1500 miles later

As most of you know, I left my hometown of Amarillo, Texas to move to Rochester, New York on May 29th, 2020. In the middle of a global pandemic (COVID-19) and the ongoing political and social unrest and demand for justice in the murders of African Americans in the United States, I decided to move across the country. If you know me well, that shouldn’t surprise you – if there was ever someone who did things out of the box, lord knows that it’s me.

Some people think I’m absolutely insane and they’re right. Others were upset that I left, regardless of pandemic or social unrest. However, most people were so happy for me, almost bursting at the seams. I got SO MANY messages of encouragement, love, and pride that it really touched my heart. Almost to the point where I was too overwhelmed to reply to people; if I didn’t get reply to you, I am so, so sorry but equally grateful for your love and your support. Please know that your love means the world to me, I was (and am) still so overwhelmed with change and EMOTION. Holy shit, if you could overdose on emotion, I would be long gone. My current emotions are as follows: proud, hopeful, scared shitless, encouraged, lonely, complete, incomplete, stressed the hell out, calm as a cucumber, rigid, soft, confused, solidified, sad, overwhelmed with joy, useless, useful, old, new… the list goes on and on and on. I want to give you a little outline of my travels and how it went – down to the dollar on how much it cost me to move from Texas to New York, 1500 miles with just my pups and I.

May 29th, 2020

I woke up at 5:00 AM without an alarm, how annoying is that? I had slept on the floor the night before – kinda what happens after you sell everything you own, save for two big totes and 5 bags. I woke up, took my medications, and got to work on the final cleaning touches for the Hayden house (this is what I call the house I lived in the past year and a half). Between packing (and I mean SHOVING) my last little possessions into my Honda Civic and getting the dogs settled, my landlord came for a final walk through and gave me the green light to head out. I said my kind goodbyes to the house that afforded me a safe haven – the place where I met my boyfriend, cried out for healing and peace, the place I cooked for the first women I dated, the place I decided to quit drinking recreationally. I had a lot of firsts and lasts in that house and I loved it. I drove across town to say goodbye to my best friend of about 6 years. Ali isn’t someone who cries or hugs, but I didn’t give her a choice. She gave me a can of clorox wipes as a going away gift with “love you” written on the top. Sometimes, that’s more than enough.

My next stop was to see my family before I headed out. I got to give long, good hugs to my three nephews, me sister-in-law, and my brother. My brother and I have always been pretty close. He wasn’t (and I’m sure still isn’t) happy that I left, but he did his best to support my decision. I think he wasn’t ready to let me go, but he did anyway. I think after I came out last year, our relationship became strained. My brother is a good man, but he and I have very different views on everything. He doesn’t like change, he lives in comfort. Sometimes it takes a while for someone to come around, but they will, eventually. I hugged my family goodbye and they waved me on. I started my adventure in the hot Texas sun and started my first leg to Joplin, Missouri.

If you could guess, most of what I saw was simply similar to Texas. Flat lands, tons of grass, state troopers (eyeroll), and a gorgeous sunset. You would think with COVID-9 precautions, the roads would be a little less packed, but the opposite was true. There were people EVERYWHERE. I don’t know if that was due to easing restrictions, the recent Memorial Day holiday, or people just really needing to go somewhere. I would say that I stopped at every single rest area in Oklahoma and that would be completely true. My bladder betrayed me through this whole damn trip, aka I drank liters and liters of water. I took the dogs out about half the times I stopped (I have two pups: Madden, Lab, 2.5 years and Abbee, Lab/Collie, 8 years). I rolled into Joplin at about 8:30 PM and immediately went to grab some good ol’ roadtrip food (McDonald’s, I know). Louie (my boyfriend of approx. 9 months) and I talked for a little bit and then I passed the hell out. I was one of a many people at the La Quinta in Joplin – it was eerily loud. The restaurant that was connected to the hotel was jam packed with at least 100-125 people – no one in a mask, no one far from each other. It felt like BCV (before COVID), but I couldn’t let myself close to others without masks. However, the floor I was on was quiet, thank goodness.I felt like that one girl who lives in a hotel full time, I can’t remember what her name is though. No more than one person was allowed in the elevator though and only coffee was served for breakfast. COVID-19 has changed the tourism industry drastically, and that was seen in every single hotel I was in. This was what I considered my “short” day. It was a familiar drive up and through Oklahoma into Missouri, which I’ve driven before. The problem with this day is that I was emotionally, physically, and spiritually exhausted. I said goodbye to the only life I had ever known and people that I loved, gotten in a car, had a hell of a time wrangling two dogs and couldn’t get a grip on the state trooper situation (kidding.)

