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Although it was a nice room and all was quiet, I wasn’t getting any decent sleep at all, probably from nerves and the fact it was the last day of our trip, so I was up around 8:00 AM. Mom wasn’t really sleeping either, we got ready with the usual, walked the dogs past lots of nice older folks -- the hotel was filled with retirees, it seemed, all on their summer vacations. Then I went to the breakfast area (also filled with older people eating, this felt like a senior center!), got some juice hot water, bagels and Danish took it back to our room for mom and me. The hotel was being renovated in part and the breakfast room was downstairs in an obscure corridor, hard to find.
Then we started the usual loading process (just in time before a maid got to our room to clean), and when I was rolling out the cart with cat cages to the car, an older couple really seemed to enjoy seeing the cats. The older man stopped and asked us what was up, and I said we were moving cross-country. He really liked out cats!
And then we went back for the dogs, and again, all the older folks had a good
time looking at the doggie guys walking and behaving very well, on their way to the car.
I was checking out, and the hotel clerk asked us if we were with the armed forces, and I said, no, just moving cross-country. We checked out around eleven.
And then, here it was at last -- I programmed the GPS to drive us HOME to Vermont.
We got on the road, and it was a beautiful sunny day, and the drive itself was very pretty, with lots of greenery and landscape variety, and at some point we left Ohio to go through Pennsylvania, and I was fondly remembering my last time there at the Millennium Philcon Worldcon. Mom and I were talking about the Declaration of Independence and other things of historical significance there.
Then, soon enough we were over some huge river, and I think we ended up in Chicago, or almost in Chicago -- was it the Mississippi? I think! Oh dear, my mind is still woozy, but there was a big traffic jam and stall, and a big bridge we crawled over just like back in L.A., so yeah it was definitely a large city, and then it occurred to me once over that bridge we were in Eastern Time Zone or something!
Holy shit, we were on the EAST COAST! The sun was shining bright, there was lots of green everywhere, fresh juicy verdant green, and my mind was REELING -- we have DRIVEN here! My old sturdy jeep has actually driven us here! Not a plane, but my ancient jeep!
I could not believe it, but I think it's when it started to sink in, we were no longer back West, we were on the East Coast! It felt like it, a real difference! The air felt richer somehow…
And oh, all that green!
We drove though the traffic, and I think we never quite entered Chicago, but were diverted, either to Pennsylvania (I may be getting the bridge and the PA events backwards) or we were diverted to New York State.
And yes, at some point we had entered New York.
HOLY MOLY GOTHAM CITY BATMAN!
I had DRIVEN to New York!
Mom and I were absolutely amazed and also at the fact how pretty and super-green it was! Then for many miles we were playing a Subway game -- in other words, mom was saying I should stop at the next Subway, and we ever seemed to find one, or if we did, I would miss the exit, and just say, ok, we'll get off on the next one.
Meanwhile the country around us was just lovely, with some old-fashioned houses, barns, and lots of meadows, forests, fresh air.
The road had lots of curves, and we were passing something called Erie, and then or maybe before it, was Buffalo (or Albany?), or some other mid-range NY city, and I think it was possibly Buffalo (yes, that’s it) and it looked kind of urban-ugly without anything posh about it like a larger city would have… We finally got off because the GPS made us detour from the highway onto surface streets. And also I really needed gas and forget the Subway, gas was more urgent. But as we drove on the street looking for the next GPS turn direction, I took the opportunity to stop for gas, and as we turned around, there was Subway right next to it, so YAAAY! Mom saw it and it was a clear Subway sign near a Dunkin Donuts and a carwash. This time we got out and mom didn’t want yogurt and got a sub too, basically just a grilled cheese sandwich (no veggies, she cannot chew them), and bought her a large Dunkin Donuts Hazelnut Latte to keep her awake, and a Snapple tea for me. We used restrooms, gave water to dogs, checked on cats in back, then got back in the car.
It got somewhat overcast while we were getting all that stuff taken care of. Mom thought Buffalo was a pretty unattractive town. But she did enjoy the Dunkin Donuts coffee!
One thing we noticed was the funny looking traffic signals in New York. They look like bulky garlands -- like bulky black 80's dangly fashion earrings (I swear, I used to own some just like that), hanging off lots of ugly wire and swinging about, pointing in every which way. What's up with that? I've never seen such bizarre looking traffic signal systems in my life! I stared in abject horror, trying to figure out which traffic signal applied to me...
