Saturday, June 28, 2008

Day 4

June 27, 2008

12:20 pm

Today is the last day of our voyage. It’s a good thing too, as I think the animals are getting a little restless (both the 4-legged and the two-legged kinds). We stayed the night at the KOA in Tucumcari, New Mexico, and are currently driving on I-40 west towards Albuquerque. We haven’t gone 100 miles yet and have already stopped three times. The first time was to take care of human needs – bottled water, some fruit. So we stopped at a grocery store in Tucumcari before getting on the freeway.

But we had to stop twice more once we got underway to take care of animal needs. Josie was acting very restless – would lie down for 2-3 minutes, get up and move around, lie down again, get up and circle the floor of the RV, etc. So I told Mark to stop at the upcoming rest stop so I could see if Josie needed to go out. And sure enough, she did. She obviously isn’t feeling real well and would alternate taking care of business with throwing up. It’s no wonder she didn’t want her breakfast again this morning.

After it seemed she was done, and the girls were all back in the RV (they took advantage of the rest stop too), we started on the road again. But we hadn’t gone 10 minutes when Josie started throwing up again, this time all over the floor of the RV. I cleaned that up, and then she started the whole circling thing and looking anxiously at the door. So I told Mark to stop at the next exit so I could take Josie out again. And sure enough, she needed to go. The poor dog must have been holding everything for days! But once she finished and got back in the RV, she seemed to settle right down for a nap, so I think she’s ok now.

I was worried at the beginning of this voyage that the RV would smell by the time we got to Arizona. Actually, smell hasn’t been a problem at all. I’ve cleaned the litter box twice every day, and Emily has been cleaning the guinea pig carrier daily. So no, smell isn’t a problem.

Cat hair is. It’s everywhere, on everything. I wipe off the counter and stovetop, turn around to wipe something else off, and by the time I go back to the counter, it’s covered with cat hair again. It’s a losing battle. It’s in the air, like a light haze in the RV. There’s dog hair too, but it’s heavier and coarser, so it doesn’t float around in the air, but just sticks to everything she lies on, like the couch or the spot between the driver’s seat and the passenger’s seat, where she is currently curled up, sleeping.

I know cats shed. With three cats in the family, I deal with cat hair at home all the time. Regular vacuuming usually takes care of things. But at home, the cat hair is spread out over an entire house, not concentrated in a 30 ft long, 8 ft wide confined space like this RV. You take three cats in that space for 3 ½ days, add in some summer heat (which adds to shedding), throw in some stress (which adds to shedding) and pretty soon you have enough loose cat hair floating around and clinging to everything in sight to cover an entire fourth cat if we had one. And no, I’m not suggesting we get a 4th cat.

I guess I’ll be doing some serious vacuuming in this RV tomorrow morning before we return it.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

We finally arrived in Gilbert, Arizona, at our new home, at 10 pm last night. It was a VERY long day – almost 12 hours of driving (and stopping…). We ended up deciding to take the longer but safer route on I-40 to Flagstaff, then I-17 to Phoenix. And I’m glad we did, since it is hard enough to handle the mountains in the RV on interstates. I can’t imagine maneuvering the mountains on the back roads.

We stopped along the way, a lot. Poor Josie continued to be sick, over and over again. I think it was just car sickness, after 3 days of moving like that. But alternating throwing up and diarrhea for hours and hours was not fun, for her or me, and added significantly to our driving time. She seems better today, no more expelling of bodily fluids.

All the other animals seemed to survive the journey just fine. Bit the fish made it fine, the parakeets are fine and happy to be out of that RV shower stall, and the cats are having a great time exploring the new house. Emily’s guinea pigs are fine too, and happy to be out of that little carrier they’ve been cooped up in for 4 days.

After such a long day and being excited to finally get home, we were dismayed to find that the upstairs air conditioner in the house had quit working. The bedrooms all are upstairs (except for Rosie’s), and the temperature upstairs was 93. We put a call into the home warranty service the owner put in place for us, but of course no one answered (despite their promise of 24/7 response) and we had to leave a message. The contract we have says they have to fix problems within 48 hours. Well, 48 hours is a long time to be without an air conditioner in Phoenix in the summer! We all slept downstairs last night (couches, floor, etc.) and will again tonight and until the AC gets fixed. It also makes it hard to get motivated to do any unpacking upstairs, since it’s just too hot up there to be doing anything.

