Moving to Vegas: Arrival

Previous installment: Moving to Vegas: Vistas

Williams, Arizona is only about a 3.5-hour drive to Las Vegas. Knowing this, Dad and I were in no hurry to get going on this last day of our journey. We slept in a little late and went to the Denny’s next door to the hotel for breakfast.

The visit to Denny’s was unremarkable as most are.

After breakfast, we got the Crown Vic loaded back on the trailer, and got back on the road. I think Dad and I had both pretty much reached our limits of driving endurance and were ready to get off the road. It’s not an unpleasant drive, but the scenery west of Williams on I-40 isn’t nearly as nice as the scenery east of it.

We did have a decision to make about which route to take into Las Vegas. I had never been to Hoover Dam and wanted to drive over it, but had heard that due to post-9/11 terrorist paranoia, commercial traffic over the dam was forbidden. All trucks were re-routed from US Highway 93, which goes over the dam, to US Highway 95, which cuts a different route through Laughlin, Nevada and then up to Las Vegas.

Not sure if our moving truck was considered commercial or not, we decided to take the safer, if less scenic route. There was no sense getting stuck in security lines at the dam, or worse, being turned back and having to take a 150-mile detour.

With our route set, we drove.

My notes on this leg of the journey are sparse, which I think was caused by the desire to Simply Get There. In the intervening years, I have driven this route a few times, and it’s nothing really exciting anyway. Once you get a few miles west of Laughlin and turn onto US 95, it’s a straight shot north through some Southern Nevada desert.

We would be approaching Las Vegas form the south, coming up US Highway 95 until it met US Highway 93 near Boulder City, NV. The only notable thing on this route is Searchlight, NV (home of the truly awful and evil US Senator Harry Reid). If you’re driving throughSearchlight, slow down to the speed limit. Not one over. Do the speed limit. They also frequently put a mannequin in a patrol car on the edge of town, but sometimes it’s a human. Just watch your speed carefully in Searchlight, endure it for 5 or so minutes and you’ll be fine.

Once past Searchlight, it was more driving on US 95. Eventually we met up with US 93, took a left, and then it was onto I-515 to I-215, getting off at the Stephanie St. exit.  A short drive on surface streets and we’re there.

This last part of the route is amazing the first time you drive it. Once you turn from US 95 onto US 93, there are some signs of civilization. As US 93 turns into I-515, you see more civilization, but nothing too big or jaw-droppingly wonderful. About two miles from the I-215 junction, you pass over a crest and the entire Vegas valley suddenly appears.

It’s large. It’s impressive.

So here we were, about ten minutes away from my new life in Las Vegas and I was already in awe of the place. We arrived safely at our brand-spanking new condo on time. Sheri, her mom, and Grandma were all there waiting for us. I was thrilled to see my wife, and happy to be off the road with have access to home-cooked food.

Unpacking was out of the question that day. Instead, I ate a great lunch in an empty condo. There was an inflatable mattress set up in the master bedroom. After lunch, I went upstairs and took a nap.

I was in Vegas. I was home.

Moving to Vegas: More Driving

Previous Installment: Moving to Vegas: The Search for Rest

It was day 2 on the road from Orlando to Las Vegas. We had made excellent time on day one despite some rain. Day 2 looked like it was going to turn into another fine day of driving with Dad. I figured since this was my show, I was obligated to do more driving than Dad. I took the first shift again. This was also nice because I usually got to take a post-lunch nap if I felt like it. Well as much nap as you can get in a moving truck.

As we started, Louisiana was still intact. Katrina was days behind us, so the drive out of state was a quick one: about 90 minutes or so. That’s when we hit Texas. For those who have been to Texas, you know everything is bigger there. It just is. And Texas itself is big. Very big. Big in a way that you can’t drive through the thing in a day big.

Texas also doesn’t look like I thought it would. The stereotype in my mind was that Texas is all pickup trucks and longhorn steers. We saw enough of those, but there are also lovely mountains, sloping hills, plains, and pretty much any other geological configuration you can imagine. Despite the fact that it seems to take forever to drive through Texas, it’s a drive worth taking.

