Towing Capacity

Tim and Meg drive blissfully off into the sunset...
Tim and Meg drive blissfully off into the sunset…

As you may well have assumed, the preparations for our move out west are in full swing. Or I guess, more accurately, the planning is in full swing. The preparations are largely in hurry-up-and-wait mode. Which makes sense.

Meg can’t pack a lot of what we’re taking with us, she’s still using it! She can’t throw out a lot of what we’re throwing out, because she’s using that too. Can’t ship the cats out west, the new apartment isn’t ready yet. Well, isn’t chosen. Oh all right, the previous tenants haven’t even decided to move out. She can’t load up the storage/moving cube, that won’t arrive until the last few weeks. Can’t do this, can’t do that.

So we both make plans, and we sit. And wait. And worry. And look for more things we think we can do, only to find out that we can’t do them. Yet.

One of the could-possibly-do-it-soon-ish things has to do with the trailer we hope to be towing on The Oregon Trail trip. The purpose of the trailer is to bring along Sophia’s power chair. And just that statement has you puzzling: why tow it? Why not ship it? Or have her fly out with it? And the story begins…

The chair can’t fly commercial. Depending on the type of lithium in our lithium batteries, it is possible that it doesn’t meet hazardous materials guidelines allowing it to be put on an airliner under any circumstances. But assuming we have the “good” lithium (???), in order to put it on the plane, the TSA may, at their discretion, require that the batteries be removed. That would require that we fully disassemble the chair to an extent that you wouldn’t be able to recognize that it was a power wheelchair.

Plus, lets assume that we could easily remove and replace the batteries: it weighs close to 300 lbs. — who is going to move it once it’s completely immobilized with no power? Oh, and it has to go into the cargo hold, it can’t go in the passenger cabin, there’s no room. Additionally, the airline does not necessarily guarantee that the wheelchair will be stowed in its normal upright position for flight.

The up-side is, if the wheelchair is damaged or destroyed during the trip the airline is required to fully reimburse us for the full replacement cost, irrespective of any self-declared liability limitation applied to such things as luggage. But a hell of a lot of good that does us when it takes 3 – 6 months to get a new one fitted, spec-ed and built. Sophia can’t drive a $36,000 check to and from class in October.

Shipping we’ve looked into as well. And let’s set aside the fact that even if it were fully ensconced in bubble wrap inside a foam-rubber crate filled with feathers, I wouldn’t trust the gorillas employed by the shipping company to get it there in one piece. The cost is other-worldly. One quote we got, the one that caused me to drop the phone in a fit of laughing/crying, was close to $2000.

So it’s getting on a trailer, and it’s coming with us. The trailer is easy enough to procure: U-Haul has 5′ x 10′ covered trailers, plenty big enough to house this thing and a whole bunch else that we’ll want along on the trip. The challenge becomes towing capacity.

How much will our SUV tow? According to the Chevrolet web site, since our Equinox has the Eco-friendly (pronounced, “wim-pee”) engine, the towing capacity is 1,500 lbs. That’s enough to tow the trailer and our intended cargo, but it’s not what’s recommended by U-Haul for the trailer we intend to rent. Thus, we have our quandary.

If we promise that we won’t load the trailer with more than 500 lbs, can we rent it then? What about the trailer hitch, which we haven’t bought yet? Can we get one with bigger towing capacity than the car has, and will that help or hurt the situation? Is U-Haul going to get pissy with us about how much towing capacity we have, versus how much we actually need, versus what they recommend? And what if we get the thumbs-up from U-Haul’s 800 number, but when we go to pick the thing up Billy Bob McSkidmark at the rental shop tries to pull rank and won’t give it to us? On the DAY BEFORE WE LEAVE?

Long and short: are we going to be able to rent the damned trailer, or do we have to buy a new TRUCK for the privilege of hauling this wheelchair to the other side of the continent? And if we honestly do have to trade in our beloved Vern for a new SUV with more power, we sure as hell don’t want to waste $475 installing the trailer hitch on the one we have now!

This is merely one of the numerous wonderful things we have just under four months to sort out. And trust me, with our luck, this one will go right down to the wire.

In the immortal cinematic words of Arthur Bach: “Don’t you wish you were me? I know I do.”

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