Friday, November 12, 2010
U-Hell. A moving story.
In 2004, we drove a U-Haul from Oregon to upstate New York, then rented another one, drove from there to the Concord area of Massachusetts, then north to NH to stop by the parent’s house for a night (which turned out to be three because a Nor’easter blew in), and the made the trip back to Oregon.
Why? My sister was moving to New York, and I, although already living in Oregon for over a year, was going to move my stuff to Oregon, which was stored in my BFF's basement. This was an ambitious plan. I took some time off work, and hubby (only my fiancé at that point—or maybe not even then.. I don’t remember when he proposed… I have it written down somewhere) and I helped my sister move her crap 3,000 miles.
Now moving on its own is a stressful deal, but when you’re in a U-Haul, the stress levels skyrocket. 1) the trucks are SO loud that even if you have a radio, you can’t hear it over the engine, which is sitting on your knees, practically. 2) The seats are extraordinarily uncomfortable. 3) You can’t stretch your legs, the seats didn’t adjust in any way. So for days upon days, you’re sitting in a noisy-ass rattletrap with no way to feel comfortable at all.
On top of that, we took my dog Eddie along because he was so evil, nobody could dog-sit him, and he spent 99.999% of the time on my lap standing, or on my ‘ridge’ when I would lay down and put my head on hubby’s lap. Both he and hubby were extremely badly effected by the road-diet and I suffered from being locked in a cabin with two flatulent creatures. But not anything in the above descriptions is all that bad. What was *really* bad was that the U-Haul truck broke down a million times on this trip… and never once did U-Haul offer to send us a better truck. My sister was caravanning in her Subaru with her cat that meowed all 3,000 miles, and her dog who, like Eddie, had a taste for human flesh and loved to bite strangers. We had bought some walkies so we could communicate.
Day 1: 1.5 miles from the house; engine light goes on, brakes go on automatically, hubby pulls the truck over onto a side street. After some puzzlement and grumpiness, it starts again. We are successful at obtaining gas. We head for highway 84, and happily start trucking along.
Day 1: ~50 miles on the road, and the truck acts up again. We stop for dinner at Cascade Locks. Phone call to U-Haul brings us a mechanic. He does something that allows us to continue. He says that we should stop in Pendleton, where there’s a U-Haul certified garage there. Truck keeps breaking down as we go, we arrive late in Pendleton and stay in a hotel. Day 1, we make it a little over 200 miles. We are annoyed.
Day 2: We wait around at the garage while the guy tries to figure out what’s wrong with the truck. Thinks he’s fixed it. We’re on our way.
Day 2: We make it as far a La Grande (about 50 miles). The truck breaks down on the side of a mountainous highway with no shoulders. It is scary. We manage to start it up again, and U-Haul directs us to a garage in La Grande. We spend most of the day waiting, while the garage tries to figure out what’s wrong with the truck. U-Haul still refuses to send a replacement truck.
Day 2: We manage to get back on the road again. We think it’s fixed. We enter Idaho and cut through towards Utah. As we do, the truck begins breaking down again. It’s night. Hubby is lying on the side of the road in the darkness, underneath the truck ‘short’ starting it back up again. We get to Twin Falls, Idaho where they tell us they will fix the truck. We stay the night. The place smells like dung. The whole place. We manage 350 miles on day 2.
Day 3: Truck is supposedly fixed. We make it 151 miles. It dies just outside of a town called Tremonton. We manage to get there with multiple restarts. A nice Mormon family run shop takes the truck and ACTUALLY FIXES IT. We’re on our way. We overnight in Rock Springs, Wyoming. And then we do marathon runs for to make up for lost time. Rock Springs to Des Moines, Iowa (or just outside of it, can’t remember the town). De Moines to some random town in Northern Indiana (going around the edge of Chicago was like a deliberate death-wish act). And Northern Indiana to New York, where we arrive at an ungodly hour, seriously grumped out by the whole deal. Come morning, we go to turn in the truck, and as the technician at the U-Haul put it in drive to park it, it broke down. We all found that very amusing. No compensation for our problems were offered, nobody cared it had made us way late.
Hubby and I go and pick up our smaller truck. The seats are even less comfortable, the engine louder, and there isn’t even a radio at all. We are angry. We decide to drive out of Troy, New York over the mountains into Massachusetts taking a less stressful route. We make it to Shirley (near Concord) that same day, I go to my friend’s house, we load up the truck. We call Satan to let her know we’re coming up. We head up 495, and then 93… it’s nice to be on familiar ground. As we’re driving… it starts to snow.
Two days later, I manage to get the truck out of my parents’ steep driveway with my New Englander snow-drivin'-know-how. Hubby suggests we get chains if we cross the rockies again, so we drive down to find some, only to be laughed at by the guys at the car-parts store. “Yah dahn’t need chains fah snaow! …!” they admonish. I agree, and we get on our way. We cut through Connecticut and Pennsylvania, and make our way home. We are sick of Cracker Barrel and similar highway-type food.
Laramie, Wyoming. The truck breaks down. The fuel lines have frozen. We can’t leave. Technician arrives, fixes the problem, we’re on our way again. Snow is horrid. One late morning, we’re driving along and a sudden snowstorm slams the road. I tell hubby to pull over and we’ll stop for lunch. If the snow got worse, there was a hotel nearby. By the time lunch was over, the storm had passed, leaving hundreds of trucks jackknifed in the ditches. We move along. We play ‘road-kill-bingo’ and argue. When we hit Idaho, we see potatoes on the side of the highway. Seriously. We are so tired. My side and lap feels like a punching bag and my dog is still standing there. The only difference now is that hubby is passing gas, and letting me blame the dog for it. He thinks it’s funny.
We finally enter Oregon about lunch-time on the fourth day. We’re thinking about stopping somewhere when we hear a strange sort of whining. We realize as it gains volume, that it’s the horn. It is stuck on ‘deafening’. We drive like that for miles, tightlipped, jaws set, brows furrowed, chewing our cheeks, ignoring the looks from other cars that go past us. In Ontario, we stop for lunch. Hubby turns off the truck and the horn keeps blaring. He messes with the horn on the steering wheel and it stops. We go inside a bad Chinese buffet restaurant to eat, and someone comes in and says: “There’s a U-Haul with its horn blaring and a dog going crazy inside.” Hubby goes outside and tears out a fuse. He comes in and it looks like a black cloud is rumbling over his head. We somehow make it home without it going off again. We get home, unload our furniture and then hubby hops back in to take the truck back to the U-Haul place to drop it off. The dog refuses to leave the house and come with us.
We walk into the U-Haul store in Clackamas… and we are angry. The lady at the desk makes the mistake of pointing out that we are a day late on our schedule, and she will have to charge us another day. My habit of flying off the handle when pushed was invoked that day. Suffice it to say, she walked away pretty much carrying her own head. She waived any additional charges, and gave us a coupon for a future rental, which I tore up into bits and threw into the garbage declaring I would never in my life EVER rent a U-Haul truck again.
So that is my advice. Don’t use U-Haul if you’re going anywhere over 30 miles. Holy crap. Don’t know why that came to mind today… but it did. I thought, wouldn't that make a good Happy Friday story?