Avoiding a Miserable Move

With the Winter 2014 issue of Marriott Alumni Magazine we’ve brought you loads of moving tips—from handy apps and checklists to securing tax breaks. Today we’re giving you a little encouragement in the form of a moving horror story. This one comes from my husband’s family files, and though it might make you afraid to ever cross the state of Texas, it might also alert you to a few easy fixes to keep yourself and the family happy en route.

From the get-go, this moving trip was doomed to be miserable. This was going to be the last hurrah—read: “final death wail”—for the twelve-seater, government-issue van my in-laws owned. The muffler had a watermelon-sized hole in it. When the van approached, it sounded like a fleet of nastiness coming at you, something akin to a wheezing and sputtering band of cockroaches dragging a hunk of metal behind them. The mechanic pronounced that the van wouldn’t pass safety and emissions the next year and was officially on its last leg.

Somehow, the van made it from New York, where my in-laws lived, to Oregon, for a family reunion.  From there, they headed for Logan, Utah, to move my brother-in-law Nate’s stuff to Atlanta before my in-laws returned home to New York. Nate attached a U-Haul trailer to the van and sent them on their way—forgetting to also send them with the key. They moved toward New Mexico fearing the locked trailer that was due back to U-Haul three weeks earlier would be confiscated by the company at any turn.

Under these stresses and with so many miles ahead, they descended into the desert heat of Texas in July—sans air conditioning. The only relief provided by the prop-open windows was negated by the sound of the van rumbling.

Dad kept a strict policy of no stopping for food. An old cooler—once full at the beginning—quickly dwindled to a jar of pickles and a pack of lemon-pepper-flavored tuna. The four kids vainly hoped Dad would finally stop for food; instead he stopped at a family history center for two hours to ask a “short” question.moving horrors

The van broke down constantly—from one small Texas town to the next. When it was working, the van and the trailer jack-knifed, sliding the whole crew into a ditch and adding more time in the middle of nowhere. Standing in such a deserted place, Mom noticed the ants on the ground and wondered what they could possibly eat in such a dried-out wasteland. She tossed them a bit of pickles and tuna saying, “At least someone is full.”

The van limped across Alabama and eventually pulled into Nate’s new house in Atlanta, where only his wife and two young kids were home to help unload. The humidity and heat rose, soaking everyone and everything with boiling rain. Once the move was finally complete and the rest of the family was ready to head home to New York, Dad realized the car battery had died during unloading. While waiting for a jumpstart, it was decided that Nate’s family didn’t need the washer and dryer Mom and Dad had brought thousands of miles. Instead they would schlep it the rest of the way home. Fed up with slow trailers, the family pulled out of Atlanta with the washer and dryer sandwiched between the front seats and back bench, eliminating all audible conversation between the parents and four children.

By Google Maps’ standards, the trip could have been accomplished in fifty-five hours, driving straight through. It took them eight days.

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