Learning We Love Each Other—The Trip to Seattle

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The Trip to Seattle

Thursday, September 9, 1999, I met Gee at her aparment. We spent most of the afternoon packing my truck with everything that was going to Seattle. Her car was packed with boxes and clothes as well. We were planning on staying at my house that night and picking up the tow dolly early the next morning.

U-Haul Tow DollyFriday morning, we went to U-Haul and got the tow dolly we had reserved for the trip to Seattle. A few weeks earlier I had been to the same U-Haul dealer and gotten a trailer hitch installed on my truck. We loaded Gee’s Saturn on to the tow dolly and checked the tire pressure on the trailer and the truck. Satisfied that we were ready, Gee and I got in and off we went.

Gee and I drove north on the Capital Beltway inner loop until we caught I-270 west. Our plan was to avoid the Pennsylvania turnpike and the toll-roads outside of Chicago on our way west. We'd take I-270 west to I-70 and then take I-68 west. I-68 is one of the most scenic interstate highways in the eastern US as far as I am concerned. In the past 20 years, I've managed to spend a fair amount of time driving around the country and have been in 47 of the 48 continental states... North Dakota is the only one that I've missed.

When I-68 ends, near Morgantown, West Virginia, we took I-79 north towards Pittsburgh. I was fairly familiar with I-79 near Pittsburgh, as one of my favorite uncles used to live in Pittsburgh, and I used to visit him on my way from Missouri to Massachusetts and back. Just south of Pittsburgh, we caught I-70 and started west again. We'd stay on I-70 until we stopped for the night, just east of Indianapolis.

It was fairly late when we stopped for the night. We stopped at a hotel I often used on my previous cross-country trips. When we called Gee’s parents, they were very surprised that we had made as much progress as we had. We also called my parents and Gee’s sister to keep them posted on our progress west. When I spoke to my father, he told me that he had said "eight hours" not "eight days," a reference to his "test of compatibility." Growing up, watching my older cousins get married... my father used to tell them that to see if they were really compatible with the person they were engaged to, they should take a long drive— about eight hours or so, in the summer with the air-conditioning broken. If they weren't ready to kill each other by the end of the drive, they would probably manage to make a marriage work.

The next day we followed I-70 until we got west of Indianapolis and then got on I-74, which heads west-by-northwest throught Champaign, Illinois to Rock Island, Illinois, on the Iowa-Illinois border. We then got onto I-80 and passed through Davenport, Des Moines, and most of Iowa. I had been in Iowa earlier that year, to celebrate the high-school graduation of Anna Steinlicht, a twinless twin and one of my adopted little sisters. She’s from Britt, up by the Minnesota border, and home of the annual Hobo Festival. Just east of Omaha, we turned north onto I-29 and followed the Missouri River for a while. In Sioux Falls, we stopped for the night and checked in with our families.

The next morning as we headed west on I-80, Gee was telling me about one trip she and her family had taken out to Yellowstone. It was one of the few trips that she had taken that was this far west, and the only one where she had been one of the drivers. She asked if I wanted her to drive, or minded that she wasn't driving. I told her it was fine... I was used to driving a truck, and didn't mind. I also told her that she might not want to learn to drive a truck while towing a trailer with her car on it— it was very different from driving a little car like her Saturn.

That afternoon, we stopped in Billings. I had e-mailed another twinless twin, Mary Anne Souza, a few weeks earlier about visiting her on our way to Seattle. We called Mary Anne and she and Mac, her husband, drove over to the gas station and we followed them to their house. The Souzas have a wonderful Akita named Togo. Togo took a liking to Gee and, although he’s almost 120 lbs., thinks he’s a lapdog and kept trying to crawl up onto Gee’s lap. Mary Anne and Mac gave us the two dollar tour of Billings and Big Sky country. It was an amazing way to spend a day. The next afternoon Gee and I continued on our way to Seattle. Since we had left Mary Anne and Mac fairly late in the day, we stopped in Missoula, Montana, for the night.

