Sometime during my senior year in college, I applied to the University of Michigan and the University of Tennessee for acceptance into their Master of Public Health program. At the time the University of Utah, where I was a current student, didn’t offer this degree.
I was accepted into both programs and had a difficult time deciding which one I should attend. Michigan’s tuition was $1600 per semester compared to $400 at Tennessee. I came from a family that couldn’t financially help me with school so I knew that I would have to pay my own tuition, therefore I chose the less expensive of the two.
For the next several months my wife Carol and I prepared to move to Knoxville, Tennessee. We were excited while also being nervous about this new adventure.
I finished my schooling at the University of Utah, moved into my parent’s house for a month to save some money, quit my job with Dr. Ogilvie at Wasatch Pathological Laboratories, and started packing up our things for the move to Tennessee.
We left Salt Lake at the end of August 1973 pulling a U-Haul trailer containing everything we owned and headed to Knoxville a few days before school started. We wanted to get moved in and have some time to relax and get acclimated to a new community and culture. This move led to several interesting adventures along the way.
It began with a two-year-old son, Paul, who like most kids his age was restless, had a small bladder, was full of questions, and didn’t like to sleep in the car. Obviously, we had to plan on frequent stops for bathroom breaks, leg stretches, and just to get out of the car. This became a great bonding, challenging, and somewhat frustrating experience.
The morning of the second day we drove through a small town somewhere in Nebraska. We stopped and went into a store to buy a few snacks and something to drink. After we finished our shopping and started on our way again, Carol opened the carton of chocolate milk we purchased, started pouring it into a paper cup and to our surprise a great big glob of old sour, smelly, chocolate milk plopped out. It was disgusting. When the mess was cleaned up, we both agreed that chocolate milk would not be part of our diet and it took several years for us to ever try it again.
Another event occurred that could have easily caused a serious accident or even been fatal to someone (probably one of us). It occurred outside of Kansas City, Missouri when someone completely unaware of our car entered the freeway just as we were driving by, cut us off, causing me to swerve out of the way, which caused the trailer to fishtail. I was trying hard to keep it in the lane and avoid swerving into the next lane. It took several seconds to get everything under control. Fortunately, there were no other cars close to us. We were shaken and decided we were done driving for the day, so we found a motel in Kansas City.
This motel was a national brand and we assumed that it would be a great place to spend the night. Unfortunately, not knowing anything about Kansas City and not being very observant before we registered, we didn’t notice a ten-foot chain link fence with a locked gate surrounding the motel. We didn’t sleep very well that night fearing the worst scenario that our imaginations could conjure up; we got up early and left.
Later that afternoon we arrived at the outskirts of Kentucky and stopped at a gas station for bathroom break and directions to Louisville. Weu quickly realized that we didn’t understand the language they spoke. I approached the attendant for directions to Louisville, and he said, “Whooavull is down the road a couple hours” and then he pointed. I explained that I didn’t want to go to Whooavull, but rather we were headed to Louisville. I think he was frustrated with a man from Utah who couldn’t speak ‘Kentuckian’ and repeated his directions a second and then a third time, “Whooavull, Whooavull is that way” and pointed once again. I had one of those ‘Ah Ha’ moments and realized we were talking about the same place. I thanked him and we followed the road to ‘Whooavull’ and then onto Tennessee.
We finally arrived at Knoxville, signed the paperwork so we could move into student housing and started unloading the trailer. My good wife insisted that we take 800 pounds of canned wheat that we were going to grind up and use for homemade bread and who knows what else, so we unloaded it and creatively stored it by disguising it as lamp stands. When Carol decided she wanted to make some bread or whatever she assigned me the task of grinding the wheat, which I did grudgingly. It took a lot of effort and time to get just a small amount ground and Carol decided to make some gosh awful dish with it which was so bad neither of us could eat it so we threw it away and went to a restaurant that we couldn’t afford.
The crazy thing about hauling this wheat was that we took 800 pounds of it 2,000 miles with the idea of learning to like wheat but when we returned to Utah, we brought 799 pounds back. Several years later we gave it away.
This was a once in a lifetime move for us and we faced several challenges as we went on our way but as I think about this trip, I appreciate Carol and Paul because they remained positive, while we laughed and cried and still had fun together.
This trip was an example of challenges that life can sometimes throw at us to stop us from achieving a goal while providing a great example of a family converting lemons into lemonade. That’s what moving can do for a family!
Happy Failing Forward,
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