It's been quite a ride but we made it to Florida, established residence in a hotel, and safely stored all our household goods while we wait to close on our new house here.
On Monday, July 24, Spencer picked up the truck and we ferried all our possessions out to the garage. One of the bishop's sons came over about 3 pm to help and they started loading with the washer and the piano. The Truscotts came over about the same time and had a last playdate while Karen and I cleaned and talked. More people came over after work, and we finished loading the truck and cleaning the house about 7:30 pm. Mr. Brown climbed back in the windows to shut them after we'd locked the doors. Tiffany Allred came over and cleaned the bathroom and packed the last couple boxes for me, and she invited us to stay over at her house that night. Having finished packing we were anxious to get moving and instead we drove away from Royal Oak and Detroit and Michigan that evening. It was my favorite time of day in the Michigan summer- the sun is beginning to set and the light from the west is golden and beautiful. Rose Pink and I cried all the way to the highway.
Right after we got started, we had to stop to get something for kids to eat and for the bathroom. Next to that giant truck, the minivan looks petite and maneuverable! Then we drove on and stopped just south of Toledo for the night. Although it was unplanned and unreserved, it turned out to be our favorite hotel of the trip down. Also we avoided rush hour traffic the next morning by leaving the night before. We were exhausted, but restless.
The hotel had a really great breakfast bar the next morning, and Mr. Brown and Nut Brown made all kinds of creative waffles by mixing stuff from the bar into the batter. The kids loved the juice machine, too. Right after we got on the road, we passed a sign that said "Tampa 1103 miles" which was a real encouragement to us. Florida, here we come! That day we drove 450 miles and went through Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee.
Nut Brown rode the whole way with Mr. Brown in the truck, and everyone else was with me in The Pan. We talked and sang and played games. At lunchtime Mr. Brown wanted to stop and get Cincinnati chili, so we did. Bobo led Rose Pink and I in a game of Green Alligators, and he gave some really fun clues.
Bobo: We didn't pack it, because we selled it.
Rose Pink and I rack our brains. Crib? Bicycle? Couch?
Bobo: It has a roof!
In Cincinnati, I almost rear-ended a car that stopped right in front of me (on the highway) but fortunately dived around it at the last minute. Mr. Brown had safely passed the erratic driver a couple minutes earlier and I was so glad that it was the minivan that had to brake suddenly instead of the moving truck.
Bobo got to practice being OAB (oldest available Brown) with Rosebud in the back. He and Rosebud played this game where he would say, "Say Wingardium Leviosa!" and she would should some baby babble, and he would toss her boppy to her. They had a good time. After lunch, Rosebud went to sleep, and Rose Pink and I decided to sing "99 Bottles Of Beer". We sang all the verses to the whole song, and discovered that Bobo had also fallen asleep. Rose Pink went back and laid his chair back down a bit so he could sleep better, but he woke up a bit. So we sang "There's A Hole In My Bucket" (all the verses) and he went right back to sleep.
Rose Pink collected license plates all day, and we got 40 states plus Ontario and Quebec. That night we stopped at a hotel in Knoxville, and when we pulled the truck in, we realized that there was no pull-through for it. Oh dear, oh dear. There was some very tense discussion, and then I went to ask some guys nearby if they could move their pickup so we'd have less chance of hitting it when we tried to back up, and they offered to back the truck up for us. What a gift from God! They backed it up and reparked it in about fifteen minutes so we could pull straight out the next morning.
That night we swam at the motel - it had a larger than usual pool. On Monday night we'd noticed some colored fluid leaking at the back of the truck, but we weren't sure what it was - it was dripping. Tuesday night, Mr. Brown said to me, did anyone put a bottle of dish soap in the back of the moving van? I said, I did tell them that I wanted to take it with me. He said, I think they just set it in the back. We gave thanks that there was nothing wrong with the truck and decided we'd worry about cleaning it up when we got to Florida.
Wednesday we drove 500 miles and went through Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia. The drive across North Carolina was through the Smoky Mountains, and it was so beautiful! We found it suggested to us when we were googling the best way to drive from Michigan to Florida, and found a newspaper column from a Michigander who had made the drive dozens of times and talked about the pros and cons of several routes. It felt like another tender mercy as we were making our plans.
I improved my sign-making communications skills. Mr. Brown and I communicated while driving via signs written on paper with a sharpie and held up by Rose Pink as I sped up to pass him. It was a little difficult to figure out for me and frustrating for Mr. Brown at first, but I got better with feedback. There was more talking and singing and also more audiobook on day 2. Mr. Brown and Nut Brown ran out of audiobook in the truck and we swapped memory sticks with them. The air conditioning wasn't working so well so they had to ride with the windows down. He offered Rose Pink a chance to ride in the truck, but she opted for the minivan. He and Nut Brown were pretty in love with the truck anyway so it was just as well.
In our hotel in Georgia that night, we had rooms that were way down the hall from each other, which was uncomfortable. The boys ended up in one room and girls in the other, and we just used the beds in the one instead of moving into it at all. We swam that morning before checking out, because Thursday was the last day of driving, and we only had 240 miles to go. The kids were relieved to have such a short day of driving in front of them!
We pulled into the hotel in Orlando, found a place to put the truck, checked in, and then kind of stood around a little stunned at how far we'd come safely. Mr. Brown opened the truck and discovered that someone had indeed set the bottle of dish soap loose in the back of the truck, that it had fallen over and had been leaking its contents. The nozzle had landed over a small hole in the deck though, and so there was very minimal cleanup - all the soap had run out of the truck. Truly God was watching out for us.
Friday July 28 we did some more settling in - figuring out where stores are, unpacking more stuff out of the cars into the hotel, and then we went to see the house that we bought. So far Mr. Brown is the only one who had actually seen it- we put in an offer after a cell phone tour. It was so great to go and walk through it - I'm super excited to move in now, and it feels like it will be a great place for our family. I was nervous about it, but as soon as Mr. Brown turned down the road where it's located I felt like I was in the right place, and that sense of rightness continued during the walkthrough.
Friday night we unloaded the truck into a storage unit. My brother Chris drove over from Tampa with a friend of his to help, thank goodness. It took us five hours! The kids were such troopers and managed everything so well. Mr. Brown and Chris packed that storage unit - we got everything in except the hose reel, which we put back in the car. There were two casualties- the concrete chicken fell over and knocked its head off, and the changing table toppled from the cart and was smashed. We threw it away. We were almost done with it anyway. That was a late night. I'm so glad it was Friday night instead of Saturday night, because now we have all of Saturday to recover and get ready for church on Sunday.
What a ride! And here we are!