In this section, “Our Story”, I have detailed our ‘journey’ over 7 months of moving from Southern California to Northeastern Indiana. I go into detail about why we moved out of California, and why we moved to NE Indiana. I also talk about our road trip, settling in, selling our home, and buying a home. When we were planning this life change, I read everything I could find about moving cross country, living in Indiana, how to sell and stage your home, the pros and cons of living in the snow. Endless reading and research. So for anyone is who considering a move like this, I hope our story helps you the way stories from others helped us.
Part #1 of Our 2021 Cross-Country Move: Where We Are and Why
In May of 2021, Sailor and I moved from San Diego to Fort Wayne, Indiana. That’s pretty much the gist of it!
In October 2020, I wrote a post titled “Taking a Break”. But even before that date, we were going through several life-changing transitions. I was treated for breast cancer, and also underwent spine surgery. On top of everything else, I was getting ready to retire from the company where I had worked for 25 years. With all of that on my plate, blogging needed to take a temporary back seat.
There were and are a whole list of reasons why we would want to leave Southern California and move to Northeast Indiana. Some of the ‘whys’ were based on specifically wanting to leave San Diego. Some of the ‘whys’ are based on specifically wanting to move to the Midwest, Fort Wayne in particular.
Let’s start with why we wanted to leave. San Diego is simply beautiful. The ocean, the beaches, the downtown waterfront, Shelter Island and Harbor Island are breathtaking.
But it wasn’t enough to keep us, and in my heart, I knew there is beauty no matter where you live. San Diego (and by extension, California) is also crowded, busy, fast and very (very!) expensive. We were looking ahead to retirement, and staying in San Diego on a retirement budget seemed to include a fair amount of penny pinching.
Another reason to leave was the weather. San Diego is legendary for its nearly perfect record of warm, sunny days no matter the season. But that was the problem for me. There are no seasons. Okay, maybe there are, but the seasonal differences are so subtle that it’s easy to miss them. I was truly starting to panic that I would never live in 4-season environment. Before we made the decision to move here, I had even toyed with the idea of moving out to the Midwest or East Coast for a year, just to experience a REAL fall and a snowy winter. Happily, Sailor was onboard with my desire to live in a 4-season climate; he grew up on the East Coast, and was not the least bit put off by the idea of living with snow.
There are a few other reasons, but they are a little more personal. Rest assured that when we left California, were able to resolve some of those parts of our life we were not especially happy with.
Why did we want to move to NE Indiana? Frankly, there were a few reasons. Clearly, a big reason was the cost of living (see above!). When we sold our house in San Diego, we had the resources to buy a larger house on an acre of property (actually 1.1 acres!), do some cosmetic renovation work (see below) on our new house and, for Sailor add a workshop on to the back of the garage.
Family was a big factor too. My older niece and her family live here in Fort Wayne. My brother has recently moved up here from a smaller town about 90 minutes south of us. And a good friend lives down the road a bit!
And of course, the weather. NE Indiana is about 40 miles south of Michigan, so we get what is called the ‘lake-effect’. Here is the definition: “Lake-effect snow is a weather phenomenon created when cold, dry air picks up moisture and heat by passing over a relatively warmer lake, such as one of the Great Lakes or the Great Salt Lake.” Happily, our first fall here was spectacular and our first winter was magical.
I MAY be a little starry-eyed, since it is all so new to me, but I have a feeling I will forever be delighted watching snow fall.
So, there is the brief recap of why we packed up our lives to move 2,000 miles across the country. I will be posting stories and photos of our new Indiana home (“the Dupont house”). It does not have red shutters, and it’s really more of a ranch than a cottage. But “Red Shutter Cottage” will remain; it is a state of mind as much as it’s a real place. Besides, when we prepped Red Shutter Cottage to sell it, we painted the shutters black. (Which, back in the day, I had originally planned on doing!)
Part #2 of our Cross-Country 2021 Move: The Drive and Arriving in NE Indiana
As I mentioned in my previous post, in May of 2021, Sailor and I packed up our home, our lives, and our 2 cats, and moved 2000 miles from Southern California to NE Indiana.
We planned on pulling away from our home on Saturday, May 1. Well…it didn’t happen until 3:30 in the afternoon, but it all worked out. We stacked the cat crates one on top of the other in between the seats of our 16 ft. Penske truck. We brought snacks and water, and off we went.
I had given both cats a small smudge of CBD cream on their inner ear to calm them down and sprayed their carriers with a calming spray. Max took it pretty well. Lucy, not so much. She yowled for most of the trip. I kept trying to soothe her by putting my fingers near the openings of her crate. At one point, I even stuck my baby finger inside the cage, and she promptly bit it. Not a nip. A nice, long, clean bite. Within 20 minutes my left hand baby finger turned bright red and swollen.
