So what do you do when your wife ignores your objections in buying a large piece of furniture in a town 140 miles from home, and you only have a passenger vehicle? Answer – rent a U-Haul truck. And what do you when she, accurately observing your dwindling reservoir of goodwill, says she’ll drive the truck herself? Answer – suck it up and volunteer for the assignment. And that’s how I recently ended up behind the wheel of a 15-foot rig for the extended milk run between Reno and Sacramento.
It had been years since I had taken U-Haul up on its generous offer of ‘Adventures in Moving,’ and while nothing extraordinary happened this time (I was once stranded on I-5 north of Bakersfield with a car in tow and a disconsolate tranquilized cat), it was memorable for several reasons:
- Reno is generally a desolate place once you leave the casino-area, but I was still quite surprised to be directed to a lawn shed on a vacant lot to pick-up the truck. The U-Haul representative came over from an adjacent adult video store to complete the transaction.
- It’s really easy to rent a truck. Pay someone a smallish sum of money ($112 in our case) and they hand you the keys. The gentleman behind the counter didn’t bother to ask me if I knew how to drive the thing. Instead I received a link to a PDF of a multi-page safety guide that I didn’t read. And then the guy asked if I needed insurance. I said, no, I had coverage – did he want to see it? He didn’t.
- I have driven a Ford truck (the Tank) as my personal vehicle for the last 17 years. The U-Haul truck was a Ford. It was a little bigger, but it felt somewhat familiar.
- U-Hauls used to have speed governors. I believe they were set at 60 or 65. No more. My wife commented that I drove the truck like it was a Maserati. It wasn’t a compliment.
- Despite that, the gas mileage was really very good. U-Haul boasts about a number of features to improve fuel efficiency, like a sleeker body set and contoured edges. They seem to work.
- The truck had a radio, but the sound of the engine combined with road noise created a barely tolerable cacophony that was screaming in my ears – the last thing I wanted to hear was music.
- Like other commercial trucks, this one didn’t have a rear view mirror. I didn’t fully adjust to that in the short time I drove it – never quite trusting what I saw in the side mirrors but forging ahead anyway.
- When you’re driving a U-Haul, other drivers give you a measure of respect they don’t otherwise. I signaled several times to change lanes amid tight quarters and found vehicles giving way rather than the usual response of speeding up as the driver flipped me off. Perhaps they figured that because I was driving a U-Haul I didn’t have the slightest idea what I was doing, which happened to be correct. Maybe it was fear rather than respect.
- U-Hauls are considered proper trucks for regulatory purposes. The vehicle I drove was briefly inspected at the agricultural checkpoint at Truckee and I was required to stop at a truck scale. Both were first-time experiences for me.
- I dropped the truck off in the rain the next day at a vacant lot behind a Sacramento Wienerschnitzel, and handed the keys to a guy at an adjacent car stereo store.
So that was my U-Haul experience. Coulda been a lot worse. Next time we go to Reno, though, we’re taking the Tank.