This is a little bit delayed, but I wanted to take the time to chronicle what has already happened to catch everyone up to what IS happening. So there will be more parts coming in the next few days to bring it all up to present day.
Linda arrived on schedule to find my apartment bare bones. It was me, an air mattress and the kitties. We spend the rest of the time in Biloxi cleaning the apartment from top to bottom and packing and planning and doing everything for the big move. We scrubbed walls and floors and shampooed carpets and Windexed everything in sight. We did manage to take time to get to our favorite southern BBQ spot called The Shed (if you know nothing about it, look it up on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives).
On Friday, March 8, 2013 I went on Keesler AFB for the last time to officially sign out of the military and begin my 104 days of paid leave (that I spent years accruing). It took a short time to go through the motions and I stopped by the office to say my final goodbyes before watching the base fade and get smaller in my rearview mirror.
The next morning before sunup we headed out from Mississippi through Alabama into and through Georgia before arriving, 11 hours later in Sumter, South Carolina - my previous military home of 5 and a half years. After briefly settling into the hotel room we met up with my Air Force dad, hero and mentor, Chief Master Sergeant Frank Dannals (ret.) for a casual dinner and some reminiscing. We lost an hour somewhere during the day when we crossed from Central Standard Time into Eastern Standard Time. After some chow, we crashed hard for the night knowing we had to do the same thing all over again the next day.
Sunday morning we were back on the road, once again before the rooster's crow, having lost yet another hour because Eastern Standard Time became Eastern Daylight Time somewhere amid our short slumber. And so we wound our way out of South Carolina and straight north through North Carolina, Virginia, Washington D.C., Maryland, Delaware and into New Jersey (which we obviously drove almost the entire length of), for another 11 hours before pulling in the driveway at my parents house, sporting balloons, a banner and some tears upon my arrival and replete with northern deliciousness after subsisting on fast food for almost a week.
And so after 96 hours of furious cleaning and 22 hours of nearly nonstop driving I was home, back in NJ, safe and sound. It all went as smooth as can be, save for a minor hiccup when the gas gauge decided to take a nap and we panicked thinking we had no gas and a major problem. We didn't kill each other, had lots of laughs and the drugged up kitties slept peacefully the entire way.
If only we knew then that the real fun was just about to begin, but more on that later...