We had reservations at La Quinta Inns in Phoenix, our first stop. We didn’t pull in until almost 10:00 pm. First order of business: carry the cat crates, litter box, and food to the room. 2nd order of business: release the Kraken. Actually, release the cats. Max immediately zoomed around the room looking for a place to hide. Happily, La Quinta rooms are designed so that there are NO hiding places. After a little while he settled down. Lucy did her fair share of exploring and then settled down as well.
The first night went pretty well. But the next morning, I woke up and my entire left arm was covered in red welts. This was the arm that the oncology surgeon had removed 21 lymph nodes from during my breast cancer surgery. My compromised lymphatic system was no match for the cat bacteria in her saliva.
We drove to the nearest Emergency Room. I curled into a ball and waited miserably to be called in. When I was finally in a room, they realized I was dehydrated and gave me fluids as well as antibiotics to fight the infection. And then they left and just let me be. I slept. And slept. Somehow being in a small, enclosed room pushed aside the emotions and labor of the previous weeks. They finally released me, gave me a prescription for antibiotics, and we hit the road again. (The Emergency Room staff followed-up with me two more times while we were on the road. I was extremely impressed!)
Next stop was Albuquerque, New Mexico. Again, La Quinta came through, but with a much nicer room. Same drill of carrying in cat paraphernalia, then crates, and then releasing them both into another strange room. Again, Max careened around, determined to find a spot to hide. Foiled at every attempt, he finally settled on the bed with Lucy and me.
Day 3 of our 5-day road trip was not my favorite in terms of scenery, but it was eye-opening. Red soil everywhere in New Mexico, but there was also some rather beautiful pine trees and scrub brush. So very different in terms of landscape. We did a brief drive through the north western part of Texas and then it was on to Oklahoma. All of a sudden, it was green. It was such relief to see grass and sections of trees.
It was getting dark as we were heading towards Tulsa (our next stop), and on the road ahead I could see flashes of light high in the sky. I thought it might be a sky show or fireworks of some kind. Well, duh…it was a lightening storm. But I had never seen so much lightening in one place, at one time. That just did NOT happen in California. But here it was, and it was beautiful.
Until we saw another light show, but this one was in our rear-view mirror.
We pulled over, nervous as could be and waited. The officer politely asked for a driver’s license and the registration for the Penske truck. I think Sailor also gave him his military ID (don’t remember why). The officer asked if we had been drinking (ha!) and we confirmed that no, we had not. He then asked if we had been on the road for a while, and we confirmed that yes, we (okay, Sailor) had been driving for about 8 hours. Well, he said, that explains the slight weaving of the truck that he noticed. Then he asked about Sailor’s military history, and all of a sudden, the two of them are off and running; swapping military stories, laughing and having a genuinely friendly conversation. The officer thanked Sailor for his service, told us to take it easy and be careful, and sent us on our way. He also made a point of mentioning how many times a day he noticed the U-Hauls and Penske trucks heading east on the Oklahoma highway. We were, and are, a part of The Big California Exodus.
So, to date, we have spent a half day at the Emergency Room and we’ve been pulled over by a Highway Patrol Officer. Happily, those were the 2 most exciting points of the 5-day trip. We pulled out of Tulsa the next morning (Day 4) and hit the road for Missouri. I do not know what I expected, but it wasn’t this. Rolling green hills highlighted with forests of trees. Small farms and homes with cows and goats grazing on grass. Just one long, nearly ethereal drive accompanied by a steady, gentle rain. At one point Sailor looked at his phone and mentioned that our realtor in San Diego was trying to reach us. I simply could not be bothered; I just wanted to stop the truck, find a house and move in. Period. I had never seen such calming, bucolic beauty. We did finally make our way to St. Louis to stay in yet another La Quinta. Even hauling the cat gear up and down the elevator did not dampen my happiness.
Day 5, and the race was on. We HAD to be in Fort Wayne by 5:00 pm in order to sign the rental docs for our apartment. We arrived breathlessly in Fort Wayne and stopped at the first Walmart I could find to get a cashier’s check or money order for our down payment. For all our trouble, I was met with a “we are out of the paper we need to print a money order”. Seriously? I managed to tamp down my frustration with this situation, and the hunt was on for a Kroger. We found one, got the money order, and now we were on to our last stop; our new home in Fort Wayne.
