The Move From Alaska
Since this is a huge change in my life recently and now an important part of my “background,” I decided to give this life changing event its own section on the blog!
Here is the very short summary of our trip:
This is KIND OF what it looked like. Not exactly because we took a little bit different route once we got to the US in attempt to miss some of the bigger cities. And it obviously did not take us 3 days and 9 hours (I wish).
- We spent only 3 months preparing for the move including savings $, selling everything we own, moving out of our apartment in Alaska, preparing for new jobs for both of us, and setting up a living situation in NC
- We left Alaska July 2nd and arrived at our new home in NC on July 14th – for 13 total days of traveling (we had planned on 8 days)
- On average we spent about 11-12 hours each day traveling (including stops)
- We drove through 14 states (including states in Canada)
- Our total miles traveled when said and done was right about 4,400
- We saw interesting things including bears, wild sheep, other animals, car accidents, crazy traffic, crazy (major) flooding, detours, weird people, strange vehicles, a sign forest, a ridiculous amount of farm land, huge windmills, and even got mooned (yes by someones butt)
- We got stranded for 5 days
- I almost cried 10 times – some out of excitement
- All in all, looking back, it was a really insane, interesting, emotional, and fun journey
Okay, now for the long version…
So to start out, Torrance and I were both born and raised in Alaska – it’s home. Seems that people that live there either hate it or love it. For the most part, I really did/do love it but to put it best, feel that I outgrew it. It is a little sheltered as we don’t have as many choices for shopping, restaurants, etc and there are a lot of extra things that go along with living there (crazy weather, freezing pipes, strange rules, etc)
The biggest hang up for us was the frigid cold and winters just became too long. We lived in the interior (Fairbanks area) so 50 below zero usually does make an appearance at some point during the winter. You can expect to see winter from Oct – April. “Spring” (which is usually a week or 2 long and jumps into summer) usually stops by mid-end of April and May through July are the summer months. August is for the most part rainy, but sometimes it is really hot! Summer temps usually vary between 50’s and 80’s. Around 4th of July you might get some 90’s! Winters are typically 30 degrees to 60 below. Average I would say is probably around 0 – 10 below. Though our last winter (2010-2011) it seems like most of it was 20 below or colder.
Torrance was ready to leave a little before me (ok like 2 years ago), and being as stubborn as I was … it took me about 2 years to finally decide I was ready. I finally realized I didnt have any family left there so what was really keeping me there? I finally let go of whatever it was (frankly I think fear of change) and hopped on the wagon.
Arrangements & Preparation
Torrance had been spending a few winters down here in NC working with his uncle, so in February of this year (2011) I came down for a visit to check out the area when we first talked about the possibility of moving. We went back to Alaska and after a month or so of thinking and deciding how this could be done – we began our preparations for the move. Our lease at the place we were renting at the time was up at the end of May so it worked out well. We would sell everything, move out with the belongings we would bring with us, and leave end of June/beginning of July. So for the month of June, we stayed at Torrance’s dads.
The moving preparations went QUICK since we needed to be ready in a matter of 3 months pretty much. We decided it only made sense to drive so we would have a vehicle here (it is crazy expensive to ship things from Alaska). We decided we would keep a select amount of household goods and rent a trailer from U-Haul to pull down on our drive .
We sold all our furniture (literally every piece of it), my jet ski, and my car. I was sad to part with my jet ski but with a trailer and the low value of it, it just wasnt worth making extra arrangements to have it sent down (it was too large to be packed in the trailer we brought).
On top of that I had to break the news to my work. That was the most difficult thing for me as I loved my job and all my coworkers and that was basically my family there. I worked there for 6 years! But I knew the sooner, the better so in early April I let everyone know I would be heading out. It was a teary “breakup” for me but after sitting on it a few weeks I felt relieved to have the news out in the open. It also allowed me to begin looking for a job. I threw this around a little because I knew I wouldnt be starting work until July, so applying for jobs in April was going to be a little difficult I thought – but at least getting my name out there. I was somewhat anxious to see if it was going to be difficult for me to get a job.
