The Day We Fled Illinois
It's been a ridiculously long time since I've posted a blog, but I've got an excuse. And it's not one of those lame made-up excuses like "My dog ate my homework," or "The president's motorcade stopped me to ask for directions to the airport." I just moved from Illinois where I'd lived my whole life under a regime of prison-bound governors to the Great State of Georgia where the overalls are baggy and the grits are homemade. Am I worried about this major life change? If you've read any of the fretting blogs here, you know the answer to that. But it's also kind of exciting. And it seemed like the timing was right, both for the move itself and for our escape from Illinois on Saturday, June 1.Why did we choose Georgia? My husband was offered a relocation at his work, so we decided to take them up on the adventure. Since our son's in college, we didn't have to worry about making him change schools, and we were 100% ready to never live through another Northern Illinois winter. So it was off to Georgia with four annoyed cats and a bunch of winter parkas that we refused to get rid of because we don't quite believe that it doesn't snow down here.
We were planning to leave on a Saturday morning, so the movers came and took away our furniture Friday. Without beds at our house, we decided to stay Friday night in a hotel. As we drove past the high school next door to our house, I saw a line of porta-potties in the parking lot."Do you suppose tomorrow's that charity run?" I asked my husband. Every summer since we'd been in that house, there had been a charity run that started at the high school, blasting music from the 80s and 90s through our windows at 6 a.m. on a Saturday morning. That's one thing I definitely wouldn't miss about our old house, and it seemed fitting that it would be happening on the day we were leaving.
"No!" my husband cried in horror. "We'll never get out of here tomorrow morning!" That's when I remembered the other associated inconvenience that came hand-in-hand with the charity run.The police shut down our road before the race and it stays closed until the last pathetic straggler has completed the whole course. It takes hours. During which time we're not allowed to pull a car out of our driveway. So our plans to leave Saturday morning were just shot through the butt. Unless…
"If we can get out of the house really early tomorrow, we might be able to beat the road shut-down," my husband suggested."What time are we talking about here?" I asked nervously.
So we went to our favorite pizza place one last time before leaving town to consider our options. And sure enough, when we walked in, we came face-to-face with a bunch of people wearing charity race t-shirts. They were signing up late participants. We asked when the road was being closed the next morning. We were told 7:45 a.m. It was harsh, but at least we had a goal for our escape.
The next morning, we woke up at 5:00 a.m. and were down in our hotel lobby for the free breakfast when it opened at 6:00 a.m. By 6:30 we were back at our house. Of course, Michael Jackson tunes were blasting from speakers next door at the high school parking lot. But we didn't have time to think about that. We only had an hour, or we'd be trapped and we might not check into our hotel in Clarksville, Tennessee until midnight.I handled the four cats: Feed them, clean litter boxes, put litter boxes into big plastic garbage bags and toss them in my car, give sedatives to the cats who weren't too old to handle the drugs, then capture them all and stuff them into their cat carriers.
My husband handled everything else: Clean out the fridge, last minute cleaning out of cabinets and drawers, sealing up the suitcases. We had thought we'd have plenty of time to do all this on Saturday morning, but that was before we knew the swarm of locusts…I mean charity-minded individuals…was about to descend upon our street and render us immobile for hours.Everything was crammed into our two cars and we jumped into the drivers' seats. As we pulled out of our driveway one last time, we could see them coming. The runners were setting off early – it was only 7:30 a.m. – and the police were leading the way as they approached with their barricades for the road. As we put them in our rearview mirrors, it felt like the villagers were running us out of town with their pitchforks and torches. What a perfect way to take our leave of Illinois.
About a mile away, my husband and I pulled over to set our GPSs and make sure we hadn't forgotten anything vital, like one of the cats. But we were all there, and the drugged cats were already nodding off.Six hours after racing out of what had been our hometown for the past 10 years ahead of a sweaty mob, we crossed the border into Kentucky. At the gas station, I realized the parking permit from the job I'd had to quit in order to relocate was still dangling from the rearview mirror. With a huge grin on my face, I tore it off and tossed it in the trash.
Time for a new adventure in Georgia…