Monday, June 20, 2016
I learned this past weekend that moving a tiny house is not always a tiny effort. Everything worked out fine and the tiny house is safe and sound where I decided to put it next to the fire pit, but it took a lot more effort to get it there than I was expecting.
The “transporter” I found on Craig’s List, Holton, showed up at 10:15 AM. He was a clean-cut, young, nice guy and right away I had a good feeling about him. That feeling continued as I watched the professional way in which he hooked up the tiny house to his truck Dodge 3500 pick up truck with the dually wheels. He had all the right equipment and seemed to really know what he was doing.
Once the house was all hooked up, I followed my tiny house out of the complex and over to Boulder Creek. Since it was my tiny house’s first adventure more than 1 mile from my driveway, I was a bit nervous. However, aside from back corner of my trailer dragging ever so slightly leaving my townhouse complex, the journey on paved roads went without incident. I followed Holton’s truck and my tiny house down San Tomas Expressway, over Highway 17, through Scotts Valley and Felton and on into Boulder Creek. I cringed a little bit the first time my tiny house went underneath a bridge, but at 13′ 6″ tall the tiny house was just the right height and fit neatly underneath everything the road threw at us. Even the lowest of the overhanging branches my tiny house sailed right underneath, blowing them vigorously up-and-down as it went by without actually touching them. The trip over the hill was so uneventful that by the time we reached the main access road to my property, I was starting to relax and think that everything was going to be just fine.
My confidence level in the move actually improved as we headed down the dirt access road into our property. The driver took his time over the potholed road and across our little bridge before approaching the one thing I was really worried about: the 300 foot long section of steep and bumpy road leading up to the lane into our property. If we were going to have problems, I imagined this was where they were going to happen. However, Holton’s truck went up the steep section without batting an eye and after that, I really thought we were in the clear.
Holton turned the tiny house into the parking area in front of our dirt lane and I pulled in as well so we could have a conversation about the last quarter-mile into the property. My only concern here was that I be able to get a video of the last bit to show friends and have for posterity. Unfortunately, Holton had other concerns. He took one look at the lane into our property and immediately started shaking his head. The road was still kind of steep and covered with loose dirt and organic material. Holton was pretty sure his truck was going to lose traction on it and he said it was very unlikely he would be able to get the tiny house up that road.
Although my heart sank a little bit at this statement, I was nowhere near ready to give up. I asked Holton if there was any risk to giving it a try. He said, no and that if he lost traction, he would back down the hill again. So, he gave it a try and, as he predicted, immediately lost traction. Unfazed, he decided he would try again, but get a run up to the hill first. He slowly and expertly backed the house up the main road and then let gravity help back down the road as he turned right and gunned it up our lane. He got a little bit further this time, but still no dice. Then he tried it again from the other side, backing the house the other way down the main road and gunning it again. He made it a little bit further, but still did not make it. Finally, he gave it one more try, backing it up the main road again the way he tried the first time. I said a little prayer to God for help and then watched as his truck and my tiny house came down the hill even faster than before. This time, Holton got further than he ever had before. For a moment, I really, really thought he was going to make it … but he didn’t.
I was finally forced to admit what Holton had been telling me from the beginning: his truck just wasn’t going to be able to get my tiny house where I wanted it. Maybe a four-wheel-drive could do it, but not his two wheel drive. It was looking like I was going to need to leave the tiny house parked right there in front of our lane until I could find a different solution. I thought I would probably have to camp out in the tiny house for the weekend to guard over it until I found somebody with a tractor or a big truck to pull it up.
