Thursday, September 8, 2011

Such A Moving Experience!

A long time between posts, but--to paraphrase W. C. Fields; on the whole, I would rather have been in Philadelphia. Or anywhere else for the last several months EXCEPT at home packing boxes and going through miles of packing tape, wadded newspaper, bubble wrap and boxes. Near the end I was heartily sick of the sound of the tape gun and found myself actually snarling at the sight of the damned thing. Not that it didn't do it's job admirably and hold up like a trooper.

Really, I have way too much stuff. Like, more than could be expertly packed into a 30 foot moving van by an awesome United Van Lines crew, and THAT was with leaving the couch and loveseat behind. And, horrifically enough, it did not include the garage, which we never had time to even TOUCH over the summer while we were madly packing. Why madly packing, and what was the hurry?

Here's what happened: We had always planned on moving out of southern California very soon, which has become a sad, sad, shadow of it's glory days. In fact, the entire STATE of California--though I'm a native Californian born and raised who swore she would NEVER leave it--has fallen into a horrible state of budget woes and resultant cuts in public services, rapacious educational cutbacks and laughably high home prices so bad that we couldn't WAIT to escape. And we count ourselves lucky that we were able to. The big final straw was the awful middle school our daughter was subjected to last year where she, a child who throughout elementary school had always excelled and earned numerous 'proficient' and 'advanced' awards at year's end, actually lost ground. At this new school every single athletic program was gone, and the band and choir were barely hanging on. Because of this there was nothing about the school to foster ANY kind of school spirit within the student body, and going to school was dry, uninteresting and akin to prison. The apathy among the teachers was palpable. Even Internet websites that rated schools only gave this middle school a 4 out of 10 points--dismal. The only other middle school in the district was even worse.

The catalyst that prompted us to move now was the city suddenly deciding, after 15 years, that our chickens were not to be tolerated, not for even one more day--this despite the city telling me when we moved in years ago that chickens were allowed. No one had complained, mind you--the city code enforcement guy just got full of himself and targeted our little band of poultry. Gangs, rampant crime, deteriorating streets, neighbors all around with cars on blocks and community moral at an all-time low? No time for that, WE HAVE TO GET THESE CHICKENS!

Just to add to the 'roll your eyes' factor, the city itself had a 'Nature Center' that housed--you guessed it--a flock of chickens. So their chickens were OK. This 'Nature Center' was supposed to be a public spot, but was literally never open--I knew because I was frequently at the public pool right across the parking lot from it with my daughter. She always wanted to go see the animals and not once was the place open. I figured it was another victim of budget cuts.

Yeah. Time to go.

We talked it over and decided that we for sure wanted to move out of state, and since my mom had recently, cruelly, and completely unexpectedly lost her husband to cancer, we chose to move just over the border to northern Nevada to be near her. The schools in the small towns had a lower student to teacher ratio and got ratings 8 or 9 out of 10. I had lived in the area so I already knew how great it was in terms of non-existant crime, nice people, clean air & water and sane home prices with plenty of land for chickens. This would involve moving us, everything we owned, two cars, 18 rose bushes, 36 chickens, a rabbit, a tortoise, 4 cage birds and an 11 year old over 400 miles.

I think there have been major military offensives that required less fancy planning and finesse.

So come summer, I start packing up the stuff that we don't use every day, which I have to tell you, takes WAY longer than you think it ever possibly can. Over the summer we had two yard sales, donated a mountain of stuff to charity twice and tossed out or listed stuff on Craigslist as 'free come and get it' even more. One of the cars was successfully sold while my '69 Plymouth languished at the repair shop waiting for the insurance company to get on the stick for the repairs. Oh by the way, ha ha, summer is THE busiest time for long-distance moving companies and getting someone to come out and give us an estimate took weeks. The drama involved of successfully solving one problem only to have another rear it's ugly head was ridiculous. There were times when I was sure it would never happen.

But lordy, eventually we get an evaluator from King Relocation of United Van Lines to visit us and we finally have us a move day of September 2nd! Never having used a professional moving company of any kind before (yay for rent-a-trucks and friends!) I'd done my research on the Internet, where horror stories of rip-offs, lost/broken stuff and scams were rampant. Guaranteed to not allow you to sleep for weeks. We chose as best we could, and today bright and early...

The moving truck is here! The moving truck is here!

The crew, led by Paul the foreman, was professional, friendly, quick and efficient. They were downright awesome and were open and honest, tolerantly and patiently answering all of our questions and concerns...us being noobs to the professional moving crew thing. The reason the truck has 'Stanford' emblazoned on the side is because this particular truck and crew were the ones who moved the equipment for the Stanford sports teams for their 'away' games and whatnot. Between Stanford gigs they moved households like ours.

So in no time at all they took the rooms from this:

To this:

They told us they'd empty one room, and we could then put all the stuff we wanted to move ourselves in that room and they wouldn't touch it.

Which in our house means karate equipment, musical instruments, guns and clothing, apparantly. I found myself constantly apologizing for our lifestyle--lots of books (heavy) and good strong (heavy) furniture. Those poor guys.