The company I work for has offices nationwide so I looked up offices in the area we would be moving to (at this point we already had our apartment and everything set up to move in in July down here in NC) so I was trying to find an office close to home. I had awesome luck because the first person I emailed my resumee to called me up for a phone interview and happened to be looking for a sales person. I was appealing since I already knew the ins and outs of the company. I was hired on right away to start in July… and the best part? 1 mile from our apartment! Talk about luck all around.
We did a lot to prepare physically for the trip and it seriously felt it went on forever, that is until the time came we were seriously rushing around even though we were the most prepared you could ever be. My mechanically inclined boyfriend (and his dad) put a new engine in the truck, new transmission, everything – so it was like new and he had worked day and night for a month to get that all to a T. We had all the tools we needed to fix anything if it went wrong, and spare tires for truck and trailer, food and drinks in the cooler, camping stuff, a slough of paperwork on everything to get through the border in Canada (and back into the US). It felt sort of unreal once it was actually time to leave….
Heading out of Alaska
It was a teary departure between Torrance and his dad. They are best friends so I know it was difficult for both of them… ok and me – I cried like a baby.
We headed out early the morning of July 2nd. Our plan was to get as far into Canada as we could (somewhere in the Yukon Territory) by the end of day 1. If you arent aware, far up north in July is almost 24 hours of daylight so we drove really late the first night (until about midnight) and we planned to camp.
Getting through the border went pretty smoothly. They are intimidating and ask 500 questions of course but it felt good and felt kind of official once we were actually in Canada. The Yukon Territory is beautiful but a no-mans land. There is close to nothing besides a sparse amount of tiny communities that usually included a gas station, convenience store, and maybe a restaurant and RV park.
After realizing how sparsely populated it was, I was secretly a little scared to just pitch a tent somewhere so I was determined that we drive until we find an actual campground that was hopefully populated in the sake of avoiding bears. We hadnt seen any bears yet but I started wussing out and getting scared of them. Sure enough right before the campground we stopped at (about 10 miles) there was a huge grizzly sitting on the side of the road.
When we checked into the campground I insisted on getting a camping spot in the middle of the campground (so it would be harder for bears to get to me and eat me of course). It was late so pretty much everyone else was already asleep. Well we pitched our tent and whipped out our air mattress which we only had a little electric pump that plugged into the cigarette lighter of the truck to air it up. That thing was loud and we for sure woke everyone in the campground up… geesh.
We pretty much didnt sleep at all that night because I was so scared of bears, and we almost froze to death. It was seriously so. cold. And I can tell you that that was officially the first, last, and only night we camped on the entire trip.
As you can see from the map, half our trip is in Canada since it is so huge. We spent 4 days in Canada, 5 if you include the first day when we entered into Canada. It sure is beautiful, and especially on the western side of it. But like I said, definitely a no man’s land. I didnt want to waste time stopping at a bunch of landmarks (which there wasnt a lot at the beginning of the trip anyway) because the driving conditions were so-so. The highway is very narrow and full of pot holes. Not to mention the never ending road construction, so we were moving pretty slow for the first part of the trip and not covering a lot of ground. We did stop and check out the sign jungle on the side of the highway in Watson Lake (where we stayed the 2nd night).
It was soo cool, and went on forever! There were tons of signs from all over the world! Really neat to see.
The next couple days through Canada were a blur. We stayed at very random small hotels (because that is all there was for the most part). Our 3rd day (entering into British Columbia) we had an eventful day of wildlife! We saw 11 bears in 3 hours. Not to mention a lot of stone sheep, bison, moose, and others.
I say it was a blur because we tried to cover as much ground as possible. Through B.C. was pretty slow because it got very hilly which, with a big truck and a heavy trailer, we werent going up hill too quickly. You could definitely tell the further we got the more civilized it was which made me feel a little better, even though we hit some seriously rough traffic in Edmonton.
