Saturday, December 26, 2020

Moving adventures

Merry (belated) Christmas, dear readers! I thought this would be a good time to catch you up on the events of the past week. Yes, we're now installed in our new home. Grab yourself a cup of tea and join us on our latest moving adventures.

I'll start by relating what happened a week ago (Dec. 18). We had reserved a 26-foot U-Haul truck at the local distributor for Dec. 20. We received a phone call about 7 pm on Friday evening (Dec. 18) from a U-Haul representative confirming our one-way reservation. "You can pick up the truck from [Name of Distant City]," he told Don.

At first Don was confused. "We reserved the truck in [Local City]," he explained.

"Oh no, we don't have anything in [Local City]. But you could pick up a truck in [Even More Distant City] if you want."

In 30 years of marriage, I have seldom seen Don angry. But when it became clear the U-Haul representative was saying our only option was to take a five-hour round trip to pick up a truck from Distant City, or a seven-hour round trip from Even More Distant City -- rather than the local distributorship 15 minutes down the road -- my husband erupted. "I've had this truck booked for two weeks! I have people coming in to help us load! And you're telling me at the 11th hour no truck is available? CANCEL IT!!!" And he slammed down the phone.

So there we were, stuck in a rental house we were eager to leave, unable to move our household goods because a truck wasn't available at the local distributorship. There were no alternatives in the area (the only U-Haul competitor, Penske, wasn't anywhere near us).

After an hour or so, Don calmed down and called U-Haul back and spoke to a different representative about renting a 20-foot truck (rather than a 26-foot) from the local distributor. "Sure, there's one available," the rep said, after hearing about what happened with the other vehicle.

"Are you sure?" inquired Don. He received a confirmation number, but vowed to darken the door of the local U-Haul distributorship the moment they opened Saturday morning.

So, the next morning, armed with his confirmation receipt, Don drove to the local U-Haul dealership. "I'm here to confirm this 20-foot truck," he said.

"It's here," affirmed the clerk.

"Are you sure?" persisted Don, and reiterated why he was wary.

"Yep, I'm sure," replied the clerk. To prove his point, he called out to a fellow employee, "Hey Bob, that 20-foot truck is available tomorrow, right?"

"Oh no," replied Bob. "The drive shaft is bad. It won't be available for a couple of weeks."

The poor clerk got a deer-in-the-headlights look on his face at this news.

Don leaned closer. "Don't tell me," he gritted, "that there is no truck available for me tomorrow."

"Ah, let me see what I can do," sputtered the clerk. He typed rapidly on his computer, then made a phone call. "Hey Charlie, can you get that 20-foot truck here by 9 am tomorrow? You can? Great!"

So, with the promise of a truck on Sunday, we spent Saturday packing and hoping for the best. On Sunday morning, we picked up the truck without any problem, along with two bundles of rental blankets for padding.

After that, the day was insanely busy. Older Daughter came by along with three friends, and we all heaved and carried and pushed and stacked our household items in the truck.

This is the back side of the rental house. As you can see, it's built on a steep hillside. The disadvantage is everything from the lower level had to be schlepped up the hill to the truck.

The advantage is we were able to move the canning jars -- already stored in the home's little basement pantry -- right outside the back door, where we loaded them into our little trailer.

A funny thing happened during this process. We've known the two young men helping us since they were five and seven years old respectively. The older one is now married, and he told me his wife was learning how to can. "Be careful," I told him. "THIS --" and I pointed to the vast quantities of full canning jars spread out on the grass -- "is your future." The poor guy looked a little shell-shocked.

Eventually we got most (but not all) of our household goods packed into the truck. We weren't quite finished, but it was getting late and we had a two-and-a-half hour drive ahead of us. We can move the rest of our stuff later.

We paid and thanked the young people who'd helped us, buttoned up the vehicles, and hit the road. Don drove the U-Haul, and I followed in the car, towing a whole bunch of canning jars in a trailer. The dog and parrot were in the car with me.

And we drove. We drove and drove and drove. It got dark. It started to rain. Then it started to really rain. The road narrowed and got windy. For mile after mile after mile, we drove through rain and darkness toward a destination that somehow seemed unreal and ever-receding.

The last mile was purely uphill, and our poor little car didn't like it, not pulling a trailer with half a ton of full canning jars behind it. But we finally made it and pulled into our driveway.