At a little before 1:00pm we reached Dallas, which is a huge city. It sprawls on and on and on. As beautiful as the mountains and other scenery were, Dallas was impressive for its sheer size. We didn’t even drive through downtown. We simply skirted around on one of the many loops around the city. The drivers are a bit crazy and aggressive, but nothing we couldn’t manage. After all, we were in a state that thrives on BIG and we were bigger than most. When driving a Honda Civic, a jacked-up F250 can be intimidating. When driving 25-foot Penske truck with a Crown Victoria in tow on a trailer, the F250s get out of YOUR way. It’s nice.

When in Texas, if you’re in a city, you’re in a city, damn it. But when you’re in the country, you’re in the middle of nowhere. It can get lonely out there. Miles and miles and miles of straight, mostly-flat road and some fields were pretty much the order of the day. The long stretches of nothing were occasionally punctuated by a train on the tracks that ran parallel to the roads we were taking.

I have always loved trains, but that’s probably a story for another day. By some odd coincidence while a Floridian I have always lived very close to active train tracks. Usually within a mile or two and nearly always close enough to hear them as they come through. Because of this continual proximity and the youthful like of All Things Railroad, I have find train whistles rather comforting. But I digress.

The trains in Florida were about a 50-50 mix of passenger and freight. The passenger trains would wheel through quickly and be gone within a minute or two of their initial audible approach. The freight trains lasted a bit longer, but were usually gone within 5 minutes or so.

Staying with the Texas is BIG theme, they had some mighty long trains there. One train had politely stopped on the tracks and enabled me to gauge its approximate length at 2.3 miles using the truck’s odometer. This particular train was carrying hundreds of cars with shipping containers, some double-stacked. We also saw at least four other long-ass-trains (LATs) that were carrying exclusively coal that day. It was really impressive, especially when I did a quick mental calculation of how many semi trucks would be on the road if all this cargo were loaded onto trucks rather than trains.

Thanks to the trains, this absence of trucks hauling stuff on “our” interstate made for easy driving. At this point, we were well north of Dallas and Ft. Worth, probably 50 miles or so. It was past 1:30pm and we hadn’t had lunch. Two Mospaw tummies rumbling in a truck is not a good thing, so it was decided that it was lunch time.

Another rule of this trip was to avoid national chains unless absolutely necessary; to try to eat in places that reflected the local flavor a little bit. Unsure what the local flavor in the middle of Nowhere, TX was, we relied on the roadside signs with the blue backgrounds and friendly white text that told you what kind of food, lodging, and fuel (if any) were available at the next exit.

In a “town” called Sunset, TX, there was one such eating establishment listed on the sign, Jack and Coco’s Diamond S Café. (I could have the names wrong, since I didn’t write them down, but I’ll call them Jack and Coco to keep it consistent.) We were hungry, and since this was about the only place we were likely to encounter for the next hour or so, we stopped in.

At this point, we were on US highway 287. It’s not an Interstate, but looks and drives like one, complete with limited access. We took the exit. Each exit, as you know, typically has four corners. At these exits, you usually expect to see two or three corners occupied with gas stations, convenience stores, perhaps a restaurant, and maybe one undeveloped corner when out in God’s Country.

This was apparently a few miles beyond God’s Country, since only one corner was occupied. By a small building. And on the small building was a small sign that read Jack and Coco’s Café.

This was local flavor.

Although it didn’t look too bad or run-down on the outside, the place was surprisingly clean and bright inside. There was a man in a scooter chair with his wife at one table, a gentleman sipping a huge glass of iced tea, talking on a cell phone at another, and a lone waitress/cook/chief bottle washer milling about and taking care of everyone.

Dad and I selected a table and sat down, waiting for acknowledgment from the waitress/cook/chief bottle washer who turned out to be Coco of Jack and Coco’s Diamond S Café fame, one of the owners.

When you’re on the road, you have a bit of a “hurry up” mentality. It’s not really rushing so much as when you sit down, you want whatever you are about to do – be it eating, pooping, or driving – to take place as quickly and efficiently as possible, without getting too hurried. In other words, you’re not going all out, but you’re not relaxing, either. It’s pretty much the attitude of wanting to keep up a good pace at everything so as not to lose momentum, both physical and mental.

