1,095 days

It’s the three-year anniversary of the day James and I loaded up our cars, grabbed the dogs and put Texas in our rearview mirror. We got here two days later with willing spirits and confused dogs and haven’t looked back since.

This move was an experiment. Neither of us had done anything so drastic before–at least, not intentionally. But up until and including the moment we headed west, I never once doubted what we were doing. It felt scary, but it also felt right, and that rightness has never wavered. Something for which I remain grateful.

It’s hard being so far from the people we love (and even the people we just really like), and we’re still trying to figure out how to maintain years-long and even decades-long friendships in a world where no one talks on the phone. Facebook is a sorry substitute for real life/real time, but it’s better than nothing. If we find the solution, I’ll let you know.

So, three years in, some observations:

  • Our palates haven’t converted to CaliMex, nor will they. TexMex forever.
  • The 1,800 miles between us and home seems shorter every time we drive it. It helps that we’re figuring out the best places to eat, pee and sleep along the way.
  • There’s not much of a temperature spread in Pacific Grove, but there are distinct seasons.
  • Newscasts and truck commercials are much less dramatic here than in Houston. For the former, it helps that we watch a local station and not one out of San Francisco. Less drama to report on means less dramatic news. Plus, there’s just a different tone in general. As for the truck commercials, there’s no California equivalent to the pervasive “everything’s bigger in Texas” motif.
  • Speaking of that, I never really felt like a Texan when I lived there. But I did feel like a Houstonian. I’m still figuring out what I feel like now.
  • We lived here for four months before I stopped reading the Houston Chronicle every morning.
  • We lived here for three months before breaking our year-and-a-half meat fast by eating pepperoni pizza at Tommaso’s in San Francisco.
  • We lived here for almost three years before I ended up with a workable queso recipe. Still not quite like the plastic restaurant version that we so love, but close enough to get the job done.
  • We’ve mostly adapted to living in a small house. A key thing we did was replace some of our beloved furniture with smaller pieces that are more appropriate for the footprint of our house. My grandparents’ dining room table (which seats six to eight) moved to the garage and was replaced with a square table that seats four. And suddenly the walls didn’t seem like they were closing in.
  • The PG dog parade remains one of my favorite annual traditions and melts my cold, cold heart every time. If you were thinking about coming out here on vacation, I’d suggest the end of July because the dog parade is followed the next night by a pretty impressive fireworks display over the water. And even though it’s summer, it’s often cold and foggy. And also, we’ll still be here, good lord willin’ and the creek don’t rise.

Points of interest as chronicled in this blog (now I just chronicle on Instagram):
Palo Corona Regional Park
Mill Creek Redwood Preserve
Point Sur Lighthouse
Point Lobos State Natural Reserve
El Carmelo Cemetery
Whale watching trip

5 Replies to “1,095 days”

  1. I am glad to hear you are not among the stranded in the Big Sur area. Today makes 15 months since my first day at my new job here, so add a week and that’s how long we have been here now. We like living in Daly City ok. I like getting into San Francisco several times a month but not living with the dirty/unpleasant aspects of the city every day. I take our dog to walk the trails at Fort Funston every morning, (except on the rare occasions the weather is forbidding), so I get some quiet nature solitude too. I have not been back to Houston yet. Please share your notes for driving! Please. Please. Please. Best places to eat, sleep, and engage in bodily functions will be very much appreciated as I will likely be making that drive sometime in the next few months.

    1. I started to write about the situation in Big Sur in this blog post and found it was turning into a novel, so I deleted it. My hope is that all of the ill-behaved tourists who can no longer pollute Big Sur will move on to some other place and not come back. A hard reset. We’ll see.

      Congrats on the new-ish gig.

      To your question:

      We’ve taken I-10 on our trips back because we’ve been going in December and trying to avoid snow. If you go this summer, I-40 is likely a more scenic drive. But I haven’t been that way and have no recommendations for you. Here’s what I have for the more southerly route.

      Bay Area to the California border:
      Driving I-5 sucks. We avoid this completely by taking 101 all the way down. So it’s: US-101 to CA-210 to I-10. Once you’re on 10, it’s a straight shot to Houston. On our last drive back, we did the Phoenix bypass (hopping on I-8 for a bit). It’s a little longer than going through Phoenix, but there’s no traffic and it’s just a more relaxing ride through the desert. So we’ll do that going both ways the next time we drive home.

      First night:
      Stay in Blythe, just inside the border with Arizona, at Best Western Sahara. This is a no frills town, and it’s a no frills Best Western, but they take dogs and it’s cheap. Just don’t eat the free breakfast. Courtesy Coffee Shop is across the street, and it’s a nice old school diner with a pretty wide-ranging menu. Good for getting some food after your long drive, and if you’re in a hurry to get rolling the next morning there are plenty of fast food options and gas stations right by the interstate. You’re a bit north of us, so your day will be a little longer. From here, it’s about nine hours of driving (568 miles) and an hour for stops (since we travel with dogs).

      Second night:
      Stay in Van Horn, TX at Hotel El Capitan. It’s a beautiful old hotel renovated to its original glory. The town of Van Horn is absolutely not the attraction. Just the hotel. Their restaurant is also very good. We’re fans of the burger and the chicken fried steak. (Road trips are not the time to diet.) This is the longest day of driving. Ten hours (700 miles) plus another hour or so for stops. But it’s all interstate, so it’s not a big deal.

      Day three:
      Van Horn to Houston. It’s 8.5 hours of driving (626 miles) with another hour for stops. Maybe more if you get sidetracked by things like barbecue at City Market in Luling. You should roll into town late afternoon/early evening, just in time to get some TexMex.

      Then do the reverse on the way back. The longest day of driving is always the California section, with all the hills/curves/fog/mountains/traffic.

      Here are the Pilot/Flying J exits between here and there (including a few on I-5 if you go that way). They have the cleanest bathrooms plus a bunch of crap you don’t need to buy and lots of gas pumps. From Thousand Palms onward, the exits are off I-10:
      – Lost Hills – I-5 @ 46
      – Frazier Park – I-5 exit 205
      – Castaic – I-5/Lake Hughes exit
      – Thousand Palms – Bob Hope
      – Quartzsite – 17
      – Ehrenberg – 1
      – Phoenix – 137
      – Eloy – 208
      – Tucson – 268
      – Lordsburg – 24
      – Las Cruces – 139
      – Anthony – 0
      – El Paso – 37
      – Fort Hancock – 77
      – Van Horn – 140
      – Fort Stockton – 259, 233
      – Bakersfield – 308
      – Ozona – 349
      – Sonora – 423, 394
      – Junction – 459
      – Kerrville – 514, 503
      – Comfort – 531
      – San Antonio – 583
      – Luling – 622, 632 (Bucee’s)

      Hope this is helpful. Let me know if you have other questions.

  2. Miss having your creative, talented, humorous self here in Houston but very glad you have planted solid roots and found happiness in your new home! Keep on writing! We love to hear about you and your doings!

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