Friday, November 9, 2012

Recap: Moving Day, Oct. 30

The back of the house at 413.
M had a lot of wind-up activities for her work that kept her pretty busy the week prior to the move. We had spent about two weeks putting things into boxes and making preparations.

My last official activity was a board meeting for the nonprofit I had been working with; when that wrapped up Oct. 25, it was time to get busy.

We had hoped to make a sort of "farewell tour" to the places that had meant so much to us in Fayetteville. We made some of them, but not enough of them.

On Monday, Oct. 29, I got the moving truck: a 16-foot Penske truck with a tow dolly. The plan was to tow one car, drive the other while I drove the moving truck. We had loaders coming Tuesday morning first thing to get the truck packed. Anticipating a two-hour job, that would put us on the road by 10:30 a.m. Our first-day destination, we had decided, would be Terre Haute, Indiana.

Our plans were to be there (here) on Nov. 1; that way, we had a few days before M started her new job to get settled in a bit. It would allow us to unpack in a less-frantic manner, and try to establish something close to normal when her new work began.

To make this happen, though, meant we were going to have to hump it to get here. The trip wound up precisely 1,600 miles driven. At first, our initial leg was going to go to Effingham, Ill. I wanted to stop there if only to say I ate an Effingham burger.

That was about 460 miles. Not bad. But that still left a long way to go. So we decided we would push on to Terre Haute... another 70 miles along the way.

Day Two would be the killer: An 805-mile slog to Oneonta, NY. We'd decided to take a northern route to avoid driving through NYC. It just seemed wiser. And when Hurricane Sandy reared its ugly head, that route seemed even more appropriate.

That would leave us with about a 250-mile coast into Boston on Nov. 1. Ideally starting Day 2 and 3 with crack-of-dawn departures, this plan would put us into our new home with enough daylight left to make a big dent in the truck unloading.

Best laid plans, the saying goes. It would be accurate.


We awoke about 7 a.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 30. We knew it would be a long day. The loaders were to arrive at 8 a.m. Our living room looked like the School Book Depository; I had briefly considered pre-loading a lot of the boxes into the truck, but felt like I didn't want to screw up the process when the loaders arrived.

That turned out to be a good call, because when they got there, they evaluated our stuff and felt like a 16-foot truck was too small. Major problem.

I'd self-moved before, and the last time I had done so had used a 17-foot truck that was more than adequate. We'd only acquired two significant pieces of furniture since then: A 7-foot tall bookshelf, and a sizable entertainment hutch. The sheer bulk of both of those scared the movers. And now, me. Because loading a 16-foot truck to the max and finding that some things were going to be left behind would create a Sophie's Choice I wanted no part of.

I think an ace mover would have been able to make the 16 work. But we didn't have that. And we had very little time. We were all-in before the flop, and there was no turning back.

I called Penske and they, miraculously, had a 22-foot truck available. But this was moving from big to behemoth. The 22-footer was like a small semi, diesel-powered, and we were going to be lugging a car behind it on a tow dolly. I was going to have to drive a 30-foot long vehicle, larger by far than anything I had ever driven, over half a continent in three days.

To say I was concerned is an understatement.

But there was no choice. So I picked up the truck, and got back to the apartment as fast as I could. By the time they were able to start loading, it was 10:30 a.m. -- the time we had planned to be leaving.

And that two-hour pack job became 3.5 hours. We were now, at best, a full four hours behind schedule. We also had to clean as the apartment was emptied, in hopes of getting our full deposit back. Then I had to get the truck back to the rental center, learn how to attach and detach the tow dolly, then attach the tow car to the dolly.

When all was said and done, it was about 4 p.m. before we were ready to go.

I guess the good news is that the natural momentum of everything forced our hands. We didn't have time to dally. Suddenly the schedule was pushing us and you just had to go with it.

The drawback was that we didn't get to savor the home that we had for three years, or the town we had lived in for almost seven.

M got emotional as we looked at the empty, pretty old duplex. Built in 1939, it had idiosyncrasies we had come to love. It was a charmer. We hugged in 413 for one last time as her tears flowed. It was a clean break, and I guess that has its advantages. But it would have been nice to be able to part more sweetly. I don't know how you do that, though. When you've stripped a house of the things that make it a home, it's not that home any more.


The shadows were getting long and the light was fading. We had less than three hours before it would get dark, and a trip that would last about 10 hours. Worse was that when we would arrive, we'd lose an hour going into the Eastern time zone.

But the most important thing, for me, was to have at least some daylight. The mammoth truck, fortunately, had two mirrors on each side perfectly located. The lower mirrors showed me the blind spots (although two days later, I almost, almost pulled into a right lane into a passing car). The larger mirrors above were positioned in a way that let me see the rear wheels as well as the wheels of the tow dolly. This allowed me to see how I could fit into the traffic lanes. It was a tight fit. But within a short period of adjustment, I learned how to "read" the lane markings in a way that I knew if I saw them lined up a specific way -- hitting to my left at a particular point on the hood before the mirrors -- I knew I would be in a safe spot.

What worked in my favor on this trip was the concern I had for staying within the lanes and being careful. Sometimes in average driving you allow yourself to pay attention to too many other things: you tinker with the radio or a CD, your mind wanders. None of that would do in this monster. I listened to exactly one CD, and half of another, on the whole trip. I didn't want the distraction.

However, I did pester M relentlessly over the course of the next days. Riding alone in this big truck, I felt a little isolated. I wanted this move to be fun, and it's sometimes hard to have fun by yourself.

By the time we made Springfield, Mo., it was dark. It seemed like most of this trip would be in the dark. The easiest part by far was the first three hours... after that, we'd be on roads we were totally unfamiliar with. I'd driven across about half of the route once long ago, but that memory would serve little purpose now.

The leg was fairly unremarkable. We did route south of St. Louis to avoid going through the city center. We crossed the dark Mississippi into Illinois, and trucking north I could see the arch across the river to my west. We made our second truck stop of the trip so far... the big truck scarfed gobs of diesel, all priced at around $4 a gallon, and only making about 9.5 miles per gallon. By the end of the trip, we'd spend almost $800 on diesel fuel.

We finally pulled into Terre Haute around 3 a.m. It was cold. We stayed at a Holiday Inn just off the Interstate, and the people couldn't have been nicer. I parked the truck in a big lot populated with big rigs. We got our gear and the dogs and crawled to the room.

Had the schedule worked out like we'd wanted, we would have left Fayetteville by no later than 11 a.m., and a long drive would have put us into Terre Haute easily before 10 p.m. We'd eat, relax a little and get a good night's sleep of at least 6+ hours before getting up and out way early, by 6 or 7 a.m., for the 800-mile trek ahead.

But getting in at 3 a.m. smashed those plans.

So now we planned to sleep until just before the free breakfast ended at 9 a.m. Getting 5 or 6 hours of sleep was less than ideal for what lay ahead, especially after just grinding out a demanding 20-hour day. But in the three minutes it took for us to fall asleep, we couldn't worry about it.

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