Monday, August 9, 2010

Updates From The Heartland: The Move, Pt. 5

Okay, so let's talk about the actual move.

The logistics were daunting. We had to move a man, a woman, a child, two cats, a car, and all our belongings from Brooklyn to Kentucky, about 800 miles. How to make it all happen? As mentioned in the first post in this series I became fixated on the cats. How to move them?

David, The Pet Chauffeur, said that if we were going to put them on an airplane we would have to go to the vet's office and get them to give us various release forms, and all this had to be done within the next few days. I didn't know if this would work. Since Randi and Stella were going to fly into Kentucky a few days earlier than I would be there we discussed whether she could schlep Stella through the airport, carry their luggage and handle two cats. Then when they got to Kentucky what to do with the cats? I asked if she could let them run around her mom's house for a few days until I got there, but Randi was very dubious about this. Her mom now has four dogs. One is her actual dog, two were her son's, and one is a stray that she kind of adopted. Maybe she could just put the cats in the basement for a few days? Again, Randi was highly skeptical.

I could press the point, but I thought that maybe it would all be the same if I found a way to travel with them. I, as previously mentioned, was going to drive a U-Haul filled with all our stuff and tow a car. The trip would probably take two days in total. I asked David what might be the best way to travel with the cats given this situation.

He recommended a size 300 dog carrier, which apparently was much larger than your standard cat carrier. I could put both cats inside it at the same time, in addition to the cat food, the water and a shoe box filled with litter, so they could poop and pee. He also mentioned that he happened to have about a million of these carriers at his business, so I could come on down and he would give me a deal.

But how to do the actual drive with the cats? David asked what I'm doing with the car. I said I'm towing it. Okay, he said, if you're towing it get one of the flat bed car dollies, not the ones where the car rolls along on two wheels, so it's flat for the cats. Then put the carrier, containing the cats, inside.

Another problem: it's probably going to be about 95 degrees as we drive to Kentucky, how to keep the cats from dying in the heat? David said that maybe I could crack the windows on the car. He also said that I could turn on the AC on the car, but he did not recommend this as it is illegal to keep a running car on a transport unit. I said thanks, I will have to think about it.

A couple of days later I drove to David's business. Even though it was only about 15 miles away it took about an hour and a half with traffic. As is my usual custom I made a Google Map to get there, and forget to make one for the return trip.

His business was in a mid-sized home in an industrial part of Long Island City. Inside I saw the article I had written, framed, on the wall. Wow, I hadn't even framed it.

David, unfortunately, wasn't there that day as his mother had not been feeling well. So some of the other folks there helped me. Everyone was very nice, and gentle as those who tend to work with animal usually are. I saw a 300 sized kennel -- basically a large plastic box with a door in the front -- and wondered if it would be large enough. I asked to see the 400 sized kennel, which was then way too large. Well, this would have to do. All through the back of the home there were various dogs barking, though inside the home there were some smaller dogs who were able to walk around,including a very friendly dachshund.

The cost of the kennel was $40, which is good because that was all I had. Once it was cleaned and made ready I tried to fit in the back seat of my Honda and it just barely made it. Phew.

I drove home, and for one reason or another it took about another hour and a half. All together the trip, to go perhaps 30 miles round trip, took four hours. That's one thing about NYC, what isn't walking distance is often way too far.

So the cats were taken care of for now. I would worry more about them later. Now I had to actually get on with plotting out this move.

I went onto U-Haul's website to try and figure out the best setup for the trip. Should I get a 14 foot truck or 17 foot? I went larger. I opted, as mentioned, for the more expensive flat bed car dolly, not the two-wheeled job. I rented 10 blankets to protect our gear. Then came the eternal question: should I get insurance on the truck and dolly? I am never sure in situations like these (which include renting a car) whether I would be truly covered in an accident via whatever protections are offered from my credit card. I paid the extra money for the insurance, though I kind of didn't want to.

I made the reservations about two weeks in advance of the planned move day. The truck and dolly was to be mine for four days in total.

I was a bit nervous about it all. This was going to be a big rig. The truck would be easily the largest I have ever driven, for the longest period of time. Add in that it would also have a car towed behind it, and the 17 foot truck -- I opted for the big boy -- would soon swell to, what, 30 feet? Longer? I shivered at the idea of trying to get that thing through the city, but realized I just would have to deal with it.

Fortunately around this time my friend Mike volunteered to take the trip with me, and share the drive. He lives in Denver, but had spent most of his summer break -- he is also a teacher -- in his hometown in New Jersey and was damn tired of it. A little trip, he said, would be just the thing he needed.

