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The car’s packed (not everything I’d have liked to have fit in the car will fit, but that’s life). The birds are ready. The houseplants are ready. [Most] Friends are hugged. My iPod is loaded up with good music and audiobooks. The GPS is programmed and tested. Tomorrow morning we’re getting a bagel and coffee, then some gas, and we’re heading out onto the Turnpike!

I’ll miss Dale and Ella for the next four months. And I’ll miss my friends and family for longer–though I expect every single one to stay in touch online and as many as can do so to visit! I’ll visit, too: Boston in the middle of January (that’s mostly business–ALA–but I’m hoping to take a couple of days to see Dale’s family) and, barring great financial difficulties, DC late next June (also ALA, but I’ll base my summer vacation around it); depending on his work schedule, Dale will come with me.

I’m excited and nervous about the drive, and I’m really psyched about exploring Anchorage and starting work. It’s going to be good. :)

The car’s about full. We gave up for the night, but there’s very little stuff left to fit in–and a bit less space in which to put it. I’ll try to get a picture of the full car before I take off!

It’s weird to be so close to leaving. Seriously, it seems like I should have weeks left! (Looking at the apartment, that is certainly what one would assume.) But my Pittsburgh going-away dinner is over (I’ll miss people!); the birds had their vet appointment (clean bills of health); I got my Canadian insurance card; the car is outfitted for the trip; the bulk of the most important things are packed; and Dale and I are going back to my hometown for a day to visit my family before returning to Pittsburgh to pack madly, fill the car with my belongings, and head out. It’s just about time.

I still haven’t got word on that apartment. I haven’t reserved any motel rooms–or even chosen them for all of my stops, yet. (Part of me wants to have it all set up, and part of me really wants to mostly wing it, because I may find that I can do better than 6 hours a day of driving.) There’s a lot left to do. And I’m just going to have to be Zen enough to realize it won’t all be done in precisely the timeframe I had in mind.

The birds’ vet appointment is scheduled; we have a little cage for the parakeet and a slightly bigger little cage for the cockatiels. (They won’t love it; on the other hand, the bigger birds get “out time” in the hotel room each morning and evening–except maybe in Madison, where I’m staying with friends–so they’ll get the chance to stretch their wings. Mr. Parakeet can’t be trusted, yet.) I’ve also verified that I can, with some difficulty, carry both cages at once.

Love the new car. It’s great. And we’ll have a cargo bin for the top of it, so yay for more space! I’m ready for the new car smell to wear off, though; it’s a little plasticky for my taste.

My insurance company can print up my Canadian insurance card at their local office–which is right by the vet’s office!–in a matter of minutes. So that’s another worry off the table. And Dale’s going by AAA tonight or tomorrow.

I’m still behind on packing and have yet to actually sell any furniture. Dale’s a patient and wonderful man.

An apartment company is doing my background check, now. As long as my current and past landlords don’t decide to flip out over the phone or something (I consider this unlikely), it looks like I have a place to live. Even if the apartment I originally picked out somehow falls through, this company has a bunch of other places.

I’m also putting off leaving by one day, to have one packing day and one chilling out day with Dale before I leave (including a trip to the zoo! I still haven’t used my free zoo ticket). I know I’ll miss the knitting meet-up, but I was likely to have that problem, anyway. Depending on the apartment situation, I may still try to get in town by Sunday the 13th, so I can go to the last farmer’s market of the season, or I may slow down a bit and get there on Monday, so I can get into my apartment. We’ll see how it all plays out.

Dale and I traded in Grover (the first car we bought together, so I won’t lie, there were misty eyes) for a new Subaru Forester. He warmed to the color, so that’s nice. And I found a pirate sticker!

Us with Grover

Us with Grover

Coral with George

Coral with George

(Why, yes, I do have purple hair. I found the hair dye while I was packing. :D Worry not, future coworkers! If it hasn’t washed out, I’ll dye over it before I start.)

ellaIt’s come to my attention that I have pretty much exactly one week to finish packing (or at least sorting–Dale assures me he can pack things as well as I can, provided I’ve pulled out the “want to keep!” things from the “sell” things). If you know anybody who needs a couch, an awesome indigo microsuede-covered beanbag, a very inexpensive table and chairs, or a coffee table, send them my way. If Subaru gets in gear with this car thing, we may even be able to deliver.

