The Ramble Makes a Big Move

Ramblers Only Make Big Moves.


A Lake Superior Sunrise, because nostalgia.


A loaded Adventure Rambler.

WE MOVED.  Sara, me, baby Katie, the dog (Rio), two cats (Stella and Mosley), and three stowaway fish (Steve and the murderfish – which as an aside would be a great name for a punk band made up of aquatic toxicologists) were packed up into a Uhaul and the Rambler along with all of our earthly possessions (or at least most of them – decisions were made…) and we moved out of Duluth and to our new home in Columbia, MO.  Now, writing in retrospect, things couldn’t have worked out much better, but as they were happening I was pretty sure they were going to fall apart at any moment.

Let us start with the move.  First let me thank Pat and Tom Lee (Sara’s parents) who were instrument in the physical act of moving.  Pat was to stay with us in Duluth for a few weeks before the big move, during which time she packed innumerable boxes of books and anything else she could lovingly and carefully cram into two square feet of cardboard.  She was also kind enough to label the boxes so we would know where to unpack them.  That didn’t stop the boxes from becoming a bit snarky (but I totally understand the need for snark after you’ve packed the 15th box of freakin’ damn heavy books).  With the baby occupying the majority of Sara’s time and my efforts focused on finishing my post doc, Pat’s help was invaluable.  Tom was massively helpful in both carrying heavy things and helping to organize and pack the truck.  He also made us a bed frame for our king size bed.  The move couldn’t have been as successful as it was without them


Damn that was a big truck that was fully packed to the gills.


As the moving day approached Sara and I developed a plan.  The first part of the plan was to use the last months of our time in Duluth to pare down our vast amounts of things and stuff.  If you’ve read one of my previous post, I did make an effort, but as it turns out, that effort was really superficial.  I gave it a try, I really did, but I like my stuff and things and can only sell/give away so much.  So, that first part really just got ignored so we focuses on the second part of the plan: logistics.  The plan was to end work on the Friday the 10th so that there would be a whole 10 days before I had to start my new job.  Sara and her Mom would leave Duluth that Friday with Rio and the kitties and head to Eau Claire, where she could say good bye to friends and family there.  I would stay in Duluth to finishing packing, get the rental truck, and load that puppy up, clean up the apartment and get on down the road.  It sounded like a great plan.  Sara wouldn’t be able to help carry much given that she would need to take care of Katie, and keeping Rio and the kitties out from underfoot would be very helpful.  Tom was coming on Saturday with Mac and Ethan (Sara’s brother and nephew).


These guys really helped during the packing process!



Rio doing what she does on all road trips, this time in a Uhaul.