Emily and her friend Krystal were eager to try out the swimming pool, and were in it at 11 pm last night. They were back in this morning, along with Sarah. Sarah kept commenting to me that “I really think I can live in this house for 2 years!” (we have a 2-year lease). She really likes it. Emily seems pretty happy with the house, and especially the pool. Rosie, it's hard to say. She hasn't been in the pool yet. She's mostly been parked on the family room couch, online with her laptop, chatting with friends back in Michigan. Luckily she leaves for Vietnam on July 7, so she'll be distracted away from her sadness over leaving Michigan.

This morning I had to clean out the RV, and sure enough, the cat hair proved challenging. But lots of vacuuming and wiping down of surfaces did the trick, and at 11 am this morning, we returned the land ark to the rental place.

We have officially ended the Voyage of the Land Ark, with all 6 humans and 9 animals safely transported to Gilbert, Arizona to being our new lives in the Southwest.


Thursday, June 26, 2008

Day 3

June 26, 2008

Today’s voyage started in Joplin, Missouri and went through Oklahoma, including Tulsa and Oklahoma City, through the panhandle of Texas and Amarillo, and into New Mexico, ending at Tucumcari, New Mexico. I had never heard of Tucumcari before (though Mark tells me it’s in an early 70s country rock song called “Willin’”), and I didn’t pick it for any reason other than the fact that there was a KOA there and it was about 1/3 of the distance from West Lafayette, Indiana to Gilbert Arizona , and I divided that distance up into 3 more or less equal parts. Today was the longest of those three parts, at 586 miles. (Though tomorrow is 585 miles -- I did a good job dividing the trip up into equal parts!)

The truck driver transporting our cars to Arizona called yesterday, and he’ll be delivering the two to our house in Arizona today. Joby, the realtor who leased the house to us, was kind enough to offer to meet the truck and receive the cars. So that will be nice to arrive and already have our cars.

Today’s drive was every bit as long as yesterday’s. But in some ways it seemed longer. For most of Oklahoma and all of the Texas panhandle, the scenery was so boring. Just endless miles of nothing. No hills, no trees, very infrequent towns. You could look out either side of the vehicle and see clear to the horizon. I can see why people used to think the world was flat.

For much of the drive it was very windy. And it was a cross-wind, coming from the south and blowing everything northward. It was one of those places where the scrub trees grow at a permanently bent- over angle, from the constant blowing of the wind. They looked like stooped old men. One cool thing about the wind and the landscape – we did see a number of “wind farms” where there were literally hundreds of windmills. And they were not the old-fashioned kind you think of on postcards and in movies. These were the modern ones – big, tall, silver, with only 3 blades on them. And they were spinning fast. It made me curious how wind power is actually converted into electricity.

And why don’t they have wind powered vehicles?? Driving so long in the strong cross-winds was very hard on the gas mileage, even harder than the hills in Missouri. This last tank of gas we only got 5.68 mpg. Wow. The cheapest gas we’ve gotten was $3.64 a gallon and the most expensive was $4.09. So it’s pretty damned expensive to drive an RV across the country!

As we crossed into New Mexico, the landscape started to change. You can see small mountains and mesas in the distance. Lots of red clay earth. But still very windy. In fact, as I sit in the RV writing this post, the wind is rocking the vehicle back and forth. I hope I can sleep! I’ll have to pretend it’s like a cradle rocking.

Josie ate dinner eagerly, after dumping out her breakfast with disdain. Frinka still seems a bit reluctant to eat. He meowed for his wet food (a special Science Diet for cats with kidney trouble), but when I gave him some, he sniffed it, took a bite or two, and walked away. I’ll try again later, maybe with a fresh can of food.

