Chapter 20: The Big Move
When I returned to Louisville that evening, I told Christie and the children of my decision. Debbie, Bill, and Sandy were pleased and excited with this new adventure. I hadn't shown them the aerial view of the ranch yet because it featured a large swimming pool and what I thought might be a corral for horses. I didn't want them too excited if I decided not to take the job. Now, I could show them and, as I expected, it raised their excitement level quite a bit.
"Well, Christie, where do we go from here?" I asked her after we had sent the youngsters off to bed.
"I'm thinking I might be able to buy this house, Doug. I like living here and this is where my business is. It is growing still and I'm thinking of hiring another person to help me. I could offer them room and board if we were compatible. Maybe another single mother or divorced woman would work out."
"I'd be happy to sell the house to you," I said immediately. "We can work something out that's within your budget, I'm sure. We would need to sign an agreement, but we can get a lawyer to draw one up for us. Would you like to explore that?"
She nodded and smiled. "That would be perfect, Doug. Living here with you I've been able to save quite a bit and I hoped that if you moved away, I'd be able to buy this home. I suggest we get it appraised so that you are getting a fair price for it."
"Good idea. I'll arrange for that tomorrow before I leave. I am going to miss you terribly, you know."
"I'm going to miss you too. It'll be hard, but I'm sure I'm making the right decision. I think you'll find someone in California. Plenty of women are looking to find a man like you."
I took her in my arms and kissed her lovingly. I regretted that it hadn't worked out between us. If Christie had weakened and agreed to marry me, I'd have done so in a flash. I wouldn't have thought twice about it. But ... she didn't weaken and I would be on my own once more. Thank God I still had the children with me. They would be grown and gone far too soon. I wanted to have them close by for as long as possible.
I handed in my notice to Sam Winters before I left on my next trip. He accepted it with little comment other than I wasn't giving him much notice at two weeks. I suggested he think about hiring back some of the drivers he'd already fired, but I got a rapid no from him in response. Oh well, his loss.
The house was appraised and I was pleased that it had appreciated by about forty thousand dollars since I'd invested in it with Diane. We had a lot of equity established since both Diane and I had put additional money against the bank mortgage. However, I wondered whether that would put it out of Christie's reach. The market price was near one hundred and seventy-five thousand.
With the assistance of the bank, we sat down and worked out a plan for her to buy the house from me with a down payment of twenty thousand dollars and monthly payments of eight hundred and fifty dollars per month over twenty years. The bank would buy out the old mortgage from me and issue a new one to Christie. The money she had from the sale of her own house would cover the down payment.
"I'm betting you'll be paying this off long before the term," I said.
"Well, that's pretty ambitious, Doug. I hope you're right. I have to admit, I'm doing well and the payments aren't going to be difficult to handle. If you're sure about this, let's do it."
"I'm sure, Christie. You're going to be a big success and it will be fun to know I helped along the way."
From that point until I prepared to leave for California, Christie was almost trying to kill me with sex. I wasn't about to complain since I guessed it would be some time before I found someone to replace her in my bed.
I called my parents and told them of my decision and they were happy for me. We had discussed the possibility over the past week. They had visited friends in Scottsdale, Arizona the previous winter and were amazed at the low prices for houses due to the economic downturn. We had talked about it for months before they made the big decision. They had found a buyer for their house in St. Cloud and were moving to Arizona in September. They had put an offer on a rancher in Scottsdale and it had been accepted. That still left them some money from the sale of their house in St. Cloud. They were looking forward to not having to deal with snow in the winter.
I think the biggest surprise for my parents was the fact that Christie wasn't coming with us. My mother was sure we would marry, just as I had been. I think she was pretty disappointed, but when I explained it to her, she reluctantly agreed that it was the right thing for her. You don't marry someone if you're not sure.
I called Diane's parents and told them of our move as well. I didn't want them to lose contact with their grandchildren. They were surprised, of course, but understood that I needed to be happy in my job and this was a great opportunity. They promised to visit after we got settled.
I arranged with the school district to have a copy of the records for our three forwarded to the Cummings Ranch. When we confirmed we would be in the Woodland school district, we had their original records sent directly to the school. I had to remind myself the neither Debbie nor Bill were children any more. They were in their middle teens and Sandy was now almost a teenager herself. Debbie was now going to be a senior while Bill would be a junior. Sandy would be in junior high school. They were growing up faster than I had realized. I just wished their mother could be there to see them. She would be so proud of them.
The moving company arrived two days before we were scheduled to leave for Sacramento. We were staying in a motel with three connecting rooms for our last night in Louisville. Christie and I directed the movers about what went and what stayed. Obviously, Christie would need furniture herself and I was told the ranch house in California was pretty well furnished. Still, there were several items that had personal meaning and I wanted them with us.