In any case, we were diverted off the large or mid-size highway onto these smaller surface streets, and then we went to get back onto what I assumed would be another highway, but instead it was a smaller road.
My time is seriously blurring now, and I don’t know for certain if it rained a bit, then the sun came back out (I think it did), and we were passing some more greenery and curving roads, and then there was more waterways, and a HUGE lake, with signs pointing to Niagara Falls -- WOW, how did that happen? We wondered what that lake was, for some reason thinking it was Lake Erie (because of the signs earlier that said Erie), but then it said Lake Champlain, and I never heard of it, but okay, it was HUGE.
We began to wonder if this was still New York State, and how soon would it be Vermont.
As the day wore on, and it looked more and more rural, and woody, I had to get gas and got off in some smallish town and I asked what state were we in, and the gas station attendant told me it was New York.
Where in the world was Vermont?
We got back on the small wood-surrounded highway, and then the GPS diverted us onto an even smaller highway through a mini-town, and that highway was pretty much a two lane thing, consisting of one terribly paved rutty lane in each direction, and it was Highway 11. And wow, it had a 50 MPH speed limit, and the cars were whooshing on it and passing us into oncoming traffic, even huge trucks, and it was all tiny small town atmosphere I had NEVER SEEN IN MY LIFE.
I was crawling along slowly, since A) in Los Angeles people go 25 MPH on such tiny narrow roads, not 50 MPH, and the habit of 35 years was hard to break and B) I was seriously in doubt as to where the hell we were on such a tiny road and maybe we were lost, this could NOT be a genuine highway!
The evening approached, the weather again got overcast, and it started to rain, and I had to turn on the headlights and wipers, and then I got accidentally turned around in some TINY micro-town because I turned onto the wrong street missing the continuation of Highway 11, and then we were rotating around a block in semi-dark and I could not see the stupid New York State streetlights dangling up like a messy black garland WAY ABOVE eye level and finally I could turn back onto Highway 11, and it started to rain REALLY HARD...
And the animals started to cry, and get rowdy, and dogs were yapping and falling on each other, Robin in particular, poor guy, was getting hit by fallen stuff, and he fell on Charlie who yapped and snarled. And oh Lord, Murray was yowling so much! And Mom was in despair, and I was freaking out that we would NEVER get to Vermont!
It was soon blue-twilight and country barns were all around us, and periodically we passed small towns with 35 MPG speed limits, and then again open country, and still, endless Highway 11, and still New York State.
At some point it got really dark and very little light of any sort on the road, and semis driving really fast passing us, and I think I stopped at some rural gas station just to let mom use the restroom, and to ask, where the hell were we, in New York or Vermont?
The lady at the counter said, New York.
In the drizzle, we got back on the tiny highway, and kept going on and on and ON...
At some point it was SOOOOOO DARK.
And there were signs for Canada.
Did we cross the border by accident? WAS there a border?
Then the GPS told us to get onto some turn off, so I made a turn and there was a boundless night black expanse of water on both sides, and we were on a narrow TALL bridge over terrifying endless water on both sides, for a long time, and we crossed it, then we turned round some more and were AGAIN over water on a bridge, and when we came to shore, it said, on a smallish sign:
"Welcome to Vermont."
At that point mom said -- "Remember how I mentioned months ago that at the moment we finally set foot in Vermont we need to celebrate? Well, we DID IT! We are in Vermont!!!"
And we laughed and cheered, and animals were yowling and flopping about in the back seat and cages rattling, as if everyone knew we were almost at our new home.
In the night darkness, we drove along a narrow coastal road that spanned the shore of the body of water (whatever it was), and we kept going for about 15 minutes maybe and there were curves and dark black forest on the left, then on both sides, and then we were approaching our new home town, and to be honest, things are REALLY BLURRING now.
I was on my last ropes -- we were all on our last ropes.
If I wasn’t for the GPS, I might have missed the tiny driveway-like unpaved street onto which we turned, and then drove through pretty much a forest lane, with no lighting, and up a long paved driveway past a sign with the house number, and there was OUR HOUSE, surrounded by deep tall immense forest -- directly out of Tolkien, with Ents and Treebeard.
And did I mention, TREES?
I parked before the garage.