The sellers had left behind some furniture they couldn't bring with them, notably a large dining table and four chairs.

We unloaded minimal items from the truck. It was dark and raining, and we were wiped out. We unloaded only enough to get by for the night -- our mattress, bedding, and the parrot's cage. We also had an ice chest containing the contents of our rental house's refrigerator. What we didn't unload (because we couldn't find it in the dark) was our toiletries, and any kitchen items such as cutlery or plates.

Then we heard a knock at our door. Our nearest neighbor, a sweet older woman, stopped by to welcome us to the neighborhood. She brought a paper plate of cookies wrapped in aluminum foil. We chatted for a few minutes and then she left. Little did this dear lady know how much we appreciated her gift. We slid the cookies off the paper plate onto the kitchen counter, and Don and I shared the paper plate for our humble dinner (he had to cut the cheese with the tiny blade off a miniature leatherman-type tool I had in my purse). Then we wrapped the remaining food in the aluminum foil from the cookies.

After this we tumbled into bed, filthy and exhausted. We had no idea where any bath towels were packed away, much less soap, shampoo, hairbrushes, or clean clothes, so showers were out of the question. We just slept.

The next morning we woke up -- and finally, we could see what it was we'd bought. Fog whispered in and out of the region, and we were enchanted by the view.

We leashed up Darcy (there is no fenced yard yet) and went walking around. That white building is the barn, with a bigger footprint (1800 sq. ft.) than the house (1400 sq. ft.).

The inside of the barn is cavernous, and filled with useful things the sellers left behind.

The property is roughly square-shaped, and sloped. Only the wooded corner is steep.

Here's a rough schematic of the property, which has three "benches" (levels). The center triangle has the house (left) and the barn (right) and is where most activities will take place. The outlying sections are pasture:

Interestingly, there is no driveway connecting the house to the barn. The house is accessed by one driveway, and the barn by a separate driveway. Don's thought was to drive the U-Haul to the barn, then back it up across a lawn section to the house, where we could unload at a more convenient spot.

It was a nice theory, but we didn't account for the mud. The U-Haul got stuck in the mud. And by stuck, I mean stuck. Oh heavens, it was stuck. There were times it was even sliding sideways downhill before Don could bring it to a stop. We spent half an hour putting anything rough in front of the wheels to give the truck some purchase -- branches, chains we found in the barn, boards, you name it. Finally -- praise God -- he was able to gun the vehicle out of the mud. We caught our breath and eased the truck back down the barn driveway and back toward the house. (Note for the future: Get some rock on the driveway.)

This photo doesn't do justice to the depth and nastiness of the mud pit.

After that exciting interlude, we were tasked with emptying an entire truck, but without the aid and assistance of strong young friends. We sighed and got to work.

We promised ourselves to work at a leisurely pace so we wouldn't blow ourselves out. Easy does it, right?

Comically I picked up a sealed bag of broccoli I had brought with us, and it literally exploded on me, spewing broccoli everywhere. I think it was the elevation change.

So there we were, leisurely unpacking, taking our time. The weather was perfect, the temperature pleasant (for late December).

Then Don made a critical mistake: He checked the weather. It seems our interlude of pleasant sunshine was coming to an end within a couple hours, and rain was moving in. Crud.

So much for leisure. Suddenly we were moving things into the house frantically. We stacked and piled and piled and stacked willy-nilly. By the time darkness fell and the rain moved in, it looked like a hoarder house.

This included offloading half a ton of canning jars. For the moment -- since freezing temperatures weren't expected that night -- we put the jars on the porch.

By the end of the day, even Darcy was exhausted.

If we were tired and filthy and sore and exhausted the night before, it was nothing next to how we felt when the rain started and we retired indoors. But at least we knew where our clothes and towels were. Don took himself off for a shower and I was faced with a grim realization: the one thing I couldn't find was a brush and comb. With long hair, those items are critical. I remember packing them away, but where? Each box looked identical to every other box, and even though most things were labeled, I had foolishly neglected to label the box with toiletries.

(A piece of advice: When emptying out your house while moving, pack up your toiletries and a change of clothing into a separate box and -- this is the important part -- don't pack it into the moving truck. Put it in the front seat of the car or truck cab.)

I wandered around for an hour before I was able to find a brush and comb. But ah, it was bliss taking that shower. Still, both of us were very very sore, with aching muscles and backs.