Unfortunately, Coco didn’t know about this. Despite not doing much, it took her easily five minutes to come over and get our drink orders and drop off a couple of menus.

The gentleman with the tea on the phone was quietly chatting away, taking the occasional sip of tea. Further inspection of his table revealed that there were a couple of one-dollar bills and some random change in a pile, presumably a tip. From all appearances, he was done as a customer and was simply soaking up the air conditioning and finishing his tea while taking the opportunity to chitty-chat on the phone. Coco didn’t seem to mind, but she also didn’t have to pay him any attention and didn’t.

Apparently Dad and I weren’t interesting enough to warrant any attention or order gathering, so Coco focused on the older couple who were preparing to leave. Now when I prepare to leave a restaurant, it’s usually a 15-second thing. Grunt at Sheri along the lines of “You ready?”, heft my mass into the air, and walk out. This couple was different. The gentleman in the scooter apparently really needed to be in that scooter. He was barely able to move on his own. Any part of him. I mean no disrespect, but damn he was slow. Mrs. Old-Man-In-The-Scooter made sure that their belongings were properly gathered before leaving. This was all done very quietly and with a minimum of fuss. Unless you were looking for it, you might have missed it. Even with basically nothing going on, it was still enough fuss that Coco decided that she needed to supervise the entire process of these folks leaving.

Roughly seven minutes later (which seemed more like 3 1/2 weeks on the “Waiting for Something to Happen in a Reasonable Time but Knowing it Won’t” Scale) the old folks were properly hugged, kissed, led through the door, loaded into their van and on their merry way.

At least our drinks had been delivered previously, so that we had liquid sustenance while watching this slow motion parade. Mr. Cell-Phone-and-Iced-Tea was still quietly chatting. He may have been a fixture. While he chatted, we waited.

Next Installment: Moving to Vegas: Waiting for Lunch

Moving to Vegas: The Search for Rest

Previous Installment: Moving to Vegas: The Drive Begins

The first day of driving was nearly over, but we still had miles to go before we could rest.

It was at this gas station that I discovered one really huge annoyance of $2.60 diesel fuel and 35-gallon fill-ups beyond the simple math of paying nearly $100 for a tank of fuel and knowing I would need about 9 of them to make this trip. I discovered that my credit cards (debit cards actually) only pre-approved $75.00 on most pumps, which meant two transactions and two receipts for each fill up.

I don’t need this, but what can I do? I grinned and put up with it. Pump $75. Switch cards, pump another $25 or so. Bleh.

We weren’t exactly lost but we sure weren’t any closer to the Ramada we were seeking. Even asking for directions from the clerk in the store didn’t help.

“Three lights up and then right” is what we were told.

Three lights up and then right is what we did. And a few blocks later, no Ramada was in sight.

So after a chorus of “fuck its” from Dad and me, we chose a new hotel: the Holiday Inn. This one was right by the main exit and we remembered seeing it. And they had a restaurant and pool, although no Continental Breakfast. Even though it was $69 a night, it was still within budget, as long as we found cheaper accommodations the next night. We would just have to do without pastries and juice the next day.

I used to travel a lot for business, and usually checking into a hotel is about five minutes of work. Of course, this usually done with a clerk who has been on the job for a while and knows their job. That wasn’t my luck this particular evening. I got a very friendly clerk who had been on the job for about three weeks and still did stuff by the book, and I mean that literally.

She didn’t do a damn thing without paging through a three-ring binder and making sure that the procedure she was undertaking was the correct one, followed to the very last letter. And she liked to double check things, sometimes twice.

After twenty-five minutes (conservative estimate) of checking in, I asked where I could park my truck, since with the trailer, I was a bit more than 45 feet in length. He response was “Oh Jesus!”. Now I know I told her ahead of time I had a large truck, but I guess in the nearly half-hour of looking stuff up in her magical instruction book, she forgot about this. Now we had to re-assign me room so that I could park reasonably close to it. UGH.

I admit I’m not a patient guy, but I’m pretty proud of myself. I kept my cool during this ordeal. I didn’t get sarcastic. I didn’t get angry. I didn’t even ask for someone who could take care of this before we had to check out. I suspect 13 hours in the cab of a truck and a fruitless search in questionable neighborhoods for a non-existent Ramada makes one tired enough that being clever doesn’t matter so much as securing appropriate lodging for the evening.

