How did we get here?

One year ago this week, we made our pilgrimage Midwestward from California.

The reverse journey of the Joads.

The movie

Technically, the Joads traveled from Oklahoma to California by way of a converted Ford Hudson during Dust Bowl-drought conditions with poor, rundown passengers, so there are those who would argue they had a tougher journey.   But, those same folks haven’t tried to go through United’s Los Angeles pet cargo terminal with two maine coon cats named Emmitt and Peaches with a distressed, pregnant wife clutching a carry-on containing a third, smaller insane cat, Sophie.  The veterinarian who we paid to do a house visit to get the cats papers in order to travel, tried to clip Sophie’s nails and after Sophie made a noise that sounded like Hell in a blender, the vet put his hands up and said, “She’s dangerous.”

If you are counting at home, yes, I married into three cats. Let’s not speak of it again.


Anyway, on the drive to LAX, Emmitt crapped in his crate, which lent the atmosphere a nice aromatherapy as we maneuvered LA traffic.

It really would have helped if everyONE could have been sedated but airline regulations do not permit animals to be under any influence in the pet cargo area for the flight for liability reasons.

The Pet Cargo terminal is about a half mile from the regular terminal. A jumbo building I’d driven by probably a hundred times in 17 years going to or picking up a friend from the airport and never noticed.

Inside, two frazzled workers clicked away at their computers at the counter while a man, who had a pit bull in a crate a human could travel in, was on the phone, trying to get someone to bring him enough money to pay for his pet to transport. Pet cargo tickets cost $259/each, about the same as our HUMAN tickets on the redeye flight.

The sweeter of the two counter agents mentioned we had to have a water tray and food in the kennel before the cats could be let on the plane.  We had water but figured the food would just make them poop and then have to sit in it for five hours. Plus, these cats are both well-fed, at over 22 pounds each, had enough in their system to keep them healthy for a winter hibernation.

The agent also mucked up our plan further adding that we couldn’t keep the blanket Meghan had strategically placed over the cage so the cats couldn’t see what was going on because all the foreign stimulus would freak them out too much.  These are cats that would meow and pace around frantically if there was a major change in the apartment, like a sock being left on the floor.

Meghan started to lose it as the stricter agent chimed in about us having to put a bowl in the cage.  At one point during the discussion Meghan blurted, “Are you liable if my cat runs out on Century boulevard and gets killed?!” He said, “The doors are all closed where is she going to run?” Meg said, “You don’t know!”

A supervisor popped over and intervened. He offered to let Meghan put the water crate in in his small office so the cat couldn’t escape onto Century boulevard and his sure death. In case, you are not getting the chaos of the scene, please also note that Emmitt was meowing loudly the entire time.

The crates got labeled, the cats were put in queue to be loaded, and we got ourselves and our carry-ons to the gate two hours early.  Quick note: The sweeter agent double-cheked with us the spelling of Emmitt.  As if we would have been confused if she had replaced the i with an e. “Well, he looks like our Emmitt in our crate but…our Emmitt does spell it differently. Sorry, must be someone else’s cat.”  This gave me a fun chuckle as we headed to the terminal.

As for our belongings, we had taken care of them the day prior, they were shoved, stacked and contorted in the back of a freight trailer. The transport company, U-Pack, says it all in their name. No frills, no promises outside of leaving the back of one of their transport trailers open.  Once you’ve loaded it and locked it, they drive it from their terminal in an industrial park southeast of LA  to their terminal in an industrial park southeast of Madison.

U-Pack charges by the foot so I took advantage of all possible angles because if you don’t U-Pay more!

A shot from just about halfway into the load.


As for getting our furniture and such out of our apartment to the terminal, we had to rent a U-haul. Lots of U-companies involved in the move as U can see.

My wife was 13 weeks pregnant and couldn’t do much heavy lifting. So I called in the services of my friend, Todd Beeson-shout out, for one of the U-Haul truck loads and a friend of a friend who helped load up the other load from our second floor apartment.

The shipment of our belongings arrived mostly unscathed-the only casualties were a lamp, a big chunk taken out of an end table and my credit card balance.

I rented another U-haul to transfer our stuff onto from the U-Pack trailer with the help of my friend, Trent Schwenn-shout out!

I coordinated these transport and arrivals with the refinishing of our home’s wood floors so that we could move them right in from the trailer without being charged “storage” fees.

photo 3photo 2

Got more help from my family to unload the U-Haul and disperse into our house.

Lastly, our two cars were arranged with a car transport company called, Get it Done, my motto for this whole move. It was disconcerting as I’d never done this before and the concept of handing the keys to our cars over to a guy with a Eastern European accent driving a 10 car hauler rig, was tough to come to peace about. “Please show up with our cars in five to seven days in Madison?!”  True I’d only put down a $380 deposit and the remaining $1600 would be paid upon delivery, but if he just up and sold the cars, he’d have gotten at least $30,000 on the black market. But, there are leaps of faith that must be made with so many variables involved in a move.

And, six days later, the driver told me he was two hours away. When he arrived, he parked on the main street leading to our house because he coudn’t park his big rig on a side street. He backed the cars down the metal ramp, hand me the keys as I handed him a check, and just like that, our cars were back in our possession.

As I pulled up to our new home, with all our belongings, cars and critters, and my pregnant wife inside scatterd but safe and sound, with the big uncertain move over, I let out a big sigh of relief and satisfaction.


The big leap of faith landed us right where we wanted to be. Taking a moment to soak it all in…I felt moved.

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Wisconsin Dadger

In a little over a year, I became a New...Dad. Husband. Homeowner. In a New Career in a New State.

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