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  • Writer's pictureJim Martin

Jim... I almost threw up.

Updated: Dec 2, 2023

The epic tale of hauling the Tiny House from Virginia to Vermont.

Through preternatural effort and perseverance, and with a comfortable 3.5 hours to spare, the tiny house was finally extracted from our Virginia back yard in the early hours of December 4th. You can read all about that (including video and pictures) here. It's quite the tale.

Once extracted, we parked the tiny house and U-Haul rig on the street in front of our house. Romie and I used the comfortable 3.5 hour cushion to sleep before the 12 hour drive up to Vermont. My final thought as I was falling asleep was, I need to remember to grab a measuring tape so we can be sure the ridge of the roof is no more than 13.5 feet off the pavement.

[Sidebar: Let me digress a moment here to explain. You see, the trailer was not sitting on the ground while the tiny house was built. It was suspended on four jack stands and leveled. (You can read about that here: Beginning on the Level.) So I had to rely on math to calculate wall height and roof pitch in order to set the finished roof ridge at 13.5 feet. (You can read some of my reflections on math here: Pythagoras is My Friend.) I hear you asking, "Why not just go lower than 13.5 feet just to be safe?" It's because we wanted to maximize headroom, especially in the loft area. So I was aiming for 13.5 feet pretty much exactly. What made this even more complicated was that I knew the trailer tires were dangling in mid air and that when they took on the load of the trailer and the house, the suspension would compress. But by how much? An engineer could figure that out. I am not an engineer. So I guessed--this becomes important later. End sidebar--back to the story.]

After a restorative 3.5 hours of sleep Romie and I woke up in the pre-dawn darkness. Jenna got up with us. We made coffee (of course) and prepared to mount up. We checked the trailer hitch and all it's connections, made sure the snack bag and sodas were in the cab of the truck. And then, mount up we did. And thus began one of my life's most epic road trips.

Jenna filmed us as we pulled away.

Now, I keep using "us" and "we", but I think it's pretty clear here that Romie has been doing all the heavy lifting for the last 10 hours. And yes, only 10 hours have elapsed since Romie arrived to pull the tiny house out of the back yard.

We were both a little shocked at how smoothly the trailer tracked behind the truck. And from the first turn, I was super grateful that I hadn't attempted hauling this rig myself! Romie was a natural. Probably because he drives this every day:

And he uses it to do stuff like this:

"We" wound our way onto Interstate 95 North, which would be our home for most of the next 12 hours. We settled in pretty quickly, sipping our coffee and catching up on each other's lives. It was all fairly relaxed as we wound our way through Northern Virginia, past Washington D.C. and on toward Baltimore.

We were making pretty good time and soon started seeing signs for the Baltimore Harbor Tunnel. These signs, of course, carry different kinds of reminders and warnings: No Hazmats (hazardous materials), and of course the clearance: all vehicles must be under 14 feet.

Romie: Jim... we forgot to grab the tape measure.

Jim: Uh... that is an excellent as well as a timely observation.

Romie: We have to pull over. We have to know how tall this thing is.

Jim: There must be something inside the tiny house that we can use to measure.

Romie: [Begins to pull over into the impossibly narrow breakdown lane.]

Somehow, without loss of life or limb, Romie negotiates getting out of the driver's side of the truck and meeting me at the door of the tiny house--which gratefully is on the passenger side--away from traffic. We unlock the door and climb in. Inside are various construction materials, some 2x4's a couple of ladders, some insulation, some scraps of plywood, and my four foot level.

THE FOUR FOOT LEVEL! We know exactly how long that is! We take it around to the front of the trailer. I take a deep breath and place it on the pavement against the front of the house. I hold my index finger at the top of the level and Romie and I simultaneously call out, "FOUR". I slide the bottom of the level up to my index finger. "EIGHT," we chant. I move my finger and repeat the process, "TWELVE!" We stare up at the remaining distance between the top of the level and the ridge of the roof.

Romie: Looks like a foot and a half to me!

Jim: ...I mean, I was pretty sure...

We piled back into the truck and somehow Romie managed to pull the rig back into the flow of traffic heading toward the tunnel. I confess, however, that despite our measurement my cheeks were clenched as we hurdled into the bore at about 50 mph. Romie was cool as a cucumber as he managed the whole rig in the right-hand lane with the house about a foot away from the edge of the tunnel. What a pro.

Up Interstate 95 we went. We fell into a sort of rhythm, stopping for gas roughly every 180 miles because the poor U-Haul may have been leaking gas and was getting about 3 miles per gallon. So, this was a familiar sight:

We put all that wooden strapping on in hopes of keeping as much of the Tyvek on as possible.

We talked about the route and the various bridges ahead. And I would helpfully google things like, "Can a semi drive on the George Washington Bridge?" The answer turns out to be yes--as long as you are on the upper deck. This kind of information was helpful because we now knew that the tiny house did indeed fit inside the space occupied by a semi.

You can see some of the Tyvek coming off, but it hung on better than I thought!

Having traversed the upper deck of the George Washington Bridge, we found ourselves on the Cross Bronx Expressway. That's the section of 95 that takes you... across the Bronx. One of the features of the Cross Bronx is a set of beautiful stone arched bridges that look like this:

We were feeling great, surprisingly comfortable with what we were doing. We were also, of course, compulsively scanning for bridge clearance signs. All of these arched bridges have plenty of clearance: 14 ft., even 15 ft! So comforting to know there's plenty of clearance. Then, all of a sudden:

Romie: Hey Jim, I just saw a sign that said twelve and a half feet. (Note the lack of exclamation point. This is true to life because that's not how Romie is.)

Jim: What?!? I didn't see that!

But I did see the bridge approaching. There was noting we could do. There's no breakdown lane to speak of, and there isn't even enough room to stop in time anyway! We both held our breath. I think, for some reason I even I lifted my feet off the floor and ducked my head a bit.

Somehow we juuuuussst squeeeeeked through! As we came out the other side, we were both silent for a minute or two. Then finally Romie broke the silence:

Romie: Jim... I almost threw up.

After a few more bridges we finally realized that the sign Romie had seen was marking the clearance at the lowest point of the arch. We had gone through at a point closer to the top of the arch where the clearance was higher.

Off we went through the rest of New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and finally (after several more stops for gas), up Interstate 91 into Vermont! We were hoping to get to our destination before dark. When we rolled into town it was dusk. I'd been texting Eric--the guy whose driveway was going to be the temporary home for our tiny house--to update him on our ETA. When we arrived, he was ready for us.

Romie surveyed the situation and figured out how to position the rig so he could back the house into the driveway. I wish I had footage of this because he actually backed the rig in a zig-zag shape perfectly on the first try. It was amazing.

We unhitched the trailer in Eric's driveway at 5 pm, about 12.5 hours after we left Virginia. It was a little worse for the wear in terms of the Tyvek:

But there sat the tiny house in Eric's driveway. What a day!

Next up, all we have to do is to move our selves and our stuff, like normal people. What else could possibly go wrong?

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