By Kristin Borg
Enjoy the ride, they say. Sometimes I wonder if whoever said this ever drove a 26-foot Penske truck with all their household goods, towing a vehicle behind, across the country. My grandparents like to tell me how they walked to school barefoot in 10 feet of snow… yada yada yada. Well I’ve got plenty of stories to share just like my grandpa from back in the day, of hauling my household goods from state to state, barefoot, which we will learn is a bad idea. The military now calls moving your “stuff” a PPM, or a Personally Procured Move. I like to call it a “DITY move” because the old-school Army called it this… otherwise known as a “Do it Yourself” move. After nearly 10 moves under my belt, there is usually a funny story to share or drama that ensues.
Welcome to my chronicles of DITY Drama.
Ask anyone and you’ll find that DITY moves aren’t exactly a fan favorite among military members. So why do we choose to do a DITY? We only had one government move, where the government contracts out to moving companies and packs and drives your household goods to your next duty station. It was shortly after we were married, in 2004, our stuff was picked up from Michigan and moved down to Texas. Our belongings took 31 days to arrive in El Paso, which is quite a while for an in-country move. Once the movers made it onto Fort Bliss and unloaded their truck, half our stuff was missing. Nearly 17 years later, it hasn’t been found.
We were newlyweds with a bean bag chair and some paper plates for a while. I’m in my 40’s now, so sleeping on an air mattress for several months doesn’t appeal to me, but it was our only option at the time. Itemizing the loss of our household goods and not having immediate funds left us with an empty home for about 6 months. When I DITY, I have my stuff with me, and none of my stuff has been missing or broken (except that glass table you’ll read about in a minute). I am also able to profit a little bit of money every DITY when the government reimburses me for moving our belongings. From our last move, which we have just finished, I was able to pay off my student loan So we DITY.
For every move, I know I have about 9,000 pounds of household goods. I always get a 26-foot Penske. Sometimes I tow a car behind with a dolly, or sometimes it is a trailer. I have two dogs and a husband who is not a fan of moving our stuff. I am the default truck driver of our family. Picking up our first Penske truck on our first move ever, my husband drove the truck right into the fence turning out of the lot. He drove the truck 100 feet, and since then I’ve been driving. He is the Goose to my Maverick on these drives. He helps me with my lane changes and picks me up food to meet me at the next rest stop. He’ll also get my weight tickets and pay for my gas while I’m pumping gas at truck stops. He also drives with our son, Miles, who can only stand being in the car in 30minute increments at most. Honestly, I think I have it easier on these cross-country drives.
Our first DITY move was on a whim. We were told 30 days out we had to move from El Paso, TX to Tacoma, WA. We had something called MapQuest back then and a paper map. Yes, I grew up in an age without an iPhone and only had a hot pink flip phone that didn’t even text. We used Walkie Talkies to communicate between our two vehicles. My husband drove closely behind as I drove the fully loaded Penske with a trailer on the back holding his fancy sports car. The first night I really felt I could be a professional truck driver as I grew more confident. That was until we stopped at a hotel that didn’t have truck parking. This is where I mention that Google Earth would’ve been beneficial.
The wrap-around parking lot was tight and there was a dead end after the last turn, making it impossible for me to drive through. I had to back up my big truck and it seemed doable, except I had the trailer on the back of my truck and the lot was full of cars. At midnight, we recruited about eight people to help us back the truck out after getting the car off the trailer and pulling the trailer off the Penske. We hopped back on the road and learned to look for “truck parking” hotels after that mess. The journey through Colorado up to Oregon was long and I grew impatient in one parking lot maneuvering the truck and decided to go off-roading. I’m a ginger and I snapped, and I had also blown a tire on the truck. I learned that a Penske isn’t a Jeep.
Two hours later, the tire was replaced and we were back on the road. Once we got to our new home in Washington we were exhausted. I was carrying my plants into the house, because I’m a plant lady, and that’s when I heard a loud, “KRISTIN.” My husband drove his sports car right off the trailer as he forgot to put the slats to the ramp down in order to safely drive the car off. The look he gave me as he sat in his car teetering off the trailer will always be imprinted in my brain. It was a great way to meet our neighbors as we all tried to lift the small car back onto the trailer. No such luck, we had to call a tow truck to lift it back on. The next day I learned that shoes were beneficial when moving items into the house. I was carrying a coffee table with a glass top and, lo and behold, it popped off and landed on my foot. The glass table top shattered on the top of my barefoot and I nearly lost a toe. I ended up at the ER with my toe getting stitched back on. People sometimes talk about war scars, I have DITY scars. We now wear close-toed shoes when moving.
The journey on that first DITY move was quite a trial, but we made it safely, for the most part. I only forgot my beta fish under the seat of the Penske for a couple days. He lived to tell his story. I have other tales of other DITY moves where my husband ended up following the wrong Penske for hours, how I was hit by a drunk driver or how my son decided to pee on everyone from a second-story balcony as we were unloading our household goods with hired help. It may not be a perfect process, but I love a good challenge. I’m a proud truck stop-loving (the pies are the best), Diesel gas-pumping, strong Army wife who enjoys the ride after it’s over. I may not have walked to school barefoot… but I’ve moved my stuff across the country pregnant, without an iPhone, using a paper map, staying in what I like to call “bed bug hotels,” and nearly losing my foot.
Grandpa, you may have some good stories, but I got some to share, too.
Stay tuned for Part 2, coming soon!
About Kristin Borg
Kristin is an Army wife of 18 years and the mom of a young son. Her family has two dogs and she likes to spend her time at dog parks and paddle boarding. You can follow her adventures with having a son on the spectrum on Facebook at Smiles for Miles.