It was at that point that a little divine intervention occurred. Just when I was about to pay Holton and let him leave, a little station wagon showed up on the main road and stopped so the woman inside could tell me how adorable the tiny house was and ask if she could take some pictures. I told her that would be fine and while she was taking pictures and complementing my little house, I mentioned that I was very happy with how it turned out, but would be even happier if I could find a way to get it into my property. That was when she said, “let me call Forest,” and when I finally recognized who she was. This was Shelly, Forest’s girlfriend who I had not seen in over two years when she had brought a picnic to our property to discuss rebuilding the little bridge where the main access road crosses the creek. If there was a homeowner’s association for all the people who lived off the main access road up the hill and if that association had a president, I imagine Forest would be it. He’s the person who knows everybody and everything that goes on in the neighborhood around our property. He also runs a farm at the top of the hill and happens to have a number of different trucks and pieces of heavy equipment. If anybody could help me out of this situation, it was going to be Forest.
Shelly called Forest and explained the situation and he said he would be right down. I asked Holton if he could stick around just a little bit longer and he said that would be fine. About 15 minutes later, Forest showed up in his V-8 four-wheel-drive truck with knobby tires and a pick up bed filled with a huge bag of potting soil for extra traction. This was looking good.
We unhooked the tiny house from Holton’s truck, hooked it up to Forest’s truck and let Forest give it a try. On his first try, Forest got a little bit further than Holton had gotten on his first try, but still not very far up the hill. So, we decided to try the run-up thing again. Forest backed to the house up the main road like Holton had done and let it rip. He came down the hill even faster than Holton had around the corner to the right and up our lane while we were all screaming, “run Forest, run” and I was hoping to God that my house wouldn’t break apart into pieces. The house held up just fine, but Forest didn’t get any further up the lane than Holton ever had and we were forced to admit defeat once again.
I was convinced that was going to be the end of the story, but my amazing neighbor was not quite ready to give up. Forest got out of his four-wheel-drive and said, “I guess it’s time to go get the dump truck.” Faith with that simple statement, Forest got into Shelly’s station wagon with Shelly and they both headed back up the hill, handing me the keys to his four-wheel-drive truck and leaving it to me to unhook it from my tiny house.
After Forest left, Holton and I worked together to unhook the four-wheel-drive and park it over to the side, trying to leave room for the mysterious dump truck to arrive. At that point, Holton needed to get going, so I paid him and let him go.
And then, for the first time ever, I was alone with my tiny house on my property. It was parked at a weird angle sitting between the main road and the lane into our property and yet it was still beautiful. The house wasn’t where I wanted it and yet, for some reason, it still looked like it was sort of where it belonged, sitting amongst the redwood trees. I took a few pictures of the tiny house from different angles and then, with nothing else to do, I sat on the porch and ate my lunch.
While I was sitting there, several neighborhood residents drove by on the main access road including a new person I had never met, Andre, in his brand-new V-8 four-wheel-drive pick up truck. He complemented the tiny house and when I told him what was going on, he quickly said that he was pretty sure he could pull the tiny house up my lane. I offered him $200 to do it on the spot, but he said he had to work and couldn’t do it right now. He drove on up the road, leaving me alone with my tiny house once again.
I waited for quite a while wondering when I would see Forest again until finally I heard a rumbling in the distance. Brrrrummmm, Brrrrummmm, Brrrrummmm it went, ever so slowly getting louder and louder until finally Forest and Shelly came back down the hill in a big, six wheeled white dump truck.
Forest got out of the dump truck and promptly explained both the good news and bad news. The good news was that he had filled the dump truck with wet dirt and was pretty sure it would have enough traction. The bad news was that the dump truck did not actually have a hitch on the back. Instead, it had a claw. The claw was really just a giant, blunt hook hanging off the back of the truck with a locking latch mechanism that looked like it was designed to go through a trailer with some kind of ring on the front. However, it looked like the hook was just about the right size to fit into the ball receiver of my trailer. There would be no way to lock the truck to my trailer, but it looked like it might still work.
