CC Roadtrip: Rental Truck Blues


Out of all the working rigs out there, few are as unloved as rental trucks. We use rental trucks during some of life’s most stressful moments. Consequently, they take a significant amount of abuse. It is human nature to put less concern into an object you don’t own. If there is a today’s version of the unloved mule spending its life pulling an underground coal train, it is the rental truck. The most abused of these trucks are the ones driven interstate, have no home base, and are only maintained when they break down. This story is about one of those unloved Curbside Classics.


I had to move a soon-to-be ex-fiancé out of a house trailer we rented outside Cortez Colorado. We mistakenly believed we could begin a life together among the magnificent scenery of the Four Corners.  She enthusiastically built up a small farm with chickens, geese, ducks, dogs, cats and a horse. But it was a hardscrabble place tougher than we were. After endless months of loving, arguing, unemployment and borrowing to survive, we quit. She wanted to return home to Kansas, so we needed a rental truck.

We were financially busted, so we ended up with the most worn out, poorest maintained, GMC 7000 north of Nogales. The “dealer” was a filling station  It seems the goal was to keep interstate vehicles running long enough to see them go over a horizon, hoping they’d never return. U-Haul reimbursed, but repairs cost in the short run. Instead, you made these “hot potatoes” someone else’s problem. I had no choice but to rent a truck that didn’t look like it could make it across town, let alone across country. Since I also had to move a horse, I got a cargo trailer to pull behind it.

I came into the relationship with a few university books, a car, a small collection of imported beer bottles and a bong. She, on the other hand, filled the truck. I discovered that when a guy moves in with a girl, she comes complete. Complete home furnishings, complete kitchen ware and appliances, complete household bedding, toweling and floor coverings, plus more complete collections of household items necessary and often unnecessary.

Facts of Life cast

 She had enough differing sizes of woman’s clothing she could have outfitted the entire cast of “Facts of Life”, including George Clooney – hey, “you take the good – you take the bad” – right? Heavy stuff I ended up lifting myself. She also demanded that everything be packed so that it wouldn’t be damaged even if the U-Haul was hit by a Tomahawk missile.

Then there were the animals. She wanted me to figure out how to take her pet chickens, ducks and geese. I volunteered to eat them, but she nixed that. Dogs – well, that’s easy. Cats – well, that’s easy too but not after the drugs leave their system. Finally, there was a horse. Dandy was his name and since we both knew what it was like to be ridden by a crazy chick, we bonded. While he was bigger than me, we both knew I wasn’t the one who was gelded, so I put him into the U-Haul cargo trailer without a whinny. I had to find large boxes for each species of yard bird and promised her that they would just think it was night and sleep through the move. Hey -she believed me!

Like most poverty stricken movers, we left under the cover of darkness and hit the road once I was able to get the GMC 7000 out of the February mud and onto Route 666 leading towards Shiprock New Mexico. I didn’t think we could make it over Pagosa Pass at night, so I headed south towards Farmington. In Farmington the next morning, I discovered the wisdom of having muffler tape and duct tape riding with me and the cats, when the previously muffler-taped exhaust pipe leading from the 7000’s 427 V8 manifold needed to be patched. While driving during the day, one of the cats decided to begin playing with a loose wire hanging under the classic Chevy/GMC dash, so I duct taped that up too. The GMC already had 128,000 miles or so on the odometer, and definitely saw better rental days years earlier in a hard life.

The biggest problem however were the tires. While moving out of the mud back in Colorado, I noted that after loading up, the total weight plus the horse trailer cause the load to slightly list. It was one of the back tires which should have been immediately replaced. By the time I discovered it, it was too late to turn back, unload the truck, explain to the landlord what we were doing, and wait for a replacement. I had to take the risk. This was another reason why I took a southern route and avoid the San Juan mountains. I had to finagle one more trip out of it. I drove slowly, carefully and hopefully.


Hope ran out ten miles out of Boise City Oklahoma when I heard a honking and noted that I had nothing but a rim keeping me on the shoulder-less road. There was nowhere to pull off. I turned on the emergency flasher lights. I saw no choice but to either risk human and animal life by becoming a road block, or risk rim life by slowly returning to Boise City. My choice:


To us stranded refugees, Boise City couldn’t have been nicer. A replacement wheel was found in Dalhart Texas and Visa raised my credit limit  – and interest rate – high enough to cover all costs. The guys at the garage were curious why they heard geese, but wise enough not to investigate. We also discovered that the 427 had a head gasket leak which required adding oil to finish the trip. I galloped Dandy around the empty Cimarron County Fairgrounds, but naturally he fought me when I tried putting him back into the U-Haul cargo trailer.

The end of the move couldn’t come soon enough. Through the ordeal, I rode high over the Llano Estacado, rumbling along, listening as the east-bound gusts shoved us towards the Gypsum Hills. As the cats cried inside the old tobacco scented cab, the geese honked inside the barnyard scented truck – the GMC 7000 acted like it was just another day in its crappy U-Haul life. Through it all I spent days wondering if my life could get any lower, and the old U-Haul GMC 7000 silently presented itself as proof that it could. Both it and I knew that it’s future would soon be a junkyard – its days as an interstate rental “hot potato” over. I swore that after I dumped the load I was hauling that week to making my future brighter.

What are your rental truck blues?