I still remember my first time driving across the Golden Gate Bridge.
I’d never seen fog moving that fast!
It felt like we were in the middle of some kind of dreamy, time-lapse photography scenario.
Even though I’d never been to California before, I felt like I was coming home.
I’d never felt at home on the East Coast, where the overriding sentiment seemed to be “this is the way we’ve always done it, so there’s no need to try anything new.”
After one of the worst winters on record, my boyfriend and I decided we just couldn’t spend one more endless stretch of months shoveling the driveway, navigating our vehicles and ourselves through ice and snow and feeling some degree of cold most of the time.
And just like that it was decided. ~ “We’re moving to California!” ~
Reactions of family & friends divided neatly into two camps:
Excitement. Possibly tinged with just a little envy? for our “California Adventure”.
And Negativity. Complete with dire predictions of failure or worse, on our “California Folly”.
In the negative camp, were those who said, “But you don’t have jobs. Neither of you knows anyone out there.”
“Well,” we patiently explained to the glass-is-half-empty contingent, “We’ll get jobs and we’ll meet new people when we get out there.”
At the time, the U-Haul trucks had their “An Adventure in Moving” slogan painted on the sides of the trucks.
That was enough of a sign for us!
So without much more thought or planning than that, we loaded all of our belongings and his two cats into the U-Haul truck and headed West.
With no jobs waiting for us, we took our time driving across the country, heading West by first going South.
We drove through the lush and humid deep South, the amazingly delicious and music-infused New Orleans, even venturing into the over 1,000 foot deep Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico.
For someone as claustrophobic as I am, this was a personal victory. It was amazingly beautiful, as long as you didn’t focus on how far underground you were.
On the open road, I discovered that I liked riding up high and pretending I was driving a big rig, just like the other truckers pulled in at the rest stops along the way.
I learned that, even in the dark, in a heavy downpour of cold rain, I could put our dome tent up by myself if I had to. A fight with my boyfriend had him driving off in a huff, leaving me alone at our remote KOA campground, angry, tired and crying, but determined to create shelter.
By the time he finally returned, hours later, we had both calmed down and apologized. I had a new feeling inside me; a quiet reserve of resourcefulness and strength I knew I could draw on if I ever needed to.
Growing up on the East Coast, where the trees grew in crowded woods, I marveled at the golden rolling hills of California.
I’d never seen grass-covered hills like that; bare and soft looking, dotted with the occasional patch of scrubby-looking oak trees.
Both of us had the usual sunny-all-the-time California fantasies about San Francisco. We were shocked and unprepared for how cold and foggy it was in the middle of the summer!
Our plan to find jobs and a place to live in The City by the Bay quickly shivered away.
The next morning we headed north, and kept driving until we were out of reach of the fogs chilly embrace.
We ended up at a campground in Petaluma. There with a giant blackberry hedge out front, where we soaked up the sunshine and gorged ourselves on the purple abundance.
Our first Thanksgiving in California, was actually in August.
We’d found a little cottage to rent in the town of Sonoma, and our new neighbors knocked on the door while we were still unpacking boxes.
They generously invited us to join them for “Thanksgiving in August”, explaining that they loved all the flavors of Thanksgiving so much that they made the traditional meal, with all the trimmings, whenever the craving struck.
“We know what it’s like when you’re moving,” our new favorite people in the world, continued. “You probably don’t even know where the boxes are with your pots and pans anyway, much less having had time to buy any groceries.”
Thinking about our first home cooked meal in weeks, we gratefully accepted, feeling like we’d truly arrived in the Land of Plenty.
So, that’s how this story begins, and how I came to be a “NorCal Gal”.