That night I had a dream. I dreamed our realtor, a very nice lady named Holly, called us in tears and told us the sellers had pulled out of the sale (shades of what happened before), and we had no place to move. In my dream, Don and I dithered and tried to come up with a contingency plan. Then I woke up, felt my horribly aching muscles, and grinned. "Too late," I murmured. "It's all ours."

The next day we had to return the U-Haul to the local distributorship. We swept out the truck and folded the rental blankets...and realized we'd left one unopened bundle of blankets at the rental house. No biggee, we naively thought. We can ask Older Daughter to pick them up and return them to the original distributorship. So off we went to the nearest town to drop off the truck.

We went into the U-Haul distributorship, dropped off the keys, and explained about the missing bundle of blankets. The clerk looked grim. "I can't check in the truck without the blankets," he said. "It would be considered a partial return, and I can't do that."

"Can we have our daughter drop the blankets off at the point of pickup?" Don asked.


"Can I just pay for the blankets that are missing?"


"This is ridiculous!" Don sputtered. "Are you telling me that if a single blanket goes missing, we have to keep renting the truck forever? What if we couldn't find the blankets, or they'd been stolen?"

The clerk was unmoved.

We left the distributorship, muttering dark curses against U-Haul. After discussing it intensely for the next few minutes, we decided Don would drive me back home, then he would embark on a five-hour round trip to fetch six cheap U-Haul blankets.

Which he did. A quarter of the way through his trip, he called me and asked me to get on the phone with U-Haul and see what kinds of options we had.

I finally got hold of a very nice customer service representative and explained what had happened, and quite frankly she was appalled. She asked to put me on hold, which I was for over half an hour. Turns out she was climbing the U-Haul chain of command and explaining what happened. When she finally got back on the phone, she said she was in contact with the local U-Haul distributorship (where we had returned the truck that morning), and we were clear to either purchase the blankets outright, or return them if Don was successful in fetching them back from the rental house.

"So your husband has two options," she told me. "Either he can return home now and pay for the blankets, or if he continues on to bring them back, we will compensate him for his time."

I thought that was a reasonable compromise, considering the circumstances, and said I would try to reach him to ask which he preferred. I also warned her he might be out of cell range, since communication along part of the route was iffy.

I finally reached Don after about half an hour, when he emerged into cell range. "So you can either turn around, or keep going," I concluded after relaying what the U-Haul rep had said.

We discussed it a bit longer, and since by then he was over halfway back to the rental, he decided to press ahead.

A few minutes later, the local U-Haul clerk (where we returned the truck that morning) called. He didn't exactly sound apologetic, but he did explain the regional manager had been on the lot during the time we were returning the truck, and she had told him no partial returns were permitted. Whether this actually happened, or whether he was just covering fanny, was immaterial by this point. Don and I were spitting mad. It will be a cold day in hell before we ever rent a U-Haul truck again.

Don got home many hours later, with a bundle of unused U-Haul blankets in tow. After all that, he decided we might as well just pay for them and keep them. They weren't terribly expensive, and we'll have uses for them. While we hope it will be a cold day in hell before we ever rent a U-Haul truck again, the harsh truth is we may not have a choice.

But after that, things improved. We made inroads on setting up the house. We met a couple more neighbors. We walked around the property and made plans for this or that. We arranged and organized.

 The wildlife around here is amazing. So far we've seen hawks, eagles, turkeys, quail, pheasant, deer, elk, and coyotes. In fact, wildlife is so thick that I have a small game I play. I'll pick up the binoculars and train them on some random location and see what I can see. About eighty percent of the time, I can see something -- a flock of turkeys bobbing over a hillside, the creamy rumps of elks as they graze, a hawk sitting on a tree. Beautiful.

When Christmas Eve came, Don hung his Santa hat on the coat rack -- it comes out once a year -- and we settled down to watch "A Christmas Carol" with George C. Scott (the best version of that classic story!), and toasted in the birth of our Savior with Irish cream.

It's the first Christmas we've had alone since we were married, and we missed the girls terribly. Talking by phone (or, in the case of Younger Daughter at her overseas duty station, by YouTube voice chat) just isn't the same. However in the next day or two, we're traveling back to see Older Daughter and have a late Christmas celebration planned with two neighbors who have joined us for Christmas since 2003.

