A Step by Step Guide To Moving Across the Country with a Baby + 2 Cats: Part 8

Stopping at our first rest stop in Oregon just outside of Baker City.

Stopping at our first rest stop in Oregon just outside of Baker City.

I did it! I got to the final entry of my super detailed multi-part post about the steps we took to move across the country with a baby and two cats. As I mentioned in my first post (steps 1 through 5), this process put the seeds of a blog in my mind, given that I looked around everywhere and couldn’t find anyone talking about moving in the amount of detail that I was interested in seeing. So… for anyone out there who might be trying to plan a cross country move with a baby and pets… here you go! Hope something in here is helpful for you! You can find the rest of the posts here:

  1. Wait!

  2. Create folders (paper and electronic) to store all of your moving documents

  3. Outline what needs to happen

  4. Come up with a preliminary timeline

  5. Set your moving budget

  6. Figure out where you’ll live in your new city

  7. Figure out how you’re going to do the move

  8. Make a list of everything you own

  9. Figure out a packing plan and start packing

  10. Figure out a driving and lodging plan

  11. Finalize the “little” details

Update: For other academic moving stories and resources, check out Emily Roberts’ moving blog post on Personal Finance for PhDs, here: This PhD Couple Combined a Cross-Country Move with a Vacation

Step 12: Take a deep breath and go

Now that all of the pieces were in place, the only thing left to do was take a deep breath and go. Thinking back on this time, I wish we’d had more of a chance to let the profoundness of what we were doing sink in; however, there wasn’t time for it (or at least it felt like there wasn’t time). We were moving from one thing to the next at warp speed. If I could go back in time, I’d give myself a hug and say, it’s going to be okay.

Here are some of the highlights (and low-lights) from each day of the trek. I started off the trip jotting down notes each day, but by the time we reached Grand Junction, CO I was done (hence the scant notes towards the end).

The night before the Trip: 20Q trying to send me a message…

The night before the Trip: 20Q trying to send me a message…

The night before the trip

  • Mike and I got into a big fight, can’t remember what it was about... it’s not like we were stressed or anything (that’s sarcasm). There was also a massive thunderstorm happening and Ellie was crying, it all felt very ominous.

  • We had this handheld electronic game called 20 questions (see picture above). Why this didn’t get packed or donated, I’m not sure, but during the massive thunderstorm it turned on... All. By. Itself. Perhaps the vibrations from the thunder? Electricity from the lightning? All I know is that when I walked over to it and looked at the screen it said, “Ready?” (which is what it says when you turn it on). Because I was sleep deprived and we were hours away from moving across the country, I was sufficiently freaked out that this little electronic device was making sure I was ready for this massive life change! It has never randomly turned on again (nor have we been in a storm as intense as that one again).

Day 1: and we’re off!

Day 1: and we’re off!

Day 1: Columbus, OH to Champaign, IL

  • Barely made it to our 5:30pm closing. We must have been a sight to see as we made our way to the conference room with a baby in a car seat carrier and 2 cats in a crate (way too hot to leave the cats in the car).

  • Had a delicious goodbye dinner at Sweet Carrot in Columbus before officially hitting the road. During my pregnancy I had a massive aversion to vegetables and the name of this place prevented me from checking it out (just thinking about vegetables was enough to start the dry heaving). I was bummed we only got to enjoy it once!

  • Ellie screamed the last ~20 minutes of the drive and it was also pouring rain. It was a bit of a stressful end to an otherwise uneventful ride.

  • Every summer, since the summer we moved in together, Mike and I have watched Big Brother and we tried our best to keep up with the season while on the road. If you’re a fan, this was the season with Victor and apparently he got evicted on the day we left Columbus (and I cared enough to write it down in my trip notes…).

Day 2: Enjoying the shade at an office park in West Des Moines, IA

Day 2: Enjoying the shade at an office park in West Des Moines, IA

Day 2: Champaign, IL to Lincoln, NE

  • While loading up the cats (and their crate) onto the hotel luggage cart someone said, “that looks almost as complicated as traveling with a 3 month old.” And we responded, “we’ve got one of those in the the room with us too.” Turns out they were also doing a long distance drive (maybe a move, I can’t remember) from Missouri to Michigan.

  • We got to meet “Mobile cat” the employee of the month at a gas station we stopped at

  • Had a very decent dinner at the restaurant connected to our hotel. We split a strawberry salmon spinach salad and a German platter with kielbasa, sauerkraut, and potato salad.

