We've moved again. Actually, we moved twice in 2005, not something we can really recommend as a way to spend a year. To be sure, in terms of distance the first move hardly counted—Santa Fe to Los Alamos was only about 40 miles—but the work involved with packing everything up was the same as for the second move, which was a factor of 50 farther.
We had decided to make some sort of change last winter, so we put our Santa Fe house on the market thinking we'd have two or three months to figure out a real plan. Then, in a perfect example of Murphy's Law in action, the house sold in a week. As an alternative to joining the Santa Fe homeless community and living out of our cars, we rented a house in Los Alamos for the summer. It turned out that the house had more room, but living in our cars in Santa Fe would have offered far more amenities than Los Alamos ever dreamed of.
A few months later, in early September, we packed up again and moved lock, stock, and barrel across the country to Boca Raton, Florida (on the east coast north of Miami, about half-way between Ft. Lauderdale and West Palm Beach). We arrived here just after the Hurricane Katrina disaster along the Gulf Coast and just before the formation of Hurricane Rita to the east of Key West. Neither storm affected this area in any significant way—Katrina dumped lots of water on the southern tip of the Florida peninsula, damage far eclipsed by what happened in Mississippi and Louisiana, and Rita put a scare into Key West and points immediately north, but damage was minimal.
Then, toward the end of October, along came Wilma. A late-season, surprise storm that formed up in the western Caribbean Sea, Wilma beat up on Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula before being slurped into a cold front that carried it northeast across the eastern Gulf of Mexico—straight toward South Florida. We had plenty of time to prepare, and one of the things we did was to figure out the real-life puzzle of our hurricane panels, sheets of corrugated steel that fit together and bolt on the outsides of the windows. Altogether, there were about 75 of the panels for the various windows and sliding doors—numbered, as we discovered, by ancient Aztecs who counted backwards. Or something. But we managed to get them in place a full day ahead of the storm, setting an example for the neighbors, even. (The woman across the street came home on Sunday morning, the day before the storm, to find her husband putting their panels up. "Why bother?" she asked, "It's supposed to fizzle out, isn't it?" "Well, the new meteorologist across the street has his up, and that's good enough for me," he said.) So everything turned out OK for us—but it also got our attention, and we're planning on getting a hurricane-proof garage door before next year. And on the bright side, what damage we had served to get us started on the re-landscaping that we'd been discussing.
Although much of the year was consumed by the chores of packing and unpacking literally hundreds of cardboard boxes, we broke up the stress of moving itself with a cross-country road trip—New Mexico to South Florida, nine states in three days in a classic road-trip car. (Nine states for the 2200-plus miles doesn't seem like a lot, in retrospect; but the more direct routes involve only six or seven, strangely enough.)
We averaged over 700 miles per day by foregoing visits to any of the attractions and curiosities along the way. So, although we were tempted to stop, we zipped right by the World's Deepest Hand-Dug Well, in western Kansas—in fact, of more interest to us in that area were the wind farms, rows and rows of giant windmills rotating ponderously in the breeze, a high-tech form of kinetic art. It was somewhere out there in the west, on the day spent driving downhill from above 8000 feet at Eagle Nest, New Mexico to below 800 at Independence, Kansas, that the predominant windshield/front grille victim switched from huge grasshoppers (or maybe they're called locusts in that part of the world) to butterflies. Although gruesome, it seemed like a positive sign.
We stopped for a night just south of Nashville, missing the Grand Old Opry in favor of food and rest, so that we could cross the southern end of the Appalachians by day, and the sun rising through the dawn mist the next morning made the wait well worth it. We got lucky and hit Atlanta around noon, avoiding the rush hours (and hours and hours), then cut across central Georgia on US 23 down toward Jacksonville, Florida. This took us right by the grand entrance to the Okeefenokee Swamp, at which Pogo greeted us from a huge sign—one wonders how many people remember the little fellow these days. South of Jax after dinner, we drove through the Florida night with the top down, watching a full moon weaving in and out of clouds—and realizing that we were almost to our new home. It was a fitting introduction to a very different world, one in which green is not an unusual color and dust is replaced by mold as the dominant household nuisance.