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Trials and Tribulations of Moving to Boston, Part II

I opened the last box last week (and promptly shoved it back under my bed again, but baby steps), so it seems an appropriate time to finish the story of the epic Road Trip to Boston.

We embarked about when I’d intended to Saturday morning, leaving behind a muzzy, just-arisen Octopus Library.  (We nearly left without seeing her at all, since I didn’t want to wake her up, and had in fact gotten so far as to determine the the door would lock behind us, so we could in fact leave on our own.)  The drive out of town was uneventful, interrupted only by a brief and abortive stop at a gas station — we drove off again without getting any gas, because it seemed expensive, despite Octopus Library’s advice that gas was cheaper in town than it would be for a while.

I’d gotten the hang of the truck, more or less, and we made decent progress along the coast.  Presently we turned inland, and began seeing signs for our next turnoff, the Merritt Parkway.

NO TRAILERS, declared the signs.  NO COMMERCIAL VEHICLES.

Cue a discussion of whether we were, in fact, a commercial vehicle.  It was a truck, yes, but a small one, and didn’t have a trailer, just a back end.  Furthermore, we still had neither map nor functional GPS, and the directions told us to take the Merritt Parkway.

“This can’t be a commercial vehicle,” Isaac pointed out.  “You don’t have a license for commercial vehicles, and you don’t need a special license to drive this.  So it must not be a commercial vehicle.”  This was a sound argument, and anyway, I didn’t know how else to go, so we took the turnoff and hoped that any early-morning cops would be convinced by either logic or a couple of pitiable disoriented young people.  And resolved to keep a close eye on the bridge clearances.

The bridges were disconcerting, because they were much lower than anything we’d seen previously (with the exception of one really low one in Octopus Library’s town, but the first time we’d driven under that one it had been almost-dark and the end of a long day, and I hadn’t realized how low it was, so it’s a good thing it wasn’t another foot or so lower), and (I eventually concluded), only the first bridge (and any subsequent lower bridges) after an entrance ramp had signs.  They were all fine, if a trifle nerve-wracking.

The nerves were not helped by the elderly gentleman who shook his finger at me as he passed us.  “It’s not a commercial vehicle!” I wanted to tell him.  “It says so on my driver’s license!”  Still, I felt terrible conspicuous, especially when we stopped for gas (which, incidentally, cost more than the first stop that morning, where we hadn’t gotten any).  At that stop I also gained a bit more empathy for the New Jersey full-service gas station guy, since the pump kept clicking off at random intervals, generally not more than 15 seconds apart.  It was horribly annoying, but we eventually got the tank filled and escaped the station without generating a posse of angry locals demanding that we stop driving a truck on the Parkway.  Still, I breathed a small sigh of relief when we eventually got off the road without further incident.

If you’re curious, the optimal place to get gas on a trip of this nature is in far-northern Connecticut, or in the suburbs just south of Boston.  Central Connecticut is apparently only surpassed in price by southern Connecticut, but we were worried that the MassPike would be more expensive (it’s not).

After far too many hours, we started seeing signs for Boston.  Another hour or so beyond that, we were looking for our turnoff.  I was ready to stretch my legs and not drive the truck for a while.  I was ready for lunch.  I was ready to arrive.

We hit the first traffic that day about five minutes later.  It wasn’t awful, just some construction and a detour.  We entered Boston proper and started to see signs for Somerville.  “Hallelujah!” I declared.

I turned left onto an unlabeled street that was probably the one we wanted, and found that I was being funneled into a pretty riverside drive that declared, NO TRUCKS.  A loopy U-turn later, and we managed to find the pretty riverside drive we wanted, and were looking for Plympton Street.

And looking.  And looking.  I was pretty sure we’d gone more than half a mile, but I hadn’t seen any signs for Plympton Street, and none of the streets we’d passed looked big enough to have been Plympton Street.  (In retrospect, that was my first mistake, assuming that Plympton Street would be bigger than an alley.  Or no, my first mistake was assuming that it would be labeled.)  We went a few more blocks anyway, hopefully, looking for Plympton or some other largish likely-looking street.

After all, we were supposed to take a right on Plympton, drive a few blocks, and then take a left on Mass Ave.  I’d been on Mass Ave, and knew it to be a proper street of a street.  Surely we could pick it up a few blocks later.

Third mistake.  The road we eventually took curved and meandered, and did not encounter Massachusetts Avenue.  And did not encounter Massachusetts Avenue.   . . . And did not encounter Massachusetts Avenue.

Knowing what I know now, this would have been the time to turn around and try again for Plympton Street.  Knowing what I know now, we’d already passed the point of no return, and it was no longer possible to get to Plympton Street.

But we didn’t know, so when we quite conclusively did not encounter Massachusetts Avenue, but did come to an option to take Route 3 towards Somerville, I took it.  Things looked quite promising for a while, but then we stopped seeing signs for Somerville and decided we must be inside it — but nothing looked familiar.  We presently came to the Red Line station one stop west of mine, so I turned right.  NO TRUCKS, declared the street, a block or two after we’d gotten onto it.  Ooops.

We drove for a while, then turned right again (NO TRUCKS), because the station is a bit north, too.  I hoped to cross some familiar street, but didn’t, so we stopped and asked for directions.  (Not to my house, to my local T station cum square.  It isn’t remotely square.)  This street was one way, so we headed back up the next street (NO TRUCKS) and found the street we’d been on before, and kept going the way we’d been going.

