Moving Stories, Part I

We all have moving stories, right? Moving as in translocation – but do let me know if these move you to tears!

This is the first of two moving stories for us, this first from Cleveland to Irvine, California. When I had finished my graduate work at Case Western Reserve in Cleveland and graduated with my Ph.D., Hubs and I moved to Irvine, where my husband’s thesis adviser was now the Dean of Biological Sciences and in whose lab Hubs needed to work for another year to finish up his thesis work. We were still impoverished students – I didn’t have a job and now that I had graduated, our $466. 66 combined monthly salary was now halved.

So we sold everything we owned except for one chair and our bed, which we placed on a moving van to be delivered who knew when. We had signed a lease for the downstairs of a duplex near Newport Beach (a low rate winter rental) – we were determined to enjoy the beach life in California, if only for a season. In the meantime, we were going to live with the head technician of Hubs’ adviser and her husband until September.

Before we left, our Jewish neighbors treated us to a meal with so many delicious dishes, we lost count. Our neighborhood in Cleveland Heights was Jewish Orthodox, and we frequently were asked to come over and turn lights on or off or raise the heat, after sundown on Friday night. If it snowed on Friday and Saturday, we would shovel our neighbors’ walk. In return, we would find a large box of bakery goodies on our stairs when we came home from church on Sunday morning, since the husband worked in a local Jewish bakery.

We left Cleveland at the end of May. The cats were being taken care of by some friends, to be flown out to California once we’d settled in. Since we were going to be camping along the way to save money, the cats didn’t figure into our plans. We spent our first three nights of the trip with friends in Milwaukee and then Northfield, MN. In Northfield, we visited the bank, now a restaurant, that the James gang had robbed and saw the bullet holes still in the walls.

From Northfield on, we were on our own. I recall camping by the side of the road, along a river, one night, but other than that, I can’t recall where we camped until we got to the Grand Tetons. I know we visited the famous Wall Drug, in Wall, South Dakota, visited Mount Rushmore, and crossed the Bighorn Mountains, stopping at the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument . Then we headed south into Wyoming to Grand Teton National Park.

At that time, you didn’t need a reservation for the park, but we arrived late in the day at the Jenny Lake Campground, where we wanted to stay, and there were no campsites available. So we drove to Lizard Creek Campground on Jackson Lake, a more remote campground for tenters. We spent a really cold night in our little two-man mountain tent, complete with icicles hanging on the inside in the morning, and left to get to Jenny Lake early. Luck was with us, because a couple of guys from Ohio were leaving and gave us their site, based on our Ohio license plate!

We took a hike that day, and that’s where things changed. I’d been having pain in my legs for about two months and it became severe by the time we hit the Tetons and I couldn’t deal with it any more. So we found an MD in Jackson Hole, who told me I had deep vein thrombosis. He warned if I took any more hikes into the mountains, I’d probably have to be carried out, maybe dead. His recommendation: five days in bed with my legs up. We scrounged up a bunch of change and called my parents on a local pay phone (no cell phones back then) to tell them what had happened. I remember crying on the phone about the move. They sent us money via Western Union (no instant bank transfers then either) for a motel. I did spend five days in bed with my legs elevated, watching soap operas on TV and eating take out. Hubs tried to amuse himself, but I could tell he was bored. At the further recommendation of the MD, I rode the rest of the way in the backseat of our car, with my legs up.

Our next stop was Zion National Park. We arrived there in the late afternoon, pitched the tent, got some dinner, and decided to hit the sleeping bags early. We figured the warm temperatures would drop at night, forgetting we were now in Utah. When it failed to cool down, we first lay on top of the sleeping bags, then stripped down to our underwear, and finally removed even that. About 10 PM, two large RVs pulled in on either side of us. Lights came on, doors opened and kids clambered out, using flashlights to find their way to the bathrooms. When they passed out tent, they stopped to look inside. Of course. Then we heard, “Mom, Dad, there’s some naked people sleeping in the tent.” I don’t recall what Mom and Dad replied, but thank heavens the lights quickly disappeared.

Cutting south from Zion to reach US 40, we stopped in Needles because our engine was overheating. The car we had at the time did not have air conditioning, and we drove with the windows down and two large containers of Cool Aid to drink when we got thirsty (no cooler – an added expense). We sat in a cafe chilled to about 60o, drinking coffee and shivering while a mechanic analyzed the problem. It turned out to be a radiator leak, the very last thing we needed. I could have cried. Since we were about to cross the Mojave Desert, it had to be fixed, so we charged the cost to our one credit card. We drank cup after cup of coffee (all we could afford) in the café until the leak was fixed, around four hours later. By then our kidneys were floating and the waitress was very grumpy!

We crossed the Mojave with the windows down and, at the suggestion of the mechanic, kept the heater on in the car, to keep the dang engine from overheating again. It was a hot few hours. We stopped in Barstow for gas, and the thermometer at the gas station said 112o. Surprisingly, the attendant (they still filled your tank for you back then) was wearing a thin jacket. When I asked him why, he said it was a rather cool day! He’d apparently been to the California coast on a vacation the previous week and said he’s damned near froze to death. I guess heat is relative.

By the time we reached Riverside, the temperature was still in the 90’s and complicated by a heavy layer of smog. I remember telling Hubs I wanted to turn around and head back. But then we reached the San Gabriel Mountains and as we dropped down to the coast, the temperature dropped into the 70’s, the smog disappeared, and we could see the ocean. Nirvana for the next seven years…

I haven’t been able to find any pictures from this trip – we didn’t own a camera at that point. But here’s one from our apartment in California. I’m still drinking coffee,reading the newspaper and looking like crap in the morning – old1970_1971_03_016 (2) habits never die.



22 thoughts on “Moving Stories, Part I”

  1. Love this Noelle; the mustard yellow wall paper or paint is so 1970s, maybe even a leftover from the 60s. And long journeys with the heater on to save the engine; welcome to my childhood holidays! How many hours spent in a lay-by waiting for the engine to cool enough to carry on. And Mum’s nylons as a fan belt substitute! They don’t make hosiery like it nowadays; all this fine denier nonsense!

  2. The car heater on to stop the engine overheating. Done that many a time! The whole episode was indeed an adventure – and how boring life would be if we never took risks. Loved the photo – it captures pretty well a universal experience!

    1. Thanks, John. Glad you enjoyed it. I surprised myself at how much I remembered from that trip! Hubs and I did have some adventures! Hugs back at you….

  3. I’m sure this would make a great novel. I’m sure there’s lots more to tell. Oh the days without air con, power assisted steering and sat nav. Some would say these were the best days of our lives.

    1. And we didn’t know it! This was about all I can remember – the old brain has some memories that leaked out. But stay tuned – another “moving” story is coming!

  4. Tears and a few chuckles over the naked people episode, too. Oh, Noelle, Dan and I took a similar trip in the early 90s heading to CA and experienced radiator problems and no airconditioning by the time we got to Needles. Things are very relative, including ‘heat’…we ended up in the Mojave Desert for three years and then moved on to Lompoc, where the air was temporate and the living was easy for a few more years before heading home to the East Coast. Ah, moving… 🙂

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