Big Dumb Truck

The first car I ever bought brand new was a 2013 Tacoma. It was the best truck, the perfect size, and did all the stuff I needed it to do. Over the years I made small upgrades and added a topper to the bed. It was grey and inconsequential; it was one of a million Tacomas you might find in Denver at any point in time.

Before then, I was driving a series of used cars and trucks that spent more time in the shop than they did on the road. As far as I knew, this is what it was to own a car. My family was friends with a mechanic who owned a repair shop and they brought their cars exclusively to him. I remember our cars being in the shop for days if it was getting an oil change, weeks if it was anything more. They were of the mind that buying a new car is a dumb idea, and never get the extended warranty – everything a dealership gives you is a rip off.

Before the Tacoma I was driving a 2001 Ford Ranger with about 95K miles on it when I bought it. For the next year and a half I would spend an average $800 a month on repairs to keep this truck running. Every time I would drop it off at the family mechanic and spend the next week or two bumming rides and riding bikes. Every day I would call in “is it ready yet?”

“Not yet, waiting for some parts.”

There was a Napa six blocks away. Whatever parts he couldn’t find for a Ford was beyond me. But eventually it’d be ready, “good as new” he’d say and then hand me the invoice he told me was a “screaming deal.” In hindsight, he was just as much – if not more – than anyone else.

It all went tits up when I left work one day in the Ranger and it persistently died as I tried to leave the parking lot. I popped it into neutral and rolled it down the hill (still in the parking lot) to the Mineke near where I worked. A day later this shop called me up to say I should sue whoever last worked on my car.

“Found loose wrench under the hood,” the mechanic told me, the equivalent of a surgeon leaving forceps in your gut after sewing you up. “And the spark plugs on this thing are from the factory. Should have had at least four or five sets go through it by now.”

For the guy who gave me screaming deals on making my car good as new, changing spark plugs seemed like a gimmie.

The wife insisted I get something new. New new. With a warranty. The Tacoma was the only thing I wanted.

“You’ll have to let me take a look at it sometime,” said our family “friend” mechanic. No chance in hell. I never spoke to him again.

The Tacoma had zero issues over the next 11 years. None. Regular maintenance was covered for five years. All the usual stuff – tires, brakes, fluids – got taken care of in a matter of hours (not weeks). At this point, it was just the latest in the long line of things I am discovering my parents were wrong about.

We traded up our camper trailer. The 1,300 pound A-liner was replaced with a 4,200 pound Tracer. The whole process was a question of towing capacity. The Tacoma was rated to 6,500 pounds (with the included tow package), but the trailer still felt outrageously heavy and I felt every shift in the wind while driving it.

It was time to change things up.

I got the Big Dumb Truck.

We knew what we needed to tow, and we knew what we wanted to spend. We found a used listing on line, and a few hours later we traded in the Tacoma for an F-150 XLT with full-ass cab. Cherry red, and big.

I can only imagine the kind of person who previously drove this thing and what would drive him to put in all of the aftermarket work. 20-inch wheels, massive tires, a three-inch lift, and some kind of outsized exhaust system. It is a southern truck parked in the dead center of a liberal city. It’s a big, dumb truck.

“Must you drive something so big?” a random lady asks me as she shuffles by in the parking lot. I didn’t know this was the kind of question still tossed out to total strangers. Must I? Yes, I must.

On the inaugural trip with the camper, everything was a breeze. Mindless. The road north out of Asheville gets into some good-sized slopes very quickly and the oaf of a truck made it all simple, safe. And to the generational chagrin, yes – I extended the warranty on this thing.

For the same reason I buy two-year protection plans on every keyboard I buy – because at one year and 11 months of hard typing, something goes to hell.

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