Driving with Miss Bella

cat in cat carrier

When we decided to leave Oroville, CA and move to Minnesota, we knew that we’d probably have to make the drive — we had two cats at the time and planned on a long and yowl filled drive east. Unfortunately, poor old Bobcat didn’t last that long, we lost him in April of this year to kidney disease. So our usually placid Manx “Bella” would be our only furry passenger on this trip.

We really thought the move would happen sooner in the year, but the area we were focusing on, Northfield MN, was experiencing a real seller’s market. We flew back and forth several times, made several offers that didn’t succeed, before lucking out on finding the house we are in. It’s a new house built in 2015 in a new development in Dundas MN, which is right next door to Northfield. We closed on the home at the end of August. In mid September we started our trek.

Before leaving and while the movers came for our furniture and boxes, we decided to board Bella at Foothill Boarding in Oroville, a place she’d been before and seemed very comfortable at, we didn’t want her to be stressed by the movers. We stayed at the Gold Country Casino hotel for a few nights while the movers came and right before we took off for good. That was also a good choice, it was close to our house and had a decent restaurant for breakfasts — and was less stressful for us.

A lot of pre-planning went into this trip — first I got online and charted our course using Google Earth, chunking the trip into 7 to 8 hour sections and find towns we could stay in at those points. Then I found a site called “officalpethotels.com“, typed in the towns I’d targeted, and reviewed the list of possible hotels. One tip that I’d recommend would be to call each one personally and not rely on the online information. Hotels often take dogs, but some won’t take cats due to allergies. Once I’d nailed down our route, and reserved the rooms, we found midway points to stop for lunch and get gas. Since we had the cat with us, we couldn’t leave the car, so we opted for Subway locations which were usually close to the highway and a gas station.

As a side note, another thing we did was to do several “pre-packings” of the car (Toyota Highlander Hybrid). We had a fairly large fabric carrier for Bella which had room for a small litter box, food and water dish, and room for her to lie down comfortably. Tim reinforced the base with several layers of cardboard, so it was easier to carry. We also brought a smaller hard sided carrier, thinking we might need it to carry her into and out of the hotels, but ended up not using it and just bringing in the travel carrier. I was a little worried that she might claw through it, but it was fine and she really didn’t claw at it much after she got the idea of what was going on.

cat in cat carrier
Bella checking out her blue fabric car carrier. Lots of room for a small litter box, food and water bowls.

Our route took us four days via Hwy 80, from northern California, through Reno, staying the first night in Elko NV at a Best Western. It wasn’t the nicest place, but it was actually Bella’s favorite! We figure it was “well scented” from other pets that had stayed there.

The second day we drove through Nevada and Utah, staying the night in Rawlings, WY at a MicroTel Hotel. This was a bit nicer and newer, and there was a nice cafe across the freeway we had dinner at. Bella was fine staying on her own in the room for an hour or so. She seemed to enjoy all the new beds.

Cat looking out window
Bella looks out at Rawlings WY, and thinks “I hope this isn’t it…”

The third day took us through the vast empty spaces of Wyoming to spend the night in Grand Island, Nebraska at a very nice Candlewood extended stay suite. We were all quite comfortable there, and just made sandwiches for dinner in the room which was equipped with a nice kitchen.

Cat on bed
The higher end Candlewood extended stay hotel was a hit with Miss Bella…

Then the forth and final day, we drove through Nebraska and Iowa, to head north from Ames, IA into Minnesota, to our final destination of Dundas. We settled Bella into our new master bedroom and bath with the larger cat box we brought, leaving some of our clothing around for the familiar scent. Since we had no furniture yet, we stayed in a nearby hotel (which unfortunately didn’t take cats).

Cat and woman in front of fireplace
Road weary travelers in our new home!

The moving van came in on Sunday, the the driver actually stayed in the same hotel, so we were able to show him the route and the house the afternoon before the big unloading. The next day he was there early, with a good experienced crew, and unloading commenced. We were buried in boxes, but finally in our new home. All three of us were able to sleep in “our” own bed that night.

Throughout the whole ordeal, I must say, Bella was a trouper. She did express her “dismay” at being on the road each morning when we started out, but always settled down for a nap in the afternoon. She was noticeably more comfortable on the straight, level stretches, and most agitated at the changes in elevation or curvy sections of the route. From the beginning of the process she seemed to understand what was going on, and as long as we were all together, everything would be OK.  In a strange way, I feel incredibly grateful for her presence in this new stage of our life, just as I felt when we brought our Bobcat up to Oroville from Santa Clara.

cat in chair
Feeling right at home in the new house, just in time for winter!