This blog post is my most popular since I began blogging in 2008. I promise you will not be disappointed to read this one all the way through!
I usually make a pretty good effort not to write super long posts. But the tale I am about to tell really deserves every word written. Our move from Nebraska to Minnesota was quite eventful and it has taken a few days to process it all. I hope you enjoy.
This is the story of a boy, a 8-months pregnant girl, an orange cat and an orange U-haul.
On Tuesday, the boy and girl were ready to move from Nebraska to Minnesota. They had boxes packed, rooms cleaned, slept in the living room so that the bedroom could be completely cleared out, and were ready with doughnuts and coffee when their wonderful friends showed up to help them move.
90 minutes later, the U-haul was loaded and locked and the girl thought to herself, “dang, we’re good. I should blog my tips and tricks of a stress-free move. I will tell of the container I have had on my counter this past month with the sharpies, the packing tape, screwdrivers, pliers, scissors and nametags that have all been so handy to have out and accessible. Let’s face it, I do have a knack for organization.”
She was thinking these very proud things as she followed the U-haul trailer in front of her. The boy would occasionally walkie-talkie her to see if everything looked okay and she would have to struggle to make out his words, listening over the loud and incessant meowing of their orange cat who was not super pleased to be hitting the highway.
Fifteen minutes down the road, the girl’s car began to shift out of gear. It wasn’t giving her a whole lot of acceleration and this began to trouble her. Unfortunately, this wasn’t a new problem… it actually had been ignored all summer. Maybe it was the weight of the car packed to the gills, or maybe it was the fact that she had to keep her car at 55 as she followed the boy and the orange cat and the orange U-haul…but something was going horribly wrong with her car.
She ignored it. Thought if she went a little faster, the car might find its happy gear. So she walkied the boy and told him she would take the lead because her car was acting ill. The cat seemed to think this was a good idea, voicing his approval many times, so she pulled forward.
They crossed into Iowa, passed the main exits to Council Bluffs, and suddenly her engine light began to blink with panic. It was a fast blink, a you’re-in-trouble-now sort of blink.
So she walkied the cat again and the boy told her to take the first exit she came to. It was the last exit for Council Bluffs and she was able to drive to a Phillips 66 with the boy, the orange cat and the orange U-haul behind her.
There they found three store workers who did not care one wit about her car or where they should take it, for their pumps were out and they were dealing with a crisis of their own. This rubbed the girl the wrong way, but they apologized later once their pumps were up again and they were making money.
In the meantime, the boy called Tires Plus, who encouraged a tow truck to come, lest the car become anymore screwed up. The tow truck came and the girl got in, while the boy and the cat and the U-haul followed close behind.
Once at Tires Plus, some nice workers took the Focus and began to figure things out. However, the girl and the boy had new troubles now. The orange cat was about to have a stroke. He had gone silent. He made wheezing sounds. His tongue hung from his mouth so long that the girl and the boy commented that they did not know cats had such long tongues. He began to hiss a bit and his tongue was twisting so the girl and boy could see the underside. It was a blasted hot day, and the girl commented to the boy that many pets die in cars. Especially black jeep’s with U-haul’s attached.
So the cat got to join the girl inside of the Tires Plus. He was in his carrier, and the boy poured water on his paws. He was mostly quiet, interested in his surroundings, and seemed to be making a come back.
The girl, however, was hungry now. It was way past lunchtime. So the boy ran across the street and got a bag of tacos to enjoy while sitting on a carpeted ledge that showcased fancy tires with deep treads. The boy said, “I want you to know, my concerns today are in this order: you, the baby, the cat, and then the car.” And the girl got a bit emotional. Boys should say things like that as often as they think it.
The guys from Tires Plus finished their computer scan an hour or so later, and didn’t find anything. So the boy took the car to the Transmission Center across the street. They spent a good while on the car as well, and their scan machine didn’t find anything either. But they suggested Don’s auto repair, just across the other street from Tires Plus. The boy brought the car over there, and instead of using a computer scan, the guy at Don’s used his eyes and his hands. And he figured out the problem after a bit of tinkering.