I was grateful for the help and took him up on the offer. To make the trip worth his while I paid for his airline ticket back home, as he was doing me a big favor. Even with this added cost, I figured, it is still so much cheaper than the figure Flat Rate had quoted.

Now I had to plan out how to load and unload all our stuff. U-Haul has a feature on their website where you can find movers, price them, and read their various customer reviews. If you like what you see you can also reserve their services for when you need them. Since I was driving myself I realized that we would only need movers to load and unload the truck. I reserved Pack Mule movers on the Kentucky end, at $85 an hour for two hours, with three guys. And on the New York end I emailed a company called Personalized Movers, who had helped us move twice before. Their cost was $115 an hour for four guys, and two hours. Of course being nervous about this whole deal I checked both confirmations about a dozen times before the actual moving day.

The big day finally arrived, July 8. That morning I helped load Randi and Stella, and their things, into our Honda and drove them to La Guardia. Their flight was at 8:30 a.m., so we left the apartment by 6:30. Fortunately there was little traffic and we made it to the airport in about 25 minutes. (Again the city, being the city, meant that this trip could have taken either 25 minutes or two hours.)

When we got to the US Air curbside dropoff at the airport Randi got out and checked the bags. My job was to load Stella onto her new carrier. You see we had purchased a transport device for Stella so that Randi's side of the trip would be made relatively easy. It was a set of wheels with a handle on the top that you could fasten a child safety car seat onto. This way instead of dealing with a stroller you could just roll your kid through the airport in their own seat. It cost about $80, yet another of the innumerable expenses that factored into the move.

There was only one problem, in our haste we had forgotten to actually assemble the damn thing. It was still in the box, still in the plastic and now I had to figure out how to put it together, from scratch, on the curb in front of the airport, while the police, taxis, livery drivers, various other passengers, and random airport employees kept trying to get us to hustle on out.

I tore open the box. I would need a Phillips head screwdriver. Wonderful. I looked into the trunk to see what goodies my mom had left in a large brown cardboard box she always kept back there. (We had gotten the car from my mom, as you now know.) This box had mainly been the bane of my existence, as it took up a lot of room and I never did anything with it. But it held jumper cables, some maps, and god knows what else. Fortunately it also held ... a Phillips head screwdriver! Yahtzee!

Now, feeling a bit more like McGuyver, it was time for me to assemble this thing on the curb, while my child was inside the car, looking nervously around, and my wife checked the bags. I saw instructions, I saw various plastic parts, I saw wheels, but I saw no screws. Oh man. Not good.

In a frenzy I looked harder and eventually found the four screws I needed, but it took a few precious minutes. God dammit, I thought, why didn't we think of any of this before today? No matter how well you try to plan something there is always something forgotten. This was it. I was frantic.

I put the wheels on the axle and snapped them into place, then threaded them into the groove where they were supposed to fit and didn't. I would have to deal with that later. I put the handle into the frame, backwards I eventually realized. I reversed it a few minutes later, as the sky cap guys looked on, confused. Time was ticking. I screwed in screws, as fast as I could. Then Randi helped me snap in the axle right. We were tense, I felt kind of like I was doing surgery on the side of the road. After about ten minutes (an eternity when you are curbside at the airport) it looked sturdy enough. Now would come the test. I unfastened Stella from her seat, and put her on the curb, holding Randi's hand. Then I fastened the car seat into the holder, wrong of course. I tried it again, and this time it seemed to work.

Then I took Stella and put her on her seat in the bracket. It was a little shaky, but seemed to roll and do what it was supposed to do.

Randi and I kissed, it was now around 7:10 a.m.

"I will call when I land," Randi said. (She is superstitious about flying, and always calls when the trip has ended.)

"Okay," I said. "Have a great trip and I love you."

She said she loved me too.

"And I love you Stella," I said, as I bent down to kiss her cheek. At this point Stella probably flinched and moved her head, as is custom, but I can't quite remember.

Then Randi started to walk inside, towing Stella behind on her new roller. They both looked like they were actually having some fun with their new toy, especially Stella as she rolled along. She smiled. That was the image I burned into my brain as I waved goodbye to the both of them, and Stella even waved back.

After they went inside I immediately snapped to. No time for long goodbyes, my day had just began. I knew it was to be a long day, although just then I had no idea quite how long.

Next time: getting the van, packing and driving.

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