By far the most significant event of 2009 came toward the end of the year. After considerable deliberation and prayer, the Rodehorst family made the difficult decision to return to Nebraska. Little did they know the biggest difficulties lay ahead.
True to form, Ryan set out to outwit the system. "Surely there is a better way to move cross-country, and I'll be darned if I don't find it," he thought to himself. What followed was a series of questionable decisions that resulted in a more stressful, costly, ineffective, and dangerous moving experience for all.
First, the truck the Rodehorsts bought turned out to need major repairs--repairs that cost more than the truck itself and that nearly weren't finished in time for their move. Next, the U-Haul trailer they rented was too small to hold all their possessions. Even with the newly-repaired truck and U-Haul piled high, they were still forced to leave a truckload of their things behind. Not to mention all the precious time lost loading, unloading, and rearranging to pack as much as possible! So it was that on the day they planned to leave 10423 Mary Lane, they instead found themselves packing and cleaning well into the night, feeling increasingly discouraged and hopeless about their situation. It was only with the help of their generous landlords and neighbors, Brian and Lura Anderson, that they finally were able to leave that fateful night. But for Ryan, who would make the seventeen-hundred mile drive to Nebraska alone, the adventure was only beginning.
Only a few hours into his drive, Ryan's battle with the elements began. High winds that started in Central Washington and accompanied Ryan the remainder of his trip made the slow-going drive all the more laborious; worse yet, they shredded his carefully secured tarp before he had even made it out of the state. Now the only thing between the outside elements and the Rodehorsts' belongings in the bed of the truck was Lady Fortune--and, as Ryan was soon to learn, she wasn't much for company.
Some time late that night Ryan pulled into a Wal-Mart in Spokane for his first prolonged stop of the trip. After struggling to make a few emergency repairs on the trap in the cold, dark, windy night, Ryan slept for an undetermined amount of time in the cab of the pickup. Several hours before sunrise, the journey resumed--only to come within only inches of disaster.
Just outside of Coeur d'Alene, ID, Ryan made one of many stops to refuel--but this was by for the most exciting. Following the commands of his not-so-trusty GPS back to I-90, Ryan found himself confronted by a one-way sign. So he turned onto the side-street to his right, thinking that it would take him back the way he came. Instead, he found himself on a dead-end street in the dead of night with only two choices: one, he could turn into the small parking lot to his right and try to turn around or, two, he could back up the way he had come somehow facing the right way on that one-way street. This being his first time driving with a trailer, Ryan went with the default choice: to do whatever did not involve driving in reverse. So he pulled the truck and trailer into the lot as far to the right as possible, then jerked the wheel as far to the left as it would go, and swung wide around the lot, skirting within inches of the cars parked on its edges. "I'm going to make it," he thought to himself as the truck neared the completion of its 180 degree path around the lot. But the last parked vehicle--a truck that stuck out a mere bumper's length farther than the rest--blocked the way. What was he to do now? Stopped three-quarters of the way through the turn, the truck and trailer were out of line, so the inexperienced drive couldn't very well back straight up without jackknifing. And the cars to his right were too close to allow him to turn the wheel much. But he had to do something. So he slowly backed up to reposition himself. Then he tried to pull forward. But it seemed that he was just as close, if not closer, to the parked truck as before. So he tried again, and again, and again. Still, it didn't seem he was getting anywhere. In fact, the only way he could tell he wasn't merely retracing his tracks back and forth was because the trailer kept getting farther and farther out of line, close and closer to jackknifing.
He was stuck. "Alone and stranded in a back alley of Idaho in the middle of the night, what else could go wrong?" Ryan thought to himself. His mind raced for a way out. "Maybe I could detach the trailer, reposition the truck separately, and reattach the trailer," he thought, frantically looking around for some sort of board to use with the jack. "I can only imagine what someone would think if they saw me snooping around here in the dark." As the hopelessness of his situation began to dawn on him--there wasn't a decent board in sight and, besides, it wasn't like he could so much as budge the overloaded trailer by himself--a man emerged from a nearby building. At well past two in the morning, this was nothing short of a miracle. With the Good Samaritan's guidance, Ryan carefully repositioned his truck, pulled forward, and oh so narrowly cleared the parked truck. With the parking lot, his dignity, an hour of wasted time, and a mere 350 miles of his 2,200 mile trip behind him, Ryan finally hit the road again.