The other two cats seem to be doing well. Mistey has calmed down a lot and is no longer trying to escape out the front windshield. At first, she seemed to think that was a way out of the Ark and would try to climb over Mark and me to get to the windshield. And she howled and howled and tried to hide under anything she could find. But today she was out, just lying like a cat in the middle of the RV floor, not howling, not clawing her way to the windshield. Just cat-napping like cats do. So I guess she’s adapting. We’re still careful when we open the RV’s cabin door to make sure she is locked in the bathroom first, just in case she has any ideas of escaping from the Ark.

The human passengers on the Ark seem a little tired and cranky, but holding up pretty well. One more long day of driving and we’ll be at our new home. And tomorrow’s drive should be more interesting than today’s, as we cross through New Mexico and into Arizona. It looks like we should have some nice views as we head southwest in Arizona towards Gilbert.

I am a little worried about the route Mapquest suggested, as it is on secondary roads quite a bit in Arizona. The route is definitely shorter than it would be if we went all the way to Flagstaff on I-40 and then headed south into Phoenix on I-17. I think I’ll look around on the internet and try to get a sense of the routing options. I don’t want to be driving this big RV on 2-lane, mountainous, windy roads. We’re almost home, so let’s try to get there in one piece.

Day 2

June 25, 2008

Today’s trip took us from West Lafayette, Indiana to Joplin, Missouri (about 4 miles east of the Oklahoma border). We traveled through St. Louis right at afternoon rush hour, which wasn’t good in terms of traffic and time, but we had wonderful views of the arch and the Mississippi river, which the girls hadn’t seen before. So that was cool, and Emily was snapping photos out the RV window. Unfortunately, this trip isn’t about sightseeing, but just about getting all of us from Michigan to Arizona. So we don’t have time to stop and look around other than what we can see out the RV windows.

The views driving through Missouri were nice too – hills and valleys of the Ozarks. Unfortunately, this RV is so big and weighted down that it struggles on hills. It would kick into overdrive frequently in order to make it up a hill, and every time it did so, I could just imagine the gas getting sucked out of the tank. And I was right. When we filled up in Joplin and I figured the gas mileage for the day, it was 6.5 mpg. Ouch. Filling this baby up takes about $200, and it doesn’t go much farther on a tank of gas than our regular cars do. But this tank holds 55 gallons!

The animals are holding up pretty well. Josie (the dog) seems a little unsettled in the stomach from all the driving. She ate her dinner, but didn’t want her breakfast, which is very unusual for her. She just picked up her food dish in her teeth and dumped her breakfast all over the RV’s floor. That’s her signal that she doesn’t want to eat right now. Maybe the fish tank water didn’t agree with her…

Mistey and Moochie (cats) seem to be doing all right, eating and all. They’ve been good about using the litter box (yea!) and I’ve been good about scooping it out frequently so it doesn’t stink (double yea!) Mistey is the skittish cat, so we have to lock her in the bathroom anytime we’re stopped and someone is getting in or out of the RV’s cabin, otherwise she’s likely to shoot out the door and disappear.

Frinka, the old cat (17 years old) is very calm and seems to be adjusting pretty well. He constantly wants to be sitting on someone’s lap, which is no different than at home. But I’m worried because he doesn’t seem to want to eat now (he did at the beginning of the trip). I don’t want him getting dehydrated (because of his kidney problems), so I’ll probably need to give him his sub-cutaneous fluids soon. I brought all the supplies on the RV (needles, lactated ringers), so I am prepared.

The parakeets stay in the shower (in their cage) so we can shut the shower door most of the way and keep the cats from terrorizing them. I’m not sure if they like the swaying of the moving vehicle, but I hear them alternately sing and squawk, which is also no different than at home, so I assume that means they’re doing ok.

And the guinea pigs, well, Emily has had them out a few times, and they sit there like hairy blobs, which is no different than at home, so I think they’re ok too.

