Moving can be an overwhelming experience. When it involves leaving a place you’ve spent your entire adult life, and a job you’ve loved, to move nearly 900 miles away, it can be daunting.
That’s the challenge I found myself in a few weeks ago when my girlfriend, Jessica, and I, threw our essentials and pets into our cars and pulled out of her dad’s driveway in Ogden, Utah, bound for Roswell.
I had applied and been offered a position with the Daily Record’s sports department a number of years ago, but the timing wasn’t quite right for me to make a big move.
This time, when Editor Jeff Tucker offered me the job as the RDR’s night designer, I accepted it. I had no idea what to expect. After all, I’d only been in New Mexico twice, and originally only knew of Roswell from UFO lore.
Reading about Roswell online through a Google search made me question my decision as nearly every site mentioned the area’s crime rate as being abnormally high for a city its size, but then I thought about my own hometown of Ogden, an area in Utah that has a less-than stellar reputation when it comes to crime.
Jessica and I went back and forth on coming down, but around noon on a Wednesday, we headed out on our new adventure. About 30 minutes into it, my cat threw up in his carrier, necessitating a quick pullover and a cleaning. It was the first of several challenges during the move.
We had first intended to just drive straight through, despite the trip clocking in at a little over 13 hours of driving time, but ended up making it as far as Cortez, Colorado, before calling it quits for the night, and checking into a hotel room with four pets.
Our plans to leave early the next morning to finish the trip were thwarted after Jessica broke a bone in her hand just after breakfast, meaning a trip to the emergency room.
By the time we finally rolled out of Colorado, it was well past noon again, meaning we were going to make another large part of the drive in the dark. We hit Albuquerque at rush hour, and rolled into Roswell just before 10 p.m., on Dec. 14.
Anyone who has made that drive knows it’s a long, lonely stretch of highway, especially at night, and our first sight of town was the soft glow of lights on the underside of the clouds in the sky as we got closer to town.
After our landlords were gracious enough to meet us late to give us the keys to our new place, the real challenge began.
The first was finding a place to sleep. When we left Ogden, we’d just left with some essential clothes and our pets, figuring we’d rough it until we could figure out how to get our furnishings down. Fortunately, we’d passed Walmart on the north end of town on our way, and headed back after midnight to get an air mattress and look for something to eat.
We tried a handful of places who were long closed for the night before we found Whataburger open. That was our first bite of food from town, and at midnight it tasted heaven-sent.
Waking up the next day after trying to sleep in a little to recover, we tried to unpack the few things we had with us, and I made the first trip to my new office and got a warm welcome from the staff and a tour of the building from Managing Editor Misty Choy.
My first day would be Dec. 18, a Monday, giving Jessica and I the weekend to settle in. We tried out Peppers Grill that night, and then tried to turn in early. I don’t remember much of the weekend, other than it went fast. We did make one “wrong turn” right off the bat, though.
On Sunday afternoon, we thought we’d take a drive out to Bottomless Lakes State Park, enjoy our lunch and a few minutes out in the open and warmth, and maybe take a photograph or two. I moonlight as a semi-professional photographer in my spare time, and it seemed like a great way to start settling in.
Relying on Google Maps in my phone for everything, I ended up mixing it up with Bitter Lake Wildlife Refuge, and we headed off in the wrong direction without realizing it. In the end, it was still a good day, and definitely nice to check out something from our new life.
As you can imagine, the first week on the job was stressful, both on my co-workers training me and myself trying to absorb as much as I could quickly. In the end, we made things work, but I might have broken a deadline or two.
After wrapping up the last shift of my first week on Saturday, Jessica and I received our version of a Christmas gift from her father, who drove a Uhaul filled with our stuff from Ogden, rolling into our driveway at a little past 2 a.m. It was a little like that scene at the end of “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas,” where the titular character sleds down the hill returning gifts to the citizens of Whoville.
Reunited with everything we’d left behind, suddenly it felt a little less strange in our empty place. Roswell had become home.
Justin Johnson is the night designer at the Roswell Daily Record. He can be reached at email@example.com. The views expressed in this column are those of the author.