Gee and I had talked about the final leg of the trip. We decided to make this day, a short one, so we would stop fairly early and then continue to Seattle in the morning. We wanted to get into Seattle fairly early in the day so we could find the apartment and unpack some of the boxes from the car and truck, and return the tow dolly. We stopped about a hour out of Seattle for the night.

The next day, September 15, 1999, we drove the final leg of our trip to Seattle. We found the apartment complex that Gee had chosen. It’s in an area near Burien, called Moving Gee’s boxes and furniture and clothes into her apartment wasn't too bad. Her apartment was on the top floor at the end of the walk... quiet and with an amazing view of Seattle on clear days. We unpacked the truck and car and took her Saturn off the tow dolly. We then looked up where the U-Haul dealership we were supposed to return the tow dolly to was located.. We spent the next nine days turning her new empty apartment in to her new home.

It was while I was out in Seattle that Gee and I got engaged. It was Sunday morning, fairly early, and I was doing dishes after making breakfast for us. Gee knew it was a difficult day for me— September 19, 1999 was the 12th anniversary of my twin’s death by a drunk driver. Gee came up behind me and hugged me and said "I love you." I said, "I know," and she replied, "no, I mean I really love you." She put her hand on my shoulder turned me around and said, "I love you and I know what you mean when you say you love me." She then slid by me and got two mugs and poured two cups of coffee for us. She carried them to the table and sat down. I followed her out of the kitchen into the dining area and walked up to her, kissed her and knelt in front of her and said, "Gee, will you marry me?" She looked down at me and said, "Yes—now I will."

We decided to keep our engagement quiet, at least until Thanksgiving. Gee and I each chose one person to tell— I told Brad, and she told Woo. Brad wasn't surprised in the least. From our previous conversations, he knew it was only a matter of time before I asked Gee to marry me. Woo, on the other hand, was a little harder to convince. At first, she wanted to know what Gee really called about. Then, after about half-an-hour, she realized that Gee was serious and that she was actually engaged. Woo then said, "Gee, you can't be engaged— I haven't met him yet." Gee promised Woo, that when we came out for Christmas and New Year’s, we would stop by and visit her.

Seattle is known in other parts of the country for being particularly rainy— Gee and I didn't see any rain until the day I left for the east coast. It was Friday, September 24, 1999, and I was leaving Gee to return to Northern Virginia. I already knew, from talking with my boss, I'd be back in November, for the WTO Ministerial Conference. Driving through Seattle, the traffic was heavy and it was raining as I made my way back to I-90 east. Once I was on I-90, the rain had stopped and it began to clear up, and the traffic was gone. I called Gee to tell her I had made it out of the city and that the driving conditions were good for me. When Gee picked up the phone, the first words she said to me were, "I miss you already." When I heard that, I knew asking Gee to marry me was the most perfect thing I had ever done in my life.

Trip Notes

We had settled on a selection of about 30 cd’s for the trip’s music. Gee was in charge of the music and there were a few songs that had become favorites for us both. The one that really sticks out in my mind is Jewel’s Morning Song from her debut album. It was one of the few albums that both Gee and I owned, and as Gee used to say, one of the few that I had that wasn't "petrified rock." Gee referred to my music as "petrified rock" as most of the bands were either dead or retired. Her taste in music was a bit more advanced— she considered a weekend travelling selection of music to be a minimum of 72 cd’s. Gee had also purchased books on tape. I highly recommend them if you have take a long trip by car— one of our favorites was a Garrison Keillor set from Prairie Home Companion. Both Gee and I were/are huge NPR fans.

The one other thing I highly recommend if you're taking a long trip by car— get a triptik from AAA and get a AAA Plus membership. The triptik is great for showing you places to stop along the way— whether it’s for food, gas or to sightsee. The membership is just cheap insurance to make your trip easier. You also get discounts at a lot of hotels and restaurants with the membership.