Sunday, March 28, 2010

PS ... Got Any Fruit? ... the long, strange journey to California

April 19, 1995. The Oklahoma City Bombing shocked the world that morning with this news. It was the first of it's kind in our country, something we were not ready for. In the following weeks the nation learned that this horrific act of terrorism was looking to be homegrown, as in the persons responsible were Americans living in the United States. It was unfathomable that this hatred would exist in our own borders. It shook America awake, and a full fledged investigation was in progress, and Americans wanted answers. Bruce and I were traveling across the country to start our lives in California and we were on our second day of the journey. We woke up in Oklahoma City and went to eat breakfast. After eating, we hit the road as early as possible, we had many miles to travel. About an hour into the drive, we saw a hitchhiker on the side of the road, we had no where to put him and we were on a schedule so we passed him by. Within a mile of seeing him, we passed a gigantic sign on the side of the highway that said... "Do not pick up hitchhikers, they may be escaped convicts." Good to know. We looked at each other and thought it odd that there was a sign like that on the road, but figured they knew what they were talking about. It was really a sign that this was going to be a very strange trip this move of ours. We were in good spirits, talking, laughing listening to our favorite music and looking at the landscape as we finished with Oklahoma and entered Texas.

We only had to drive a short distance in Texas, pretty much a straight shot across the top of the State with the only large town near being Amarillo. We made sure that we drove the exact speed limit because there were signs all along the freeway that said..."Don't Mess With Texas". Again, good to know. Bruce was trying to get to Albuquerque to stop for the night and we were almost there. We finally made it early evening and found a motel to stop for the night. Everyone we came into contact with were acting just a bit off. People were not talking or smiling, everyone was very reserved and not chit chatting like you would normally see. We again found it odd, but figured that it was just a new city, new people. We had stopped before getting to the motel to eat, so we were determined to just get in the room and get some sleep. I called my mother and told her we were safe and she had asked me if I was watching the news on Oklahoma City. I hold her that the mood there was weird and Bruce and I just wanted to get going as fast as possible. She told me to watch the late news because there were all kinds of developments going on. I told her I would, and then bid her good night. I turned on the TV and the rest was a good nights sleep. Too tired. The following morning we were just one day away from our scheduled arrival in our new apartment. We were excited, we were talking non stop about everything, we were just so happy to be half way there. Bruce asked me to drive the first half of the trip. I told him I would rather take the second half because I saw what the elevation of Flagstaff was and I did not think I would be good driving the Uhaul from pre-Atomic Bomb era up that giant mountain with all the wind. He said that he really just wanted to relax and said I would do fine. Mid afternoon Flagstaff was in sight and I again asked him to please drive up to Flagstaff, I really was nervous once I saw the grade. He told me to stop being silly and just drive. I argued, trying to tell him that I was not confident that I could get up there safely. He laughed. It got closer, I got more nervous. Two lanes going straight up a HUGE grade, One last time I asked. He said "You'll be fine, stop worrying." Half way up the grade he was yelling at me to go faster, I was only doing about 40mph and everyone was passing us honking. I told him that if I were to shift I would kill the truck...the torque on that ignorant box on the back of the truck was weighing too heavily on the transmission. I felt it under my feet, he was just too agro to hear me. There was a semi that blew past us blaring his horn and Bruce was ready to blow up himself. I tried, I tried hard to get that truck up the grade but the more I tried, the more we slowed down. Bruce was trying to tell me what to do, I was watching the rear view mirror making sure we were not going to be rear ended by another semi, horns honking, people flipping us off. It was horrible, I knew that I would never, ever live it down! And I knew that my mother was going to hear his side first so they could bond over another Kelsey moment. We started to come to the summit and all he could say was, "Pull the truck over. Pull the truck over. Right here is fine, just pull in and stop the truck." Once I came to a complete stop he jumped out of the cab. I just sat there breathing, thanking the Lord that we were not smashed to smithereens by another truck. I never got the keys for the remainder of the trip, Bruce proceeded to escort me the rest of the way.

