It really hasn’t been that long. But it feels like a lifetime! I’m writing my first blog post from my new home… in the desert. There’s so much to tell. So much all of you have been asking me on facebook and Twitter. So grab a drink, sit back, and enjoy the journey. I sure have so far.
I had no idea what to expect when the moving truck left my driveway in Largo, FL. All I knew was that I was going to a far away place and that nothing was going to be the same. And that was a good thing. Although I did shed a tear or two as the truck pulled away. (For some reason, that country song “There Goes My Life” was playing in my head…)
Anyway, that night I had my going away party at my hangout, AJ’s. Everyone showed up, and it truly was a special night. My dear friend Jonathan even made the trip up from Fort Myers. And let me tell you–the night was awesome. I played darts, danced and at the end of the night, I cried. Big time.
Saying goodbye to the guys
So, that was that. And it was time to close the book on that chapter of my life. One more dip in the ocean with my friend Christal, and then it was time to turn my back to the water and walk away. That was one of the hardest walks of my life. But, I’ll be back on the water one day. Until then….
Saying goodbye to the water--for now
Before I knew it, it was time to hit the road. The looooonnnggg road. Christal agreed to do the trip with me, so we loaded the car with a dog, a cat, a navigation system (this comes into play later) and us… and I zeroed out the odometer and pulled out of the driveway.
We left around 1:15 in the afternoon, and flew up Interstate 75 towards I-10. It was uneventful, and we spent the time settling in. Before I knew it, we were turning left on Interstate 10. And it would be a loooong time before we turned off. There really wasn’t much to see on the first stretch. About the coolest thing we saw was this convertible Bently. Not like you see those everyday!
Rollin' next to a Bently
We made our way into Alabama, and missed getting a picture of the state line. So when we stopped at the welcome center to let Kyle pee, Christal walked up to the sign and took a picture. Looks kind of like it’s hanging in the dark, doesn’t it?
We weren’t stopped for long, and came up pretty quick on the town of Mobile. Mobile, you were not nice to us. (Sorry if you’re from there–I’m sure it’s a great city.) We figured I-10 would just carry us on through town. Wrong. We crossed a few bridges, saw the USS Alabama in Mobile Bay, and then went through a tunnel. And when we came out, I-10 was gone. GONE. And at this point, the little lady in the GPS wasn’t helping much–we went around in circles FOUR TIMES. Finally, after driving on a residential street that looked like it was from the 1920’s (in the dark, mind you) we pulled into a gas station to ask for directions. Finally–we were back on the right path. We blazed through Mississippi. It was dark, so I couldn’t see it.
But according to the GPS, we were surrounded by water. And it was only about 40 miles across the state down where we were, so we were here…in no time.
Louisiana is a cool state. We did the bypass around New Orleans, and stopped for the night in Lafayette. And my good friend Jason from years ago found a beautiful hotel where we could stay for the night.
So began the first night of THE ROUTINE. I pulled up, checked in and Christal waited in the car with the animals. Then, I unloaded the three suitcases, the litter box, the litter, the cat food, the dog food, the GPS, and the important paperwork while Christal walked Kyle. Then, I took the luggage up and came back down to get Lacey the cat. And you know what? It worked–beautifully. However I learned something–Kyle is TERRIFIED of elevators. They were glass so you could see all around, and we were on the fourth floor. And he had to be pushed in, and then hunched down on all fours. Other than that, he handled everything like a champ. He didn’t bark ONCE in a single hotel we stayed in. So, that first night, we slept. Like ROCKS. I drove more than 800 miles that day. We got up the next morning, got a crawfish poboy at a cool restaurant, then hit the road.
Can you say YUM?
The second day found us pushing into Texas. Neither of us had ever been, so we stopped at the welcome center.
Texas Welcome Center
And you know how they say everything is bigger in Texas? It’s true. Trust me. From the grasshopper on the sidewalk that was the size of my foot, to the ginormous mosquitoes that swarmed Christal while she walked Kyle… HUGE STUFF, PEOPLE. My goal was to get through Houston before 4:00 rush hour. The road opened into about 12 lanes, and I looked at the clock–4:30pm. Ugh. The Houston skyline opened beautifully and could be seen all around the beltway. I wanted Christal to get a picture for the blog–but… well, it’s one of the largest cities in America, and for the moment, she was camera challenged. This is one of the shots we got of “Houston.”
Houston through Christal's eyes
Although there was no great picture, we did make it around town in 20 MINUTES! Don’t tell me God wasn’t on our side. 20 minutes around Houston, and that was the big event of day two. The east Texas countryside rolled on… and on… and on… and for the first time on our trip, we were rolling up and down little hills. We drove through San Antonio that night (delayed because the cajun food wasn’t friendly to me) and pushed on. We called my dad, who had found a Days Inn in Sonora, TX. We were about four hours away, so we left San Antonio around 8:30pm and decided to go for it. And that’s when America started changing. I have no pictures of it, but all of a sudden, we were going up BIG HILLS in the dark. Our ears were popping. The car was shifting gears going up. The speed limit was legally raised to 85mph! And I had to hit the brakes going downhill to keep from going 95. We couldn’t see anything, but we could feel it. Texas was getting BIG. At one point, I looked up. And there’s nothing to describe the amount of stars we saw. I opened the sunroof, and I felt like we were in space. The moon was so close, it looked as if we could touch it. It was awe-inspiring.
