Our Trip to Florida
Yes we finally made it to Florida but it certainly didn't go a smoothly as we hoped. Here is the chronicle.
We were supposed to pick up the moving truck on Monday to load up. On Friday night I was brought home from my going away party by Ali to find a message on the answering machine from my Dad, saying that Penske did not have our reservation in their system. My Dad flips out on them, calls them every name in the book (which of course helps matters immensely) and tells me that there is a possibility that we may not be able to get the truck until 5pm Monday evening. We certainly did not want to only begin loading at 5pm. We would not have finished until Midnight. So, we spent the weekend wondering when the truck would finally be available. Ali was already feeling bad about things. She must be a psychic.
Monday came. Ali and I did stuff around the apartment and loaded up our cars to keep ourselves busy. It was 10 am and we did not hear any news about the truck being available. We decided to run out and do some errands to keep us occupied. Amazingly, when we returned, my Dad had called and said that the truck would be up at our storage area by 12:30. We were thrilled! We met him up there and started to load the truck. We had a 10 x 20 storage shed that was maybe 2/3 full. Our moving truck was huge 26 footer. We certainly would have no problems loading up. We got the stuff in the storage shed loaded up in a little over an hour with the help of Mary and Todd. It was quite warm that day and being in the back of the truck it had to be at least 120 degrees. After loading up the storage shed items we were maybe half full and happily headed back to my Mom's condo. Things were looking better...
When we got back to my Mom's, Rich and Jim had showed up and had already begun bringing down boxes from the condo. This was great! Everything was running like clock work. We opened up the truck and started loading up the rest of our belongings. Now we had 6 or 7 people all working at once. We were like a machine. But the stuff didn't stop coming. Soon we had 5 feet left in the truck and 15 feet of crap to stuff in it. How can this be? We couldn't possibly have enough "stuff" to fill this huge truck? Well we did and then some. After some brainstorming, Rich and Todd took turns climbing our mountain of belongings and throwing the smaller items towards the front so we could jam more stuff in the back. All of our nice orderly packing went out the window, now it was a survival mission to see if we could jam every last inch of the truck with boxes, bags and furniture. It reminded me of my days of driving truck for Goodwill. At one point we heard a large crash outside. Our bookcase had fallen over and broken into several dozen pieces. Normally, such an event would cause anger or dismay. We were happy. One less thing to load! After much cramming and jamming we closed the door on what was a fully loaded 26 foot truck. Ali and I were both amazed that we had enough stuff to fill it. This sparked what will be a new philosophy in our lives where less is more. We were done loading up by 4:30. We had to get a good night's rest for the long drive the next day.
My Mom has a daybed that she thought would work out well for us to sleep on for one night since our bed was packed in the truck. We laid down for what we hoped would be a solid nights sleep. It didn't happen. The daybed also doubled as a cat bed. Ali's allergies kept her up most of the night. At one point I got up and found her laying in the living room. There probably was a lot of dust in the air from the moving experience that aggravated the situation. Regardless, we greeted the next morning being dead tired and grumpy.
We pulled out more or less on time. We decided to follow the truck and stay together as a group. Ali and I had short wave radios that let us communicate between cars. The drawback was that the truck was very slow. Top speed was 65 and that was only going downhill with a strong tailwind. We gave my Dad a copy of the directions we had mapped out on a mapping program. Of course he did not like that and said as long as he had his almanac he would be fine. We trudged along and reached our day one stopping point of Wilson, North Carolina more or less on time. The truck got terrible gas mileage. It cost $70 - $80 to fill the tank and that only got you 230 miles or so. We stayed at a nice hotel had a relaxing dip in the pool and a nice dinner. We had to smuggle Maggie into the hotel room since there was a large NO PETS sign at the front desk.
Day 2 arrives. My Dad wanted to go to the gym early so it would give him more energy during the drive. I kinda felt that getting up at 6 am would cancel out any added energy gain but we got up and went to a health club. Unfortunately, our workout delayed our leaving more than I would have liked because day 2 was our longest drive. Ideally we would cover 570 miles this day. We didn't leave until 9. As we approached the South Carolina border we saw dozens of signs for "South of the Border" which is some tacky mexican themed motor inn that has all sorts of things to do. Ordinarily I guess I would stop if I was going on vacation but I had a truckers mentality at this point. I just wanted to go go go so we could hit our mark. (like in the movie Armageddon) Well my Dad stopped and we spent at least 45 minutes there which meant we would be 45 minutes later. It was a bad feeling pulling out of there at 11:45 knowing you have another 470 miles to go. I guess my Dad picked up on the immense size of the distance we had to travel too. He kept driving and driving. Normally he wanted to stop every couple of hours or so to take a break. He must have gained the trucker mentality too. As I was wondering how long it would be until he would have to stop for gas I see these huge streams of sparks coming from under the truck. I told Ali to get in front of the truck to stop my Dad. It turns out those sparks were backfires that occur as a truck runs out of gas. The truck was dry. I had to shoot ahead to the next exit, buy a gas can and run it back to the truck so he could get to the station to fill up. The whole dilemma put us back another half hour. At this point I knew there was no way we would hit our mark. We trudged along. We made it past Jacksonville and stopped about 70 miles short of our goal. Not bad but we didn't get there until 7:30. We found a nice hotel. The only bad thing was our entire floor smelled like cat urine. Don't ask me why. We talked about the plans for our final driving day and agreed that Ali and I would get up early and go ahead so we could do the paperwork for the apartment, get groceries and unpack the cars before my Dad gets there. Sounded like a good plan. Ali and I left around 7:30 am and reached Naples by 12:30. Our trip was pretty uneventful except for route 17 which took you through the underbelly of Florida. Not a place I would want to live. We went to the apartment office and started on the paperwork. Our move in costs were $400 more than I thought they would be due to the confusing manner the numbers were laid out on the lease agreement. We reluctantly signed away the bucks and went to our new apartment. They gave us a sheet to document any imperfections in the apartment so we would not be responsible for them later. Ali found a couple dozen things in no time. We unloaded the cars, and then awaited the arrival of my Dad. We figured he might be a couple hours behind us at the most. 3:30 came and still no word. Ali called him on the cell phone and found out he just got on route 75 which was about 60 miles outside of Naples. That means he should be arriving around 4:30. 4:30 came and went. Around 5:00 I called and got my sister Meg this time. She said that they had a little problem. The truck broke down 30 miles outside of Naples. One of the belts had snapped and in turn got tangled with all of the other belts. My Dad didn't think to call me and let me know about it. They said a tow truck was on it's way. Well again we waited awhile and nothing. I decided to drive out to where the truck died and see what was going on. I drive 90 + m.p.h to the spot where the truck is sitting by the side of the road but there is no one there. I figured my Dad and Meg went to grab a bite to eat so I decided to wait for them to return. I waited over an hour, no tow truck, no people. I was very irritated by now and hauled ass back to the apartment. I again called on Ali's cell phone. My Dad said he and Meg had went down to a Comfort Suite to wait for the tow truck driver to pick them up and that Meg had seen someone waiting up at the truck but my Dad didn't know who it was. The tow truck guy must have literally arrived minutes after I had left. The truck was on it's way to the apartment.
