On the road again…
No, not YOU… I’m talking about U-Haul! The post-graduate move to Colorado got off to a bad start when I discovered that U-Haul does not allow Ford Explorers to haul their trailers. The original plan was to haul the Houston “stuff” up to Longmont in a trailer behind “Bert” the 1996 Explorer (and leave him there). But when I went on line to make the reservation, I discovered that they didn’t allow this particular model to haul their trailers. I wasn’t sure why, but figured that perhaps the car was too old, or something. Plan B was to haul the stuff behind “Donnie Ray” (circa 2002), then drive back and return with Bert another time.
I didn’t have any trouble the second try on line; I just changed 1996 to 2002, and the reservation went through. It said that someone from U-Haul would contact me the day prior and tell me where to pick up my trailer (which cost $110 to rent one way).
As promised, the person called, and I inquired about the trailer hitch. He said to bring the vehicle in so they could take a look. When I did, and he saw it was an Explorer, he said he couldn’t lease a trailer to me. I’m sorry to say I blew a gasket, and that poor man was on the receiving end. He insisted that I had mistakenly put “Expedition” in the field, but I know I did not, as I had gone through the on line process twice with no problem. My question was why even offer “Explorer” as a selection if they refuse to lease to them?
I had no real options at this point (the day before we were to pack and leave). No other local trailer companies rent one way, and so I had to go for a truck. Yes, I could have researched other self-moving truck companies, but given the time, I just went for what was right in front of me, a ten-foot truck affixed to a van sort of vehicle. Of course, this cost $475, which was quite a bit more than $110. Boy, was I mad!!
The next day we went to retrieve it, and that man was nowhere in sight (probably on purpose!). I honestly had planned to apologize to him for my angry outburst while still letting him know I think their policy stinks. And so it was that after getting briefed on its features, Shannon and I drove off in this very large vehicle with no rear views except for side mirrors that were tricky to figure out. For sure it was bouncy and loud, but at least it had an air conditioner and a radio. No gas in it… interestingly enough, it took exactly $100 to fill it.
Joel, Shannon, Megan and David did the loading while I was away at a wedding shower. They ultimately did an excellent job, as upon our arrival in Longmont, not a thing was broken or damaged. But the two days of driving that beast were quite an experience!
The worst part was the lack of rear and side vision, followed in order by needing a long braking distance (no stopping short allowed!), no cruise control and needing to really depress the gas pedal hard to stay at highway speed. Oh, and the way the seat was configured, I couldn’t rest my heel on the floor, so it was quite a physical effort to drive.
We left Houston really early on Sunday morning, so there was no traffic to speak of. It took a while to finally get comfortable with using the mirrors, and honestly, there was only once when I had a scare, which was on the freeway in Fort Worth, where there was a lot of traffic all going very fast! But we survived and pressed on.
Our aim was to stop in Amarillo (a ten hour day), and by sheer luck, we filled up our beast outside of FW, just prior to driving through an area devoid of towns or amenities. Thank goodness for that! Once we reached Amarillo, we found our trusty Hampton Inn without a problem and were more than ready to stop. After walking to a Wendy’s for a hamburger dinner, we crashed and slept like dead people.
Monday morning, we again arose early and hit the road, thinking to get out of town before rush hour. I thought I’d wait and fill the tank once we got past the city limits, but there was a convenient station on the corner by the hotel, so I just did it there. And again, thank goodness, because Amarillo just ends, and then from that point on until you reach Denver, there is basically NOTHING but a desolate, alien landscape with a few little funny towns here and there. Signage was non-existent, and the highway was just one lane. It was quite nerve wracking not knowing exactly where we were or how long it would take until the next little oasis. And every so often, we would have to pass a slow moving vehicle… yikes!
My trusty co-pilot Shannon was great at keeping me headed in the right direction. We played the alphabet game a million times (although in the panhandle, there weren’t many signs to study) and kept a list of the license plates from various states (again, on a one lane road, this game isn’t very easy to play!). We talked and laughed, and tried to find NPR stations until there was nothingness on the radio, at which point we tuned in an iPod that we could sing along with.
Finally we got to the Interstate (70) that led to Denver. It was lightly traveled, and the speed limit was 75 mph, which was a little faster than I was comfortable driving in that behemoth. But we were excited to finally be nearby, and made it to the airport in due time (by 2:30), where we rented a car to use after we turned in our bumpy chariot.
That process took awhile, but in a way it was nice to stretch our legs. Shannon then followed me in the car as we maneuvered the tollway to Interstate 25 and finally to Longmont, where we parked the truck in the driveway of Shannon’s little rent house and peeked in. You can bet that I was glad to leave it there overnight and drive in a real car for a change!
After cleaning up and enjoying a nice dinner nearby, we again crashed with the delightful prospect of not having to set the clock for any particular reason. We both slept well, and after a good breakfast the next day, drove back to the house to begin the unloading process. It went much faster than the loading (of course), and we managed to get everything out but three really heavy pieces. Kat’s friend Tim stopped by to help us, and in short order, we were through! I was never SO happy than to drive that truck to the nearby U-Haul dealer and leave it forever.
The rest of our days were also filled with hard work (cleaning and unpacking), but we had fun placing stuff, hanging pictures, shopping for necessities. And each evening we’d rest our battered and bruised bodies and enjoy a glass of wine on our little hotel balcony (third floor) while we watched the sun set behind the Rockies.
We headed back (me to Houston, Shannon to NY) on Thursday, and while my moving responsibilities ended there, poor Shannon had to pack up her NY “stuff” and make another cross country trek. I do have another trip up to CO looming, but this time it will be in Bert, who is way more comfortable than a U-Haul. I hope I never have to drive another one of those ever again!