  • Passed the birthplaces of Carl Sandburg and John Wayne

  • So many wind turbine farms

  • Crossed the Mississippi

Day 3: a rest stop in Nebraska

Day 3: a rest stop in Nebraska

Day 3: Lincoln, NE to Denver, CO

  • Realized we were due for an oil change, luckily there was a Jiffy Lube pretty close to the hotel so Mike took the car while I stayed at the hotel with Ellie. It pushed back our timeline for the day a little bit, but nothing too extreme.

  • We joked about singing 99 bottles of milk on the wall and tried to calculate how long the whole song would take (by timing how long it took for us to get through 1 line of the song).

  • Not a whole lot going on in eastern Colorado, the scenery was beautiful and also slightly terrifying to think about what we’d do if the car broke down.

  • First time seeing mountains in the distance!

  • We visited with Mike’s cousin in Denver

  • Big Brother update: Victor gets back in the house after being evicted!

  • I had what I assume was a panic attack. I’d never had one before and haven’t had one since, but based on what I experienced, I’m pretty sure that’s what it was. Something about the drastic change in scenery from what we’re used to and being so far from everyone we knew made me feel completely alone (despite the fact that Mike’s cousin was hanging out with us - maybe seeing a familiar face so far from home made the fact that we’d be without family/friends in Portland all the more real).

Day 4: Vail, CO

Day 4: Vail, CO

Day 4: Denver, CO to Grand Junction, CO

  • The day where my notes stop, so I’m just going off pictures/memory.

  • So many mountains (and I was clearly impressed because I took so many pictures of them from the car window… which, it turns out, don’t actually make great pictures)!

  • We did a brief pit stop in Vail to walk around and grab lunch at Big Bear Bistro. The temps were cooler (~60s) so the cats were okay in the car for a little bit. It was beautiful!

  • The landscape changed from mountains to desert.

  • Had delicious pizza in Grand Junction at Pablo’s Pizza.

  • According to Mike, Grand Junction was his low point… must be something about Colorado. He was questioning how much more of the cat/baby/driving routine he could take.

Day 5: Ellie was mesmerized by this thing

Day 5: Ellie was mesmerized by this thing

Day 5: Grand Junction, CO to Salt Lake City, UT

  • More desert and mountains and wind turbines

  • Ellie really enjoyed watching those blow up figures that move with the wind (see above pic). We parked ourselves in a grassy, shady spot next to the parking lot of a shopping center and watched it blow for quite awhile.

  • Stayed with our friends from Philly/Columbus for the night and had a home cooked meal.

Day 6: at a rest stop just after crossing the idaho border

Day 6: at a rest stop just after crossing the idaho border

Day 6: Salt Lake City, UT to Boise, ID

  • Had a delicious home cooked breakfast courtesy of our hosts before heading out on the road.

  • Ellie rolled over for the first time! Very exciting and also sad because it meant no more swaddling... ugh!

  • We got gas at a place in Idaho and the receipt read, “Middle of Nowhere”. There was at least one alpaca, might have been more. You couldn’t hear a thing when you got out of the car (because there wasn’t anyone or anything else around and the animal(s) weren’t making noise). It was eerie (from someone who grew up outside of DC). They even have a yelp page.

Day 7: Checking out Mount Hood in the distance

Day 7: Checking out Mount Hood in the distance

Day 7: Boise, ID to Hood River, OR

  • We entered Oregon!

  • Saw dust devils as we were driving through Pendleton, OR

  • Had our first experience with wildfires. The highway shut down for a bit so we sat tight at a rest stop while we waited for it to open back up.

  • The Columbia River Gorge is beautiful and I fell in love with Hood River (I’m sure the perfect weather had something to do with it too)!

  • So close…

Day 8: Made it to our final hotel of the trip

Day 8: Made it to our final hotel of the trip

Day 8: Hood River, OR to Portland, OR

  • Our shortest drive, but we were SO exhausted that I’m glad we decided to split the final parts of the trip into manageable drives.

  • Our hotel had water/food dishes for the cats (see above pic), and when we entered, people paid more attention to the cats than they did the baby… which after living here for ~3 years, I can definitely see that.

And, that’s it! Trying to stick to my screen time before bed rule, so I’m signing off now as I’m at my limit for the evening!