In the weeks before our departure, I spent hours (days!) trying to find an apartment to rent. But because we were now both officially retired, we had no income (just resources) to prove we could pay rent. I couldn’t believe how many times I heard “No…we can’t rent to you without an income.” When I finally connected with a company willing to rent to us, I sent in the rental fee, crossed my fingers, and hoped for the best.
So, here we were, ready to move into our new temporary home. With our money order in hand, we found the address, turned on to the street and circled the apartment complex. Our very first view of our new ‘home’ was not particularly reassuring with overgrown landscaping and aged buildings. To their credit, however, our unit had been totally spiffed-up for us specifically. We had freshly painted walls, new carpeting, as well as new flooring in the kitchen and bathroom. There were all brand new appliances and cabinetry in the kitchen and the bathroom. We also had an end unit with a good number of windows and a very pretty view of the grass and grove of trees outside our front door.
We made our way to the rental office, signed paperwork, listened to (but didn’t really hear) instructions about signing up for utilities, and were given the keys to our apartment.
Money turned in, paperwork signed, keys in hand, we backed the Penske truck up to the kitchen door in the back of our unit and starting unloading. We were under a deadline to return the truck by 9:00 am the next day. We stopped when it finally got too dark to do anymore. On my phone I managed to find a pizza parlor that offered both a basic pizza and home delivery. (The thought of navigating Uber Eats or Door Dash was absolutely beyond me.) The delivery guy showed up and the bill was $15. I was so grateful, I tipped him $5. He seemed happily astonished; I was just happy we had food.
Part #3 of Our 2021 Cross-Country Move: Midwestern Friendliness and Settling In
The first morning of our new life in Fort Wayne, we received our first taste (of several) of the legendary ‘midwestern friendliness’. Our Penske contract decreed that we turn our truck in by 9:00 am the morning of May 6. We drove the truck to the Penske lot, and turned in our paperwork at the front desk.
Now what? We had no car; Sailor’s truck was being freighted out and would not arrive for a few days, and my adored 2001 Honda Accord, Inga, had been left in San Diego. (I gifted her to my older stepson who loved her as much as I did). Consequently, we had no means of getting around and we needed to get to a restaurant to get some breakfast. We asked the Penske front desk staff about the nearest eatery. They recommended Cracker Barrel, and indicated it was not too far by foot, but did include crossing a highway bridge.
We went out the door, prepared to take on this hike, when all of a sudden ‘Becki’ came sprinting out of the front door, and waved us into her SUV. She very kindly drove us to Cracker Barrel. Good thing, too; as we drove the streets, I realized it would have been a challenging walk. (Yes, we wrote a glowing YELP review!) After we restored our strength with breakfast, we were able to walk to the nearest Meijer, where we shopped for groceries. When finished, we hailed an Uber and got a ride home.
A few days after we arrived, we were invited to my niece’s house to meet my new, month-old great-nephew and celebrate her first Mother’s Day. I went, but felt so empty and drained, I could barely even hold a conversation with anyone. I had just left my home, my job, my family and my friends. All I wanted to do was sit on the couch, zone out, and be left alone.
Over the course of the next few weeks, we settled into our apartment. Sailor has dozens of talents, and the one where he can take chaos and turn it into tidy organization is one of them. He wrangled the boxes we did not need to unpack into the second bedroom, and created our ‘living space’ with 2 armchairs, one of those long Costco tables flanked with a couple of patio chairs, and a TV on the console. We ordered cable and internet service, set-up plastic shelving units in the kitchen as a pantry, hung a decades-old shower curtain in the bathroom, and we were off to the races! It was (pretty) comfortable, livable, and best of all, it wasn’t permanent.
Part #4 of our 2021 Cross-Country Move: Selling Red Shutter Cottage
(Note: I am interspersing the listing photos of Red Shutter Cottage into this section.)
We left on our road trip from San Diego to Fort Wayne on Saturday, May 1, a few weeks before Red Shutter Cottage was scheduled to go on the real estate market. At this point, we had cleared out Red Shutter Cottage by utilizing a moving company to pack up much of our belongings and all of our furniture (except for a few pieces we needed for apartment living). We had renovation work done on Red Shutter Cottage; some interior but mostly exterior. Our realtor, Bob, hired a staging expert to stage Red Shutter Cottage, and was also in the middle of finalizing the marketing campaign he was preparing to blast out to sell Red Shutter Cottage.
But we hit a speed bump. Bob called us in Fort Wayne one afternoon with a note of concern in his voice. He opened with: “We have a problem with the total square footage of the house.” What did he mean? This was the issue: we had always thought that Red Shutter Cottage was right around 2,000 square feet. Well, when our realtor actually and carefully measured the house, the total square footage was NOT 2,000 but closer to 1,550 square feet.
