Two years ago today, Friday the 16th of September 2005, I arrived in the state of North Carolina, after two prior visits, but this time in my own car with everything I owned then in the back, this time to stay. It doesn't quite seem like two years, but I guess a lot has happened.
First of all, the trip. Five days, California to North Carolina, mostly along Interstate 40. I was riding with Bob, a friend of my mom's from work, an old hippie who had been from one end of the country to the other several times, on trains, in cars, in buses, even on his thumb. I don't think I could have asked for a better travel companion. We left Santa Rosa, CA - my hometown of most of 25 years - around noon on Monday of that week, the 12th I guess it would have been. We traveled south on Highway 101 to San Rafael, took the Richmond Bridge to 540, which we took to I-5, that big main road that runs down the middle of the state. We took that road down to Bakersfield, CA (hometown of the band KoRn, if you care) and took a little detour to Barstow, CA, to catch I-40 there. (Google said to drive into Los Angeles and catch it there. I knew better. Even if the streets of LA would have been empty, I think I still would have saved us time.) We stopped in Kingman, AZ, fulfilling my vow of not stopping until we were out of the Golden State.
We stopped Tuesday night in Santa Rosa, NM - had to, you know, for the gimmick and all. Wednesday night we stayed at my aunt Patty's place in Texas, near Dallas. We had to take a little detour to get down that way, and drove through a heck of a storm. Two tornados, more rain than I'd seen before or since - good thing Bob was driving, for the experience. Thursday, well, the plan was to stop in Memphis, TN, but for some reason we didn't. Against Bob's better advice we pressed on, spending our night crossing the great state of Tennessee, and arriving in North Carolina around noon. We finally got out here at around 10pm.
We got lost only three times. First in Nashville, TN, because construction had obscured a sign we needed. Second, Raleigh, NC, because of the damned beltline system - the way the highway is, it's impossible to get anywhere if you don't know how it works. Third, Greenville, NC, because I was too shortsighted to get a map showing us how to get from there to my new home. Stupid, stupid, stupid. I thought because I had been in the passenger seat for a couple trips to Greenville a year ago for one trip and four months ago for the other, that I would miraculously find my way from anywhere in Greenville, to home. Thing is, we came out by the hospital, and I wasn't even familiar with that part of town. If nothing else, I should have had her sister's number, her mother's number, someone there (here, now) that I could call to get in. I couldn't even tell you how we found our way. What we should have done is found the Cracker Barrel in Greenville and hung out there until they closed, then nearby until Jen got off work, and called her. But we found it 2 hours before she got off, and had most of my stuff unloaded by the time she got home.
Ah, the memories. When I came out here, I was fairly limited in what I could do. Out-of-state registration and insurance is no good, for more than 30 days. The only identification I had was a California drivers license, which didn't mean squat in NC. (Well, it meant I could drive, of course, but it wasn't quite as official.) And I'd lost my Social Security card years ago. First thing we did was go to Jen's insurance company and get me and my car added to her policy. We set it up so I could drive her car and she could drive mine. Then I had to get a new Social Security card, which took a couple weeks itself. Then, my NC drivers license, for which I only had to pass a verbal exam, identifying road signs. Piece of cake. Then registering my car with NC, and getting my NC license plate. By mid-October 2005, my identification and car were all NC registered and licensed.
I've actually had three jobs since I got out here. First was at this place we call Mega Farce. It's really Mega Force, but I don't take them very seriously, despite what may be their best efforts. They're a temp agency, they place people at jobs who need temporary help. The ladies in the office were nice enough. They placed me at the factory Jen works at. Cool deal, except I had to work 12 hour shifts, 3 days a week, 5am to 5pm, and NC doesn't have daily overtime. You can only get overtime if you clear 40 hours in a week, unlike in CA where you can score overtime for working more than 8 hours in a day. I worked my ass off for three or four weeks. I did my job the best I could, and when there wasn't any work, I went looking for work. I cleaned racks. I mopped. I swept. I did my best to keep busy and make a good impression. Then one day they tell me I'm not needed anymore, and send me home maybe 2 hours after I'd gotten there. Couple weeks later, I got another temp assignment with a rent-to-own company. It was only a 3 day gig, but I had a lot of fun, had some good adventures. I assembled only two things, but I moved stuff around, I cleaned the showroom once, but most of my day involved delivering stuff for people, and picking up stuff people were done with or could no longer pay for. I almost dropped an expensive big-screen TV on one such trip. Learned a little about the geography of the local area, too.