Just one more interesting side note. Don fell into conversation with a charming and talkative owner of a local hardware store a couple days ago. This man related how a relative of his got into "bidding war" on a house in the region. Apparently this man was under the mistaken impression a "bidding war" meant both interested parties would slowly working their way up to the actual asking price on the house. So he decided to bypass this: "Oh what the heck, I'll just make a full-price offer." The realtor looked at him sadly and explained the asking price had been shot past long ago and was now far beyond his budget. That's how fast rural properties are moving. Many of the incoming buyers are from out of state.

This casual conversation made me realize how fortunate we are to have bought this place. We didn't get into a bidding war, and the sellers accepted our full-price offer almost immediately. The fact that out-of-state buyers didn't bid against us and clean our financial clocks makes me see the hand of God in this. I guess this is the place we're meant to be, and we're grateful.

So that's what's been happening in the last week. I'll take more photos of the house when we have it a bit more organized. A belated Merry Christmas to you all, dear readers!


  1. I really enjoy you descriptive writing and feel like I know your family better that some of my neighbors. Good luck in your new digs.

  2. Thank you so much for the report. I know that you did not have the time to let us know what was going on but I at least was getting worried. From listening to your tale It seems that my worries were well founded. My last move was done one car or truck load at a time to local storage followed up by an actual moving company bringing the last load. You are correct in your thinking that U haul is at the bottom of the barrel I have had similar experiences with them dating back 25 years!

  3. What an adventure! I'm sorry you had a bad experience with U-Haul, we've had nothing but great experiences with them in all our moves. Usually they are generous and helpful. What a blessing that you were able to get that property. I say that when things work out, it was meant to be! Happy New Year to you and yours.

  4. Rental places are BAD about over-promising.

  5. So glad you're settling into your new place. You will quickly make it your own.
    Your experience with U-Haul mirrors ours. The last move we made we hired a guy with a box truck and bought a trailer for us to use, which we quickly sold when we were done.
    A Christmas Carol with George C. Scott is also my very favorite version and I watch it on Christmas Eve Eve. It's a Wonderful Life is for Christmas Eve.
    Looking forward to future posts on your continuing journey - especially the wildlife and your interactions with them.
    Have a Blessed New Year!

  6. In 2003 we moved from the SF to South Carolina. We had no trouble getting a large Penske truck. However U-haul was a bit different. We had reserved a trailer three months earlier. The day before the move we were told that one wasn't available locally. We had to drive two hours north to pick one up. And this was before people were leaving California in droves.

  7. Holy smokes, Patrice! What an adventure! Glad to hear that you completed the move!

  8. Wow! What a story Patrice! So very happy for you both, and can’t wait for the next adventures! Have a Happy New Year!

  9. That View! That View! Makes it all worth it!! Here's to a New Year and New Adventures!

  10. OH so exhausting!! STRESSFUL!! But your new place sounds awesome indeed!! I've had to sell/buy/move 3 times on my own,and I DO NOT ENJOY IT. My last move (biding war) was to my retirement house and property,..U-haul was fine, and helpful. I have to say, I was right in telling myself "I better move to my retirement homestead while I have the strength to do it" The move seemed to take everything out of's been 3 yrs and I still have boxes never unpacked from the move!! I always tell myself, 'I have the rest of my life to do this!" Bless your home and neighbors, Happy New Year and thank you so much for sharing your adventures!!

  11. Rental truck companies are shameless and UHual knows they have a leg up on the other two or three as they have a lower "entry" and so are easier to load into.

  12. WOW! The move from hell. But your settled in, for the most part, and will have a bunch of adventures in your new home and we can look forward to many more interesting stories as you find out more about your new homestead.

  13. Whew!! I wonder if it would have changed anything if the clerk had known you were a blogger with over a thousand readers to influence with your story...I doubt it. Your new property is beautiful and your new neighbors seems very friendly. Best of luck getting everything set up. Don't forget to keep us all informed. God bless!


  14. I can’t believe you already have books shelved! It took us nearly a month to get ours on the shelves!

  15. We call Uhaul Urhell. For very similar reasons to you I might add. If I had to move again I think I'd buy a darn truck and sell it later. It'd probably be less hassle.

  16. I'm sighing in relief for you. I love the excitement of settling into a new house and I am reliving those memories as you describe your journey. I can not WAIT to hear morw updates as you make the home yours. That's too bad about UHaul. I've plenty of similar horror stories about them. Seems they need some competition to get them to up their customer service.