Ali and I grabbed a quick bite to eat to get away from all the problems. We got back to the apartments to find our moving van waiting there attached to the back of the tow truck. The truck was undriveable so wherever the tow truck driver dumped it was where it was going to stay. We could not dump it in front of the apartment without blocking access so I asked maintenance where we could put it. He said "Oh, no problem. Put it back by the compactors in the far corner of the complex" The tow truck driver towed the truck back there and left. The only problem was now our truck was a good 3 or 400 yards from the front door. I was mad because my Dad did not push to have the truck fixed immediately, just towed to our location. It was getting late, 7:30ish or so and I was determined to get off at least the beds so we have a place to sleep. I dropped the seats on my Probe and started to move things a couple items at a time with my car like a shuttle. We continued on with this into the darkness. It was incredibly inefficient but we got the beds in. My Dad wanted to unload the whole truck this way because it was cooler to work in the darkness but I eventually just said that's enough. It would have literally taken all night to unload this way. We stopped unloading around 10 and then quickly got the beds set up. The day probably ended around midnight.
Friday came and we had a broken truck with 2/3rd of our stuff still in it. The apartment was already looking full with what we unloaded. My Dad called Penske early and again explained our situation. This time he asked for them to have someone come out and fix the belts. Penske said no problem and someone was there in a half an hour. While he worked on the truck we started to unpack what we moved in the night before. It was a mess but we got a good deal of it at least sorted and some of it actually put away. Sprint was also supposed to come that day to hook up my analog and ISDN line. The mechanic was finished in a couple hours and we happily maneuvered the truck in front of our steps leading to the door. We began a determined procession of box moving as we unloaded the truck in less than 2 hours. Everything was in the apartment. Hooray!
Now that everything was in, we had to figure out where to put our 25 x 10 cubic feet of stuff. Boxes were piled everywhere. Ali was freaking out, my Dad just kept saying how he couldn't believe we had all this stuff and I was just trying to keep a level head. You would try to clear out a spot to put stuff away and there would be nowhere to go with it. Ali and I were both disgusted that we had this much stuff. I tried to stay as upbeat as possible. Progress was very slow and walking was treacherous. A little after noon I called Sprint to ask where the ISDN guy was and they apologized for him missing the morning appointment but I was now a priority call and I should definitely see him in the afternoon. We continued to unpack all day. Sprint never showed, never called. Late in the day I made arrangements for a storage shed. We dumped our long term storage items there.
Saturday morning my Dad mentioned that when he took my car out the night before he noticed the oil light was on as well as the anti-lock brake light. I popped the hood to look at it and noticed my alternator belt was gone. We ventured out to find a replacement. We found the belts, returned home and I attempted to install it. The alternator in the Probe is conveniently located in a spot where it is absolutely impossible to loosen unless you put it up on a car lift. It was also reaching midday so the 90 degree sun was beating down. My Dad came up with a great suggestion..... have a garage do it. I found a Midas that could do it on Saturday. Luckily I was able to drive there on battery power alone. I got it fixed up and returned home.
The story sort of just lingers on from there, as of today, Thursday August 10th, Sprint has still not installed my ISDN line. Furthermore, they said the "revised" install date is August 24th. They are the biggest bunch of non-performing idiots I have ever dealt with. We are getting a handle on our "stuff" More of it has traveled to the storage shed and some has found it's way to the big dumpster in the sky. Reflecting on the trip my anger at my Dad was misplaced it was really just a product of the frustration and uncertainty that surrounded the move. The days down here are intensely hot but it is also incredibly beautiful. We got to spend some time at the beach on Sunday and had a great time. I found out that one of the beaches down here has active volleyball going on. We are learning more about the area everyday. I have a lead on a job that sounds great. I think things are looking up. The hardest part of the move is the isolation. Being away from all of your friends, family and things that you have known all of your life is more difficult than either of us imagined. We have a year to figure out how we feel about that. I'm sure there will be more interesting chapters in this story to come.....