We were dazed. It was I think some time after midnight, though now I am not entirely sure. It's kind of a bummer I don’t remember, because depending on whether it was before or after midnight, we officially arrived on the 13th or 14th of June.
I got out first, got the key and fumbled around in the dark, feeling a bit of spiderweb or something, then got a paper from the car to swat it away as I opened the screen and the door, and found a light switch, and saw the house for the first time.
What a great ROOMY house, first floor had mudroom, living room, half-bathroom, kitchen, and dining room, painted a lovely deep dark forest green, with nice wood flooring. Going up the stairs was three bedrooms and two bathrooms (one of the bathrooms was an old fashioned one, broken up into three parts -- a shower cabin and toilet closet, a large room with a huge whirlpool modern soaking tub which was awesome except it had weird older carpeting installed on the tub frame, and the main bedroom had a separate two-sink cabinet right in the room). And going downstairs was a half-finished basement.
The only major problem was, except for the bathrooms, the upstairs had no proper flooring -- the sub-floors were exposed after carpets had been removed -- so it needed some work before we could actually move in there (yes, me and my remodeling bug took over, and of course I have no money and must wait for the Foreclosure Short Sale $3K moving reimbursement from the government program, if it ever comes), but there was a gorgeous four-poster wooden bed in one bedroom, and a desk and futon in the other. And two gorgeous antique wood desks in the basement. Plus lots of good stuff in the mudroom and elsewhere, we could sure use much of it! And the extra stuff we didn’t need, we could get rid of, plus it did need some move-in cleaning, but that was not a problem.
In short, it was a beautiful big house, with so much potential!
And, compared to our old house back in Winnetka, CA, this was more than TWICE the size and room!
We got the animals out of the car and turned on the some of the porch lights as we walked the dogs, and wow, there was tall grass around the house and smack in the middle of it, a tall Narnia lamppost! A lantern, directly out of The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe!
There was only one problem.
And that was -- mom had much trouble going up the stairs to the second floor.
Which meant, she had to live downstairs.
And so we decided to make the dining room her bedroom. And I discovered that my bad knee (old work injury due to a fall at the office back in 2002) was so bad, aggravated by months of packing and this move, that I also had trouble going up the stairs and down the stairs. And I decided to make my main work-space and office on the first floor, in the living room, next to mom. For now I will be sleeping upstairs in the four-poster bed (I offered it to mom first but she absolutely refused), but spending all the rest of the time on the first floor.
Since mom really didn't have anywhere to sleep (the futon was upstairs, and was a bit too messy, and mom just plain didn’t want to sleep there) so I sort of rigged a temporary bed out of blankets for her on the floor, just for the night, and meanwhile we started bringing in our stuff from the car, the cats were released from their cages and started exploring, the litterboxes were placed in the mudroom, and I started doing loads of laundry (including bedding), and some cleaning so that we could use one of the bathrooms for now, and I could lie on the bed.
The animals were definitely exhausted. And Johnny especially was really scared and he promptly disappeared over the half-door and into in the basement, then came back later in the night. I was worried he decided to make himself a bathroom there.
Then around 4:00 AM we sort of collapsed, mom downstairs, and I ended up on the tall bed, directly on the nice firm mattress with only a blanket, while laundry was still getting done. The dogs went to sleep downstairs, and Murray and Johnny wandered about, and Johnny eventually settled with me upstairs on the bed.
And so, in a big wonderful magical house, surrounded by a deep fairy forest of awe, we slept our first night in our new home in Vermont.
BUT THE STORY OF THE TRIP IS NOT OVER.
The next morning, a Monday, we woke up to bright brilliant sunshine and stunning forest greenery, and there was a forest ravine and tall pine and maple trees and a creek running about a hundred feet from the house, and tall grass that needed cutting, and amazing clear air.
And mosquitoes! Oh boy, there were so many mosquitoes!
The rest of our stuff was still on a moving truck out there somewhere, due to arrive in a week.
My cell phone was only getting one-bar reception, and barely when I went outside, while in the house it was not working at all. So I had to make calls from outside, while seated in the car. I had no phone book no computer hooked up, no internet.