Despite my patience, half-an-hour of checking in is ridiculous by any standards. I did ask for some sort of little thank you for putting up with this. Since they had a restaurant and bar, I figured a couple of drink coupons would work. Drinks would take the edge off. So I asked if I could have a few.

According to “The Great Book of All Things Holiday Inn” (of course she looked up what to do when a customer has been delayed unreasonably, called you on it, and wants drink coupons) the only way she could issue drink coupons was if I joined their frequent guest club, whatever it’s called. I forget the exact name, but it’s something important-sounding like “Priority Club” or “Presidential Lackeys” or some such thing. And that’s when I remembered that I was already a member since I had stayed at several Holiday Inns in the course of business a few years ago.

After seven more minutes of fruitless searching, she couldn’t find my name, despite the fact that there cannot be that many other Chris Mospaws who ever lived or worked at the three addresses I gave her.

Sigh.

I filled out my application and got my coupon … good for $6 at the bar. I’m not sure it was worth the effort, but it was a small victory.

This woman absolutely would not budge on price, either. I reminded her that half hour of time it took her to check me in at the rates I charged my customers at the time is worth nearly the price of the room, but it was still no go on any discount. Since I had room keys and $6 worth of drinking to do, I decided it wasn’t worth further effort to save a buck.

I suspect one of the other clerks would have done me better, but one thing that you can’t do is make a fuss in a hotel lobby. It simply doesn’t do anybody any good, especially at 9:00pm. Doubly so when you’re tired and cranky, and there really weren’t any other viable hotel options within a reasonable distance (in other words, within sight).

Of course, if the room was in perfect shape that would be in someone else’s story, so no fears there. The room needed, um, help. It was old and tired, kind of like Dad and me at this point. There was a piece of shower stall missing and an ugly mildewed area of broken caulk left in its place. The coffee maker looked OK except that the pot was gone. At least the sheets were clean and the pillows didn’t stink. Either that or my senses were failing one by one, with smell going first.

We had a couple of minutes to soak in the luxury and grandeur of our room when my favorite hotel clerk called to make sure the room was OK. I was honest and told her it wasn’t really OK, but that getting a new one would take too damn long and that we didn’t want to deal with changing room and having yet another delay. I didn’t even bother asking for a reduction in room rate at this point. I was tired and defeated. It was time for dinner and then sleep.

Dad and I went over to the bar and ordered our scotches. This was after having a couple in the room to prime things. Nothing on the menu of snack foods sounded too appealing, so we decided to drink dinner instead. We each had two, and the bartender, who was kind of cute, decided to buy us a third round. I don’t remember her name, but the third scotch at the bar sure tasted nice and had the desired effect.

I slept well.

Next Installment: Moving to Vegas: More Driving

Moving to Vegas: The Drive Begins

Previous Installment: Moving to Vegas: Getting out of Orlando

I started the day by checking my cell phone voice mail and was relieved that Sheri and Pepper had arrived safely in Las Vegas and were already as settled in the new house as they could be with no furniture.

Remember how Pepper had received half a pill of Kitty Valium for the flight? Apparently Pepper had spit out her relaxation pill, since Sheri found it when Pepper was let out of her bag. I guess she didn’t need it. Pepper behaved the entire way and only had a few audible complaints during the five-hour flight. Happy with the knowledge that the girls were safely in place and awaiting us, it was time to get driving.

I had driven before from Central Florida to points in the Northeast, such as Boston, MA and Buffalo, NY. Twelve-hundred miles isn’t too bad of a drive. We were looking at nearly twenty-five hundred from Dad’s house to Las Vegas. In order not to push too hard, Dad and I had planned on 48 hours of driving over four days, meaning 12 hours a day, give or take.

No sense brooding: we got going.

Dad and I decided that each person’s share of driving would be a tank of fuel, which would last around 300 miles. At an estimated average of 60 MPH, that would be five hours per tank. I took the first tank, which would nearly get us out of Florida. It took about 100 miles to get used to the truck and its size. It also took about that long to get the nervousness of the fact that all of my worldly possessions were behind me and one wrong move could end in expensive, painful disaster.

