It felt like it had been a while. It also felt like it was just yesterday, that we’d been walking the streets of Santa Barbara beneath the Santa Ynez ridge, gazing out over the Channel and distant islands.
It was good to be back, for sure. Again we found ourselves saying “this place isn’t real”.
Wrapping up our third and final shift of the week at work, we had been making plans to visit some national parks with our eight days off. Initially considering a trip to Big Bend National Park in Texas, we reconsidered, as it would add two full days of driving just to get there and back. So we settled on a stop in Santa Fe for 4 nights, and the next 4 were spent visiting Carlsbad Caverns, Guadalupe Mountains, and White Sands National Parks. Charley would be spending the week back in Phoenix with my cousin and her family, as the national parks don’t treat dogs like humans (like we do), and thus they are forbidden.
Our route to Santa Fe took us up through Payson and to the Mogollon Rim, which we drove up and on to, and continued northeast for 7 hours or so until we reached our destination.
We’d spend the next handful of days getting the lay of the land, checking out a couple regions in the Santa Fe area, as well as the city itself- vibrant and charming in its old town, southwest turquoise vibe.
Over the next week or so, Jamie Charley and I spent most of our time working (or going to daycare) and doing local things in the valley. We did a couple evening hikes, both in the Superstitions and at South Mountain, checked out a gym offering a free month membership to healthcare workers, ran the nearby trails and roads, and grabbed dinner with our friends Maggie and Brandon. We kept busy, but didn’t make any trips out of town.
We’d picked out a camping spot near Roosevelt Lake for Monday the 27th, about a 2 hour’s drive northeast of Phoenix. Taking an off-road route about 30 miles through the Four Peaks Wilderness, we passed countless mounds of crumbled rock, hundreds of feet high, and broken saguaros, ripped apart by the aridity and baking in the relentless sunshine. We skirted the trailhead for Brown’s Peak, the tallest of the Four Peaks that make up the Valley’s eastern horizon.
We worked Monday and Tuesday, as my floor started moving back to its regular med-surg population. Jamie’s floor would be the last to convert from a covid floor. We finished up our couple work days and spent Wednesday relaxing locally for a bit. I went for a run that morning, and couldn’t help but compare my jog on the streets of Ahwatukee to former outings in Santa Barbara. Of course, if scenery is a necessity while running, I could always head over to South Mountain nearby.
We awoke Saturday morning in St George rather sluggishly. The motel room’s heater was on the fritz, having only two modes: off and full heat blast.
We took our time getting out the door, recouping after the long traverse across Nevada the day before. That afternoon, we took a nice 10 mile off-road drive from the corner of town into the Dixie National Forest and set out on a short hike to Yant flats and the Candy Cliffs. Pale orange and red striations cut through the sandstone around us, as we leisurely climbed a few hundred feet over a couple miles through the sagebrush and juniper trees. Ground-hugging cacti spotted the trail along the way, and we were sure to be mindful of Charley wandering about so as to avoid any needle sticks.
Arriving at the Flats, we stopped briefly to take in the enormity of the landscape in front of us. An ongoing difficulty in the West is conceptualizing the scale of the cliffs, peaks and formations strewn about in the vast wilderness. The Candy Cliffs, farther along the same trail, offered a stillness that was lacking at the Flats, as most folks don’t continue on after that.
The day had come to leave our lovely little abode. It’s always sad to leave when our contracts are up, but I found Santa Barbara to be especially difficult to leave.
“Why the hell are we leaving?!” Jamie and I would ask each other. The hospital had offered to extend our contracts a while back, but we declined, as we were already set on heading to Arizona. It was a special time in SB, but eventually it had to end.
We packed up our car in typical Tetris fashion, sure to leave ample space for Queen Charley’s throne in the back seat, complete with a bed and only the softest and comfiest blankets.
So Monday morning, when all the preparations were set, we punched Lake Tahoe (specifically, Stateline, NV) into the GPS and left Santa Barbara in our rearview.
So we’ve been working quite a bit the past week and haven’t had time to do a ton of adventuring. We decided to put this post together to answer some FAQs about our lives as travel nurses and about travel nursing in general! I hope you enjoy learning a little more about what we do!
Now working full-time again, Bijan and I’s free time to adventure has been cut down to 4 days per week. We are not going to lie and say that work is a piece of cake, because it’s not. It’s hard and stressful most days. We can get through it, though, and justify the stress that it gives us by taking full advantage of the days that we have off.
Whether its a day trip to somewhere that is close to Santa Barbara or a few-days getaway, we always make sure we have something to look forward to. The first month or so of a new travel assignment is always a difficult adjustment, but it does get easier towards the end!
Typically, when starting a new job, you can probably think of the first week like “syllabus week” was in college. Sure, classes are back in session, but no one’s fretting. Still got a week to get situated.
It’s not so much the case with travel assignments. The contracts are short term, and thus the onboarding and training are expedited. One day getting a general orientation for the hospital and a tour of the different units (we’d be working in the float pool and needed to know our way around), one day to crash-course the new electronic health record (Epic, in this case). We hit the floors on Wednesday to begin our first day back in the clinical setting since our last day on the prior contract, September 3.
The commute to work couldn’t be easier. Hop on the bikes, take the first left at the end of the block, and a mile later, we’re at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital (SBCH).
Our first glimpse of the Pacific came when we hit Pismo Beach on Saturday (Oct. 3) afternoon, a little over an hour’s drive north of Santa Barbara on US 101. The drive to get there from Yosemite took us along numerous state highways as we zigged and zagged our way through farmland lined with endless almond and pistachio trees. The air had a heavy haze and the thermometer was flirting with 100F. My only concern was our little Crosstrek; poor girl had been huffing and puffing over 5500 miles as she carried us and our worldly belongings to Santa Barbara. Easy does it with the gas, Bij. Climb the hills slow, steady, I told myself.