Instead I had my amazing Garmin GPS, which I could search for local services, and it was just WONDERFUL, because it functioned as a search engine and it could take me there too! I found a Wal-Mart about 30 miles away in Williston, programmed into the GPS, and then called Comcast Cable and ordered internet and phone and cable TV service -- the very first thing! I also found as cleaning service from Colchester so they could come out and do a move-in deep cleaning of the house. I called the electric company, and found that I had to go there in person in Swanton. I found TD Bank, and Hannaford Supermarket, and then we got in the car and drove to Wal-Mart.
It took us less than 45 minutes to get there along the amazing no-traffic highway 89. There was a large shopping plaza other with many other stores, but we only wanted Wal-Mart -- I had called around other local places and it was the only place that stocked a small CHEAP camping-cot type bed. This was for mom so she could sleep off the floor for now. We bought her the $40 cot, a decent $36 wooden folding chair, and a very good but small flat-screen HD TV for about $128 dollars. YAY, at last we had a flat screen TV!
Plus we got other household necessities, some food, and desperately needed things for starters like a tea kettle and more kitty litter (big mistake, we forgot to buy actual plastic litterboxes, only had the crappy travel kind). There was a Dunkin Donuts inside the big store, and mom got a coffee and I got a cold drink, and we rested up a bit, then headed back… HOME.
The next day (Tuesday) at 10:00 AM the cleaning lady came by for an estimate, I paid her an initial deposit and made arrangements for the second portion to be paid in part when they did the cleaning and the final portion after the 1st of the month (July).
Then I went to the TD Bank and got new checking and savings accounts set up for me. Mom waited in the car, because we forgot to get her paperwork, so her bank account setup would happen later.
Then (or before, I don't remember now) I went to the post office to get the PO Boxes both for the house (the PO does not deliver to the house) and one for Norilana Books, and had to fill out more change of address forms. Because I still had to pay the cleaning service and give the driver and movers their unavoidable tip, I had no money to spare for a PO Box, which cost over $100 for a year's rental, a kind of unexpected expense since they did not offer 6-month rentals (more affordable) like back in California. So I had to tell the PO clerk that I will pay it later. And then I sort of was too embarrassed to show up at the post office until I had the money I could pay them… So mail that was being forwarded both correctly and incorrectly (without the PO box designation) was compounding at the post office…
That night there was a thunderstorm, an amazing thunder-and-lightning drenching storm, and the metal roof sounded like an army had galloped on it… It was amazing! Like a monsoon! But in the morning the only traces of it was not standing water but drenched grass.
The next day (Wednesday) in the morning my cell phone died. I absolutely freaked out that I could not turn it on, tried recharging, etc, but no luck. I was stressed that the moving truck driver would be unable to reach me. At least I knew the landline was going to be put in the next day so I let it go for now. Also, there was the wonderful reliable GPS I could use to drive around if needed.
Meanwhile, around 3:00 PM two cleaning ladies came and went to work and boy did they do a fantastic job everywhere! Everything shone! Then they were to come back on Friday to finish up the basement and one more bathroom, the last of it next month (July).
The following day (Thursday) Mom and I basically dealt with the house and no one else came.
On Friday, the cable guys finally came in the morning and installed a new phone and cable line in the living room, hooked up our little new TV, but had some problems with defective cable boxes (non-HD) and were to come back again the following Monday with an HD box. But for now I had flaky TV service (the cable box would lose programming every time the power went off and I had to call Comcast to watch TV... LOL!)
Also, since my desktop and all office computer equipment was still on the movers truck, they could only use my little Lenovo laptop which I had brought with me in the car to set up the wireless internet cable. So they connected the laptop with the cable and installed the Comcast software on it, etc. They said that when the other computer got here and the service rep come back on Monday, they could help me with that if needed.
While the cable guys were running around in the basement and first floor putting in cable, I heard a loud noise and a large fuel truck had pulled up the driveway right next the Comcast cable van. I saw a man come out and run around the back of the house with a large flat hose-line, and I realized he was the fuel service for the house.
I chased him through the tall wet grass before he could put in the fuel and told him we were newly moved in and had to establish new service. So he stopped before he could fill up, and we made arrangements that I would call him back the following week and then come by the office to set up an account. For now he pulled his line and left without toping off our fuel tank.
After the cable guys left, the cleaning ladies came again at 3:00 PM, and they finished up. Completely clean house! They also got rid of the futon from upstairs, and cleaned out the mudroom of most of the stuff and boxes there to make room for our incoming stuff that was all going to be placed in the mudroom for now (until the second floor had flooring put in and was ready for move-in).
