If there’s a silly way of doing things, I guarantee mother-daughter tag teams are the best at doing them. For my Mom and I we never do things the normal way.
First off, I’m one of the abnormal minorities who made it to 23 years without ever having a driver’s license. I never put much thought into getting one since I always lived in a city. Then I found out my job was transferring me to Dallas and that’s where this rather ridiculous duo comes into being. I couldn’t wait for Texas. I found a great apartment with a friend and my Mom had already offered to help me bring a Uhaul from NC to TX filled with a bunch of free family hand-my-downs.
Just before the move I arranged to rent a 10ft van using my work discount, reserved it, then the day of we went to pick it up. I was planning on paying for the van and the expenses and having my Mom drive it. When we went to pick up the van the lady behind the counter told us that wasn’t possible. The person using the discount had to be the primary licensed driver. I wasn’t licensed.
So, that day I took the test and the State of North Carolina deemed me fit and gave me a license. The next morning I reserve another truck and went back to the lady at the desk fully expecting that there would be some terms or conditions I would have to agree to being under 25 and unable to rent a car let alone a moving van when I’d only just gotten my license the day before but she didn’t seem to think there was anything remotely dangerous in giving me the keys. I’m not sure how sensible this lady was.
Then, we learned that the 10ft truck I’d reserved the day before was no longer available so she would be upgrading me to a 16 footer for the same base rate. No, nothing remotely dangerous in that at all. I drove it out of the lot white knuckled and nearly pooped my pants turning onto the main road. Big Bertha could’ve crushed any little car that happened to be in her way.
Since we’re already a day behind schedule, my grandmother’s handyman came to help us load up and get on the road while she directed us with commands about not knocking over such and such potted plant and don’t track dirt into her kitchen. It wasn’t until early afternoon when we finally took off, Mom at the wheel just as white knuckled as I was. We did a little cheer in the cab when she managed not to knock over the mailbox or you know, crash into the side of a house. Her competency for driving such a big truck was about the same as mine for driving anything but a Go-Kart.
The idea was to make it in 2 days. 16 and a half hours, 1,138 miles, 2 adventurous women, a packed lunchbox for the road, and unlimited country music and soon we’d be there.
I remember how hot it was that weekend: between 90 and 100 degrees. But, eager to conserve fuel we ran the AC as little as we could stand and panted with the windows down like dogs on a joyride while the southern sun beat down on us in the heat of the day. In South Carolina we had to ask the Gas Station Manager to fill us up. The pump simply refused to cooperate. The manager was missing teeth and had a good sense of humor. He seemed to get a kick out of us so he gave us a cold Orange Fanta before wishing us well and sending us on our way refreshed and refueled.
We made it through North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, (and survived Atlanta during rush hour) then finally called it quits after the radio songs were on their fourth repeat and a storm had rolled in. We found lodgings at the first cheap motel we could find, Motel 6. Since I was fronting the bill I wasn’t going for class, solely a bed behind a door with a lock and a place to park the Old Bat. A look of horror struck Mom’s face when she walked into our dingy first floor room with beds that looked anything but comfortable, grimy floors, and a permanently stained toilet. We ate sandwiches my grandmother had packed for us and topped it off with some of her homemade fudge cake. We ate off paper plates with plastic utensils. It wasn’t until afterwards that I noticed a cockroach assessing the barricade made by our lunch box. We didn’t use the shower and we didn’t take our shoes off. Mom laid down in a way so she touched as little of the bedding as possible, but neither of us got much sleep. A few hours later while it was still dark, we packed the little we’d carried in and left ragged, tired, sweaty, and in foul moods but neither of us could bear to stay there any longer.
Day 2 started with me behind the wheel with tense shoulders and a lead foot until I started getting comfortable enough. We were supposed to reach Dallas later that night. We’d made it through Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana. Texas was getting closer and closer. We got comfortable filling up Big Bertha and would have picnics at whichever rest stops we thought looked pretty. Neither of us had ever been through Mississippi or Louisiana so we figured we had to justify our passing through by at least paying tribute to their rest stops information booths and vending machines. In Louisiana, Mom ran over a gas pump. After some serious scraping and grinding Bertha ended up on the curb. Mom and I were yelling directions and insecurities back and forth to each other afraid of how many other people had taken notice of us. But when we went into the shop to apologize and buy loads of cold drinks and junk food out of guilt, no one seemed to notice what we’d just done so we fled the scene like criminals. I pulled over a little while later and gave Big Bertha a once over. Luckily he sustained no noticeable damage. She was a tank. For the rest of the day we would sing along to country songs that we were learning by heart now and we’d roll up the windows and luxuriate in the blast of the AC’s cold air on our arms for 5 minutes at a time. That’s all we could allot ourselves. By later afternoon, we made it to Texas. But we weren’t close enough. We ditched bertha, ran across a 4-lane interstate and had a pizza and beer then found somewhere cheap to sleep. It was another Motel 6. Although this one was slightly better than the last one Mom still wasn’t impressed. I don’t blame her, though we bickered back and forth about staying there. Our unsavory looking male neighbors took much too much interest in our comings and goings, always coming out for a cigarette whenever they spotted Mom or I. But we had no other options and we were too tired to carry on. We went to sleep in the same bed with our door bolted and barricaded with the mini fridge.
By mid-morning on the 3rd day we’d made it! After surviving Atlanta traffic, Dallas’ was nearly a breeze. We pulled into the leasing office of my new neighborhood, I signed the required paperwork and they handed me the keys. My apartment would be on the third floor. There were no elevators. Luckily we had people to help. An innocent bystander took pity on me and reversed the truck in to the closest possible spot next to the stairs, then a friend came by and helped us move in the boxes of clothes, bedding, and my hand-me-down furniture. It took all afternoon but finally I was officially moved in! I bought us all some dinner and beers and silently promised myself that I wouldn’t move again for at least another year. It was certainly an adventure and there were times we wanted to kill each other but what mother daughter duo doesn’t? And just for good measure, Mom ran over another gas pump as we were filling Bertha up for her drop off. This time everybody noticed. I had to maneuver her massiveness off the pump and out of the lot before the Manager had time to come out and catch us. Just like last time Bertha took it like a champ. We dropped her off with none the wiser.