The people? Well, I think everyone is tired, and today was tough because it was following the all-nighter of yesterday and the 4 hours of sleep upon arrival in West Lafayette. I ended up driving the entire way since I felt more or less refreshed and Mark was still feeling dazed from the painting, fixing and driving frenzy of the last 36 hours. So I drove for 9 ½ hours, plenty of time for me to adjust to driving this RV. It was a little unsettling at first, but I did get used to it. As long as it’s straight interstate, it’s not too tough. But construction zones, big hills, and darkness are the things that made driving more difficult at times.

As I drove, I had to get used to checking my two side mirrors to see what was behind me, since looking in the rear view mirror only gives you a view of the back of the RV’s cabin. When I mistakenly checked my rear view mirror though, I would see Sarah lying on her stomach on the bed at the back of the RV, elbows on the bed, chin in her hands, looking out the back window. She was just watching the countryside go by. She’s probably holding up the best of all of us.

We stayed the night in a KOA, so it was our first night of sleeping in the RV. Well, Sarah slept in it when it was parked Monday night in our drive in East Lansing because she thought it was cool, and all the girls and the animals slept in it when we pulled the all-nighter on Tuesday. But this was the first night for all of us to sleep in it. I must say, this RV looks really big, feels really big driving it, and is the largest one available for rent (30-ft long). But when you put 6 people, with all their suitcases, 9 animals, with all their food, dishes, etc., it gets crowded real fast. Real crowded. Once everyone is actually in their sleeping space, it’s fine. But moving around, turning the couch and table into beds, getting the sleeping bags spread out, all while trying not to step on a cat or the dog (or a laptop, cell phone, or other device the kids left lying on the floor), requires a bit of balance and coordination that I usually don’t have. I felt like I was a giant trying to maneuver in a dwarf’s world.

Once settled for the night, everything was surprisingly quiet and peaceful. The bed was comfortable (Mark and I slept in the full bed at the rear of the RV), and other than the really sore back I had from sitting in the same position all day, I slept pretty well. So I guess we’re ready for Day 3 of this voyage.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Day 1

I hope the rest of our journey goes off smoother than the departure. Mark and I had said we'd like to be on the road by 4 pm. We were only going to West Lafayette, Indiana, where we were staying with our friends, the Sherwins, and picking up their oldest daughter, Krystal (16) who is Emily's best friend since kindergarten. Krystal is taking the Land Ark Voyage with us, and then spending the month in Arizona with us. The Sherwins are only about 4½ hours from us, so even if we left at 4 pm, we'd still get in West Lafayette before 9 pm.

That didn't exactly work out as planned. We finally got on the road at 1:00 am. There's just so much you do when you're leaving a house forever, especially one you want to sell ASAP, so it needs to look good. Unplanned work (like needing to paint Rosie's entire bedroom when we hadn't planned on it), going through every nook and cranny of a house to both look for stuff we might have left behind, and to clean, well, takes time.

And so does saying goodbye. It was a very sad night for the older two. Emily's boyfriend, Nathan, spent the day with Emily, and helped us with stuff around the house. Nathan's a good kid - I like him. And he and Emily have been dating for a year. So it was a very tearful goodbye, that wasn't really "goodbye" but rather, "till I see you again."

Rosie hasn't had a boyfriend for 4 months, but has been spending every possible moment these last few weeks with her friends. And in doing so, she kind of fell for another guy. Sigh. I told her now wasn't the best time to start a new relationship, but these things happen. So I have two very sad daughters on my hands. And one daughter very excited about the move. They say two out of three ain't bad, but I only have one out of three. But if you count me and Mark, then it's 3 out of 5 excited about moving.

So, we saddled up, loaded the kids and animals, and took off. I hadn't driven the RV yet, so since it was so late, Mark said he'd drive. But after putting in 17 straight hours on the house, driving through the night was not easy. He started to feel like he was falling asleep at the wheel, so we pulled over into a truck repair shop that was closed for the night, and Mark took a 30-minute power nap.

While he slept in the upper bunk, I just stayed in the passenger seat and dozed. I woke once to the sound of the dog drinking water. "Oh, she must be thirsty," I thought as she lapped away. Then it dawned on me that I had emptied the water bowl while we were driving so it wouldn't slosh everywhere, and I hadn't refilled it. I groggily thought to myself, "So where is she getting the water?"