My to-do list for the next week (besides finishing packing):

  • Print and fax apartment application. Or demand check back and prepare to wing it. Whichever.
  • Print up a bunch of other stuff.
  • Get Canadian insurance card from Geico (and print it).
  • Upgrade AAA coverage.
  • Take the birds to the vet.
  • Pick up a case of cup ‘o noodles and an electric kettle.
  • Finish finding motel rooms along the route, while finalizing mileages. Make backup plans.
  • Get a bird cage small enough I can carry–two, if they’re ideal for travel. (This should be done before the vet trip.)
  • Finish up two time-sensitive knitting projects before I go.
  • Two friend dinners, a coffee date, another meeting, and, of course, the trip down to VA.
  • Drop off my SCALA notebook.
  • Don’t forget my passport.
  • Have a date with Dale. We let our 4-and-a-halfth anniversary go by in the rush, and I won’t see him until almost our 5th.

Speaking of… After I made sure I could get the time off in order to properly chair my committee during ALA Midwinter (in Boston, which isn’t so very far from Dale’s parents’ place), we got to talking, and Dale’s just going to fly back with me from there. It makes more sense than his trying to fly at the end of the Christmas rush, and, that way, Ella has two parents to keep an eye on her during the trip. And I don’t have to freak out about getting them from the airport while I try to move between apartments, at New Year’s. Plus, my birthday’s that weekend, so an exciting librarian conference and a joyous reunion with Dale and a visit with Dale’s family seems like a perfect present!

I’m moving; Anchorage is shaking. (Y’all OK? Magnitude 5 is kind of a lot, right? … Earthquakes are going to be a new thing for me.)

I set up a goodbye dinner for Pittsburgh peeps–if you’re in Pittsburgh and not on Facebook (or if you are, but somehow I missed you), and you want to go, holler. I’ll forward the invite.

I am really frighteningly behind on going through stuff and packing, but here’s hoping it starts going faster.

We do have a new car, or will once it gets to the dealer. I think it’s the color Dale hates (“Sage Green Metallic”), which is very sad. But we’re approved for a loan at an acceptable rate, and given how much more acceptable that rate is than the rate on Grover, I think it’s the right choice. I’ll post pictures when I have them.

This post is not so much about the trip as about the transition. It’s more get-to-know-me than get-to-know-what-I’m-doing, if that makes sense.

We spent this past weekend in the DC area, saying goodbye to my dad and a fair number of our friends who live down there. (We didn’t see everybody, which is too bad, but people in the DC area have very, very hectic lives; there is not going to be a weekend when they’re all free.) As always happens when I visit, I recalled all the more vividly how very much I love my friends down there–and I do, because they are all really spectacular people–and how very much I do not love the area itself. (I think MD/DC/VA has the potential to be a great place to live, but there are too many people–many of them just there until they can get a job somewhere else, which, yes, I’d be a hypocrite to condemn–with too few transportation options. We found that both the transience of the population and the difficulty getting around made it hard to form or maintain a community, down there, both in the city and in the suburbs.)

My dad seemed really sad to say goodbye, and I was sad to say goodbye to him. He knows I’ll come back and visit, which made it easier, and he travels a lot, so it’s reasonable to assume he’ll come up and see me. Our friends seemed less sad and more worried about the drive. I agree that it is a long drive to do alone (alone in that birds have limited conversation skills and can’t really take over driving when you’re tired), but I’ll be blogging my experiences and doing my level best to check in every day. (I think the thing to do, if I haven’t posted in a couple of days and you are concerned, is to email Dale; he’ll be the one I call, in places with phone but no Internet. Or, you know, maybe he’ll post for me when I can’t…)

Although I’m now really glad I did it, I almost felt like going to DC to say goodbye was a bad idea. I am terrible at goodbyes. I hate them. Even watching goodbyes between complete strangers makes me cry; I’m just like that. The way I figure it, we drift in and out of one another’s lives, whether we are geographically near or not, and setting up a time specifically to say “I will see you at some point in the future, but it will be a while,” seems wrong to me. Renewing the memory of how much I care about and miss these people–not that I forget when they are out of sight, but it’s different–before driving across the continent, away from them, was not the smartest of ideas, perhaps. It will make it all the harder to drive that first mile. … On the other hand, if you do not put in some time to strengthen relationships when you can, what good is having them? (And how will I get them to come visit me in Anchorage if I don’t go visit them before I leave? :))

I also kind of think it was a necessary stage in the transition process. And it was important that I do it and leave myself some time to internalize that that was goodbye-for-now, with that set of loved ones. Honestly, pushing the visit with my mom’s family to the last weekend before I leave is a far worse idea–I’m going to have a grand total of one day to process and internalize that, before I get on the road.