The living room nearly cleared out.

We'd lived in this house for 15 years. And there was no love lost between me and this house in certain respects. Oh, multitudenous earthquake cracks, how I won't miss thee...

No, really, scary offset-by-at-least-a-quarter-inch-crack,

The guys finish loading the truck (the way they packed every available inch of that truck was an art form and a thing of freakin' beauty) and since it's Labor Day weekend, tell us they'll see us at our destination up north in 4 days. We still have things to get out of the house ourselves that will remain in a storage unit here in town due to space concerns, so we wave goodbye to nearly everything we own and go back to work packing up the rest of the stuff. All of the animals still remain, they will be loaded at the very last minute before we pull out of town.

So for the next 3 days while we finish up working at the house, we stay at the Doubletree hotel, home of wonderful, big fluffy beds with acres of white linen, hot showers, should-be-illegal warm chocolate/walnut/oat cookies...

...and carpeting that, oddly but amusingly, features frontal views of chicken faces. The Doubletree takes marvelous care of us and doesn't even blink when we drag our stinking carcasses back into the hotel every night covered with dirt and sweatstains, whereupon we skulk upstairs as quickly as possible. The place is like Heaven itself for the three of us after working hard all day.

One of the fun little puzzles was figuring out how to move 36 full-grown chickens--the chicks hatched in Spring are now big honkin' birds, especially the Brahmas, God help us, who eat like horses and seem to double in size every week. To make things even more fun, we don't own a vehicle big enough to carry 36 full-grown chickens.

We solve this by renting a van with the biggest interior cargo bay we can find, folding down all the seats but the two front ones and stacking the animal carriers. For animal carriers I got 15 big heavy-duty laundry baskets and my DH fashioned hardware cloth covers for each one, held in place with a few zip ties. El Cheapo indoor/outdoor carpet cut to fit inside provided both traction so the birds wouldn't slide around and an absorbent surface for poops. Food and water dishes are a horrible idea for animals on car trips, so instead we tossed into each carrier several chunks of raw corn on the cob and apple quarters--they will provide food, hydration and entertainment for them on the trip, which will take 8 hours at least. Once the chickens are in the wire lids will be ziptied shut. Careful planning and measuring tells us the carriers will stack securely two deep in the van and won't slide around. The cage birds and bunny have it easier, they get three regular small travel cages. Geraldine the tortoise will ride in style with her own goodies in a Rubbermaid tub with my husband in his vehicle

So bright and early on our last day we appear at the house and mystify the chickens by instead of letting them out as usual, bringing all these weird carriers into the run.

They mill around but are otherwise unimpressed.

Sora is suspicious...


We have varying reactions here. Yoya the Giant Cochin on the bottom right is sticking her face out, calmy wondering what new adventure this is. Stoney the bantam hen on the top left is giving us the full 'I HATE YOU, HUMANS SUCK' glare. Phoenix the Head Roo is barely visible in the top middle, looking out as if to say, 'Wait--I'm in here. Surely you didn't mean to put me in here, everyone loves ME.'

So husband and I wave goodbye to each other and split up, the kid riding with me and a bunch of confused chickens. I spend the next 9 hours apologizing to them as I drive 36 chickens with nervous colons through the Owens Valley and parts north. They actually take it very well, no real fighting or panic, and only one outburst of minor cackling which I take to be a squabble in the carrier holding Bug, Voodoo and Moxie. I had spent at least an hour planning who would ride with whom, and placing the chickens according to their personality and who I thought they'd get along with best. Each carrier had 2-3 birds in it, depending on if they were full-size birds or bantams. Phoenix and Bear were in one, Weedcat and Dinner, the two big young roos in another, Scott with Stoney and Picky--all bantams--in another, and so on. I must have done well because they all survived the trip with absolutely no wounds.

During the drive we spot the usual oddities as we drive through the high desert--I do so love the quirky nature of the people who live out there. In Red Mountain we run across this musical group performing outside of the town trading post.

As I'm laughing and taking pictures, the owner of the place returns from across the street, telling me as he trots across highway 395, 'That's the Grateful Dead!'

Sadly, because of the chickens and animals we don't have time to go into the store, so on we go. Next time!

Some people scare me.

During the drive the kid and I reassure our pissed-off pets as much as we can, only stopping to gas up and grab some McDonalds which we wolf down while the gas pump fills the car. My husband in the other vehicle does the same.


We arrive at my mom's place just after dark and haul the chickens into the enclosure my husband had traveled up and built inside the barn weeks before.

To say they weren't happy would be the understatement of the year. Someone had managed to hoist their little bum high enough to decorate the side of the interior with a lovely opinion, which I scrubbed off thoroughly. But otherwise the van was unscathed. As we were letting them out, some of the little smartasses would jump up onto the as-yet-unopened carriers to tease their flockmates.

And as it turns out, the reason for the mid-trip cackle outburst was a lovely, large brown egg.

Now that's dedication.

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