May 30th, 2020

Once again, I find myself waking up at an ungodly hour without an alarm. Damn being an adult, I haven’t “slept in” in, well.. okay I did it today but that’s not the point. So, I wake up. It’s cold. I brush my teeth, take my meds, and cart my ridiculous amount of luggage downstairs and into the car. Since I had to jam pack my car full of my life, that meant all the bags that I brought that were in sight had to be taken in.. every. single. night. with my two pets. Not to mention that each bag weighed at least 40+ pounds. I think I gained some muscle in moving. Once everyone had gone to the bathroom and we were packed in, I stopped for gas and got us going. Today was the longest travel day, but the easiest because I was rested and excited. We drove from Joplin, MO to Tipp City, OH (pretty much Dayton, OH).

Let me say something here – Missouri is absolutely stunning. It is so lush, so green, and so golden beautiful as the sun sets. One of my friends asked if I saw landmarks – I only saw one and it was the Gateway Arch. I drove right next to it and got to see it’s beautiful reflective majesty. I was in complete awe. I’m a bit of an architecture buff – I love buildings and landmarks and interesting builds, period. While Missouri was one of the most gorgeous states I’ve ever seen, their roads are absolutely a nightmare. Rumble strips sounded like the world ending, roadwork was everywhere, and the roads were the bumpiest I’ve ever been on. *BESIDES OKLAHOMA DAMN CITY*

I rolled into Indiana, which was honestly one of the most boring states. I saw nothing enticing or particularly beautiful, just farmland and things similar to the Texas Panhandle. No shade to you if you live in there, but it took everything for me to not fall asleep. Moving into Ohio – I was back in what I consider lush and beautiful. I arrived in Tipp City, Ohio around 7:45 PM and checked into the La Quinta (look, I have rewards accounts, okay?) This hotel experience was vastly different than Missouri. When I reserved my room a few weeks back, the front desk attendant told me to call back three days before my reservation to make sure that Ohio could house me. When I booked, they were only allowing those with essential travel/work papers to stay in hotels due to COVID-19 restrictions. Thank goodness they were able to house me because.. your girl was exhausted. This hotel was also different because I was one of three guests in the hotel. We each had a floor to ourselves and the staff was… less than happy to be there. As soon as I got the pups in and settled, I headed over to the closest place I could grab food, which happened to be something I’d never seen or tried before – Frisch’s Big Boy. When I tell you this was the best food and service I got the whole 24 hour trip, I mean it with my whole heart. The staff was absolutely angelic and all overly protected themselves and the customers with their service. I got a Big Boy meal and it rocked my shit. I would eat that every day for the rest of my life. I’m a forever Big Boy stan. I talked to my Lou for a bit and began watching the news. Peaceful protests in Dayton were turned violent by law enforcement officers, buildings and cars on fire, protestors begging police forces to stop being violent as they peacefully chanted “no justice, no peace.” As darkness fell, a heaviness fell over me. I wanted to be our protesting, fighting for my brothers and sisters in humanity and the injustice they faced. My friends Kayla and Carrie were worried about me and called to make sure I was safe. After about an hour long conversation filled with laughter, tears, and banter, we all called it a night.

I woke up in a daze. The night before seemed like a fever dream, but I knew it was real. Racism has always been real. Violence and hate have always been real and effected POC, specifically the African American community disproportionately. I felt like I was useless on this trip. I still do, but it isn’t about me. It never was.