I couldn’t help but worry if something were to happen when we were in the middle of no where what a pain it would have been. The further east we got into Canada, the more options we had for hotels, etc as well.
Back to the US of A
Even though Canada wasnt bad or even that much different, a sense of relief rushed over me when we came up to the US border halfway through our 5th day.
I had talked to my parents the last night in Canada and they had warned me of some flooding that was going on in the part of the US we were about to enter (North Dakota) so we prepared for that. The border crossing went very smoothly though back into the US, again we handed them our slew of paperwork and they asked us 500 questions and then we were on our way.
We ended up making it into South Dakota that night and stayed there. It felt weird to be surrounded by cities again!
We just wanna get home….
After we left SD is when things starting getting kind of… interesting.
I have included this map above so you have a sense of direction for the next part of the story. And also a sense of just how far we had driven already and the somewhat short distance we had to arrive at our new home in NC.
So starting on our way on the 6th day, we had planned our route using a little different way then our TomTom GPS or Google maps wanted us to go simply because it took us through all the big cities like Minneapolis, Chicago, etc. which we kind of wanted to avoid. So our route went something like ND, SD, down the border of IA and NE into MO and over….
So leaving SD, we headed down. When we hit Iowa we saw some major flooding on the side of the interstate. And there were even parts that were sandbagged 6 ft tall to keep water off.
That is a parking lot and there was even a playground down there!
Then the signs started…. “road closed take detour,” etc. We ended up taking a detour that added 4 hours to our trip. We were trying to get down into Missouri but that just wasnt happening like we had planned. We got back on track (somehow…) and were by this time getting frustrated, tired, and soooo ready to be home. We were relieved to be back on track and made it right into MO before we called it a night. The next day, we happily continued, just happy to be back on track. We made it through St Louis and then it happened.
Cruisin on the interstate, all of a sudden we heard a loud pop and the truck died. We coasted off onto an exit that was right there (luckily). We sat helpless on the side of the exit (in farmville mind you). I wasnt positive exactly where we were but I was pretty sure we had just entered Illinois. So we smelled fuel, which was lovely, so the dog and I got out of the truck while Torrance poked around under the hood.
I am so thankful that he knows his way around mechanical stuff or else this ordeal would have been way way worse and more costly. He immediately determined that the fuel line that goes to the engine over heated and burst. The same fuel line that when they put the new engine in before we left had gotten pinched so they had to have the hose replaced.
Apparently the hose they used wasn’t quite the strength (to put it simply) that should have been used there. Multiple people stopped to try and assist but I luckily was at least able to figure out what town we were in. Albers, IL? Only 40 miles out of St Louis. I called our roadside plan to get us a tow, which on a Saturday in the middle of no where took some searching. They first told us they couldnt help us since we had a trailer we would need to unload the entire trailer for any tow company to tow us. Um… everything we owned was in there, not gonna happen – and we werent going to leave it there. It resulted in me calling them back and not mentioning the trailer at all for them to even dispatch a tow truck. Once I had the tow company’s # I immediately called them to explain the trailer situation which they had no issue with.
Finally the tow company came out (an hour and 40 minutes later) and towed us. I was so scared Kona was going to die on the side of the road because it was a record-breaking weekend for temperatures in IL apparently and it was 112 degrees on the side of the road. We were pouring water out of the coolers on her to cool her down as we waited – and then when the guy came and put the truck on the bed of his tow truck, he informed us that the dog had to ride on the tow bed IN our truck. It was probably 200 degrees in there. We had about 30 minutes of driving to do to find a hotel also. So stressful and now I was worried sick about poor Kona.