  17. You are a very good writer...I found myself angry , and exhausted , and giving up ..and laughing out loud for real !

  18. So tickled for you that you got everything there and safely! U-Haul has a lot to be desired. I've heard way too many horror stories about that company. I'm sorry you had to go through that. I am really looking forward to seeing and hearing about your new home. Yes, GOD had HIS HAND in this move. Blessings to all and let us all look towards to the new year even if it looks bleak in many ways. We can make it positive in our own home, property and within our families and hearts.

  19. Well, first, from the pic of the rental house, it looked like a really nice place.

    Second, the Uhaul "experience"! Went thru very similar when we escaped California in 2017. The first round went ok (Big truck and two car trailers), but after that, everything went south. Same experience: even though we reserved well in advance, and confirmed multiple times, on subsequent moves, nothing was available where we had reserved trucks and trailers. The only "rainbow" was that the trucks and trailers were "only" 23 miles away, and Uhaul didn't charge us for the extra mileage.

    It took us multiple trips and a decent local mover to evac everything from the cesspool formerly known as California, but the real benefit is that we all lost about 18 pounds from all the hard work (and, we've managed to KEEP it off!).

    The big problemo is that so many are escaping what's left of California that nobody has any trucks available in the "local" areas, and lots of trucks in Idaho, Washington, and, Oregon are being relocated to California to meet the demand.

    Glad that you did finally get everything moved, and WOW! what a "killer" barn. Lots of people would kill for a barn like that, even if it is across a mud bog.

    Great Christmas present! Hope you have many years of happiness there.

  20. I was wondering what happened to your barn cat you had.Were the new owners going to take care of him? Hopefully. Would be kind of sad to leave him behind and used to having someone around and feeding him as well.Winter can be brutal for animals.

    1. Older Daughter now has the barn cat, rechristened Frumpkin, as her pet. Let me tell you, that cat landed upstairs. He is one happy beastie. I'll post some pictures of him shortly.

      - Patrice

    2. Naw, so happy to hear this. Jenny

  21. Glad you are safely in place - but egads, what an adventure. The Ravishing Mrs. TB and I moved 95% of all of our things when we moved to our current home. I did not think it would be so exhausting, but due to timing we finished moving at 0400 of the morning we had to be out. I swore the next move - hopefully our last - would be better. Hearing your story, I am now concerned...

  22. Wow, what an adventure Patrice. Thank you so much for sharing it with us - your writing creativity is very much appreciated. I'm so happy that you've safely "landed" and sort of settled into your new home. As others have also mentioned... looking forward to the journey ahead with you. Regards, Jenny

  23. "A piece of advice: When emptying out your house while moving ..."

    Pro tip: have your essentials in the largest suitcases you own and keep them near the door of the truck, loading them last so they stay unblocked.

    The best way to do this is that everyone gets his or her own suitcase, and that you load them near the lift gate controls or near the step where you have to enter the back of the truck.

    Living out of the suitcase while in transition also helps you get used to seeing it as your essentials storage.

    Good suitcases can be expensive, so always be on the lookout for them being cheaper. My extremely hard to kill suitcase would have cost me nearly double in London as it did in Miami.

    We're in the process of packing up for a move as well, and in the next few days, we'll pack up the clothes storage and start living out of the suitcases.

  24. Thank you for the update. As many I only move when absolutely necessary.

    I am curious about how you are planning the many tasks for your new homestead. I seem to recall some past advice about short, medium, and long(er) term projects. Being a list todo list geek myself, what are the categories you plan first and onward.

    I look forward to following your adventures.

    Ron in Rochester NY

    1. Aside from fencing a yard for Mr. Darcy, one of our first big projects will be constructing a lean-to external "canning closet" as an extended pantry. And yes, we'll be making out a "master list" of all the projects we want to accomplish. I promise to invite you all along for the journey!

      - Patrice

  25. Quite the adventure! I hope the growing situation is equal or better to your last place and that you can easily source the big tractor tires. God Bless

  26. Very cool story telling! All's well that ends well! Last time we moved it was 10 below zero and 2 feet of snow on the ground (MN in Dec)! Very much looking forward to how you guys will make the new place your own.

  27. Our heart is right there with you.