May 31st, 2020

I packed up again and got the pups ready for our last day of travel – this time we would finally reach our destination – Rochester, NY; my future home, the home to Kodak, jazz festivals, and lilacs – and my boyfriend of course! This was another of the short days, but it was filled with anticipation, anxiety, excitement, and need. I, surprising to no one, left Tipp City at 5:30 AM to get on the road to my new life. As I grabbed gas and water, I noticed a slow sunrise – the start of a new day and a new fight.

Now, May 31st was full of beautiful views. I drove through Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York. I got to see a snippet of Amish Country – absolutely stunning, like nothing I’ve ever seen. As you can see on the map above, I drove along the coastal area of Lake Erie. I am so lucky I got to drive in that area because man, that was a stellar introduction to my new Northern norm. Breathing in the cool air and seeing a small outline of the lake was something I was looking forward to and it failed to disappoint. As I came into New York, I had to go through a toll booth – the lady asked me if I came through a certain area and I realized that I had no idea. She was so gracious and kind and helped me understand what areas I came through and what my toll would be. Because of COVID, New York tolls are writing down the information of toll users and billing them via mail. Thank god because I didn’t have exact change and the other toll workers were pissed at me for it (whoops).

As I drove through New York, I realized that their rest areas are far superior to any other state I had been to. These rest areas have bathrooms, tourist information centers, restaurants, and a gas station – all in one location. My life got a lot easier once I got to New York, travel-wise. I got to the Hampton Inn Rochester-Greece and giiiirl, when I tell you it was poppin’, I mean it was POPPIN’. There were people in and out like crazy, the hustle and bustle was real. The lady that checked me in was the sweetest, most precious thing. She talked about how tired she was, how busy they had been, and her pregnancy slowing her down. Not much about COVID-19, but it was a great break from that rhetoric. She put my in a room close to the stairs so I could take the babies outside.

When I got to the hotel, I realized that I was home. I was finally home and would get to see Louie soon. I hopped in the shower and got ready to see my heart after 6 months away from each other. When he arrived, he had flowers and a home-cooked meal that he made for me. I finally feel whole.

The 1500 miles didn’t feel like 1500. It felt like small measures to get to where I was meant to be. Yesterday, I went for a drive to get familiar with the area. As I drove through the city portions of the town next to mine, I drove through the city. The CITY. I cried because I’ve always known that I was meant to live in the city. I love the crazy lights and the murmur of people walking through a plaza; the ability to see something new every second. I drove through the campus of the University of Rochester – and Texas, y’all have nothing on a beautiful campus like U of R. If there’s somewhere that’s my goal to teach at, this is it.

Then, I drove through my favorite site so far – the Genesse River Valley Park. I drive next to the Genesse River every day, as I come back from hanging out with Louie or going to the grocery store. I took a light walk on one of the trails in the park and got to watch people kayak, canoe, and boat. There were picnics, biking, running, and outdoors galore. I love the outdoors, contrary to popular belief; however, I don’t want to drown in sweat every time I want to exercise. I’m so excited to be outside again and be able to jog, bike, and generally enjoy the sunshine without melting.

So, let’s get down to the cost of moving. Here’s what I personally paid to move from Amarillo, Texas to Rochester, New York.

  • Hotels: $283.41
  • Food/Drinks/Snacks: $36.84
  • Gas: $57.93
  • Total: $378.18

This was significantly cheaper than taking a UHaul, which would have cost me approximately $1218.00, plus the $283.41 for hotels, and I’m guessing a triple price in gas for the truck, bringing the gas total to $173.79, and keeping the snack pricing the same. This would bring the total to approximately $1675.20. That total is only $56 less than I’ve spent replenishing the necessities I sold. Overall, I’d say it’s worth it.

I’ll be blogging about my “Life on the Rochs” in the next few weeks and months, so if you have more questions, want to see my apartment, want to know about the culture or things to do – please ask me! I want to talk about it all!

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