Road-trip with me: Moving from Southern California to Washington

Image of Mt. Shasta
Little Mountain 5/Creative Commons

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I started my fall semester in Berkeley, which ended up being a blessing disguised as a curse because I had a god-awful time there, but it convinced me to move back home. I finished the semester at home, and although it was better, I knew I would struggle to focus there for the spring semester. Being that classes would still be online, I decided to spend my semester with my boyfriend in his college town. Seeing that COVID-19 cases were only getting worse as the days passed by, I thought the safest way to move would be by driving. I’d never driven more than 400 miles, so driving three times that distance (1,300 miles) was sure to be quite the adventure. 

I didn’t want the trip to be more stressful than the whole ordeal of moving already was, so instead of squashing 10 hours of driving into two days, we split our drive into three days. I planned our drive carefully so we wouldn’t have to worry about driving in the dark. We stuffed my car with our clothes, dishes and my assortment of fruit teas and headed off. I’m surprised we were able to fit all my stuff, his stuff and my cat into my modestly sized Toyota Camry, but I’ve seen more shocking miracles.

On day one, we got up at seven in the morning and said a sorrowful goodbye to our families. We wouldn’t be seeing them for four months, as we agreed to not visit home during the semester to reduce travel. Then, we were off! We trekked nine hours from San Diego to a motel in a small, sleepy town called Willows in Northern California. There wasn’t much to note about the scenery on the way up since we drove through the Central Valley during the winter. Most of the crops that are grown along the side of the road weren’t in season, so the trees that would normally be sprouting oranges and other fruits were threadbare. 

My cat was very well-behaved, napping in my lap or in her cat carrier the whole trip. I brought a lunch bag with ice packs and put her wet food in there, and I fed her when we took bathroom breaks. We got a cover for her litter box and put it on the floor of the back seat. Maybe we’re a bit egotistical, but we spent a lot of time gushing about how we figured out how to fit everything and still carry out my cat’s routine while we traveled. 

When we finally arrived at the motel, we ordered dinner to be delivered — our first meal of the day since we only ate granola bars in the car. The second we woke up, we high-tailed it out of there, continuing on to the second leg of our trip.

On day two, we planned to drive to the middle of Central Oregon. I was shocked that we still had to drive through three hours of California before getting to the California-Oregon border. After a much needed trip to Starbucks, the straight, mundane highway turned into a beautiful, slightly curvy adventure through the area around Mt. Shasta. 

The mountain in the distance looked like a beautiful painting, with its entire silhouette covered in snow. We drove over a bridge where we saw the most beautiful lake at the bottom of mountains. I did a double take when I caught my first glimpse because the water level was at least five times lower than what it should have been. I could tell because the trees at the edge of the lake were much higher than the water, and there were marks of erosion leveled much higher than the water level. It was a grim reminder of the extreme drought our state seems to constantly be experiencing. In addition to evidence of the drought, we saw acres upon acres of charred trees all the way from the Central Valley to Oregon, a devastating reminder of the extreme wildfire season we just witnessed (and are still witnessing) due to climate change. 

We stopped for gas when we crossed the border into Oregon. Apparently, gas stations have employees pump your gas for you in Oregon, a well-known fact I had no clue about, but it was nice to not have to get out of the car in the 40-degree weather (I’m used to warm weather, please don’t come at me). After another few hours, we stopped to surprise my boyfriend’s cousin by ordering takeout from their restaurant. After inhaling a very delicious, filling meal in the car and some of the best baklava I’ve ever had, we went to our motel and passed out with full bellies and cold fingers.

By day three, we were off to our final destination on the shortest leg of our trip. I was stoked that this road trip was working out so perfectly, and it wasn’t boring or stressful. The real stress came from planning it, and that was in the past by this point. 

We drove through the flat plains of central Oregon, and we even saw signs pointing to the trail of Lewis and Clark. When we got to the Oregon-Washington border, the highway went east, and we actually drove along a dam for about an hour before entering Washington. From there, it was a straight shot to my new apartment. Even though, at that point, there were only two hours left, it did get dreary — miles and miles of yellow plains made me sleepy. 

When we arrived in Spokane, I almost couldn’t believe that just the day prior, we were driving through Northern California. I truly felt accomplished that we had planned and perfectly executed a fun, memorable drive across the Pacific Northwest, and what’s more, we were able to keep it safe. 

If you ever want to take the jump and adventure on a long road trip, the golden rule you should take seriously is to never do it alone. Hours and hours of driving, looking at the same road and similar scenery drone on and on make your eyes droop without even realizing it. Take someone with you and switch off every two hours. This trick made the trip feel shorter and, surprisingly, pleasant. Happy (COVID-19-safe) road-tripping, Bears!

Contact Özge Terzioğlu at [email protected].