Almost exactly a year ago at this time, my youngest son and I pulled into the parking lot of a motel in Columbia, Missouri, physically and mentally exhausted from a four-day, 2,000-mile road trip.
We were hauling the contents of an entire house in our two vehicles — a U-Haul truck and a compact car — along with two big dogs and the family cat. The purpose of the trip? To help move Jordan and his young family into a townhouse in a college town where he’d spend the next year, possibly two, at a research lab at the University of Missouri.
Fast forward a year and the scene is altogether different. Jordan and wife Jamie packed up and moved out of that townhouse at the end of May, and hit the road with daughter Emalyn, now 22 months old, for an equally long trip in the same amount of time.
As I write this on Sunday afternoon, the three of them, along with their cat and one surviving dog, are somewhere between Salt Lake City and southern Oregon, most likely speeding across northern Nevada in the family car.
After 12 months in Missouri, the kids are headed back to Oregon for the summer. They plan to spend June and July there living next to Jamie’s parents on the rural property where she and her sisters grew up outside Eagle Point, a few miles northeast of Medford.
In early August, they’ll pack up again and drive nearly 2,800 miles to Ithaca, New York, where they will spend the next five or so years as Jordan pursues a Ph.D. at prestigious Cornell University. I don’t know precisely the focus of his studies but I do know it generally involves microbiology.
It’s the next step — and, boy, is it a big one — in a path that could lead to a career as a research scientist. It comes on the heels of the Professional Research Experience Program fellowship (PREP for short) at Missouri that’s designed to prepare students for graduate study in biomedical research.
The PREP fellowship enabled Jordan to build on his undergraduate studies at St. Martin’s University, a small, private school in Olympia, Washington, by offering him the chance to do research in a well-funded lab at a major public university. In essence, it’s served as a bridge from St. Martin’s to Cornell.
As I think back to a year ago, I still marvel at how much ground we covered under such trying circumstances — two blown tires on the fully loaded U-Haul truck in the first two days, and the replacement of three more worn tires on the third day as a precautionary measure. The hours-long delays in waiting for road service in remote parts of Idaho and Montana set us way back on our schedule and made for even longer days behind the wheel in order to get to Columbia on time.
When August comes, Lori and I will fly back east to join Jordan, Jamie & Emmy and help them move into their rental home outside Ithaca, a town of about 30,000 residents situated roughly four hours north and west of New York City.
We’ve seen the three of them just twice since surviving the Road Trip From Hell. First, in early December, when we flew back to Missouri for the holidays. Then, just last month, when they flew here to Portland to attend the wedding of our oldest son, Nathan.
It will be nice to have them back in Oregon for at least a couple of months. They will get to spend a lot of time with Jamie’s parents, Linda and Jeff, on several dozen acres with horses, chickens, dogs and cats, and also will be able to see Jamie’s two sisters, who both live in the area.
It’s too early to say if or when they’ll get a chance to come up to Portland. My primary thoughts are focused on their safety — their just getting here — and on the amazing resilience they’ve shown in their eight-plus years of marriage, moving from Texas to Washington to Missouri as they transitioned from the military to civilian life to a Midwest college town.
Jamie has been extraordinarily supportive as Jordan has pursued a passion for scientific research. I know she’s missed being around her family, so I hope this summer is all that she hopes for. Before you know it, it’ll be time to pack up again for the big drive to New York.
Cornell University photograph: Wikipedia.org