As you may have read in my last blog post, my parents decided to make the move from Wisconsin to Arizona over the past couple of weeks. My brother Brad, sister Deb and I were called upon to make that happen, so boxes and tape in hand, we packed, sorted or distributed their belongings and then awaited the arrival the following week of the two guys who would load everything into the big, dumb rental truck.
Bright and early at two o’clock in the afternoon on a Wednesday, those young men showed up and proceeded to empty out the house under Brad’s supervision. And bright and early the next morning, after I bit into an apple that cracked the filling in one of my teeth, Henry (who volunteered to drive the truck) and I made the final drive from Iowa to my parents’ house in Wisconsin.
Although nothing seriously derailed the move, it wasn’t the smoothest of operations. The problems began the weekend before the actual moving date, while we were paying for the truck. Deb, Henry and I pulled up in the parking lot and the minivan quit. The click-click-click as Henry turned the key told us the problem. One new battery later…
Then when my brother went to pick the truck up the next week, the Penzke employees said it hadn’t been paid for, which is, of course, what we were there doing when the battery died in the first place. Eventually, we began the almost 2000 mile trip to Phoenix, Henry driving a twenty-six foot loaded-to-the-gills moving truck, me driving my parents’ minivan. Murphy’s Law was not through with us yet.
First of all, the middle of this country is not flat, so don’t ever let anyone tell you that it is. That truck just wouldn’t go uphill very well. Or downhill for that matter. Then there was Elk City, Missouri, which showed up plainly on the GPS but not on the interstate exits, and in which we had reservations for the Hampton Inn. We ended up that night in a Holiday Inn near Six Flags, which of course cost an arm and a leg because of the resort. Even that wasn’t easy to get to, as the road you would logically think would lead to the hotel’s side entrance actually led miles down a two-lane forest road with no room to turn a twenty-six foot van. To top off that first day, when we eventually did manage to turn around, check in to a room and head to the hotel restaurant for dinner, we joked that the waitress was going to come back and tell us that what Henry ordered, they would be out of. No joke. The waitress came back. They were out of what I ordered.
On day two, we discovered the diesel we had filled up on that morning was evidently contaminated, because the truck bucked and coughed its way along the interstate. This seemed to be the day we were going to have problems with gas. No, not the indigestion kind. The fuel kind. We pulled into an EZ-Go station in Kellyville, Oklahoma to fill the minivan, put the credit card into the machine, and blink-blink-blink, SEE THE ATTENDANT flashed on the screen. That’s where we met Audrey, who apologized profusely for the computer system crashing and offered us a free fountain drink while we waited for it to boot up. She proceeded to entertain us for the following 15 minutes until we could gas up and was one of the nicest parts of our whole trip. Her boss should give her a raise for excellent customer service. Next the truck ran out of fuel just south of Oklahoma City. It was touch and go for a while as to whether or not we’d make it, but we eventually sputtered to a stop in Weatherford, Oklahoma. We were so tired that night, we slept right through the noise of the local fireworks.
The third day of the trip was relatively quiet, except for the emergency stop we had to make because of the rather large beetle that had somehow made its way up the inside of my jeans and proceeded to bite my thigh. Trust me, I had a death grip on that sucker through the fabric and I’ve never hopped out of a car so fast in my life once we stopped. I don’t know if what I did could be classified as a rain dance, but it involved pretty wild gesticulations until that damned thing was on the ground again.
Our adventures continued throughout the fourth day, when we had to detour for about 20 miles in a single lane behind who knows how many semi-trucks. We found out later that the reason for the detour was an overturned tractor-trailer that had spilled its load of five-gallon paint buckets all over Interstate 40 just west of Grants, New Mexico. It was smooth sailing through to Flagstaff where we stopped for lunch at the ever exotic Village Inn (which, by the way, had some of the best food either of us had ever had). Figuring we had it made as there were only about 150 miles left to get to Phoenix, we lingered over our meal. Wrong move. Flagstaff, Arizona sits approximately 7,000 feet above sea level and Interstate 17, which runs from Flagstaff to Phoenix, drops precipitously within a very short distance. Four to six percent grades are no laughing matter when you’re in a semi-truck, and there are actual runaway truck ramps forking off the main road. It was no surprise that the moving truck was caught behind one of these semis. What was so frustrating was the uber-safe 20 miles per hour that the semi was going. Traffic was so heavy that the moving truck, slow under the best of circumstances, could not get around this semi. With the rain (oh, yeah, I forgot to mention the rain, right?), the semi, and the traffic between the two cities, what should have been a three-hour trip at most turned into a five-hour trip.
We finally rolled into Phoenix somewhere around dusk. Murphy was still going to be a millstone around our necks the following day. We had requested two guys to again do the heavy work of unloading the truck and placing furniture and appliances. One guy only showed up, and as my sister was frantically calling the agency to find out what had happened to the other guy, the temperature soared to a balmy 108 degrees. Since we were paying the guy by the hour, we all pitched in to help him unload. Luckily, no one got heat-stroke, although it was a close call a couple of times, and the agency rounded up another strong young body to run to our rescue.
We won’t talk about the hotel that didn’t have our reservation, or the screaming babies in the room next to us who didn’t sleep at night. Or the utter exhaustion of three more grueling days of unpacking and finding places for all the treasures we had boxed at the other end. Suffice it to say that, despite everything, we got my parents moved in and settled, and although they’re way too far from us now, we can rest easy knowing they’ve got a comfortable place to live.
Until my mother sees the first scorpion.
My brother-in-law will have to drive the truck when she decides to move back here. Henry said you couldn’t pay him to do that again.