It was 5 years ago this month that I rolled into Phoenix to get a new start. I came with no job lined up and a bunch of prayers. I’m posting the story of the cross-country trip here for nostalgia’s sake.
FL to AZ with Midnight and Shadow
Well, folks, the trip to AZ was definitely an adventure. I made it without major or minor incidents – Thank God! So here’s the story of the not-so excellent adventure. Yes, I know it’s long, but it’s rather amusing and worth the read.
Dateline: Friday, Feb. 25, 2005 6:30 a.m.
I came out of the bedroom with the last of my bags and found Midnight the Mellow laying in the corner of the near-empty living room where the TV used to sit. He watched his brother, Shadow the Curious, stick his nose in the pile of bags by the front door.
One by one, I grabbed the cats and put them in their carriers. I gave them each one of the tranquilizers the vet had given me. When I opened the door to take them downstairs to the car, Shadow started meowing at full volume. Wake up the whole building, Shadow.
I stowed them away in the hatchback and we were off. The rain that had plagued Southern California days before was not yet in central Florida and I started driving through it around Ocala on I-75.
The rain stopped by the time I reached I-10 just east of Tallahassee. Finally heading west. We reached New Orleans around 5 p.m. It was cold and I was exhausted. The bed and breakfast there, The Olde Town Inn, was located just north of the French Quarter. It was rather quaint. The owners converted three buildings into a mini motel. The floors creaked horribly. Especially when the people above me got in at 3 a.m. It looked like the used scrap pieces of plywood and pipes to create a bathroom in the room.
I let the cats out of the carriers and they proceeded to hide under the bed. I tried to keep them on leashes, so I wouldn’t have to crawl under the king-size bed to drag them out, but they kept getting tangled up. So, I let them lose.
I left them alone in the room with their box, food bowl and water and walked to a recommended restaurant for dinner. At one point there were more gay couples than straight couples in this restaurant.
I didn’t sleep very well that night. Between the elephants above me and the cats jumping on and off the bed, I was lucky to get 4 hours sleep for the second night in a row.
Day 2: New Orleans-San Antonio
The day dawned cool – in the 50s. I ate some muffins with coffee in the outdoor patio and left around 8:30 a.m. I took a short drive-through tour of the French Quarter. It didn’t really impress me. I think the best time to visit New Orleans would be in May when it’s warmer and in bloom.
I didn’t give the cats the tranquilizers and they were pretty quiet. But each time I stopped for a pit stop or to get gas, they would start meowing —“Are we there yet?”
Gas prices were higher than I expected. I kept seeing signs for $1.79 a gallon, but I didn’t need gas at that point. When I did need gas, the lowest I could find was $1.87. (The cheapest in AZ is $1.97) [I paid $2.52 recently.]
After 3 hours of driving through bayou after bayou after bayou I was happy to cross the Texas border—except the rain started again. This was one of the other storms that had come from the Pacific.
It was raining hard. Visibility was lousy and I missed a sign, zigged when I should have zagged and ended up taking a unexpected tour of downtown Houston—in the rain, amidst construction. I managed to dig out my trusty Rand-McNally road atlas and see that Loop 610 wrapped around the south end of Houston and connected again with I-10. Soon I was headed west again.
The rain didn’t stop until I was almost in San Antonio. Exhausted again, I was happy to easily find the Hampton Inn. I was hoping to use one of two gift cards to Cracker Barrel, but I was too tired to drive around looking for it.
I unpacked the cats and my stuff onto a bellman’s cart and took them upstairs to my room on the 4th floor. Man what a difference to be in a decent hotel room. I hoped the bed and breakfast in Las Cruces, NM, was better than the one in New Orleans. Considering that I had never stayed at a bed a breakfast, my first experience in one wasn’t that great.
When I went to move the car from the hotel entrance to a parking place, I drove around the hotel’s west side and found none other than a Cracker Barrel restaurant. It was unbelievable.
After dinner, I returned to the room where I had left the cats loose and I couldn’t find them. There was no “under the bed” – the king-size bed was on a platform. They weren’t in the closet or behind the chair or in the bath tub. I finally found the both of them hiding in about 5 inches of space between the bed platform and the wall.
Day 3: San Antonio-Las Cruces
Well, I slept a little bit better. I woke up around 6 a.m. (It’s Central Time and I was still on East Coast time.) I turned on the TV and found a History Channel program on Ancient Rome that I hadn’t seen. It gave me a couple of ideas for my novel that I can’t seem to finish. (I have to since I’m meeting with agents at a writers conference in Phoenix March 18, 2005.)
The sky was blue, the sun was shining and we were on the road again. I didn’t give the cats the pills thinking that they would stay quiet like the day before – how wrong I was. I had to stop and drug them. They finally quieted down except again at each pit stop – Meow – “Are we there yet?”
Approaching El Paso, I notice some not-so-nice looking clouds ahead in the distance. In fact, they were rather nasty looking. I thought to myself – the last thing I need to experience in my life right now is a tornado.
But, no, it was just some light showers. I made Las Cruces around 4:30 p.m. The bed and breakfast there was an old renovated mansion. Much better than the one in the New Orleans. The couple who runs it are former librarians from Michigan. There were no restaurants within walking distance so I drove back towards I-10 to the Cracker Barrel I had passed on the way in to use my second gift card.
Back at the Inn, I was unpacking and it was cold. It was about 50 degrees outside and there was no heat inside. I went downstairs and asked about it and was told that the thermostat was in one of the other rooms were a couple was staying that she would try to raise the heat downstairs so the upstairs would get warmer.
Well, I double-layered and curled up in bed to watch the Academy Awards (an hour earlier in now Mountain Time) except the TV remote didn’t work. I went downstairs again and the lady apologized and that they just bought the TV and haven’t had a chance to return it.
