Most people know how moving house goes. You pack your things in to boxes, load those things along with your furniture in to a truck, and go to another house where you unload your things and forget about your life at the previous place. But what do you do when you move out of a portable house like a yurt?
For the first few months after we left the yurt we did nothing. The yurt stayed where it was. One spring night Daegan, Kite (Sage’s mom) and I went out there to have an overnight visit as a ‘goodbye’ for Daegan. After a couple of months living in town we learned a couple of things. The first is that when we started a fire outside and used oak wood on it the smoke made Daegan cough and swell up like an allergic reaction. The same thing happened when we went inside and lit the lamp oil. We were very shocked to realize that all of the “colds” Daegan got at the yurt, particularly in the winter were more likely a result of him being allergic to our life and not a virus at all.
The yurt couldn’t live there forever, though. Eventually our friends wanted to move away and were going to list the house. It was time to figure out what to do. We rented a storage unit in town and some friends of ours graciously offered to take the yurt down and put it in storage for us. A short time later we started a section of our website for “Used Yurt Classifieds.” Surprisingly there were a good number of people trying to buy or sell used yurts and we listed our own there. Within a few weeks we had a buyer, a VP at a Bay area technology company. He offered a good price but we told him he would have to come pick it up or arrange for it to be shipped. He offered us even more money to bring it out to him ourselves. With that we had more than enough money to pay for our time, truck rental, hotels and meals. And so three year old Daegan and I began to plan our first road trip.
The day arrived and I picked up a U-Haul truck and drove it over to our storage unit. Within 15 minutes we had the entire yurt and kitchen loaded in the back of the truck. Our much more experienced friends did a great job of securing the load with rope in the back and we were on our way.
Our route would take us from almost the dead center of the United States to Santa Cruz, California on the Pacific coast. I was excited.
Our first day was great fun. Daegan and I listened to music, talked about the scenery as it passed by. Though we we normally ate very healthily at home, we knew we wouldn’t find such healthy food on a road trip. And so we embraced it, eating chips, soda, and fast food. Daegan napped a couple of times as the movement of the truck lulled him to sleep. We ended our day in a motel in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
The next morning when we woke up, Daegan had a cough. It was his same cough that he would get when at the yurt. It was likely allergies but to what I didn’t know. Maybe it was simply pollen. Today’s ride would take us across the Texas panhandle. Signs in Amarillo advertised a 72 oz (4.5 lb) steak dinner. The dinner costs $72, but eat it with the two shrimp, baked potato, roll and side salad in less than an hour and you get it for free. I wasn’t up for this by any stretch but as I was thinking about this tonight I wanted to see what it looked like. There’s no way I could do it.
Not long after you pass the home of the 72 oz steak, a terrible smell hits us. A minute or so later we find the source: a massive feedlot filled with cattle standing shoulder to shoulder. There’s barely any space for them to stand and no grass. The smell is their waste. Not long after they’re here some of them will likely find their way to the Big Texan restaurant.
And then, after we pass the feedlot things thin out. There aren’t even towns, just fields. We hit “Scan” on the radio and it cycles through the frequencies over and over. I turn the radio off. Five minutes later we turn it back on and cycle again. It finally settles on one station, a fire and brimstone preacher talking about how our children were all going to be going to hell because they were learning evolution in schools.
After a few miles we found another station. This one was talking about the right to bear arms and how guns are necessary to keep our families, homes, and property safe.
I’m getting tired of driving and decide to pull over at a Stukey’s – a combination gas station, restaurant, and souvenir shop, we wander restock our supply of chips, soda and candy. We see a display of walking canes made from bull penises and decide we probably don’t need one of those.
We were in a really different part of the world from what I am used to.
Eventually we make it to Tucumcari New Mexico. We arrive in time to visit the Dinosaur Museum. Daegan is thrilled – aside from one dinosaur which roared in response to a motion detector this is the highlight of our trip for him.
We stay the night at a small hotel in Tucumcari and eat New Mexican food across the street. I’m thrilled to have some good spicy food. Daegan is happy also but coughing more. Whatever he’s allergic to there is more of it here than there was in Oklahoma. We have a fitful night of sleeping.
The next morning we wake up and continue west across New Mexico. The flat landscape of the Texas Panhandle is giving way to beautiful mountains and desert. Daegan is good natured but his coughing is coming in odd fits. He coughs more and more until the coughing fit makes him gag, throw up a little and then the coughing is gone for hours. And then it slowly builds again. I’m not worried because this has happened many times before with him and eventually it passes without significant issue but I’m sad for him because it can’t be comfortable.
We make it to Arizona and decide to wind down for the night. We need a break. We stop first at the Painted Desert to check that out. We drive through and are stunned by the sights we see. I have seen nothing like it in my life.
Nearby is the Petrified Forest – a national park with lots of fossilized trees. There are tons of big trunks lying around. There used to be many more but over the years tourists would take pieces home as souvenirs until they finally banned it.
As we left the Petrified Forest, Daegan started to have another coughing fit. And by this time he’d had enough and just started to cry. I comforted him and told him we were on our way to an interesting hotel for the night. And so we ended up at the “Wigwam Motel” – a relic from the 1950’s when Route 66 went through this part of Arizona. Several of these “Wigwam villages” were built throughout the US. This one was in very good shape while still retaining it’s 1950’s charm.
We settled in and ordered a pizza. Daegan was still coughing but felt a bit better. We ate our pizza and watched Stuart Little on the television. I think this may be one of the only parts of the trip that Daegan still remembers today.
We slept for a little bit but Daegan kept waking up coughing. Finally, at about 11:00 at night I called Sage and asked her advice. We agreed that Daegan should probably go back home. And so we made our arrangements. We decided to meet at a shopping center in Oklahoma. It would take us each a day and a half or so to get there if we left the next morning. And so it was that I turned the U-Haul around in the morning.
We backtracked across New Mexico. We were both exhausted. Oddly enough the further east we drove the better Daegan did and soon he fell asleep. It’s hard enough staying awake driving on a quiet highway under the best of circumstances but when someone is also sleeping it’s even more difficult. I drank everything from coffee to Coca Cola to Red Bull to keep awake. Finally we made it back to Amarillo where we spent the night. I called back to Missouri to Sage’s mom to figure out where Sage was and then called her at her hotel. We made our arrangements to meet the next day.
That night Daegan slept better and so did I. At lunchtime Sage met us. We shared sleepy hugs and then, since we both had a long way to drive, we said our goodbyes. Sage and Daegan headed east toward home and I went back west to the edge of the continent. I still had a yurt to deliver.
That night at the hotel I caught up with Sage. She made it all the way back to the Missouri border and was enjoying playing Nintendo in the hotel with Daegan whose cough was nearly gone.
Back across New Mexico and Arizona I went. As I closed in on the west coast the music changed. Moby gave way to another song that seemed to always be playing.
Three days later I made it to my destination. I found my way to the top of a mountain and to the buyer’s long driveway. The driveway was narrow enough that the branches of the redwoods on either side dragged along the sides of the truck. At the top of the mountain I stop in front of a huge house. My buyer meets me and together we unload the truck. Then we go inside and he offers me a Coke and shows me around his house. An enormous window in his living room looks out over the tops of massive redwood trees. Miles in the distance and thousands of feet below I can see the Pacific Ocean. As we chat he tells me he actually knows the town we were coming from. He remembers stopping at the small airstrip there when he was passing through in his private plane.
He tells me he’ll probably set the yurt up in the back of the house and maybe put a hot tub in it or use it as a guest house. What a different life our yurt is going to lead in California.