Even with insurance, you never shake that precarious feeling. It’s best to not think about what you’re up to and just get on with doing it. I simply pretended that we had a load of artificial gopher pelts and that was that.

With Dad at the wheel and Florida behind us we made easy time through Alabama and Mississippi. I took the wheel again mid-afternoon and that’s when the rain appeared. I’m not sure if it began in Mississippi or Louisiana, but it started raining. And it wasn’t the nice, gentle rain they use in commercials, but the angry end-of-the-world rain that Noah could probably write about. Having lived in the South for a good sixteen years, the virulence of this rain didn’t surprise me much, and I knew it wouldn’t last too long. At least that was the hope.

The first hundred miles were exciting and long past us. Dad and I were both used to the truck and had more or less settled in for the diesel droning on for another 2,000 miles of driving. Comfort is a dangerous thing, because you get lulled into a false sense of security, as they say. Plus, comfort and security can so easily be taken from you. And sure enough, the rain brought a whole new dimension to the driving, removing any sense of either comfort of security that I had been lulled into. Humans are adaptable, though, and it didn’t take too long to get adjusted to driving in the rain.

And even that got ruined when an asshole in a black Volvo sedan came out of nowhere way too fast and then cut me off, slamming on his brakes. He had to show me that I was in the wrong lane (his lane) or something.

Here I was comfortably into the artificial gopher pelt fantasy and this jerk ruined it. There’s nothing like being in the cab of a large truck and having a car cut you off and slam on his brakes.

In the pouring frickin’ rain.

I did have thoughts of hitting him for half a second, since I knew we were insured to the hilt, but a little filter in my head took over and I thought better of it, mainly because I didn’t want any delays at this point. I didn’t even get the satisfaction of turning my brights on since they were already on thanks to the vacationing non-bright headlights.

I guess the best I could do was send out some really bad Karma to Mr. Black Volvo Driver. I’m sure he got his. Maybe the next Penske truck he cut of in the rain didn’t have such good brakes.

As the hours passed, one of the duties of the guy in the navigator’s seat was to keep track of where we were, but also to estimate where we might end up for the night and find a coupon for appropriate lodging in one of the coupon books we had picked up at the welcome center. For our first night on the road, we had decided to stay in Lafayette, LA.

Our timing was good. We were traveling a few days before Hurricane Katrina was a threat to Florida, much less the Gulf Coast area.

The coupon book had an ad for a Ramada in Lafayette at a mere $48.99 a night. And they had Continental Breakfast and a pool! Those were among the amenities we wanted in addition to being well within budget. We got off at the proper exit and started following the directions to the Ramada. And this is where we goofed.

We should have read the full list of directions first. They were a lot like the kind you hear about in jokes, where they tell you to drive past the barn that used to be painted yellow and take the third left past where the school that burned down used to be. Nothing was in the present tense. Nothing was even remotely correct. Helen Keller could have written better directions. Drunk.

As the futile search for the Ramada progressed, we also noticed that the neighborhood was slowly getting “not so nice”. And there was the fact that the truck was getting a bit thirsty.

Since the truck was thirsty, we decided that finding a place to fuel up took precedence over finding a place to sleep. After all, 25,000 pounds of truck, possessions, car and trailer ain’t gonna get pushed. At least by me.

During our search for fuel, we passed a car vs. motorcycle accident. The emergency personnel were already on-scene and we didn’t see it happen, so there wasn’t much we could do but carefully drive by, gawk, and hope it wasn’t a harbinger of things to come for the trip. A few blocks later, and a few more rungs down the socio-economic ladder, we found a gas station that sold diesel and pulled in.

Ahh, near-civilization. They had plenty of fuel and beef jerky.

Next Installment: Moving to Vegas: The Search for Rest

Moving to Vegas: Getting out of Orlando

Previous Installment: Moving to Vegas: Packing

It was moving day. So far the mover had hit on my wife, left without us really having everything packed and put on the truck, and time was running out to get Sheri and Pepper to the airport for their flight to our new home in Vegas.

And as time ran completely out, we got saved.

A $20 bill handed to a very nice neighbor got the leftover trash and stuff from the house taken care of. We left a key with her and gave some verbal instructions that I can only hope were relatively coherent. I know I wasn’t at my best.