I turned back to look, and she had nosed the top off the small traveling fish tank and was happily drinking the water from the tank! It was too dark to tell if she had lapped up the fish or not, and I was too tired to look carefully. So I just replaced the lid on the tank and hoped for the best. Eight animals or nine animals -- who would notice if we were one down, right?

Mark's power nap refreshed him enough to finish the drive. We finally arrived at the Sherwins at 6:30 am, said some brief hellos, then crashed. We slept until 10:30 am, and after a hot shower, coffee, and chili (it was lunch time by then!) I almost felt human again. And ready to take on Day 2 in the Land Ark. We pulled out of the Sherwins', now with four kids instead of three, and with all nine animals (yes, the fish was still there) at 1:11 pm, headed for Joplin, MO (586 miles away), in Day 2 of the Voyage of the Land Ark.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Day 0

Monday, June 23: Day 0

I'm calling today "Day Zero" because we did a lot of driving, but did not make any progress westward. You see, when you do a one-way rental of an RV (which is what we're doing -- picking up here and dropping off there), you don't always get to choose your exact pick-up or drop-off points. It all depends on where the various RV's in the company's fleet are, and where they need to get to. Luckily for us, the national headquarters of is in Phoenix, so dropping off there was not a problem since lots of vehicles are headed there. However, picking up on this end was a problem. There weren't any RV's near us available that needed to get to Phoenix. The closest available RV was in Mentor, Ohio. Mentor, Ohio is 256 miles from from East Lansing -- EAST. So we had to drive our rental car (rented because our two vehicles were shipped to AZ on Friday) 256 miles east to Mentor, Ohio, pick up the RV, then drive both it and the rental car back to East Lansing. So 512 miles later, we are absolutely no closer to Arizona than we were at the start of today. Hence the name "Day Zero."

The RV is pretty cool. I've never used one before, always been a tent camper myself. But I think it will be both comfortable and convenient to make our long trek to Arizona. I'm a little worried that by the time we arrive on Friday night, the RV won't smell too nice, given the presence of so many animals in a confined space (of both the human and the pet variety!). The cats have to have a litter box. The guinea pigs start to smell if their cage isn't cleaned regularly. We hope the dog lets us know when she has to go so we can stop the RV and let her out.

I am looking forward to getting started on our journey, but that isn't a feeling shared by everyone here. Rosie and Emily, the older two (17 and 15) are not happy about moving, and are cramming all they can into their last night in East Lansing. Emily and her boyfriend Nathan have spent all day together, and are out getting coffee now (at 11 pm!) so they can stay up even later talking. Rosie is out with friends, and told me she doesn't plan to go to bed at all tonight. She wants to make the most of her last 24 hours in East Lansing, and doesn't want to "waste" time by sleeping. She said that's what the RV is for -- sleeping.

Of course, that's not true for me or Mark. We plan to take turns driving and navigating, so there'll be no sleeping for us, at least not while the RV is moving! Our driving plan is as follows:

Day 1 (Tuesday 6/24): East Lansing to West Lafayette, IN. There we'll stay with friends and pick up our additional passenger, Krystal (age 16). 276 miles. We plan to get a late start from here because we have a LOT left to do on the house before we can take off. Our goal is to leave by 4 pm.

Day 2 (Wednesday 6/25): West Lafayette, Indiana to Joplin, MO. Stay in a KOA campground in Joplin. 558 miles

Day 3 (Thursday, 6/26): Joplin, MO to Tucumcari, New Mexico. Stay in a KOA campground in Tucumcari. 586 miles.

Day 4 (Friday 6/27): Tucumcari, NM to Gilbert, AZ. Stay in our new house! 582 miles.

Day 5 (Saturday, 6/28) Return RV in the morning to Mesa, AZ. 7 miles.

