When we were growing up, vacations were to two places and travel was of two types. My mother would load my brother, me and her parents into the car for a leisurely drive to a cabin on Lake Erie that began at what normal people would call early. My father would load my mother, me and my brother and our maternal grandmother in the car for an 8-hour ride to Virginia, at whatever time he happened to be done for the day. He said “driving at night helps you beat the traffic” but I think he just wanted to use of every hour of his vacation. When I was six, we left for Virginia at 2:00 am, after he finished bowling in a tournament; he tossed me in the back of our station wagon with a pillow and packed the luggage around me. He would probably be arrested for traveling like that today, but I remember it as being a pretty sweet ride. Remembering this helps me to understand why my brother and I chose to move my mother to Iowa in a rental truck, towing her car behind us, and why we decided to leave right after packing-up her apartment – it’s in our genes.
Making things more complicated than they need to be is also in our genes; for this trip, the complication was a snow blower. I had one (a big one), my brother didn’t and I am planning on getting a new one later this year. The math on airfares and truck rentals worked out so that renting the truck and trailer in CT and driving it and the snow blower to Pittsburgh didn’t cost much more money, it just added 10 hours to the road-trip. In the future, I should remember that
“when you get to the point where adding difficult things to an already complex project seems like ‘no-big-deal’, you’ve passed the point where what you’re doing can be called a good idea.”
We never tried putting this move into the “good idea” bucket; this was always in the “something that has to be done” bucket. My mother had to be near one of her children and my brother was the better choice. These are the things you do with family and close friends while telling other people who do them that they are crazy.
While I can report that the move “went according to plan,” that is mainly because we had set the bar pretty low on that particular metric. We didn’t expect that our 88 year-old mother would have packed her entire apartment, even with a lot of help. We didn’t think she would have thrown enough stuff away, even with a visit from my niece and the help of a few friends. Every single thing in her apartment could invoke a memory, a story, and sometimes a tear. No, the final cleaning, sorting and tossing was left to the cold calculating minds of the sons who had to schlep this stuff half way across the country. We were also driven by geometry; that truck (not to mention her new apartment) only had so much room. We were aided by the decision to fly mom to Iowa early on the day of the move. With her gone, decisions about what to toss lost their emotional content. We were also aided by three wonderful helpers. These women were friends of my mother and knew her well enough to know what she could eventually “get over” not having and what had to be in that truck at the other end, even if it would be tossed out in Iowa. One woman worked at a thrift shop, so she took anything that could be resold. We felt better telling ourselves “someone can use this,” not to mention how good we felt about throwing something away that a thrift shop wouldn’t want. Other euphemistic phrases included “she deserves a better chair than this” and “she shouldn’t have to arrange her new apartment around this” as well as our favorite: “this has been (behind the couch, in this closet, under the bed…) for so long that she probably doesn’t even remember owning it.”
We finished packing about 5:00 pm, and had the car loaded by 6:00. My brother said that leaving at night would help us beat the traffic. He’s made the trip dozens of times, so he should know, but our rig wasn’t likely to be “beating” anything and I knew exactly why we were leaving. In addition to the genes passed down from our father, putting that last box in the truck and cinching her car to the trailer provided a huge energy boost; we were truly ready to roll and we just wanted to be in Iowa.
There are several pictures from this adventure on my Flickr site, but I’ve included a few interesting ones here. Note, if you have a weak stomach, you may want to skip the last one.
Dark O’clock (above) – Another big gulp for this truck. I think we are in Indiana. It’s late, it’s dark and it was beginning to rain. The Midwest is a lonely place at night, but I guess it was better than weaving this train through traffic during the light of day.
Ready to roll. – Snow blower, tools, moving supplies we can leave in Iowa and snacks are all in the truck. The trailer will ride empty to Pittsburgh, but it was nice knowing that we would have it when we needed it.
So Long Pittsburgh – Now the truck is loaded, the car is hitched up and we are Iowa bound.
Penske – These guys moved over to let us get on I-79. That was a good thing because the on-ramp was up hill and we were looking at 0-60 in about a minute and a half.
Truck fire – Of course we realized that we needed to get out of the way, but merging over 30 feet of vehicle isn’t the easiest thing to do. Fortunately, we had some nice neighbors on the road.
You have got to be kidding! – This was so not what we wanted to see after pouring $91 worth of gas into our truck. The rest of this story is best left to your imagination.