Later, around midnight, I was awakened by the floorboard heater crackling on. Man that was a noisy old heater. All night long it kept waking me up every time the heat came on. I managed to sleep some with Shadow curled up at my feet and Midnight under the bed.
Day 4: Las Cruces-Phoenix
Another sunny day – thank God! It was 36 degrees when I woke up. I had a nice breakfast of fruit, home-made breads and French toast. (Yeah, I tossed the Lo-carb diet out the window for the trip.) I left just before 9 a.m. for the last 6-hour leg of the trip.
I cried when I saw the sign that said, “Welcome to Arizona!”
For the last two months I’ve been reading a series of mystery novels by J.A. Jance about the adventures of a lady sheriff in southeastern AZ. The places mentioned are real and after reading about them, I almost expected to see Sheriff Brady in her Crown Victoria cruising I-10 after a murderer.
I got to Phoenix around 3 p.m. and followed the directions I printed out from the Net to get to my new apartment. I drove right by it not knowing that they had changed the name from Terracina to Saratoga Ridge and painted the white buildings brown. I finally found the office and the lady I had been corresponding with by e-mail and fax was off that day. A young man named Chris helped me and took me to see the apartment of which I immediately said, “I’ll take it.” Apparently, the property was recently purchased by a company who’s dishing out some bucks to renovate. They are painting, re-roofing, re-landscaping and they’re supposed to replace the stained tile in the kitchen. The only thing I don’t like is the kitchen cabinets are too high up. They were designed for tall people. The cats love to hide in the lower cabinets and Shadow likes to sleep at night on top of the fridge. Midnight has been waking me up at 2-3 a.m. crying. I ended up drugging him with the left over tranquilizers. I haven’t had a good night’s sleep yet.
So here I am in Phoenix. I am breathing better and have cut down on the allergy meds to just one of the over-the-counter ones once a day. I bought a bed, a futon for the living room (for visitors) and two TV tables. I have to wait till I start working to get a dining table and a few other things.
The street I live on, Bell Rd., is a main drag with just about everything from a basic Wal-Mart (the Super Wal-Mart is further away), Target, Safeway Supermarket, Albertsons, Home Depot and my favorite – Big Lots just down the street.
I found one of the public library branches and got my library card. I got my AZ driver’s license too. I don’t have to register the car until my insurance expires April 21. I have to get it inspected here like in Miami for pollutants because I’m coming from out of state even though it’s a newer car. I stopped by the Allstate office and they told me it’s probably going to be more expensive to insure the car here. Wonderful.
I found the Cingular Wireless store (a converted AT&T store so it wasn’t in their computer system yet) and got a local number.
The job interview I had lined up turned out to be an independent contractor job selling door-to-door. Not for me. But, I got a call from a personnel agency who saw my resume online and I have an interview on Wednesday with the University of Phoenix for a position as admissions counselor.
I also got an e-mail from an insurance company and I’m going to see them tomorrow. I’ve also resent my resume to a few places.
I had lunch on Thursday with my friend from Melbourne, Kathy, and Saturday we went to an American Indian Art Festival at the Heard Museum.
I contacted the 3 guys I had been chatting with since October and made dates to meet them. I met Peter Thursday night. Nice guy, but no sparks. I met Harry Friday night for Happy Hour and boy, did the sparks start flying. We hit it off immediately. There was definite chemistry.
My dilemma was that I still had to meet George. He had been so sweet chatting over the Net and on the phone and I was not sure how to handle it. I was going to check out the Scottsdale Congregational Church on Sunday and his realty office was nearby so we had made a date for lunch after church. When we get to Chili’s he tells me that he felt bad, but he had to tell me that he was only separated from his wife (On his profile he said he was divorced) and they were trying to reconcile. I told him not to worry, that I had met someone else. But, what a relief!
The Scottsdale UCC church was very different. They have a jazz combo playing gathering music and there isn’t a sermon. The “lesson” is encompassed throughout the service in scripture readings, dramas, other readings and music. It took me 25 minutes to get there and when I got there, I found out that they disbanded the singles group. I was hoping to get involved in it and finally have an “active author platform” to be able to sell my nonfiction book. But driving the 25 minutes back home, I decided to check out Shadow Rock UCC which is only 2 miles away from my place and give up on selling the book and sell what I have written as articles.
This morning, I stopped by Shadow Rock and it is the most beautiful church I have seen in a long time. It’s build on a hill and the huge A-frame windows behind the altar open to the most breathtaking view of the mountains and valley. The lady that showed me around told me that they have one music director who is always looking for new talent and she told me about all the other groups and activities they have.
I’m still trying to get used to the 2-hour time difference. My body clock is still on Florida time. I’m sleepy at 10:30 p.m. and wake up at 6 a.m. The cats want lunch at 10 a.m. I do like that primetime TV starts at 7 p.m. and the news is at 10. So going to bed at 10:30 is easy. Maybe the night owl will finally become an early bird.
Well, that’s all for now. Keep me and my job search in your prayers. I really need to be employed by next Monday.
So, here I am 5-years later unemployed again with the big question – should I stay here or go back. But back to where? Florida? Things are just as bad there (though a friend of mine wants me to move back there). Looks like Puerto Rico might be my next worse-comes-to-worse scenario. Too bad I can’t pack the cat (Shadow went to kitty heaven in Nov. 2008) and drive there. What do I so with my stuff that’s in storage? What do I do with my car that’s paid off? At mom’s house I don’t have to pay rent so if my unemployment runs out, that’s about the only choice I have. I put my life in God’s hands and I ask again: Keep me and my job search in your prayers.