Moving a Collection1

(part 2)

This page will document the "adventure" of moving the collection (and other bits) back to California.  As promised there was a reason why this move occured in 2 parts (other than I couldn't take the time off from work when I physically took possesion).

My daughter attends Carnegie-Mellon University in Pittsburgh, PA.  We make a "road trip" twice a year (during the Fall we head East and during the Spring we head West).  This seemed like an oportune time to pick up the collection and drive it back to California.  "But wait!" you're saying to yourself, "He's driving from California to Pittsburgh.  Isn't that the wrong direction?"  Yes and no.  I have to get back home somehow, so I figured I'd drive (a truck) back rather than fly in an airplane.

So it was all set, I'd pick up the truck in Pittsburgh and make stops along the way of where I had acquired various bits and have it all end up in California.  Below is the route I planned (actually the stop in Laramie, WY wasn't really planned but I ended up there anyway).

Pittsburgh, PA
Cincinnati, OH
Saint Louis, MO
Chicago, IL
Laramie, WY
San Jose, CA

The CMU dorms opened for upper classmen on 8/21, so my daughter and I planned to arrive in Pittsburgh the night before so we could spend the next day getting her moved into her room.  Given all of the driving, this would allow me to use the Labor Day weekend (8/30 - 9/1) to get the truck unpacked back in California and returned to the truck rental place.

Jay West and I had agreed that Sunday 8/24 would be the day that we moved the collection out of storage in St. Louis.  This would mean that he wouldn't have to take a day off from work to help me.

I had decided not to rent from Penske this time because Budget (Ryder) would save me upwards of $500 on the truck rental.  This turned out to be false savings!

Thursday August 21, 2003

My daughter picked up her move in package and we were well on our way to getting her moved into her new room when my cell phone rang.  It was the local Budget truck rental office indicating that they didn't have a truck!  I was to call back later in the day to see if they did (they expected the truck to arrive any time).

After we had my daughter all moved in, we decided to drive down to the truck rental place to see if the truck had arrived.  It didn't.  They didn't have an ETA.  I explained to them that I was on a fairly tight schedule and that I needed the truck ASAP.  I also reminded them that I had made reservations for the truck 6 weeks prior and this should not be a suprise.

Friday August 22, 2003

Called Budget's Customer service department to see when a truck would be available.  The answer was that they were looking for one (did they loose it?) and they would call back when one was available.  Later in the day I received a call saying the truck would be in a 4:30pm.

So at 4:30 we drove down to the Budget office ... and there was no truck!  The office manager called to find out where the truck was.  It hadn't left yet.  They assured me that it would be driven overnight and would be waiting when the office opened in the morning.

Saturday August 23, 2003

I called the Budget office to see if the truck had arrived hadn't.

I called their customer service department again to see when (if ever) a truck would be available.  It was at this point that they offered me a 15' truck at which point I told them that I had previously used a 26' truck and filled it, so I ever so politely told them that a 15' truck just wouldn't do.

They called about an hour later to say that they had found a truck (was it hiding under a rock?) and it would be at the rental office by 11:30am.  I later received a call from the rental office saying that the truck had arrived and was out being fuelled -- finally!

We picked up the truck and I was immediately disappointed.  It was a gas powered truck.  I had wanted a diesel truck (much better milage).  Oh well, at least I now had a truck.

I was now under considerable time pressure.  I had 2 pickups in Pittsburgh (one of which I missed), a pickup in Cincinnati and to drive to St. Louis all on this day.  Jay had also called to indicate that his availablility would be limited to early Sunday and wouldn't be available at all on Monday!

I ended up not making it all the way to St. Louis on Saturday (I drove until 2am).

Sunday August 24, 2003

I arrived at Jay's house at about 9:30am where we gathered the various packing and moving items I didn't bring and headed off to the storage place.  Without wasting much time we started the task of loading the truck.

I should mention at this point, that none of the truck rental companies will rent a lift gate truck for a one-way rental, so we had to deal with a ramp.  There were 2 or 3 items that even with 3 of us, we just couldn't push up the ramp.  At the time it wasn't funny, but in retrospect it must have been *very* funny to watch 3 guys huffing and puffing to push the heavy piece of equipment up the ramp only to get it about 1/2 way up before we couldn't push it up any more and then to franticly try to keep it from running back down the ramp in an uncontrolled manner.  Engineering and ingenuity prevailed and we put together a winch system to haul up the really heavy items.

All was loaded up by about 5:00pm so I headed off down the road (with a now heavily loaded truck) towards Chicago.  I stopped for the night when I got to I-55 figuring the drive to Chicago wouldn't be too bad.

