The Modern Oregon Trail: Investing in a Family Future

In 2006, my husband and I moved back to the Midwest after a whirlwind three years in Seattle.  We loved Washington, but I was homesick for "home" and for family.  Also, we dreamed of owning a home and starting our own family, and the house prices in Seattle were too high for our (very) modest incomes.  So, we packed up our one-bedroom apartment, put our “kids” in the SUV, and drove home. 

I will always remember our cross-country trek like the modern Oregon Trail, in reverse.  The mountains were a bear to cross, and I almost lost a foot to frostbite -- the mountain passes were chilly, even with the heat cranked.  We almost starved because we didn’t bring a stash of food large enough to make it through our eight grueling hours of inter-mountain travel.  We were fighting over the last dried beef stick when we finally outran the blizzard behind us and pulled into a new-fangled general store for provisions of Cheetos and Cokes. 

We finally made it to Montana, and I took over driving the team of horses – er, the SUV.  But our covered wagon, which Mike for some reason christened U-Haul, was unbalanced, and I almost killed us in a cross-wind.  So, Mike drove the rest of the way home after a brief stop to rest in the prairie.  Unfortunately, the chill took one of our children, Parakeet, in that very prairie, and we buried our little blue, feathered boy in the Montana wilderness aptly named "The Seven-Eleven Garbage Can."   

The trip was long, and boredom often overcame our gang.  We whistled and sang tunes, Pa accompanying with his harmonica, Radio, and our three remaining children singing along.  Cat was especially fond of singing, and she entertained us the whole trip, howling her songs through all six states.  The boys, GuineaPiggy One and Two, liked to squeak their accompaniment.  We were very blessed to have the entertainment of our children through our Oregon Trail.

We finally forded the Missouri River and returned home, exhausted, and we rested for days.  However, we still had a homestead to build, so we continued on our journey to land ownership, staking our claim in the rolling, whitened hills of farmland the locals called Iowa.  Fortunately, another family had built a homestead and left it vacant.  So, all we had to do was move in, hang some curtains, and make it a home.     

The venture we made in the grueling 20-hour trip home became an investment in ourselves, our family, and our futures.  This was the right choice for us financially and emotionally. We have loved every minute of our new lives, surrounded by family, finally owning our own home, and looking forward to our future, fully invested in the returns of love.

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Anonymous's picture

retirebyforty wrote:

Fri, 12/17/2010 - 21:14 Comment #: 1

Yikes, sounds like a difficult trip. I've been in Portland, OR for almost 15 years now and it has became home. The rain is no fun, but I guess I can handle it now.

Anonymous's picture

Invest It Wisely wrote:

Fri, 12/17/2010 - 21:42 Comment #: 2

Woah! Well, that trip would have taken you months back in the 1800s. How do you feel about Iowa after a few years? Any longings to go back out west?

Christa Palm's picture

Christa Palm wrote:

Mon, 12/20/2010 - 17:32 Comment #: 3

Retirebyforty, I miss the Seattle drizzle. Compared to our non-stop snow in the Midwest this year, the rain was much easier to deal with -- I could still walk and jog outside when it was raining :)

Invest It Wisely, the trip was a nightmare, but I am happy to be home. I prefer Seattle weather (yes, even with the rain), but I like being close to family. The low-cost living in the Midwest is also a huge perk. But some December days, I really want to be able to strap on my running shoes and jog outside...so maybe another move West is in our future at some point!

Anonymous's picture

Carnival of Money Stories #86: New Year’s Resoluti wrote:

Mon, 12/27/2010 - 13:28 Comment #: 4

[...] shares The Modern Oregon Trail: Investing in a Family Future about how a 20-hour trip home “became an investment in ourselves, our family, and our [...]

Anonymous's picture

Lindy Mint wrote:

Wed, 12/29/2010 - 01:36 Comment #: 5

This is the best way to look at moving across country! We did the same thing, moving back home to Phoenix from Boston, four (or was it five?) days of grueling travel with an 11 month old who was only good for about 6 hours of driving a day. But, it was worth it.

Christa Palm's picture

Christa Palm wrote:

Wed, 12/29/2010 - 15:27 Comment #: 6

Welcome, Lindy Mint! Your cross-country move sounds like it was a bear, too, but I'm glad it was worth it!

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