Arizona. I would rather not travel there ever again.
First of all, I'm just not a desert person. I hate being hot, and so do my migraines, and while I can objectively see the beauty in the desert landscape, I spent much of my time looking out over the barren view wishing for plants and trees and flowers and GREEN.
That said, the sunrises and sunsets were stunning, gas was cheaper, and it was cloudy or rainy almost the entire trip, saving me from some perilous 80 degree temps.
We made the trip because my partner's mother died, and he felt a strong need to clean out her house himself. His siblings wanted to hire people to come in, clean up, and sell it all off, which I understand completely, but my boyfriend needed closure, so he offered to have us come out, clean up, and haul back what was worth keeping, selling or donating.
To get down there, we rented a full-size car through Fox, then got a free upgrade to a luxury when we got the insurance. They gave us a Chrysler 300, which was pretty fancy, and a dream to drive, though it had some electrical issues with charging our accessories.
We drove down California, uneventfully, save for a disappointing hotel stay at Hotel Zoso in Palm Springs. The staff was polite, but the front desk was disorganized, the room was shabby (scuffed up furniture and OLD carpet with sloppy patch jobs does not make a good impression), they had the slowest internet since 1995, parking was a choice between paying for their valet or leaving the car on the street, the common areas were dirty, the elevator buttons didn't all work, the walls were thin enough so we could hear every movement in the rooms around us, and they charged a resort fee that left us wondering where the resort was. But the bathtub was big enough to float in and I took full advantage (even though the faucet handle was broken). When I needed to medicate, I had to smoke out on the street, which isn't my favorite. It's perfectly legal, but it can attract attention, which is the last thing I want to deal with when my head hurts.
We drove the rest of the way to Phoenix the next day, and settled in at the astoundingly perfect Marriott Residence Inn in Peoria by evening. We got a fantastic little suite with a kitchenette, and after the disappointment that was Zoso, my boyfriend took uncharacteristic pleasure in settling us in. We brought food in a cooler, so we had the fridge and pantry stocked with some basics, and they offered free breakfast, which we gladly accepted every morning. The hotel was undergoing renovations to their usual breakfast room (which did get noisy during the day), so they even offered free delivery of breakfast at our chosen half-hour window.
As far as medicating, the Residence Inn is a non-smoking hotel, so we talked to management ahead of time about my marijuana prescription and they assured me that they had a small smoking area and that it would be no problem. In fact, the smoking area was the same as the pet area, so when it was necessary, I got to heal myself and give the dog a stretch and a pee at the same time. We really loved this place and were sad to leave. The staff was fantastic, the room was gorgeous and comfortable, and even their scented toiletries were semi-usable! (Not so at Zoso, I had to hide them all in the room safe they were so rank.)
The cleaning and sorting and packing was all pretty miserable. Emotions were running high, one family member couldn't seem to stop screaming about everything, and the house was not in good shape. I'll write about what happened with his mom and how she died at another time, but it was a difficult situation, emotionally and physically.
We had originally aimed to take our time getting home, we thought we might take in some sights if we were up to it. Unfortunately, there were some financial surprises and after four days of manual labor, we just wanted to get home anyway. So, we packed up a big old Budget truck and drove through the night, only stopping to sleep for a few hours at a rest stop. It was the second most uncomfortable night of my life.
When we got back to our local city, we rented a storage unit for the biggest items and stuff we wouldn't be dealing with right away and unpacked most of the truck. Then, we drove home and slept. We're still unpacking what we did bring home, putting away what we'll use, and the donate pile continues to grow ever-larger. It feels like it will never end, but I know that if we just keep chipping away at it, our home will look normal again.
Going through his mother's things was cathartic and awful, but my boyfriend is so grateful he was able to do it. Being able to take home pieces of her life, and put to rest or recycle what we won't keep, it's a good metaphor for healing after death. She was a complicated woman, and she will be missed.