterprise person what Budget had done and they said, "Oh no! We don't do stuff like that. We never charge, even for a no show."
Day Thirteen (Tuesday) Well, we were supposed to grab some essentials and head out, but of course not much really goes according to plan, so I ended up handling a bunch of random minor emergencies at the office, dealing with a dead battery on the van (apparently, we left a door ajar before we left to NC), and a winter storm. Winter storms in California are nothing like what we got used to during our time in the Midwest, but it was very cold, windy and rainy, nevertheless. Running back and forth to stores and through the parking lot with your hair in your face while getting soaking wet got old after two stops. We didn’t get all of our necessary supplies (but we DID get our sleeping bags, a cooler and a toilet seat for a bucket).
We also found out that our auto body guy wouldn’t be able to install the Maxxair vent fan cover until Thursday morning. (Yeah, it’s probably six screws, but honestly, I didn’t want to pull up my big girl pants and climb a ladder. In gusting winds and rain. Very, very cold gusting winds and rain. This storm is supposed to last all week!)
So we had a secret sleepover at the office. It was a little creepy but also cool. It wasn’t van life, but it was stealth.
Day Fourteen (Wednesday) You know, this living where you work is super-convenient. We got up early, cleared out all sleepover evidence and got to work! Kate even said, “Hey! We could just live here!” I will say, my office has everything we need, including a shower in the secret storage area. But, the open road calls.
And by the way, today shouldn’t count as part our North Carolina trip since we have been back in California since Monday night. But, we are in this weird space of finished with dropping stuff off in NC and hitting the road. I guess you could call us homeless. But, since it is *mostly* by choice, we prefer to be called digital nomads. And creative. And resourceful. And adventuresome.
Single mom and kiddo set out on a nomad, van life, roadschooling lifestyle. Watch the beginner diy van conversion, first time homeschooling, first time build, first time on the road experiences, and newbie family van life adventures unfold.
We will share van life travels and tips to encourage other people to get out and explore the open road.