Forest drove the dump truck around in front of the tongue of my trailer and set about trying to connect it to the tiny house. Fine positioning of a 2 inch diameter claw on the back of a dump truck with airbrakes that need to be recharged if the brakes get used too often is not as easy as it might seem. However, after two or three tries, we got the claw into the right spot directly underneath the ball receiver on my trailer and then lowered the trailer down onto the claw. As luck would have it, the ball receiver fit very nicely over the claw. So far, so good.
We made sure that the trailer chains were securely attached to the dump truck just in case the trailer popped off the claw and then we decided it was time to give it a try. I told Forest that in this configuration, we couldn’t risk doing anything at high-speed that might result in the trailer popping off of the claw. He said not to worry, that the dump truck didn’t do anything fast and that he didn’t think speed would be required.
Forest was right. That dump truck pulled the tiny house up the hill into our property like it was flat, paved road. It could care less about the loose dirt on the lane. The wheels never slipped or lost traction at all. I watched with excitement as the truck pulled my tiny house up the hill until suddenly, it sputtered and came to a halt. Wondering what was going on, I walked up to the back of the truck in time to see Forest climb out and say “Just ran out of gas.”
I couldn’t do anything other than laugh at this point because of all the problems that happened today, filling a truck with gas seemed like one we could probably handle. Forest called one of his workers at the top of the hill to bring down a tank of gas. While we were waiting, Forest cracked open a beer and offered me one as well. I’m not much of a beer drinker, but it was a hot day and after all I had been through I was thinking, “what the heck, that looks pretty good.” It also occurred to me that drinking a beer might make me care little bit less if my very nice neighbor who was about to pull my tiny house with his dump truck might be a little bit intoxicated while he was doing it.
About 20 minutes later, the gas can was successfully delivered, so we filled the tank and Forest started up the truck again. It promptly came back to life and proceeded to pull my house all the way down our lane and into the fire pit area right where I wanted it. I couldn’t believe it. It was perfect.
I told Forest just how grateful I was that he was willing to help me do this. I offered him $200 for his time, but he refused, saying that we were neighbors and he was happy to help. He said I could buy him a beer sometime. I couldn’t believe it. Amazing.
Forest left at about 1:45 PM and I spent the next 5+ hours getting the house ready to live in. A lot of that time was spent leveling the trailer on ground which turned out to be a lot more sloped that I had remembered it. But eventually, I got the house up on jack stands and nicely leveled in both directions. I took the wheels off (see my security post for more on that). I put the locks on the remaining wheels and the ball receiver. I took the outdoor closet off the porch, wheeled it around on dollies, used my pole saw to cut down a small tree that was in the way and positioned the closet on cement blocks near the tongue of the trailer. I put my 200 amp hour batteries and my propane tank inside, hooked up the batteries and made sure I could turn on the lights. I unpacked odds and ends from both the tiny house and the trailer. I put the railing on the tiny house back on since I had to take it apart to get the outdoor closet off the porch. I took the boxes of scrap wood that I brought with me near the fire pit to make a campfire out of later. It was a lot of tough, manual labor, but I knew exactly what needed to be done and doing it felt kind of amazing.
I finally left the property at about 6:45 PM, knowing that I needed to pick up Sheila from the airport at about 8:00 PM. Rather than go home, I decided to simply drive straight to the airport, stopping at the Chipotle for dinner. I ate about half of my burrito before Sheila called me from the tarmac and I headed over to pick her up. It was wonderful to see her again after a week apart and even more fun to have a great story to tell her on the way home. It really was quite an amazing story and I have to say I enjoyed watching Sheila’s jaw drop further and further as I told more and more of the story.
Thinking back on it now, I guess it would have been nice if I had known that my little lane was going to be so difficult to pull a tiny house over. Maybe I could have had it paved, graded or covered with gravel. However, if I had, I would never have been able to experience the incredible kindness of my neighbors or get to see my tiny house get pulled up a steep country lane by a dump truck. Those are two things I will never forget and always be grateful for. Every part of this tiny house journey has been an incredible mix of unforgettable experiences and treasured friendships and moving day was no exception.