I did have to leave behind a my hot sauce collection, and I’m a bit pissed about that, but you have to make sacrifices. One learns what’s necessary and what’s merely “wants”. Hot sauce can be repurchased.

At the end of the day, we had everything packed that we needed to, and a means to get the condo empty for its new owner. We even managed to leave behind a few goodies for him. This generosity may not necessarily have been planned in advance, but I’m sure he will appreciate the dishes, hot sauce collection, home automation computer, and other artifacts of our life.

It was high time to get the Sheri and Pepper to the airport. Actually, the time to get Sheri and Pepper to the airport time was 6:00pm, and it now a bit past 6:30. But what can you do? I have many powers, but turning back time isn’t one of them.

At least the flight wasn’t until 9:20pm. The extra window was to allow time for taking a cat through security at the Orlando airport. Orlando’s airport is one of the busiest in the world. Sometimes the security line can be a bit long an daunting, despite the TSA’s efforts to keep things running smoothly.

All of our possessions were semi-neatly packed into a 25-foot Penske truck, with my car out back on a trailer. Driving to the airport in a 25-foot Penske truck with a car on a trailer probably wasn’t in the cards, post 9/11 paranoia being strong in August 2005. We were fortunate to have friends who lived fairly close to the airport where we could park the truck while I dropped off Sheri and Pepper. Unfortunately, the friends weren’t able to drive us to the airport, so I had to go through the process of unloading the car, then load the girls into it, and go.

Our vet was give us some Kitty Valium so that Pepper could enjoy a nice relaxing flight. About an hour before we got to the airport, I gave her half of the pill as instructed. As cats do, she resisted, but I know she got it down.

I had requested a gate pass a few weeks ahead of time in order to help the girls through security. Gate passes are apparently the Willy Wonka Golden Ticket of airports. They simply don’t hand them out unless you’re really lucky. The TSA doesn’t issue them, either. Only the airlines can do that, and they’re loathe to do so since it’s not something they do that often. Nothing like a self-fulfilling loathing to keep things easy for travelers with pets and those who might need an assistant.

Further adding to the fun, gate passes are only good on the day issued, and there was no way to get one in advance. The only result of hours traversing the Byzantine gate pass system was a name to use when checking in, this person stating that my pass would be issued. I had no other information and no paperwork.

Armed with only this person’s name, we approached the check-in counter. (Mercifully, there was been no line, so we walked right up.) I must have looked like Death Warmed Over since the gate clerk looked upon me with a combination of pity and disgust. It nearly broke through her thin façade of professionalism. It only lasted a split second, but I saw it.

When I requested a gate pass, the façade disappeared completely and I got the look reserved for children who have pooped themselves and people who clearly don’t know their place. That look continued until I used the name of the person who I was told had approved my gate pass two weeks previously. That was one magical name: I suddenly became “sir” and was told that she had to check with her manager.

After about two minutes, we were checked in and I had my gate pass in hand. I don’t know what the person whose name I used does for Delta Airlines in Orlando, but with Delta Airlines, he’s got clout.

Thank you, sir.

Happily checked in with the airline and proud owner of a newly-minted gate pass, we now had the TSA security line to deal with. I usually feel dread at the prospect of going through these lines. In this case, I had more than two weeks of anticipation built up for taking a cat through it. Dread doesn’t even come close to what I was feeling.

Sure, all the Reasonable Preparations in the Universe had been made. Of course we had our Sherpa Pet Carrier bag (we’re good Yuppies, after all) to safely transport Pepper through the airport. The megadread was sprouting from the knowledge that Pepper would have to be removed from her Sherpa bag and carried through the security gate. By a person. By me. No X-rays for kitty. Apparently glowing pets are not on the TSA’s list of goals.

Fortunately, the terminal and security line were almost entirely bereft of fliers that night, so we got right to the line.

The big moment had arrived.

I had prepared: Non-metallic shoes, no keys, no change, no watch or wedding band. Pepper already had her harness on and I popped her leash on through a small opening in the bag. I asked the TSA agent if there was any possible way that we would not have to take her out of the bag and he said that it was procedure that she had to come out since the bag itself had to be X-rayed.

