Forgive the tardiness of this post. We’ve had a lot to update everyone on since getting back to Houston, and even though we’ve been here for almost a month (thank you for the support and crash pad Jim and Kelly!) we’re just starting to feel life settling back to normal. Our two months in DC left us feeling like this:
Seriously though, here is a picture Allyson and I took the week before we left. Look at how tired, washed out, and weary we (re: I) look. I barely recognize us.
There will be plenty of time to catch you up on good news, but first the story of our exodus must be told. Much like our two months in DC, it is a tale fraught with the kind of misfortune and misadventure that you can only laugh at as it’s happening and be thankful for once it’s over.
To start, we did find our way into that new apartment in Virginia thanks to the diligence of my amazing mother-in-law who flew 1,500 miles to spend a full 18 hour day moving us in. It was in that apartment that we got the news that the job with DAG had evaporated into thin air, and it was there that this story begins – on Friday October 26 – just 5 days before our 30 day, no-penalty option expired on our lease and we were locked into living in Crystal City for a year.
We had our plan pretty well worked out by that point. We had been packing for nearly a week and planned to finish over the weekend, picking up our U-haul truck (a 21 footer this time - one advertised to hold up to 3 bedrooms) on Sunday, loading with hired help on Monday, picking up my parent’s who were flying in to help us on the drive that evening, and hitting the road (at the latest) Tuesday morning. We’d be in Houston by Thursday without rushing.
It was right about then that the city that had been trying to kick us out for 60 days began it’s all out, concerted campaign to never let us leave.
It was Friday morning that news reports of “Frankenstorm” Sandy shifted into full on sensationalized panic. With the hurricane fast approaching from the east and a nor’easter pushing in from the west, commentators on the Weather Channel we’re literally saying “your guess is as good as ours, folks!” I called my mom and warned her to cancel their flight. Sure enough, by the time she looked online, everything for Monday and Tuesday had already been cancelled. Most parents/people would have taken the refund and avoided the prospect of moving during a hurricane altogether, but my parents are not most. They decided to take a Sunday flight instead, beat the storm, and get us out before the worst of it hit early Tuesday morning. It was a plan that was just crazy enough to work.
Allyson and I rallied. We worked overtime to finish packing, we bumped the movers up to Monday morning, and I headed to U-haul to pick up one more round of boxes and confirm our pick up. Even though the boxes wouldn’t fit in our car, they assured me I could just pick them up with the truck the next day. Everything was working like clockwork.
On Sunday morning we had perfect weather. Allyson and I drove to the airport to pick up my parents. When their wheels touched down, the wheels of our plan started to fall off.
While we were waiting for my folks at baggage claim, I called U-haul. No answer. I Googled the location on my phone to double check the number. In big letters under the address I read “Closed on Sundays.” There is no way, I thought. I was just there yesterday. How could this be?
Muggs and Lee Ellen were unfazed by the news, but this one, unexpected loose thread was threatening the whole plan to unravel. We’d have to pick up the truck on Monday now, which meant the movers were going to have to be pushed back, which meant we’d have to re-coordinate a moving time with our apartment, which meant that even if everything went smoothly we wouldn’t get out of the city until late at night…the night a hurricane was scheduled to make landfall. At least that’s what we thought. By the time we got back to the apartment the Weather Channel had an updated prediction. Sandy would be arriving Monday evening. Now all the people I had to call to reschedule were calling me…to cancel. I spent most of Sunday trying to predict the best time to move during a storm that even meteorology couldn’t get a handle on.
When we woke up early Monday morning, the rain had already started. I had been on the phone with U-haul HQ to relocate our pickup location and our truck was there waiting. The 21 footer looked suspiciously too small, but Brad at the desk assured us that he’d never heard of a two bedroom apartment not fitting into one that size. We drove it to the apartment, but with no moving help coming unitl Wednesday, we didn’t have much to do but wait for the storm. We took one last tour of the city with my folks and got back to the apartment by 5. With the time change and the clouds, it was already very dark. We watched as the storm picked up, the rain came down harder, and the winds blew it horizontally. Being from Louisiana, and having survived several hurricanes between the four of us, Sandy was not much more than a bad storm as far as Arlington, VA was concerned…but where our power grid is built to handle such occasions, their’s is not. At 7:00, we heard a transformer explode, and we lost power.
At this point the Athey’s decided to make lemon-aide out of lemons. “Miraculously” the power was only knocked out on our block…meaning that everyone else, in every direction, still had their lights on. We headed down the road to Crystal City sports pub and settled in for a hurricane party all our own.
Tuesday sucked so bad that I don’t recall any significant details. The storm had passed in the night and apart from a few sprinkles and cold wind we were in the clear. But the power stayed off. If you looked at Arlington from an arial view you would have seen a city going about a normal Tuesday with one tiny block in the middle cast back into the blackness of the dark ages.
And because our power stayed off we had no freight elevator. And because we had no freight elevator our move from the third story was all but impossible. I debated all day whether or not to cancel the movers who were now scheduled to show Wednesday morning. Finally, at 6:00 the lights flickered back on…then immediately sparked back off. The hits were coming so spitefully and frequently at this point that we had given up being frustrated. At 8:00, our happy attitudes paid off and the lights came on and stayed on.
The move on Wednesday morning went quickly, but just as we suspected the 21 foot truck was too small. Despite the best efforts of our movers, we just couldn’t get everything to fit. We drove back to Brad who, despite his disbelief, hooked us up with a 6x10 trailer to drag. Dad and I put another hour into packing and we finally pulled away from the apartment at 5:00. So long DC!
For night one, we drove as far as Roanoke, VA and stopped at a Holiday Inn Express. The hotel did not allow dogs, so we had to smuggle Huck in disguised as a tote bag.
On day two, we crossed through VA and into TN. Allyson and I were driving our car, following dad, mom, and Huck in the Uhaul. We were making great time and passing the hours watching season 1 of Homeland (a phenomenon that we had somehow missed out on until then). Things were going smoothly. And on this trip, you should know by now what happens when things are going smoothly for the Atheys. About a half hour past Knoxville, I watched a chunk of rubber fly out from under the Uhaul in front of us, my dad put his hazards on and pulled over. The truck had blown a tire!
We got off the road and parked in a 18 wheeler repair lot in the middle of no-where TN. Allyson got on the phone with Uhaul dispatch, who projected a wait time of about 2 hours. And so we waited…
and waited a little up the hill…
until a pro with a compression jack finally showed up. An hour and forty five minutes wait time and the guy changed the tire in 15 minutes flat.
We got as far a Meridian, MS until we were finally beat. We spent the night in a ramshackle LaQuinta, refueled with a Waffle House breakfast and were back on the road for the last leg…and a turn behind the Uhaul wheel.
We got to Bossier Friday afternoon and decided to go no further. We relaxed, got to see Matt and Caroline and Rick and Lori who all happened to be in town, and praised the heavens to be back in a familiar house in a familiar bed. We held our breath that the chaos was finally coming to an end and didn’t let it out until we were safely home in Houston on Saturday evening (just in time to see LSU almost beat Bama).
All in all it was a tumultuous end to a very trying time. Now that we’re back home it is already clear to see how all the hardship was the universe pointing us back to where we were supposed to be. Allyson and I are both so incredibly grateful for the love and support of all our family and friends. You kept us going when we were at our lowest. Thank you for being there. We’re very thankful for you this holiday season.
You…and this little one. .
More to come about that in the next post :)