Monday August 25, 2003

I made it to my pickup in Chicago and spent a few hours picking up various items and seeing if there wasn't anything else I couldn't do without.  Since I have family in the Chicago area, I decided to visit them for the evening.  It was at this point I found out how truely horrendous gas mileage the truck was getting and that the gas gauge was hopelessly optimistic.

The gas tank held 50 gallons (the truck was getting about 4.5mpg so I *needed* to stop about every 150 miles for gas).  However when I'd stop with the gauge reading 1/2 a tank, it would take ~40 gallons!

Tuesday August 26, 2003

I left Chicago and headed out to see how far I could get that day.  I made it a fair ways into Nebraska, but the truck wasn't behaving.  It just didn't seem to have the power it should.  Hmm.   Hopefully things will go better.

Wednsday August 27, 2003

At about Cheyanne Wyoming, the truck was really behaving poorly.  I was having trouble maintaining 40mph on level road.  It'll never make it over the mountains this way.

I reached Laramie Wyoming and decided that the truck wasn't really going to make it.  Time to call the Road-side assistance number.  My cellphone doesn't work so it's off to find a pay phone.

After several minutes on hold, and then trying to convince the Road-Side assistance guy that I really am having a problem, he conferences in a local mechanic on the call.  It turns out that the mechanic was across the street from where I'd pulled in to make the call (some luck)!

I drove the truck over and the mechanic could hear it (his comment was "That's running like crap!").  After checking a few things (pulling spark plug wires and such) he determined that the 8 cylinder engine was only running on 5 cylinders!  The first attempt made it better but he wasn't satified with the result and decided to run a compression check on the engine.  One cylinder was reading 0psi and another was only 75psi (for the automotive impaired, 140psi is normal).  The truck (engine) was declared dead for this trip.

He called the road-side assistance number to annouce the demise of the truck and that they'll have to get another truck out to me (and I'm thinking "Right, how the hell am I going to get all of this stuff from one truck to another?").

They also didn't have any trucks at the moment, so I had to go check into a nearby hotel for a possibly long stay in Laramie Wyoming.

Thursday August 28, 2003

I got a call from Budget saying that they're still looking for a truck.  A couple of hours later I get another call saying that they've found a truck in Ft. Collins Colorado and it should be there with a crew to help transfer the contents of the truck by around noon.

The truck (and crew) show up at about 12:30.  Because of the way the truck was packed (heavy stuff up front) we had to unload about 1/3 of the truck onto the ground and then carefully move the remainder from the old truck to the new truck.  I say carefully here because we had to create enough of a path in the old truck to get at the heavy stuff out and into the new truck and then repack all of the remaining items.  All was done by about 5:00pm.
I decided to try and get some miles in so at least I was making some progress.  There was a positive note, the new truck was a diesel!

Friday August 29, 2003

I got up early to try and make up some of the time lost.  I went out to the truck and discover a flat tire!  Great!  Time for Road-Side assistance again.  An hour and a half later I'm off with a new front tire.

Since I was now driving a diesel, I could make up some more time (not as many fuel stops (60gal tank and about 8mpg).  At the first fuel stop, I pulled into a truck stop (it's just so much easier to manuver around than in a "normal" gas station).  Since it's diesel, I had to use the "big rig" pumps.  I got everything hooked up and was about to start the pump when I noticed coolant pouring out of the bottom of the engine.  You cannot imagine how thrilled I was at that moment!

I called road side assisance again (by now I had the number memorized).  Since it was a truck stop they did have maintenance bays and they were able to work on the truck.  Another couple of hours and I was on my way again.

I did notice that the truck was running hot and when using full power, the over temp warning light would come on.

I kept going until I was well into Nevada to stop for the night.

Saturday August 30, 2003

This was going to be a "short" day milage wise (almost home) but the hardest to drive since I had to go over the Sierra Nevada mountains (Donner pass is at 7260 feet).  It's a long climb up and fairly steep (5-6%) grades with winding curves coming down.  I've done it in a car many times but never in a truck (and with my luck it'll have brake problems -- it didn't).

Finally made it.

Sunday August 31, 2003

Some friends came over and helped unload the truck (some into my garage and some into a couple of storage units).  I'll inventory everthing in the coming weeks for those that are interested.

The Aftermath

After talking to a number of people on this trip (mechanics, service managers and such) rental trucks on long trips are unreliable beasts.  However, Penske seems to have the best reputation but YMMV.  If you're going a long distance, a diesel is the only way to go.  Make sure you have some slop in your schedule, you'll need it (and probably more).

If you're moving heavy stuff you're going to have a ramp, so you'll have to deal with it.  Use winches (we anchored the winch to the tow point on the rear bumper and threaded the winch cable through the latch hole in the floor) or have the heavy items in a loading dock and back the truck up.

1This page could also be titled "The Nightmare of Moving".