The guy at Don’s told the boy that all four spark plugs were shot and needed to be replaced. He showed the boy and began to take them out and one of the cords on the spark plug broke in half just after he tugged at it. It is a wonder that girl had any drive in that car at all!
This guy needed parts from Napa Auto, so the boy waited and the girl continued to tend to her cat, watch Martha, Deal or No Deal and Ellen, ate 25 cents worth of Mike and Ikes and read an article on Carrie Underwood in the waiting room. Finally the boy returned, happy to report that the guy was 90% sure they had found the problem and they should be good to go.
Reader: if this section just got long and boring, it is because IT WAS. Long and boring.
The boy and the girl and the orange-looking-so-much-healthier cat and the orange U-haul all hit the road. The girl looked at the clock in the car. It was 5:14 when they hit the interstate again. This was about the same time they had estimated they would arrive at her parent’s house in Minnesota. She was supposed to be eating Salmon and corn on the cob right about then.
But they were on the road! This was great. The boy began to walkie her and tell her that they would probably hit some bad weather past Des Moines. The boy gets excited about weather and kept giving her updates. The girl eventually had to ask him to stop updating her, as she was growing nervous, not enjoying the thought of driving in bad weather.
The girl listened to Andrew Peterson, Sara Groves and Melody Olson’s latest CD’s, and then a fantastic lightning show began to illuminate the skies over hwy 35.
A really bad storm was coming from the West, and the girl’s tummy began to tighten involuntarily. It started to rain, and her wipers were smearing instead of wiping. She started to sing, and the boy walkied that he hoped they could just drive through this part quickly.
The wind picked up; the U-haul in front began to wobble. And then the rain came. The girl followed the orange U-haul’s tail lights, but she could not see much else. When semi trucks passed, she lost all visibility and walkied to the boy, “I am done. I don’t want to do this.” He walkied encouraging things back and said he would exit at the next exit. The next five miles were horrifying. The girl’s tummy was sucking in and she was trying to take deep breaths, but she knew that if those U-haul tail lights went off the road, she would surely just follow them into the ditch. She couldn’t see a thing.
The boy told her he was about to exit, so she followed his lights up a ramp and they parked in a parking lot. She drove around so they could see each other, and they talked in their walkies for a bit. And then the girl had probably the closest thing to a breakdown. Or maybe it was the real deal. She cried hard, and the boy and the cat tried to console her from their car. She let it all out as the wind and rain whipped around the two vehicles in this lone parking lot.
The boy said they would find a hotel for the night once the rain let up and they could find another exit that had more than a parking lot. They drove back four miles to Story City, and if you’ll believe me, this is actually where the most unbelievable part of their story begins. The car trouble pales in comparison to this part. And the storm she almost died in also seems insignificant when this next phase of their journey is told.
You see, when they arrived at the Comfort Inn, the boy was informed that there were no rooms available at the Inn. In fact, there were no rooms available in Story City, or in any town 90 minutes in any direction. For the Farm Convention was in town and 300,000 farmers had come to Iowa from all over the world. This was confirmed by the loud Germans who were enjoying boisterous conversation in the lobby area.
The boy walkied the girl, told her she had better come in for a while. When the boy told the girl this news, she cried some more. She was great with child, hormonal, still shaken up from the drive and utterly exhausted. The boy told her they would stay there for a while, as long as she needed. But he knew it would be tough to get her back into her car.
She cried in the lobby, and the German’s took notice. But what could anyone do? The boy and the girl sat in the business center and checked the radar and it seemed there would be rain for a while. Probably not heavy rain like they had just experienced, but still a lot of rain ahead.
The girl decided to check her sister’s blog and read about her nieces first day of school. This calmed her down a bit.
The boy was still trying to solve this problem, however. He was on the phone, trying to find any connections they might have to Story City, wondering if there was a church he could call where they could stay. The cars were not really an option to sleep in, because the seats were both completely upright and filled with boxes and other such treasures.
