Moving out West

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Emerson said “life is a journey, not a destination.”  For me, the journey is sweeter when the destination is desired.  On Tuesday, April 26, 2011, my husband, dog and I embarked on a four day journey across the United States from Boston, Massachusetts, to San Mateo County, California.  I had wanted to relocate to the San Francisco Bay Area for the past three years – ever since I started to travel there for work as a social media analyst.  My first hike at Mount Tam with two of my closest friends left a permanent impression – living in San Francisco was all I could think about thereafter.  After three years, life worked out to grant my wish.
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I wanted to share our cross-country trip with family and friends.  I have added a few details about our journey in order to help those who embark on the same journey in the future.
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The trip is approximately 3120 miles.  We drove between 800 to 900 miles per day to complete the trip in a little under four days (3 overnight stays).  My husband and I took turns driving for 3-4 hour stints.  We agreed to drive from sunrise to sunset each day and lucked out with daylights saving time and time zone changes working in our favor to give us nearly 14 hours of light each day.
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We began our trip on Interstate 90 West, heading from Boston to Albany, then Buffalo to Cleveland.  Google Maps suggested we take 84 West and go through Connecticut and Pennsylvania, but we decided to follow our Garmin GPS system which suggested we stay on 90 West.  We had to pay tolls on I-90 (I-84 is toll-free), but we did not get stuck in heavy traffic until we hit Cleveland during rush hour.  In Indiana, we took I-80 West – the road that would take us the rest of the way to California.  There were long stretches of highway under construction and lots of highway patrol officers writing tickets to speeders.
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When the sun set, we stopped for the day in Indiana.  I didn’t take many pictures because the scenery was familiar to us.  We were very fortunate to be avoiding the severe weather to our south by taking this northern route.
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Our second day we drove the Oregon Trail through Indiana, Illinois, Iowa and Nebraska.  This is where we encountered the large, white windmills. The golden rolling hills of Iowa prompted my husband to comment on the ‘amber waves of grain.’ The imagery combined with the familiar phrase led me to busting out America the Beautiful.  I rarely sing, so this must have been a real treat for my husband and dog.
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We stopped at a Holiday Inn Express in Lexington, Nebraska.  We had been staying at the Holiday Inn Express since they allow dogs ($15-$30 pet fee depending on location).  We arrived at 7pm CST – just in time for a complimentary glass of beer and wine.  This was the nicest hotel we stayed in during the trip (pictures of our room in the slideshow above).  There was a 24-hour gym and a pool.  There was a Walmart at the exit if guests needed to pick anything up.  If you stay here, be prepared for the stench of manuer that generally hangs in the air from nearby cattle ranches.
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The third day of our trip was incredibly scenic driving through Wyoming, Utah and Nevada.  This is where I started to take lots of pictures.   The Great Plains of Wyoming were vast and open.  You could see for miles and miles.  It was like looking out over the ocean, except it was land.  The horizon was shaped by towering mountains to the north and south.  I’m pretty sure the mountain range to our south was the Colorado Rockies.  Wyoming is where we began the gradual climb, reaching more than 8,000 feet above sea level at Sherman Hill Summit between Cheyenne and Laramie.  This is the highest point west of the Mississippi River.  This was also our first encounter with snow.  I was driving and my husband was sleeping, so we did not get any pictures of this part of our trip.
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Northern Utah was beautiful with its dramatic landscape.  We quickly encountered mountains here.  Our pass through Mountain Dell was a surprise.  I had stopped at the Salt Lake City International Airport a handful of times for a layover.  I saw Oquirrh Mountains in the distance from the airport surrounded by a valley, so I assumed I-80 West would go through the valley, not the mountains.  My husband who has a fear of heights did not particularly like driving through the mountains in Utah.  We saw a truck that had completely overturned on the way down one of the mountains.  We saw snow in Utah as well.  This was not a welcome sign since we thought we had left the snow behind in New England.
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The western part of Utah was flat and offered view of the salt flats after we passed the Great Salt Lake.  We immediately encountered casinos when we crossed the Nevada border.  We stopped for the night at EconoLodge in Elko, Nevada.  This was the worst hotel we stayed at during our trip, but it was one of the few in the area that would allow dogs.
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We woke up in disbelief to snow in Nevada.  It had snowed 1-2 inches overnight and the roads were barely plowed at 7am.  This was the scariest part of the trip because we had to climb mountains in snow.  Highway patrol officers were forcing truckers to stop and apply chains to their wheels.  We lost some time driving slow in snow, but we made up for it once we hit a long stretch of flat, dry highway close to the Nevada state border.
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California presented us with one more mountain to climb in Truckee near Lake Tahoe.  In Sacramento we took I-5 south to pick up my husband’s car from Dependable Auto Shippers in Livermore (we had shipped his car two weeks in advance).  We arrived to our new home Friday, April 29th at 4:30pm PST.  Our POD was already there.  We used United Mayflower Labor Services to move our furniture.  We had a great experience with all three moving services.
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We are excited to continue our life journey out west.  Let us know if you are in the area.
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