Of course it’s procedure. How silly of me to expect anything but frickin’ procedure from a government employee, especially the TSA.

Faced with no other option in the face of wonderful bureaucracy, I relented. Out Pepper came.

Did I mention that Pepper is affectionate, but basically hates being held for more than eight nanoseconds?

I was ready for claws, anger, and a cat on a leash with a harness. Cats don’t care for leashes: they turn into vectors. Vectors that try to go in any straight line away form the source of the leash.

But I was ready. Here goes!

Instead of a crazed and angry feline, I got a happy, purring cat who didn’t even put up a fuss. A few steps through the metal detector and we were through. The Sherpa bag was right behind, and Pepper got stuffed in before she had a chance to object.

Aside from a little nervous growling, she was perfectly fine and happy.

I was nearly in tears and close to shock. I suspect I was simply too tired to cry or slip fully into shock. My body and mind were overwhelmed with fatigue at this point. Two weeks of preparation had apparently paid off. Thanks, Pepper. (I made sure she got bacon as a treat – her favorite – as soon as was practical.)

I suspect that this day I had walked more than 5 miles. My feet were shot and my thighs were on fire. I was walking as bow-legged as I could without being too obvious, Pepper in her bag. Sheri and I made it to her gate with time to spare and we kissed good-bye.

Getting back to our friends’ house and loading the car was uneventful, but a bit dirty. At this point, cleanliness wasn’t even an issue. I was too tired to care.

It was now after dark. When I got ready to leave in the Penske truck, I turned on the headlights. Nothing happened.

“OK, maybe there’s a secret headlight switch.”

Look around.

“Nope.”

More looking.

“Oh hey! Lookee this! The high beams work.”

But no low beams. Zero. Zilch. Nada.

“Let me try that again. Nope. Still nothing on the low-beam side. Plenty of high beams, though. Good, strong, bright high beams. High beams it shall be!”

There was no way I was calling for such a small repair item on the truck. I wasn’t about to take the risk of someone at Penske saying “we’ll get you a new truck, but you’ll have to unload and reload.”

If that had happened, only a gun would have been loaded and unloaded.

Since my father had volunteered to drive out to Vegas with me, it was time to go see him. Dad lives about 45 minutes from Orlando, so I had a little drive ahead of me. The plan was to meet Dad at his house, sleep there, and leave first thing in the morning.

As dead tired as I was, my second wind actually had arrived about the same time I dropped off Sheri and Pepper at the airport. I made it to Dad’s without incident, unless you count the 20 minute delay on I-4 because of construction.

Actually, the delay didn’t bother me too much, but the poor guy ahead of me in the Nissan Altima from Georgia didn’t appreciate my high beams. For that, I’m genuinely sorry. There wasn’t much I could do or frankly was willing to do at that point.

Anyway, once settled at Dad’s, I was too wired to sleep, but managed to force myself to get about three hours before we left Wednesday morning.

Next Installment: Moving to Vegas: The Drive Begins

Moving to Vegas: Prologue

No, we’re not moving back to Las Vegas. Far far from it. Our Las Vegas Adventure is over. It ended in May 2012 when Sheri and I moved to Denver, CO.

I try to no longer judge things as “good” or “bad”, since everything is a learning experience. Without the sum total of what I have done and my life experiences, I wouldn’t be who I am today. That said, my preference is Denver over Las Vegas. Simply: it’s nicer in Denver.

That isn’t to say I suffered in Vegas. I had a lot of fun there, learned a quite a bit, made a little money, and met great people who have become friends.

One of my favorite parts of The Vegas Adventure was actually moving there. My father bravely volunteered to help me drive the moving truck, all of my wife’s and my worldly possessions, as well as my newly-purchased Crown Victoria in tow from Orlando, FL to Las Vegas. Sheri wisely chose to avoid this multi-day male bonding session and flew to Vegas with our cat Pepper to wait for Dad and me as we drove. Her Mom and Grandma who lived in Southern California met her in Vegas and keep her company.

I found my journal of the moving drive, which I posted more than seven years ago on another blog. I have edited it and added a bit from memory. I will be posting the entirety of the story over the next week or so, one installment a day.

Next Installment: Moving to Vegas: Packing