For the last three years I’ve called the Duluth home, for Sara it was almost six.  We forged strong friendships with co-workers and built a community for ourselves.  In the last year our communities merged and celebrated with us on numerous occasions.  Leaving our Duluth community for something new, with only the two of us for support is a bit scary.  My last days at work were productive, but downhearted.  I couldn’t celebrate the future because there was so much still to do, and whole moving event loomed large in my mind.  But the last day came.  I said good bye to the great friends I made, promising to keep in touch – which through things social media is much easier now.  I submitted the one last manuscript and made a plan for the rest of them.  I finally left work about 630.  As I was leaving I couldn’t find my wallet.  It became a mini-crisis, the first of many.  It wasn’t in my office or in car (I was driving Sara’s Mom’s Subaru since Sara had the Rambler and the Cube was packed.  I called Sara in Eau Claire and had her look in my car, with no luck.  It turned out I stuck it in a basket in the Cube that morning and it was still there.  Luckily since I had yet to pay for the Uhaul or any gas for said Uhaul.  Well Friday night was a blur of moving boxes and arranging things for the move.  Saturday morning arrived with a sense of urgency.  The sun shone bright upon the big Lake outside my window and I got to work.  First I moved cars into position so that I could ensure that the moving van would have a space in front of the apartment.  Then I went and picked up the van.  A 26 foot van is said to be able to pack a 4 bedroom house.  It is huge and the gas tank at ¼ full required about $120 to fill, even at sub $3 per gallon.  I got it home and did some last minute prep work and had some lunch just about the time the Tom, Mac, Ethan, and the movers arrived.  I had hired movers to help with getting the big stuff out of the apartment.  The Duluth place had an awful staircase to get out.  It was a steep set of stairs with 180 degree turn followed by another 90 degree (left turn) to get out of the house.  I hired movers so that nobody else got their backs hurt trying to move the stuff.  There were three movers, who were useful to varying degrees.  Tom, Mac, and Ethan were helpful to an extent that I couldn’t have accomplished the move without them.  As Saturday afternoon slowly progressed into Saturday night the truck filled up, and filled up is really an understatement.  By the end things did get a little sloppy, but only in comparison to the carefully packed (like a giant game of tetris) back portions of the truck.   Before it got dark, I sent the Lee’s on their way and set about determining what else still needed to be done.  With the truck looking fully packed, it was hard to believe as I went inside that there was still so much stuff in the house.  The boxes and the furniture were gone, but there were little odds-n-ends plus a few pieces I had missed, plus the whole house was dirty.  I was however exhausted.  I locked up the truck for the night and made some cursory effort at cleaning and finishing the last bits of things, but all I really had the energy to do was watch to Netflix on the laptop.  I had smartly left unpacked an inflatable mattress to sleep upon, but I dumbly packed all the pumps. Given the double thick style of the mattress, even an extended effort at manually inflating that monster was going to be futile and make me dizzy.  So I slept on the floor.  Sunday found me up with the Sun and after some caffeine and advil I was ready to hit the ground running.  I got out and repacked to the back of the truck.  Through better arrangement I was able to create a space for the new bed’s wood parts to go, while packing the rest of the forgotten items into the truck.  In addition, I had to run to the hardware store, plus pick up the trailer for the Cube.  Once I got the trailer and was back at the apartment (the truck and trailer took up more than three whole parking spaces, luckily our neighbor Tim was nice enough to let me block his driveway for the day.  Once I got back I was on a mission.  The house was going to be empty and all the items were going to be packed in the truck.  I set my phone down and got to work.  It was almost 6PM before I had most of the things out of the house and started the cleaning process.  It was another few hours of cleaning and painting and repainting and re-cleaning.  By the time I was done it was 2AM.  Faced with another night on the floor, this time without Netflix, I decided to just get on the road.  I equitably distributed the trash and recyclables among the neighbors cans (as ours was already full) and hit the road.  The journey to Eau Claire usually takes about two and half hours, but with a fully loaded truck and trailer the journey took much closer to three and a half.  The going was slow, but the roads were thankfully empty (of both cars and deer).  It was a good thing, as it took a while to gain confidence behind the wheel.  I arrived in the Lee’s with the sunrise, but luckily for me Patty is an early riser and let me in the house, where I found a couch and immediately napped for a couple of hours.  After that, feeling reinvigorated it was time to continue the move.  First we had to load up the new bedframe, which I would describe as solid and heavy duty.  There were also a number of things to give away/throw away since they were too bulky for the trash.  But once the truck was fully packed we headed off down the road.


Mosely and Stella traveled 600 miles in a big dog crate, kind of like a prison transfer.


When I had envisioned and planned the move, there were so many things I wanted to do but very few of them got accomplished.  There are a lot of random things that got moved that probably didn’t need to be.  I had also planned on going to the aquarium store and giving away my remaining fish. This didn’t happen.  Steve the Severum Cichlid and two rosey barbs named the murderfish were in a bucket in the moving truck along with all of my electronics (laptops, kindle, cameras etc.) along with Rio.  Getting Rio into the cab of the truck was a feet in and of itself.  Rio can jump that high, I know she can, I’ve seen her do it on many occasions, but she wouldn’t. So that meant every time we stopped I had to lift her 80lb fuzzy butt back into the truck.  We broke the trip into two days to make it easier for the baby and the cats.  It was also good for me to have two 4 hour days since the first day I was operating on about 2 hours of nap time.  We stopped in Des Moines, Iowa for the night.  Never was I so happy to see a Cracker Barrel, especially since it was open.  After dinner it was right to sleep for me, although Sara had a rough night of listening to the baby breathe and me snore (another problem that will hopefully be worked out in the near future), the cats roam and Rio tweek at every little noise.  The next morning I was again on a mission.  A much more confident truck driver now I put the pedal down and was cruising between 55-65 mph most of that rainy morning.  With a full tank of gas, I made no stops and beat everyone to Columbia.  This was probably not the smartest idea, since I had to pick up the keys from the leasing agency, whose downtown offices required some tricky navigating with a giant Uhaul and trailer.  After about three white knuckle loops through downtown, I was able to find three parking spots in a row right after a driveway, which ensured no one would park behind me.  I dropped quarters into all three meters and hiked the five blocks to the rental place.  The folks there had be very nice on the phone, and it turned out just as nice in person.  So I gave them a check for rent and they gave me the keys to our new house.


Rio and Sara relax after working hard getting things unpacked.