We had set the GPS for Sonora, TX. And we were closing in on it–according to the little woman in the computer. Boy was she wrong! She kept telling us “Arriving at destination. Arriving at destination.” And unless Sonora was on top of a mountain we couldn’t see, we were no where near a town. The little lady finally gave up, and finally shut up. And the GPS simply read… ROAD AHEAD. I thought that was very considerate of her to tell us there was a ROAD ahead. DUH. SERIOUSLY? Turns out she was about 40 miles off. We finally made it to Sonora, pulled into the hotel, went through the ROUTINE, and fell asleep quick.
(sorry it's blurry)
The next morning, we got up, and could tell something was different. I asked the front desk, and we were at about 4000 feet in elevation. Crazy. We loaded the car, snapped a picture, and headed out.
Getting ready to leave Sonora, TX
And wow. What a drive. There were mountains and hills and wide open spaces I’d never seen before. And God bless Christal–she can’t get a picture of the Houston skyline, but she can really get some shots of WIND FARMS in the distance. I’d never seen those before either. Most of that day was spent with our mouths open. Here are some pictures for you to enjoy.
Near Sonora, TX
Wind Farms in the distance
Texas Wind Farms
BIG TEXAS SKY
The rail system is alive and well in TX
Arizona mountain sunset
This is how much Kyle enjoyed the beauty.
Nothing to it!
We got up the next morning, finished driving out of Texas, and blazed a quick trail through New Mexico. (Beautiful state!)
Sign says it all
Kyle and me in New Mexico
That night, after getting stopped at border patrol (You can see Mexico and their big flag from I-10), we pulled into Phoenix. And if you’re ever traveling with animals, take note: THE HILTON IS PET FRIENDLY! I never would have guessed. But after calling a number found on the website by my dad called bringfido.com, we wound up in a suite on the 10th floor at the Hilton in Phoenix, with two balconies that overlooked downtown. AND–there was a valet and bellhop who did THE ROUTINE and parked my car. After days on the road, it was such a blessing.
Looking down 10 floors in the Hilton
Got it made at the Hilton!
Turns out the previous day was only a prelude of things to come. Day four’s trip took us from Phoenix to Las Vegas. We finally said goodbye to Interstate 10 (what a GREAT interstate) (except for in mobile) and got on Highway 93 north. Folks, I recommend this drive to everyone. After you leave Phoenix, Highway 93 opens up and climbs into huge mountains. I’ve never seen anything like it. Pictures don’t do the beauty justice. Christal and I drove for at least an hour without saying a word, just driving, taking pictures, hanging our mouths open and wiping tears from our eyes. It was that beautiful. No sign of civilization, no towns… just this endless highway twisting and turning and climbing through the most beautiful country.
Highway 93 in Arizona
Desert Mountains on Highway 93
Check out the view in my mirror
And all of a sudden, the road turned, and there in front of us: Hoover Dam. What an amazing engineering feat. I never understood what was so great about a big dam, until I saw it. We stopped three times to take pictures–each view more spectacular than the last. And on Hoover Dam, right on top of it, you cross from Arizona into Nevada.
At Hoover Dam with Christal
Lake Meade flowing up to Hoover Dam
After taking the pictures, we hopped in the car, and were in Las Vegas within the hour. 2464 miles from driveway to driveway. A truly amazing experience.
Now even though I’m in the desert and feel like a fish out of water, it took me less than 24 hours to dive in.
We took Kyle swimming in Lake Meade our first full day here, and it was beautiful. This will definitely do for now.
Playing catch in Lake Meade
So, tonight, I’m settled in with a week’s worth of work under my belt. And I LOVE IT. I feel a warmth at my station, and I LOVE producing again. My anchors are great to work with, and so far, there seems to be no bitterness or backstabbing in the station. In fact, one of my directors has an MMA fight next weekend, and people are going. It’s been a while since I’ve seen that kind of support.
As for me, my neighbor here in Michael Firestone–a world known Michael Jackson impersonator. Google him. I met him walking the dog.
I enrolled today at UNLV as a recreational athlete. I have a UNLV identification card and the whole works. Their pool facility is amazing. Now I just have to use it and get my butt back in shape. Who knows when that next triathlon will be?
God was truly with us on this trip. We hit no major rain, no traffic jams and had no incidents on the road. My movers with Allied were amazing, and all my stuff made the journey in one piece. I’m in a beautiful apartment, and am excited about the road ahead.
My mom and dad were amazing through the whole drive–my dad scouted ahead several times, which saved two tired people a lot of extra work. And Christal was amazing. Having her for a road partner couldn’t have worked out better. I know without a doubt we’re both looking forward to doing the trip again someday… on another Interstate… headed back to the Atlantic. Maybe another road?
Until then, I’ll go to the Pacific, ski in the Sierra Nevada, check out what’s around Vegas and do my work, and my working out, like a champion.