One of the biggest perks to living in a tiny house on wheels is that it can be moved. This perk allows my partner, Tammy, and I to be flexible in our plans and adapt to changes in circumstance and choice. It’s heartbreaking when we hear stories from friends that lament feeling “trapped”, having to turn down opportunities because their traditional home mortgage limits their choices. Recently, due to an illness in the family and the loss of my job, we decided to move closer to our relatives in Northern, California. We moved from Portland, Oregon to Yreka, California and then 8 months later moved again to Red Bluff, California. In two months we plan to move yet again to Chico, California. Tammy’s article entitled “The Big Move” on RowdyKittens describes the “why” behind our moving. In this article I will briefly describe the preparation, journey and arrival aspects of our tiny house moving adventures.
You may have guessed that tiny house moving is as simple as closing the door and hitching up the house, but unfortunately, even moving tiny is still “moving” in many of the traditional connotations of the word. Moving stuff is typically anxiety provoking and expensive (in both time and money). To minimize costs and angst we did our best to prepare for our tiny house journey southward. As with any move, we still had to pack and box our belongings because we didn’t want things falling and breaking while the house was flying down the road at 55 miles per hour. Additionally, prior to the move, we typically have to move the tiny house from its scenic parking location to a truck accessible location, such as from a backyard to a driveway.
To accomplish this task we have a “power mover” electric dolly. This dolly tool is approximately the size of a lawnmower, attaches to the tongue of the tiny house trailer, and because of its small size, can move the tiny house around just about any obstacle. This dolly is wonderful for placing the house in a shady scenic location and getting it back out again for moving.
Moving the house from the backyard is relatively easy compared to moving the tiny house down the roadway. One of the often overlooked aspects of preparing for a tiny house move is height restrictions on roadways. Since the department of transportation typically restricts loads to within 8’6” wide and 13’5” tall many tiny houses are built to those limits for maximizing interior space. Unfortunately, not all bridges, over passes, and telephone cables are beyond these limits. Further, some gas stations have roofs that are also below these limits and can’t be accessed with the trailer attached. Because of this, it is very important to scout out your route for potential conflict locations and plan out good spots for re-fueling. There are long-haul trucker resources for best route information and most states allow wider and taller loads with a permit. The nice thing about obtaining a permit is that you get certified expertise regarding the routes that will work for your “haul”.
Hitching up a tiny house to a truck is similar to any other utility trailer or camper. Follow the guidelines set by your trailer manufacture and you are good to go. Briefly, we raise the trailer tongue with the mounted jack, back the truck up, and lower the tongue receiver onto the ball hitch mounted to the truck. We then plug in the trailer’s electric cord into the truck’s bumper outlet for powering the trailer’s brakes and lights. Finally, we attach the safety chains/break-away cables and double check that the trailer lights and brakes are operating before hitting the road. For our house, we purchased the ball hitch size that fit our trailer and decided on an adjustable modular hitch system that can be swapped or moved up and down. Because we don’t own a truck, we wanted our trailer hitch to be as adaptable as possible to whatever we have available to tow.
Driving down the road the first time was nerve-wracking. Although we had prepped and double checked our route, it’s nearly impossible to measure every wire that appears to hang low across the street. Every wire looked “too low” and every passing commercial truck seemed too close to our house. However, after a few hours on the road we relaxed into the ride. Our second move, from Yreka, CA to Red Bluff, CA was much easier both in length and because of our experience from our prior move.
On our second move we were also relaxed enough to enjoy all of the smiles, honks, waves and thumbs up we received rolling down the highway. It never ceases to amaze me when I see someone’s first impression of the little house. It’s a look of sheer wonderment and smiling. We literally had so much encouragement on the road and at rest areas that our friend Dee suggested we should have a little wooden shop sign with our blog address, RowdyKittens.com, on the house for advertising.
Even though our last move was easier than our first move, nothing beats the feeling of relief when arriving at our destination safely. It’s like being a kid on the first day of summer after a difficult school year. We can literally feel the stress melt away and excitement build in us for our new location.
After placing the house were we want it, we take our time setting up camp. First we connect water, electricity, and begin leveling the tiny house. Secondly, we hang out with our new neighbors. We always have our immediate needs of food and drinks planned out so that we don’t need to worry about unpacking boxes on the day of arrival. Instead, we can relish in learning the stories of our new neighbors and start the difficult process of making more friends and never forgetting those that we left behind.