Our last night together was an emotional one for Christie and me. I was truly sorry that she was staying behind, but I knew she hadn't changed her mind. We each put on a brave face that last morning as I loaded the Dodge and we set out for our new home. Debbie was quiet, sitting in the front passenger seat.
Our route was simple. I 64 to St. Louis, I 70 through Kansas City to Denver, then north to Cheyenne, picking up I 80 westbound to Sacramento. Sounded simple when you said it quickly. But it was twenty-four hundred miles of interstate, almost completely across the country. I had allowed six days for the trip in order to do a bit of sightseeing along the way. I had only been as far west as St. Louis in my job, so beyond the first day it would be all new to me as well.
Both Debbie and Bill had taken driver education classes in school and had their restricted licenses. If they were to drive, I was to be in the front passenger seat and it would only be during daylight hours unless in the case of an emergency. I thought once we were past Kansas City, I would let them spend a couple of hours each day in the driver's seat to get a feel for freeway driving. They had demonstrated they were both responsible teenagers, so the extra seat time would give them some valuable experience.
The first leg was supposed to be to St. Louis, but we were there not long after noon, so we pressed on to Columbia, Missouri and stopped for the night. We rented two rooms with connecting doors. Bill and I bunked in one room, with Debbie and Sandy in the second. It worked out great that way. We found a nice restaurant for supper and talked about our next destination. After much discussion, we decided that we would go no further than Hays, Kansas, approximately four hundred miles further west. We could sleep in the next morning, have breakfast and then head out on the road again.
Sleeping-in meant seven o'clock to the kids. They were anxious to get going again and seven was their regular time to get up on school days, so I reluctantly agreed. We had a nice breakfast before starting out just after eight-thirty. I did a two-and-a-half hour stretch that got me to the west side of Topeka and then handed off to Debbie for a ninety minute run to Salina and a lunch break. She drove well, although a little nervously at first. Once she got accustomed to the traffic and the speed, I could see her relax a bit and focus on her driving and the traffic going in our direction. I had passed along the tips and methods I'd learned at the Jackson Driving School and I could see her using them as we moved along. She had set the cruise control exactly on the speed limit and stayed with it as conditions permitted.
She was pretty proud of herself when we pulled into a restaurant just off the interstate in Salina. Bill, of course, was lobbying to take the next segment, but I decided I'd drive for another hour before handing it over to him. When I checked the map, I realized we were only eighty miles from Hays, so we reset our target to no later than four o'clock in the afternoon. We were in the middle of Kansas with miles and miles of straight-arrow interstate ahead of us. It would be good to switch off fairly frequently to avoid highway hypnosis or boredom provoking carelessness. Shorter stints with breaks would prevent that.
We stopped in Oakley for the night, finding a decent chain motel that had our required connecting rooms and twin beds. The next morning, I noticed our troop slept a little longer before rising. Perhaps the excitement of the journey had worn off. Sandy had fallen asleep the previous afternoon and I could see Debbie's head nodding now and then as Bill and I drove along. I had to admit, there wasn't much to see on the interstate. I was sure there'd be much more scenery in Colorado and Wyoming.
It was only day three, so I decided we'd make it a short one and stay near Denver for the night. It was less than four hours to the big city, so we looked on the internet and found a motel near Mile High Stadium. The Rockies were in town, playing the Arizona Diamondbacks. There wouldn't be any problem getting tickets, so we decided to treat ourselves to a major league ballgame. I had seen the Twins play in the old Metrodome a couple of times, but the kids had never been to a game, so it would be a fun evening.
We ate early and lightly, knowing perfectly well we wouldn't be able to resist a hot dog or peanuts from one of the concessionaires. It was a fun evening with lots of scoring and the home team winning 8-5 on a ninth inning home run. Even Sandy enjoyed the game since there was plenty of action and lots of hits. Thank goodness it wasn't a pitchers duel.
I found a small gym in our motel and worked out the next morning before the kids were up. I had been missing my workouts lately what with the move and now the travel. I had been able to stick to my diet pretty well, saving some of my evening meal for later. We hadn't run into a motel that didn't have a small fridge, a microwave or a coffee maker. I had a supply of energy bars, just in case.
Day four took us to Cheyenne, Wyoming, and the kids really wanted to see this legendary old west town. I think we were all a little disappointed. I'm not sure if we expected to see saddled horses tied to hitching rails or cowboys toting holstered pistols, but from what we could learn, it appeared to be a town largely dependent on the nearby Air Force base. Plus, it was the capital of Wyoming, so there were plenty of state offices in town. We left sooner than we planned and headed for Rock Springs. At least the scenery of the Rocky Mountains kept us interested.