Wait, there is one more part to this towing conundrum. He put the truck up on the flatbed and then hooked the trailer up to tow it behind. Since we had 30 minutes to drive into a city to find a hotel, he informed us that the trailer lights wouldn’t hook up to his truck properly so he was not able to drive for 30 minutes without trailer lights since it is illegal. So that meant we had to tow the trailer to their shop a mile down the road and keep it stored there until the truck was running and we could come pick it up. So on top of the rest of the stress we would now be separated from everything we own and leave it sitting in a parking lot of a tiny shop, in a tiny town that we were completely unfamiliar with.
So, after dropping the trailer off we headed to that next town over and we finally found a hotel that allowed pets and had vacancy. Little did we know at the time, that hotel would be our home for the next FIVE days while the truck sat in the parking lot of the hotel completely immobile.
Searching for the part we needed to fix the truck was a little tricky because a whole metal piece and everything (not just the hose) needed to be replaced and that part is discontinued and no longer made – so our only hope to find it was a salvage yard. The closest salvage yard to where we were was at least 30 minutes away, which – we would be forced to take a cab. We called a few salvage yard around the area and none could really confirm that they had what we needed anyway.
The conclusion to that part? Torrance’s dad ended up finding the part we needed back in Alaska and had it shipped 3 day air to the hotel (which is the fastest shipping option from Alaska). So while we waited, the time we spent there was interesting because we were forced to stay within walking area which luckily included a PetSmart, FroYo, Taco Bell (ew) and Walmart (and thats about it) we had Dominoes delivered like 4 times and were pretty much bored and anxious out of our minds. We spent a lot of time doing this….
It was sad that we were so close to our new home! 2 days away!
A childhood friend (practically a brother) of Torrance’s from FL recently had moved to St Louis with his girlfriend and her 2 adorable twin sons and they drove to the hour to our hotel to visit with us one day and we went swimming in the pool and stuff. That was the good that came of that little stop as we havent seen him for over a year.
The Home Stretch
I was seriously about to cry when the package arrived at the hotel with the part. I was a little tense that maybe something would go wrong like it wouldnt fit, etc. So Torrance headed out to the parking lot (still 100+ degrees mind you) to our truck that had been sitting for 5 days, for the moment of truth to be sure it would fit (and work).
After working and sweating to death for 30 minutes it started right up and I almost cried again with happiness. Seriously, it was one of the most relieving moments of my life. We checked out of the dreaded hotel and happily continued on and drove all the way through to Tennessee that night. The hotel we ended up staying at there in TN was the only one we had stayed at the whole trip that was actually gross. And I had my first encounter with a roach there (no roaches in Alaska). I basically didnt get any sleep that night because I had visions of roaches crawling on me.
The next day, the 13th and final day of our trip was seriously the most exciting thing EVER. EVER! We didnt have quite a full day of driving but when we finally reached our exit to our new home that went pretty much right to our apartment building. I almost cried again… (listen to me, I sound like a mess). It was pretty much the most relieving and happiest moment of my life (maybe). I know Kona was relieved too since she spent 13 days doing this:
We went straight to our apartment and got our keys, brought a few things right up to the apartment and checked it out real quick (we had seen it before when we visited in February) and then we headed straight to Torrance’s uncles because his mom and grandma had flown in from FL to visit. Obviously the plan was for us to have already been there a few days before they arrived. They were a huge help and actually ended up helping us unload our trailer and get settled in during the next few days.
Oh and one last thing… since we had rented a U-Haul trailer we needed to drop it back off. Our contract was for 14 days but after our 5 day delay and by the time we unloaded i,t it had been about 20 days. While we were stranded in IL I had called them to let them know it would be back late which they said was fine and we anticipated a $100 extra fee for the late return which was fine.
Well, when we went to return it, the U-Haul guy told us that it was an interesting situation because they had record we had called to report it being returned late, but that message never got relayed to “headquarters” so apparently they had it down as they had re-rented it out to someone else but it was never returned and it was reported STOLEN. oh my gosh. Moral of story, since they messed up, we ended up not having to pay the extra $100 🙂
And now….. here we are to enjoy our new life!