ONE hundred and fifty years ago homesteaders looking for a place to live in the Californian sun faced the same questions posed by a tough 2000-mile journey across America that confront today’s migrants to the sunspots of Europe, writes Simon Marshall.
The settlers could go DIY with their own wagons or hire wagons with or without the services of experienced wagon masters who knew the route and its dangers.
Dispensing with the wagon masters’ knowledge came at a high price; the cost of your life, if your luck was not much better than average. And trusting in it often had the same outcome, too.
The wagons moved out in the Spring when the American plains were quagmires of rain and disease. You had to get to the key forts en route before the Indians got to you. Then, with all this behind you, you faced the Rockies - cold, starvation and as the wagons collapsed, the rest of the journey on foot.
And today? Hills in the Pyrenees and the Massif Central regions still eat vans and trucks. The ‘wagon masters’ are often just as unscrupulous as their American predecessors were. And very often the natives aren’t too friendly, either.
Protection on the modern trail comes, as with all good lessons from history, in the form of taking the middle way. A good removal firm will allow you to retain the best of DIY in combination with their experienced removals team and vehicle.
● Help with packing, loading and unloading of the truck because most firms charge the earth for a full service and you should try to keep an eye on your goods as much as possible, anyway.
● Find out whether you can use your house contents insurance to cover your goods to avoid any risk that the remover is not, in fact, properly insured or to avoid their higher excess in the event of a claim.
● Ever, ever, ask for a full wrapping and packing service! If the removal company insists on this, it’s often because they are planning to re-load your goods several times en route (see next section), but it will always, always either add a large amount to your quote or you will find it to be an empty promise when they actually arrive at your house.
● Pack and wrap small fragile items, and bigger ones only as you see how they fit into spaces on the lorry.
TRY TO AVOID…
● Storage. This increases the handling of your goods by a factor of up to three (twice on and off the local collection and delivery vehicle; once on and off the international vehicle) and it increases the consequent risk of damage by a factor that you won’t even want to think about.
The flexibility you really need usually comes with hiring self-employed owner-operator removers, the true modern day wagon masters.
These carriers are a much better bet than using big firms with salaried crews, as they generally don’t have sales offices or other forms of corporate anonymity to hide behind if things go wrong.
In fact, they rely almost exclusively on recommendations from satisfied customers in a highly competitive marketplace – which, back in the nineteenth century, as we all know, is what really made America great.
Simon Marshall drives thousands of miles a year with film lighting and camera equipment for film companies, outside of these times he is available to transport the property of overseas buyers throughout France and Europe.
Simon is also offering a special 10 per cent off deal on his removal services for readers of This French Life, to find out more click on the image to the right and find out how to claim your discount.
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