Follow the Yellow Brick Road, or I-80.

When my husband and I talked abut leaving California for Virginia, we considered walking. No, seriously. What could be a more deliberate way to leave one coast for the other than marking the entire distance, step by step. We do love to walk.

Sadly, we didn't have the time. We toyed with the idea of combining walking and train-riding, mostly as a way to speed things up and avoid trudging across Nebraska. But in the end we did what most people do: Road Trip! 

Most of our belongings were already on their own road trip, so we packed the Subaru with only the necessities: some clothes, important papers, our laptops, two cases of wine and a ceramic pig. 

He's Mexican by birth and become our mascot after our last dog died. He came to us house broken.

We set off in early April and left California behind the first day. The weather was glorious. This is near Salt Lake.

We soon established a routine, sharing a Subway foot-long veggie sandwich for lunch every day and a bottle of pinot noir with dinner every night. We also made a friend in Wyoming.

Not long after that, it became less scenic and, clear sky junkies that we are, we thought about turning the car around. This was in Nebraska.

A lovely spring day!

We spent the last night of our five-day road trip in Lexington, Kentucky, the place where horses deign to allow humans to care for them. If you have a chance, spend a day or two in this pretty city. 


The next day we set off for our new hometown of Lexington--Virginia, this time. We'd only been there once, in January, when there was snow on the ground and the trees were sticks. I admitted to Richard that I barely remembered it. He shrugged. We could always move. Such free spirits!

Almost there...

We drove through the town. Our jaws dropped and our hearts soared. It was beautiful. I'd never seen so many blooming shrubs and trees in my life. In the countryside, dogwoods and redbuds flowered everywhere. 


A year later, I'm more in love with this place than ever. Every morning when I wake up, I feel like Dorothy stepping into Oz. And, yes, I'm glad I didn't have to walk here.

Folding the Map

Last year, my husband, Richard, and I moved from California to the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. Everyone asks us how we came to choose the remote little town we now call home.

"Wait," you're thinking. "Why the heck did you leave California?" Lots of reasons, but mostly because we'd been there a long time and it was costing way too much money. Our daughters had headed off to college and we wanted to turn a page. Or fold a map.

We were asking a lot of our new home. We wanted land, space to stretch out, to grow vegetables, plant fruit tress and give Richard a reason to fire up his chainsaw now and again. We wanted hills, if not mountains. (I wanted a river, too.) And we wanted something that California was short on: seasons. Of course, that's part of what makes California a hard place to leave. All that glorious sunshine, months and months and months of it. We were clear sky junkies.

No surprise, then, that we talked a lot about weather. We'd visited a good portion of the U.S. but because we are both trained as scientists, we tried to forget that it was 100 degrees the entire week of July we were in Massachusetts and put our trust in data. We studied climate maps: rainfall maps, percent cloudy days maps, misery index maps, trying to figure out where we could land softly and happily.

(I'm going to stop right now and say that there is so much beauty in this country, we'd have been hard-pressed to make a bad decision. We just needed some way to decide!)

We read enough about the weather to qualify for an advanced degree in meteorology. Finally, we took one of the maps (maybe it displayed days spent shoveling) and began folding it. We folded down the West Coast (been there, done that, and too rainy in the north). We made a crease along I-40 and excluded the Far North (too cold), and another along I-80 to the south (too hot). The swath in the middle lacked mountains, so we folded back everything to the west of the Appalachians. We weren't going to get our acres in the mid-Atlantic, either, at least not that we could afford. 

What we were left with was less of a map than a lump of origami executed by an excitable monkey. But at least we knew our state: Virginia. Not in the broad level plain running to the sea, but in the valley cupped between the Allegheny and Blue Mountains.


We are lucky to have portable jobs and the flexibility to choose where we live. If you could up sticks and live anywhere (in the U.S. or elsewhere), where would it be? Or are you already there?