So we have a lot of driving ahead of us. It's a long time to be sedentary, but at this point, I'm looking forward to it. These last weeks here have been a frenzy of work on the house to get it ready to sell. We've spent hours and hours carefully painting walls (in many cases after struggling to remove old wallpaper), ceilings, woodwork and trim, in multiple rooms (3 of 4 bedrooms, two bathrooms, the kitchen, the dining room. I've spent days working in the unfinished part of the basement, removing old paint and waterproofing the walls, scrubbing the floors, getting rid of junk. I've worked in the yard, pulling weeds, trimming the ever-creeping groundcover that would take over the patio if we let it. I scrubbed all the kitchen cabinets with Murphy Oil soap, then waxed them with Old English oil and buffed them up to a nice shine. And boy do they look nice! I scrubbed the kitchen and bathroom floors on my hands and knees so I could do a super-thorough job, getting along the baseboards and in corners. I fixed a cracked and peeling ceiling in the bathroom and re-caulked around the tub. Mark has focused on painting, because he's so good at it. He has a steady hand and can edge along the ceiling or baseboard without using painter's tape. He's also added a lot of trim, including quarter round, outside corner, and chair rail, and repaired/re-painted air duct vents, outlets, and door fixtures. The rooms he's done are totally transformed.

Basically, I'm exhausted. And so is Mark. Yesterday, for example, we got up at 7 am to begin working on the house. We finally quit for the day at 11:45 pm. There's a kind of bone-tired that seeps in after so much physical labor. I have a desk job. I'm used to sitting for most of the day. I'm not used to 27 hours of hard physical work!

And the sad part? The house looks so much nicer now than it ver did when we lived in it!

So I hope it's worth the effort we've put into it. I don't expect any of the work we've done ourselves, or the work we hired out (a brand new roof and gorgeous refinished hardwood floors) to add to the monetary value of the house. The market is just to bad right now. But I hope the work we've put into it will help it to sell faster since it now looks move-in ready. And I really don't want to be saddled with this house for a year or two waiting for it to sell. I just want to be done with this hose, once and for all.

So, off to bed now (on a borrowed air mattress since our bed is in transit to AZ already) so we can get an early start finishing up around here and then get on the road for Day 1 of the Voyage of the Land Ark.



My family and I are moving from East Lansing, Michigan, to Gilbert, Arizona (a city just southeast of Phoenix). My husband and I are taking new jobs at Arizona State University, beginning July 1st. This blog is the story of our actual move.

See, most of our household goods, furniture, etc., got moved the traditional way -- on a moving truck. But to actually get US from here to there is a little more tricky. Not only do we need to move three daughters (ages 17, 15, and 10), but we also need to move all of our animals.

How many is all? Well, let's see. Nine I think. They are:
  • Josie, the epileptic beagle (on meds to control seizures)
  • Frinka, the 17 year-old cat in chronic kidney failure (so he's on lots of meds)
  • Moochie, the 11 year-old cat who has to eat frequent small meals due to previous intestinal surgery (after he ate a bunch of thread)
  • Mistey, the skittish 5 year-old cat
  • Pepe, the long-haired Peruvian guinea pig
  • Patch, the other long-haired Peruvian guinea pig
  • Apollo, the blue and white parakeet
  • Athena, the green and yellow parakeet
  • Lazarus (also known as Bit), the killer goldfish
So, the question was, how to transport two adults, four kids (our three plus a friend who is spending a month with us in Arizona), and nine pets? On an airplane? Uh, no. I couldn't see trying to put that menagerie on a plane. Drive our van? Nope, not enough room. Plus, we'd have to stop to sleep along the 2,000 mile trek, and what hotel would let us bring our mini-zoo inside?

Then I had a brainchild: how about we see if we can rent an RV, one way from Michigan to Arizona? An RV would give us more room, plus it's sort of a moving hotel where we could just pull into a campground for the night and all of us, people and animals, sleep in the RV.

So that's what we did. We have a 30-foot RV rented from And we take off tomorrow for our trip westward.

A friend coined the phrase "land ark" to describe our RV, and it fits. So this blog will be our adventures on the Land Ark. Today is Day 0, which I'll explain when I write a post for today. And tomorrow will be Day 1.

Stay tuned -- it's likely going to be quite an adventure, a la Chevy Chase's "Vacation" movie variety...