Then I called up my old job. Same people I worked for in California. They're out here, too, just not nearby. I ended up talking to the office in Wilmington (which is the very end of Interstate 40 on this side, actually) but as luck would have it, got to fill out paperwork at the Raleigh office, which is a little closer. Three mornings I had to be in the state capital 2 hours away at 8am. The first day I was there all day. The second day I was there an hour and a half. No joke. Third day was a half day, so until about noon or so. Why they couldn't just transfer me from CA is beyond me. I guess it'd been too long, but that's slack to not keep records longer than a couple months. (They said the cutoff time to make it a transfer is 30 days.) And that's what I've been doing ever since.
You're right. I didn't post who I work for. I am intentionally vague about certain details.
The coast to coast trip wasn't my only driving experience. For our holiday vacation in 2005 and 2006 I drove to Connecticut and back, going through Virginia, Maryland/DC (didn't stop and see the White House or anything though), Delaware (no sales tax), New Jersey, and New York (about 22 miles of NYC). For our honeymoon, we drove to Tennessee and back. Parts I hadn't seen on the way out, too. Our first anniversary took us to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina - so now I've been to both Carolinas.
Speaking of a honeymoon and an anniversary, I participated in a wedding - as the groom. It was such a great experience, but I hope I never do it again. Jen's such a good woman, were anything to happen to her, I can't see another woman filling her shoes. For such a shorty, she has some awful big shoes to fill.
Another experience, bizarre sicknesses. Sort of. I don't know if it's because I moved, but I've found myself ailed by a couple things I'd never heard of before but were very familiar to medical personnel out here. First in 2006, I thought I had a giant bruise on my right leg. Turned out to be a skin condition called Cellultis. We're still paying for the treatment - about $1100. Ouch! And that's to get it looked at and the pills to get it taken care of. Then I got what I assumed to be a spider bite, but turned out to be an "ulceration" caused by poor circulation. I'm still getting that taken care of. Now I have something called a plantar wart on my left foot, and I can't even walk now. At least not until it heals.
Can't forget food. My mom's a good cook, but she didn't let me do much in the kitchen. I pretty much watched her, sometimes. All I ever made for myself was macaroni & cheese, and the occasional sandwich. Jen has taken my passion for cooking and let it run wild - when we're both off, I'm the one who cooks. She introduced me to my favorite food - chicken and sausage Jambalaya - and I'm still tweaking the recipe (although I'm quite happy with where it's at now). The next iteration of it will be sausage and shrimp Jambalaya for Jen, her mom, and her mom's boyfriend. I've also developed my own pasta recipe, although I'm not quite happy with it. The taste is fine, but I always make too much. I need to cut back. There are other minor kinks I need to work out. As far as eating, Jen likes Chinese food more than my mom (who liked it, too) so I get a lot of that. Not Jen, but a buddy from work, introduced me to General Tso's chicken, and I'm hooked. And my mom always hated seafood, despite my dad's best intentions. I was raised to believe that seafood was bad for some reason. Well, Jen's a big fan of that, too, so she's exposed me to some good stuff. I still don't like shrimp, but I do like crab legs, lobster, salmon if it's made right, and talapia. I'm no fan of any seafood dish, but I'll eat it.
So what are our plans for the next two years? Well, I'd like to get Jen pregnant. We've been working on that for a while. I want to be a father now more than ever. "Baby fever" is an understatement. Other than that, 2008 will be a year of saving, as I do want to be a homeowner, if not by 30 (I think chances of that are low), then by 35. In any case, our kids won't grow up in this dump. ;)