The girl went out to the jeep to check on the cat, and the boy called his brother Troy from outside the hotel entrance to see if they had any connections in Story City.
While the boy was on his phone, a man in his mid 60’s approached him, taking a deep inhale of his cigarette. The man blew out his smoke and began, “Are you still looking for a room? I have an extra bed in my room. Your wife and you are welcome to use it…if you don’t mind me sleeping one bed over.”
The boy told him this was a very kind offer, and that he would check with his wife.
The boy went to the jeep and informed the girl of the invitation. She said she didn’t care, that she just wanted a bed. But wait, what about the cat? She and the boy walked back over to the hospitable chain-smoker and she told him she was grateful for his generosity, but they had a cat and she imagined that was a deal breaker.
The man took another deep inhale of his cigarette and puffed out, “I don’t care if you bring your cat.” She commented that with the cat comes the litter box, and she just wanted to be perfectly honest before he actually invited them into his room. He shrugged and invited them to check out the room before they made their decision. And then he introduced himself. His name was Al.
When they entered room 205, it was obvious that this was a smoking room. But Al promised, “I would never smoke in the same room as a pregnant woman. I know better than that.” The girl found this comment very sweet, because he clearly had been smoking in that room all night prior to their arrival.
The girl saw the extra bed, and that’s all she wanted. She just wanted to be in a bed. The boy was uncharacteristically okay with this whole idea of sleeping in Al’s room. She found that odd, but he told her that more than anything he just wanted her to get some good rest and to calm down.
So they shook Al’s hand and moved their stuff in, orange cat and litter box included.
Al let the couple get ready for bed before he came up to the room. They were in bed when he came back. He made kind small-talk for a while, asking if they knew the gender of their baby and was genuinely enthused that they were waiting to find out until the birth. He went on and on about how he thought that was the way to do it, even though he never had any kids of his own.
Then he said, “I hope you don’t mind, I don’t have anything other than my underwear to sleep in,” and proceeded to walk to the bathroom in his whitie-tighties. The girl turned her body to the wall in the fetal position and tried to act normal. The boy made a gracious comment like, “Al, we’re just glad to be here.”
Al asked if they wanted to watch TV, but they did not. He said he would be up at 5:30and they said they’d probably get up around 6.
The smoke smell in the room was progressively getting better because the air conditioner was running at full blast. Until the power went out. They had been looking at Al and he had been looking at them, when the room went black and he commented, “feels like some horror flick or something.” The girl grabbed the boy’s thigh, trying not to laugh.
The power was out even in the parking lot, so there was absolutely no light. Apparently the orange cat was eager to meet Al, and hopped up on his bed. Al said, “well hello kitty, kitty.” The power went on and off for a while, and eventually the girl just fell asleep.
The boy says he didn’t sleep at all that night. The girl thinks this is very nice of the boy. He was only in that room because of her, because she had basically fallen apart before his very eyes.
In the morning, Al got up and got ready. The girl asked him to leave his address so she could send him a birth announcement. He said goodbye to the orange cat and left the room. And then the girl and the boy got up too.
They had a good, long, hard, laugh.
They got in their cars, hit the road, and drove the last 3 ½ hours with the U-haul, the new spark plugs, and the orange cat in bright glorious sunshine all the way back to their new home in Minneapolis.
When they pulled up to their home, they were greeted by their families and were able to unload the U-haul with great speed. Except for when the boy’s oldest brother twisted his ankle on the lawn and ended up with a horrible sprain. His ankle nearly tripled in size and he will now be on crutches for quite some time. The girl and boy still feel terrible about that parting gift, given as he helped them move their stuff into their home.
But all in all, they were home, and so ready to be. After lunch they took naps and the boy woke up in time to join his brothers at the Minnesota State Fair to attend a Weird Al concert. The girl stayed home and ended up going to bed around 6, commenting before the boy left that he was really lucky…he got two nights in a row with Weird Al.