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In the middle decades of the nineteenth century in America, pursuing the dream of a new life in the Californian sun depended, as ever, on choosing the right answers to a number of tough questions posed by the harsh realities of the 2000 mile trip from East to West.
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. Helping pack, load and unload the truck is good 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.
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!
Article © Simon Marshall April 2006