In this manner, and several more NO TRUCKS streets later (one of the signs did eventually say OVER THUS-AND-SO TONS), we found the local square, which is a six-point intersection that someone stepped on several times and then scraped off the bottom of their shoe, and I successfully navigated us through it.  Then, in a comparably herculean task, Isaac got us back on the directions, and a few more streets (NO TRUCKS) later, we pulled up into my Reserved-For-Moving-Truck parking space.

We were an hour later than I’d told Calliope we would get there, and still arrived before her and her mother.  (But not so much before that they weren’t twiddling their thumbs until we got back with the keys.)  The move-in was not entirely uneventful. (The bathroom still wasn’t completely finished, and we discovered that three of the wooden pegs of the Incredibly Heavy Ancestral Table were broken, that the futon I’d been going to sleep on was mildewed and damp, and spent way too much time driving a large truck around Boston and surroundings.  But the truck got returned, the contractor eventually showed up, the table has been fixed, and I have a bed.)

I’ve learned my lesson: don’t drive in Boston without a navigator, a map, and a GPS.  If possible, don’t drive in Boston at all.

And I did eventually find Plympton street the other day, while walking near Harvard.  I didn’t see the sign, but don’t doubt that it was there: NO TRUCKS.

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Trials and Tribulations of Moving to Boston

Friday morning.  The boxes were packed, the last stuff had been carried down from my room (almost), and my worldly possessions were piled into a rectangular section of floor, waiting to be loaded into the van.  My wonderful librarian showed up to drive me to the UHaul place, and we headed off to North Philly.  (Yes, I know that there are closer UHaul places.  UHaul told me to go to that one.)

We arrived at THRIFT STORE on Luzerne street to find a lot of UHaul signs surrounding an unprepossessing warehouse.  It wasn’t open.  Okay, they opened at 10am; maybe it wasn’t quite ten yet.  Some more people arrived and hung out waiting for the store to open, and eventually a woman came with keys. 

The guy in charge of UHaul rentals wasn’t there yet, so we sat in the chilly hallway and shivered and chatted.  Presently it became clear that the UHaul guy wasn’t going to show up for a while, and also that there wasn’t a van for me to take; was it all right if they gave me a 10′ truck, instead?  I wasn’t thrilled about the prospect of a larger vehicle, but more storage space was not unwelcome, and anyway, what was I going to say, “No, I will sit here until you give me a van”?  I had a vehicle to pack and upwards of three hours to drive, and it was already 10:30.

Driving home from North Philly was . . . harrowing.  It was not so much that the truck was large and unfamiliar (it was) or that I had no sense of where the right side of the vehicle was (I didn’t), as that North Philly has an interesting approach to rules of the road at the best of times, and any time you are driving a UHaul truck is not the best of times.  However, no pedestrians were run over, no bicycles were mowed down, no cars were hit, and no random stuff made contact with the truck.  But I perhaps did not arrive home in the best frame of mind to park a truck on a relatively narrow street with no assistance, and caused a minor traffic jam until my family figured out what was going on and came outside to help flag.

Loading the truck went excellently.  I had four marvelous people helping to carry stuff, we were done in two hours, and, in fact, if I were to identify problems, the greatest one would be that the assistants could carry boxes faster than I could figure out where to put them (since my oh-so-careful Furniture Tetris plan had been upset by the addition of about a foot of space in several directions).  After lunch, I made my last sweeps of the house, we stuck a few more items in the back of the truck, and Isaac and I clambered in and headed off.  Truck spacing relative to road width was a lot easier with a passenger to provide feedback, and I got enough of a sense of the mirrors to begin to judge for myself.  We took Route 1 north.

One realized exactly how many potholes there are in a road when driving a truck containing everything one owns.  It’s also a good way to figure out just exactly how long a road is.  It was only 2:30 in the afternoon, but traffic was already pretty dense, and as I commented to Isaac, taking Roosevelt Boulevard out of the city is a really excellent way to be entirely ready to leave.

And that was before we almost had my first serious accident with a crazy driver who’d confused the definitions of “cut in front of” and “sideswipe.”  (May I remind you that I was driving a 10′ truck?  Admittedly, not the world’s largest truck, but considerably bigger than a compact car.)  Apparently he wanted to get to the laundromat.  I laid on both brakes and horn, and he lived to do his laundry.

It was with a good deal of relief that we reached the Pennsylvania Turnpike and left the state.  New Jersey was uneventful, aside from our foray into a rest area.  Since I was, technically, driving a truck, we took the “trucks” section at the divide, and found ourselves in an alternate universe full of absolutely enormous vehicles and very few parking spaces.  Eventually we decided that there weren’t enough buses for anyone to mind if we parked at the very end of the line long enough to use the restroom — and realized while walking to the building that the Trucks Universe was distinctly lacking in gas pumps dispensing anything other than diesel.  After a bit of investigation, we decided that a small section labeled “do not enter” would allow us to cross over into the cars side, and this was the last rest stop in New Jersey, and I wanted to buy gas before we left.

That worked just fine — until we were pulling out of the rest stop and I realized that the gas tank didn’t seem to be any fuller than when we’d entered.  By the time Isaac confirmed that the fellow had only put a gallon of gas in the truck, we were already heading back to the highway, so we made some grumbling comments about mandatory full-service gas stations and headed over the bridge to Manhattan.

Which was . . . nowhere near as bad as I expected, considering that it was now 5pm on a Friday night.  The roads were even worse than Philly (the whole trip, we could tell when we entered cities by the way the roads deteriorated), but aside from a few slowish miles, we got out of NYC much faster than I expected to, and spent a very pleasant evening with my friend Octopus Library (not her real name).

And that’s when I realized that my passport was still in Philadelphia.

To be continued . . .

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