September 4, 2011

Cobb on the Trail-er: Hauling butt and taking names

Here's one name to start with, an eating place by called O'Charley's, specifically, the one just off Interstate 40 at 110 Coley Davis Court in Nashville. A great place to stop for a real meal and friendly service should you be passing through the Nashville area. I met up with friends there and had a very relaxing and enjoyable lunch. I was surprised to learn later that O'Charley's is chain, with locations in the Eastern half of the U.S. I would definitely look for one if I was driving in that region again.

Speaking of chains, I was very pleasantly surprised by U-Haul, from whom I rented the trailer for this trip (as trailer towing road warriors know, chains are used as a backup to the trailer hitch). So here's my review of U-Haul customer service.

At first I was not happy with the trailer. There seemed to be some shimmying when I picked it up, but I put that down to lack of LOAD weight. There was also a lack of any obvious way to lock the trailer to the hitch on my Jeep, so I used a pair of padlocks on the safety chains.

Unfortunately, the more miles I drove with the trailer fully loaded, the worse the shimmying became. How bad was it? People were flagging me down, honking horns, following me into rest areas. Apparently it looked a lot worse when you were following me than it did when I was looking in my sideview mirror. So, to all of those Knights of the Road who expressed concern, I say: Thank You!

While such concern from my fellow man was quite uplifting, a major breakdown seemed more and more like a major possibility, which would put a major crimp in my timed-to-the-hour travel plans. So I pushed on but cut my speed, taking heart in the diagnostic opinion of a farmer who checked out the trailer after following me into a rest area. He thought it was the rim and not the axle, because the hub was not hot. By the end of that day I was in Forrest City, Arkansas, staying at a surprisingly comfortable Hampton Inn just a block from a delightful Mexican restaurant.   

After a robust repast of Chile Rellenos at Done Jose, I began to consider my trailer options. My biggest concern should have been breaking down but it was the thought of unpacking and repacking that really bothered me, should the trailer need to be replaced. That and the time involved, which involved, in my mind, a ton of paperwork and sitting around, even if I did manage to find a U-Haul dealer. In the morning caution won out and, bracing for the inevitable hassles, I called the 800 number on my U-Haul contract from the hotel parking lot.

And wow! U-Haul was great! I felt the agent really understood what I was going through. Not only that, they had an authorized garage right there in town, White Motor Company, just a few blocks away. I hauled the trailer over to White Motor and some very cheerful chaps changed out the wheel in a matter of minutes.

I was on my way with no more than 30 minutes of time lost and zero cost or hassle. Shortly after I hit the Interstate the U-Haul agent called to confirm that everything was okay. I am definitely getting a U-Haul next time I need to shift stuff across the country!

Update: The fix worked fine. Made the 3,000 mile trip right on schedule, pulling into San Diego on August 31, with time to unload the trailer and return before heading to the DoubleTree for the night.