I see it kind of like the moving process. I mean, it is the moving process, but I’m thinking house-to-house more than state-to-state, for the purposes of comparison. I have to get out of the mode of one living space and into the mode of the other, and over the years–moving once or twice every year for most of the last 12 years has helped me kind of develop a method–I’ve learned that there are certain things that have to happen before I can really make the shift. The first and most important stage of the transition is that the art has to come down off the walls; that’s when I really commit, in my head and heart, to a place no longer being “home.” The new place becomes my home when the art goes up, there. (I say “the art,” but there isn’t really that much on our walls, anymore. I used to have a lot of posters in college–and even after–but I’ve moved on to nicer framed pieces, largely, and there are just fewer of those, still.) Next, the fragile things have to be wrapped in paper or bubble wrap. And the books have to be packed. (After that, admittedly, it’s all ad hoc bedlam, ending, eventually, in throwing random stuff into wherever it’ll fit.) There’s a method (mostly :)). And while I haven’t yet determined what the method of moving across a continent is, for me, I think making time for goodbyes is probably a lot like the art coming down off the walls. I’m not sure what corresponds to the wrapping of fragile things and packing of books–maybe that’s the actual packing up of the physical things and putting them into the car, or into boxes for shipping–but I’ll finesse the metaphor as I go. I do think searching for apartments and meetups and knitting groups and zombie walks (no, really, there’s a zombie walk on September 19) is sort of like pondering where the art should go in the new place, and attending those will be like hanging the art–settling in, hopefully making friends, realizing this is now my home.

This post got long so I’ll wrap up quickly, but I noticed, on the art-hanging front, that a fair number of my future coworkers have looked at this blog and have offered [very good!] advice. It warms my heart and serves as a good reminder that, as much as there are very real sad parts to it, this is, overarchingly, an incredibly happy transition–I wouldn’t be making it if it weren’t–and I am really looking forward to making Anchorage my home and to joining the library community there. These transitional steps–the toughness of saying goodbye, the decisions of what to pack and what to sell/give away, the long drive–are helping me to get to a really good place, in multiple senses.

I guess I am not going to be couch surfing this trip, beyond one night with my lovely Madison friends, who have said it’s fine to stay on their couch, even if I have birds with me. Otherwise, I’m hotelling it. And driving very carefully. And not getting out of the car for very long at a stretch. … The trip will be tougher on me, but having the birds with me will also be somewhat therapeutic. Who can get lonely with near-constant chirping, right? :)

As far as the car goes, there is apparently a long line at the finance office at the Subaru dealer, but I’m really, really crossing my fingers that that’ll work out. I trust Grover to carry me, more or less; I don’t trust Grover to carry me and my three birds.

I’m way behind on packing and even further behind on selling things. (Dale called it. I should have believed him.) Seriously, if you know anyone in Pittsburgh who needs furniture, send them our way! If we have any doodads you want, ask. F’real.

This weekend will be spent visiting my dad and DC-area friends, next was going to be our yard sale–but man will I have to get a lot done to make that happen!–and the following is my last weekend on the East Coast, spent with my mom’s side of the family. We’ll probably come back to Pittsburgh that Saturday night, in part for the break from driving, in part to pack the car, and in part to say our 4-month goodbyes. That’s already going to be a tough day–no need to make it tougher by adding a 4+ hour drive.

The Subaru dealer is talking with the bank. My new job doesn’t seem show up on my credit (which isn’t unreasonable), and I refuse to pay 8% interest, so I may well be driving Grover up there. We’ll see.

The vet never called me back. I’ll try to get a hold of her tomorrow. I mean, I think she’s going to say “ship the birds,” but I’d like to hear it before I consider the decision completely made.

I was thinking of switching our phone plan before I went up there, but I think, now, I’m not. We may lose our numbers, this way, but say what you want about Verizon: they do have better coverage through some of the wilder parts of the trip! … I don’t recall whether or not I mentioned this, here, but the main wireless carriers in Anchorage are AT&T and Alaska Communications Systems. Verizon has coverage, but it’s all “extended network.”

(The first is Verizon’s map, and the second is AT&T’s. You’ll note the big hole in both, over the Alcan–for AT&T, that hole covers all of Canada–so please do not freak out if I don’t pick up the phone. It’s safe to assume I will not be Twittering, Facebooking, emailing, blogging, or generally making a lot of Internet noise every single day. While I’d like to blog each day of the trip, that may not be realistic, on a real-time basis–things may be written up on one day and posted on another. I promised Dale I’d do what I could to check in with him every 24 hours, but even that’s not 100% certain.)

Bright side: I’m totally getting an iPhone. :) I promise not to become one of those iPhone people.

Also, I think I’m going to look into Couch Surfing a couple of nights, if I don’t have the birds with me. Only with verified, validated, recommended people, and Dale will have a complete list of where and with whom I’ll be staying. It’s no less safe than a hostel, I figure, and it’s at least as good a way to meet cool people and also save serious funds along the way. Anchorage has a Couch Surfing community, which is pretty neat. Still, I’m hoping I can get a 4-month lease (I found a place, just have to do the paperwork before someone else does) and save myself the trouble of finding crash space for the first few nights I’m there.

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January 2021