As they were cleaning we chatted with them and talked about Vermont, etc. They also giggled as they heard me trying to make a call to Verizon to get my cell phone fixed and basically Verizon gave me the runaround and said to either go to the nearest service center (in New York!) or call LG since the phone was pre-paid.
So I had to put this phone thing off for another day.
On Saturday morning, we got up early waiting for the movers that were due to arrive with our stuff anywhere from 8:00 AM to 11:00 AM.
They got here around 9:00 AM and once again the driver could not pull up directly into the driveway due to the tree branches hanging down too low, so the huge truck stood a bit further down our unpaved road, and the driver and two movers started to unload.
But first, I apologized to the driver for having no cell phone to get his messages (he did try to call) and I had left a message later from the new land line.
And then I gave the driver the precious cashier's check for the immense moving amount that had traveled with us in the car. He gave me copies of the loading inventory bill, I signed it, etc, and they went to work.
It was a very warm day, they had to carry heavy book boxes and I felt bad for the poor guys. At least they didn’t have to carry anything up the flight of stairs to the second floor. All the stuff that was not in the mudroom went to the living room and dining room (now mom's bedroom).
They put together my recliner work chair, and put all the filing cabinets in the living room which I arranged later to make a small corner office nook just as you walk into the living room. Mom's two dressers went to the dining room and my own dresser, the only piece of furniture that will eventually go on the second floor, was placed in the corner of the living room for now. That was the extent of our furniture.
Also, the only bookshelf I brought over from CA, the nice barrister bookcase with glass doors, went in the corner. In the next few days I unboxed the appropriate boxes to put all my "brag shelf" published works there, as previously they had been there in California, only in my bedroom. In addition to every magazine, anthology, and book-length published copies of my work, I also put my two Nebula Finalist pins on one shelf next to my personal signed copy of my first collection Salt of the Air, in First Edition (with Gene Wolfe's signature on it, since he was kind enough to provide the introduction), and the copy of The Clock King and the Queen of the Hourglass with Charles de Lint's signature (he also kindly provided the introduction for it), and the Nebula Nominee Certificates too, and all my other publishing related goodies and honors. This same shelf also holds all my very special signed books such as Marion Zimmer Bradley's autographed copies of The Mists of Avalon and various Darkover anthologies, Diana Burchall's autographed copy of Mrs. Darcy's Dilemma: A Sequel to Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, and many others.
In any case, all that happened in the following week as mom and I started unpacking some of the boxes (the ones that contained stuff that we would store downstairs) for now.
But for now, the movers were still there unpacking, and when they were done, the mudroom was filled to the ceiling with boxes, and all the pieces of furniture were in their spots elsewhere on the first floor. I gave the two guys and the driver their tip, and had to even give some of it in quarters, that's how broke I was, to churn out that last $100. I also gave them chilled cans of soda to cool them down.
That officially left me with only $4 dollars and a bunch of change -- until the banks situation was resolved and I eventually got paid toward the beginning of the month.
When they movers were gone, Mom and I stood around the mudroom, with the animals walking and sniffing the stuff, and then started to pick and choose boxes to open. The animals happily sniffed the familiar pieces of furniture, and it seemed to make them less nervous and put them at ease -- the familiar smell of home was back with us!
I threw the cats the kitty toy balls that one of the hotel clerks had given us... and Murray really loved his new toys, and went chasing the colored red and yellow hollow balls with little bells inside all over the first floor and galloping like a tailless pony.
Later that day I would get online for the fist time in Vermont using the Lenovo laptop and a direct internet cable modem connection, and then tell you guys that I made it, but no wireless connection yet. Or maybe I did that the night before? Anyway, memory is really fuzzy now, but then you sort of know most of the rest, including the problems getting my wireless connection to work after the desktop was set up, and the rest of it.
Just for my own records, I am finishing up the writing of this almost exactly a month since we left California (June 9th).
For now, I can tell you the story of the Great Vermont Move is over, and we are HOME at last in Vermont.
Of course the story of the rest of it all is just beginning!
So much work ahead, utilities still to turn on, bills to pay, I still need surgery, mom needs to find doctors, I need to get a VT driver license and register my car, we need to get winter clothing (since, to quote George R. R. Martin and The Game of Thrones -- "Winter is Coming") and there is so much publishing work to do, to start repaying debt.
Full steam ahead!