Arriving at our new digs I was pleasantly surprised.  They were very nice, especially given that we had done everything over the phone and internet.  I called Sara, who was still a bit behind, to make sure it was alright to go through without her, and getting her OK, Rio and I went into our new house El Rancho Sierra Madre.  The house was great, much better than even I was hoping for.  The two car garage was spacious and would allow us to unload the stuff, but not have to immediately bring it all into the house.  It also would provide plenty of storage for all the stuff Sara, Katie, and I have accumulated.  The three bedrooms were good size and there was plenty of closet space, including a walk-in for the Master Suite.  Two bathrooms was also a huge plus.  My brother Brian and Julie and there five week-old daughter Betsy came over from St. Louis to help us unpack.  Brian was a huge help and it was great to meet my new niece for the first time.  The babies are going to be good friends, being so close.  Having been far away from family for the last 7 years (Waco – 16hrs, Duluth – 12hrs) it is great to have my family much closer.  So on Tuesday evening, we got the truck unpacked, had our first Shakespeare’s Pizza (a local favorite that turns out is quite delicious), and constructed the new bed frame.  It was quite the busy day.  We now had five days before I had to start my new job.  Again Patty and Tom were a huge help in unloading and distributing all the stuff.  They stayed Tuesday and Wednesday, but on Thursday morning they packed up the moving blankets and the borrowed kennel and a few other things and headed back to Eau Claire.  We took a breath for Thursday and Friday, trying to get a few more things organized and unpacked because on Saturday Barb, Rog, Beth, Julie, Brian, and Betsy were coming to visit.  For my mom and dad this was the first time they had seen Katie, in person since the week she was born.  For Beth, who was in from her new job in Atlanta, this was the first time meeting Katie.  It was a great weekend.  Drinks were drunk, pizza eaten, we went out to a great gastro pub close to our house and a sports bar to watch part of a horrible Bengals game (but a good Packers game).  Everyone hung out until the last possible minute (a Berninger Family Tradition) but eventually they had to head back to St. Louis to drop Beth off for her flight.  It was great to see everybody, plus seeing your parents as grandparents, as they hold your child, is pretty amazing.


Mom with Katie and Betsy


The lots of Bs crew. BNB with KBB and EBB (plus BJB took the picture).


Monday started work and the blur.  Paperwork, paperwork, paperwork, and getting into a new project.  Turns out there is a lot of paperwork to getting a new job in the federal system.  Some of the paperwork was luckily getting me to SETAC in Vancouver.  Since it was international (yep, Canada is international) it was even more complex, but by the week before the conference I was all set.


The conference was great. One of the crazy things I realized is how many people I know.  Sara asked me if I was going to hang out with the old gang, and I had to think “which old gang?”  The ones from EPA Duluth that I just left. The ones from Baylor. The ones from EPA Cincinnati, and Cindy (my master’s advisor from University of Houston Clear Lake).  Over the course of the week each night involved socializing with another group of friends and collaborators.  It was some pretty intense networking, but the intensity is reduced through consumption of beers.  During the week we were lucky enough that Sara’s Mom, Aunt, and Nana were able to come down from Eau Claire to visit, so she wouldn’t have to have the baby all on her own while I was in Canada doing science and drinking beer.  I never realized how much I would miss Sara and Kate until I was in the hotel thinking how much Sara would appreciate this view.  I was happy to return on Friday, even after spending most of the day in the airport and then driving from St. Louis to home.  Sara stayed up till I got home, but Katie was obviously asleep when I rolled in at 1AM.  She did get up at 5 so I got a little snuggle time in then while I fed her.


The view out of my hotel in Vancouver SETAC


So after the whirlwind of the move and the conference we are now settling in, just in time for Thanksgiving.  As it turns out, now that we have a house and a baby (and perhaps don’t live in the frozen shores of Lake Superior) people want to visit.  Sara’s parents, plus Mac, Heather, Ethan and Brophy will be arriving a little later today.  My parents are coming in on Friday, after having Thanksgiving dinner with my Grandpa and Phil.


Finally got the garage cleaned out, now I feel moved in.


It seems like the months of July and August seemed to creep by.  FIrst waiting for Katie and then her arrival and then getting used to the idea of being parents, and finishing up things at work.  Once September hit things started to pick up momentum and it doesn’t seem like they are ever going to slow down.  So much going on, that everyday I have to stop and remind myself to take a little time and appreciate what great things I have, a healthy beautiful daughter and loving wife, a fantastic family, a great job, a nice place to live, an awesome dog, two cats, and some fish.  Hopefully in the near future things will go slow enough that I can keep up with some additional blogging, but in the mean time, have a happy and wonderful Thanksgiving.


Enjoying some Katie Time


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