It was quiet after Flagstaff. We wanted to get to Kingman, Arizona for the night. It was a busy city near the border of California off the 40. We only needed to drive about another half a day before we would be in our new town. We had left the driving debacle behind us and again were jubilant that we were so close to our new life. We found a Comfort Inn near the highway off ramp and quickly pulled in to get a room. There were cars all over the place, and most of them were black sedans with suits inside. We went in the front door and approached the desk only to see quite a few more suit men inside talking on walkie talkies. It was a strange mood and the check in girl was very short with us, constantly looking up at the suit men. We kept quiet and she gave us directions to where we could park with the Uhaul. We went back out to the truck and there were so many cars around. We went to our room, put our toiletries in there along with a change of clothes and we set out to get something to eat. We decided to walk and once we got to where we were going, we just wanted to get our food and go back to the hotel. It was almost eerie there, people were all looking at each other, cars were driving very slowly, more and more sedans showed up. We thought it really freaky by this point and we wanted to just get somewhere out of public. Once we were safe in our room and set up to eat dinner, we turned on the nightly news. It all made sense within about two minutes. Tom Browkaw was reporting that there "was a confirmed link to Kingman, Arizona and the Oklahoma City Bombing. The Uhaul that was rented was in fact rented in Kingman and then driven along the 40 HWY to Oklahoma City. There were numerous FBI, FTA, and State police in Kingman and they..." WOW! No wonder it was so weird out there. It was a weird that we could not shake, and we were feeling very venerable there. Especially with a Uhaul! We watched the coverage, set the alarm for 4:30 am and said goodnight so we could get out of there as soon as possible.

It was pitch black when we pulled back onto HWY 40. The mood was even darker. We did not stop anywhere. We did not talk. We just moved along, minding our own business. Day broke as we were heading into California. We crossed the state line going up a gradual grade that went a long way into the distance. The sun was not up yet but the morning began to show some life. We were now at the top of the grade and below us were all kinds of rolling hills, some higher than others so the light was different on all of them. It was stunning. It reminded me of a bowl full of pastel marshmallows with a path through the middle of it. I could not take my eyes off of it. Even Bruce was left with no words, just taking in the spectacular morning, the morning he would see his new home. The sun slowly began to peek around the bends and it became an even more beautiful sight. We had made it, we were finally in The Golden State. About 20 minutes later we could see cars lined up at a check point, but we did not know what the check point was for. We were a little nervous because we had beer in the cooler from the night before and since we did not know the laws of California we thought for sure we were going to get into some big trouble. We sat in the long line waiting to find out our fate. As we inched closer, we saw the check point worker looking through some cars. Oh no, we were busted for sure! We were one car away. Bruce asked if the cooler was exposed. I said it was. We had no time to cover it because the car in front of us pulled away leaving us to be the next to pass. We pulled up slowly, hearts pounding, sweat dripping down our arms. Bruce rolled down his window.

"Hello folks, how are you today?" the guard asked with a smile.

"We are very good. And you?" Bruce tried to make small talk.

"I am great, thank you for asking. What brings you to California?" he asked.

"We are moving here from Missouri, sir." Bruce answered with a smile.

"Missouri? Wow, that's a drive. How was it?" He said looking at the crap Uhaul we were pulling. "I would bet it wasn't easy pulling that thing behind ya..." he giggled.

"You can say that again. It was not the one that I chose, but it had to do."

"You guys like cheese?" Bruce and I looked at each other like...'DId he just ask us if we liked cheese? What kind of weird ass state is this? You stop people to ask if they like cheese?'

"Uh, yes we do."

"Well, don't get your hope us too high. This state claims that we have good cheese but if you ask me I like the stuff that comes from Wisconsin better. More flavorful, you know?" Okay, this was all getting a bit odd. "Do you have any fruit?" he asked. Fruit? What? Weren't we just talking about cheese? Is this guy ADD or what?

"No sir, no fruit." Bruce said wanting to just get out of there.

"Okay, well then you have a nice day and welcome to California."

"You too, thank you." We drove through the check point a little baffled. Fruit? NO we don't have fruit but we have alcohol in the cooler. Very strange to us, we were not aware that you could not bring fruit into the State of California. Yet again we found ourselves saying..."Good to know". Those fruit flies can really destroy the crops of produce that is abundant in that state, this is what we were told by some friends later. They all laughed to hear how nervous we were to drive through the check point not knowing it was only about fruit.

At around 1:00 pm we pulled up the driveway to our apartment. Bruce was anxious to see it and I was excited to show him. I opened the door and he stepped in. He then went to the sliding glass door to take a look at our view. He was impressed and immediately wanted to unpack everything so we could get organized then return the Uhaul. We spent the day putting things away, organizing dishes, making lists of food and condiments that we needed, figuring out how to arrange the furniture and finally, we put together the things needed in the bathroom. We returned the Uhaul and then went out to eat since we did not yet have a dining room table. It was the best meal I had ever had. I think it was because there was months of nerves calmed just knowing he was really there with me, and not just for a visit. He was there with me to stay. We went back to our apartment and watched the sunset in beautiful oranges that faded to pinks that faded to purples and then finally to blackness. The stars were out and we could smell the ocean air. We stood on our patio hugging each other, satisfied to finally be together with big dreams in our heads. We were finally out on our own, and it felt great!!!!

Yeah, this one had not much to do with my mother, but the story was a good one and I am just trying to buy time to find the right words to carry on her story. Next in California, how we adjusted and like I said, Bruce asks Sande permission to marry her daughter. We are getting close to the final chapters and I hope you have enjoyed the journey so far.