In and of itself, this is not a huge issue. But it did present a problem with our listing price. The listing price we were considering was competitive at 2,000 square feet, but NOT as competitive at 1,550 square feet. This angst went on for two days, and my head was filled with images of ugly, late-night interactions of the “offer / counter-offer / counter-counter offer” dance with potential buyers, determined to whittle down our listing price.
But a few days later, the phone rang again This time, Bob had a note of “you’re not going to believe this” in his voice. “We have an offer.” he announced. Seriously? I was literally speechless. And this was a day or two BEFORE Red Shutter Cottage was scheduled to go on the market! Here is the story.
Bob works for one of those big, national real estate companies. His office was NOT located in our neighborhood, but he is also a personal friend of our family, which is why we chose to work with him. A few days before Red Shutter Cottage even went on the market, Bob put our listing on their internal communication system, so Red Shutter Cottage was advertised to other agents on both a local and a national basis. Another agent who did work out of the office in our actual neighborhood, saw our listing. It turned out that he had a young professional couple who had already lost out on two bids to buy a home in our area. On a Monday, he brought the couple to our house and met with Bob. They wrote an offer on the spot, right then and there. And yes, it was over the asking price. And no, I was not sorry to miss out on the “offer / counter-offer” dance!
I think Sailor and I hung up with Bob, looked at each other and said “What do you think?”. And then about 15 seconds later we both realized how incredibly, insanely, ridiculously lucky we were. We called him right back and said “We accept!”.
But Bob was a lot less enthusiastic, and answered our jubilant acceptance with “Well, wait a minute. Don’t you want to counter-offer? Maybe for $10,000 more?” (Their offer was already WELL over our asking price!) What? I think we may have just laughed at him. Absolutely not!! We were so grateful, surprised and shocked, we just wanted to get it done!
Another happy detail here was that in my heart of hearts, I wanted to Red Shutter Cottage to be passed on to a young couple who wanted to start a family. And that is exactly who bought it!
Of course, the next morning when I woke up and realized Red Shutter Cottage was really and truly gone, I got weepy. But instead of dwelling on it, I wrote the new owners a note, telling them about how great the local library is, where the best Mexican food is, be prepared for lots of trick-or-treaters, make sure you decorate for the Christmas holidays, and don’t miss the annual summer block party! I thanked them and wished them many years of happiness.
Part #5 of our 2021 Cross-Country Move – Paint, Cement and Dust
True story: we closed on our Fort Wayne house right after 4th of July, 2021. We moved into our FW house…wait for it…on Thanksgiving Day, 2021. (Here, I’ll do the math: it was 5 months!)
There were quite a few challenges in this cross country move, but waiting to find a contractor, meet with the contractor, get the work started, and get the work DONE were honestly the biggest of all the challenges. Those were 5 months I hope to never experience again!
I’ll skip over the phone calls to contractors that were never returned, the frustration of waiting for the quote, assuming the worst, buy hoping for the best. (The final quote fell exactly in-between.) The endless days of nothing to do but run up the house and hang out in the family room in lawn chairs while we did laundry. Allow me to insert our living situation here; we contracted for our apartment for 7 months, from May 5 until November 29. And as it turned out, on the next-to-final day of our 7 month lease, we turned in our keys and never, ever, EVER looked back.
September 1 was “Demo Day” on our new home. The work we contracted for was mostly cosmetic. We wanted to re-paint the interior of the house, and add crown molding and baseboards. The paint we picked for 90% of the house was Sherwin Williams Cotton White. It is a warm white and works perfectly in both the living room that faces south, and the family room that faces north. We liked the light gold color in the breakfast nook, so we repainted the nook and the kitchen with SW Humble Gold. We also liked the flooring in the kitchen and the nook, and ordered more flooring so we could extend it to the family room, living room, and hallway. We added new carpeting to all 3 bedrooms. In the hall bathroom, we ordered a custom made vanity and put down luxury vinyl tile, which we had not anticipated doing, but was needed. The existing tile in the entry way looked good and we like how it clearly defines our large, welcoming foyer.
The biggest, most impactful change we made was to the fireplace. Here’s what it looked like then.
Here is what it looks like now.
I’ll be honest; it was a beast. Lots of 2 steps forward, and one (expensive) step back. And talk about a nail biter! The Amish masons finished the stone surround and hearth the day BEFORE the movers came with all the furniture! But every single day, I am insanely grateful for it. It completely makes the room in the fall, winter time and even cool, rainy spring days. And for me, the idea of running a fire in the morning, or during the day, is utter and complete decadence…in the best possible way
From our home to yours