Except for the ever-present wind, he had smooth sailing for a while. He reveled in the sun rise over the Rocky Mountains of Montana, even as his truck struggled up and down the steep roads with its heavy load. This was his first time in Montana, and he could see why they called it God's Country. Then the weather hit. Montana's Big Sky opened and it started to rain. And as the rain fell harder, the holes in the tarp seemed to grow larger. "I hope it's doing at least some good," Ryan thought hopefully, "because there isn't much I can do about it now." So he drove. And it rained. At least he could be glad it wasn't snow...for now. The weather forecast called for snow, and lots of it. A front was moving in from the west; his only hope was to stay ahead of it.
More than 24 hours after his initial departure, Ryan crossed into Wyoming, a state in which he had had bad experiences with weather before. Yet he was hopeful. If he could make it as far as Casper before the front hit, it sounded like he just might miss the worst of it. And he almost did. Sheridan was his first stop in Wyoming, and it would be be his last before continuing to Casper. Although it was getting dark and the temperature was falling, he didn't want to stay in Sheridan and find himself stranded there the next morning. Besides, Casper was only 150 miles away. So he set off.
Unfortunately, the snow was even closer than Casper. Less than 40 miles outside of Sheridan it started to come down. Then it started to fall thicker and faster. With 50 miles left to Casper, Ryan found himself in a veritable whiteout. The snow reflected his headlights and covered the road, making it nearly impossible for him to see where he was going. The presence of tracks in the snow and tail lights ahead were all that indicated where the road might be. The few cars he came across had slowed considerably, and one or two had even spun out into the median or ditch. Ryan would probably have pulled over if there had been anywhere to do so. But there wasn't much of anything between Sheridan and Casper. Or maybe there was and he just couldn't see it in the dark through the snow. Heck, he could barely see ten feet ahead of his truck. In any case, he kept plugging along toward Casper. But the going was slow and treacherous. It took him almost two hours to cover those last 50 miles, and there were times when he didn't think he would make it, but he did.
Exhausted, Ryan parked under the awning of what used to be a gas station and slept for the night. Early the next morning he awoke, stiff and sore from the cramped quarters. His next destination was Ft. Collins, CO to visit his good friend Kyle George. Just a few days before, Kyle's wife wife Jessie had given birth to their firstborn, a baby boy they named Landon. It would be good to see them--indeed, to see anyone after such a long and lonely drive.
That morning's weather was the best of Ryan's trip. But there was talk of yet another front moving through the area later that afternoon. And he still had a half day's drive to go. He couldn't stay long before hitting the road again.
With the skyline no longer obstructed by mountains and tress, Ryan could watch the front move in. The dark clouds were just to the south of I-80 but moving his way. Ryan made it into Nebraska before the clouds eventually overcame him--yet, thankfully, they did not produce any rain or snow. That is, until Ryan made it just outside of North Platte, less than 100 miles from his final destination. Then, as if they had only been building up to this point, the clouds burst forth with a torrent of rain. "Well, there's no way the tarp can possibly keep this rain out," worried Ryan. It was coming down so hard that, just like the night before, Ryan could scarcely see the road. It was torture to be so close to the end and have to slow down. Ryan had already spent more than two days in the cab of his truck, the last thing he wanted to do was spend a minute more in it than he had to. But the trials of his trip made him all the more happy--not to mention relieved--to finally arrive at his parents new home just west of Kearney, where he, Rutheah, and Will would live happily temporarily after. And the lessons they learned during this move would come in handy for their next one...To be continued. :)