Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Keep on Trucking

There is just something I love about driving a truck.

Please put the above statement in context. I drive a 2008 Toyota Matrix. A gunmetal gray hatchback that gets an average of 34 mpg. I love my car. I love everything about my car. It is the perfect vehicle for my life – living, working, and playing in a midsized metro area.

But when I recently drove my father's 2005 Ford F-150 Lariat quad-cab pickup truck, every logical reason for owning a sub-compact, fuel-efficient Toyota went out the window. The car fulfills every logical need I have for vehicular transportation, but the truck meets a more inherent, philosophical need. If you were to compare the two vehicles:

Toyota Matrix

Great handling
Easy to get in and out
Fold down seats create additional cargo room
Sits low to the ground – little wind resistance

Ford F-150

It's friggin' huge
Takes corners like a boat
You need a rope to pull yourself into it
Its a truck. It has a bed. What other cargo room do you need?
Fuel? What is fuel? This thing goes through it like water
You'd be closer to the ground riding a giraffe

Every Girl's Crazy 'bout a Pickup Man

It may be a deep-seated masculine impulse, or it may be something I learned growing up in a farming community in Southeast Iowa. Trucks are the gold standard in Lee County and trying to find a Toyota, Honda, Suzuki, or Hyundai dealership within one hundred miles of my old country home is near impossible.

In high school, I would drive my little auction bought 1993 Mazda truck to school, and squeeze into a spot between any variety of giant 1980's Chevy or Ford truck. Mud tire clad, lift kit jacked, PA system blaring, aftermarket Cherry Bomb straight pipe exhaust ripping through the sonic atmosphere, these behemoths of the Central Lee High School parking lot would roll through the rows like prowling lions, daring a smaller car to cross their path. The 454 big-block engines would roar out a warning to the lesser vehicles, lest they be crushed under wheel like the tin cans they were.

My truck? It was a wounded meerkat. Stay out of the way, and I'd be fine. Otherwise my little red rice burner* would be a little red rice cake.

A Truck of a Different Color

The truck got me through high school. In college, my Mazda went kaput and I inherited a 1985 GMC Grand Sierra from my grandfather – a loaner that served me well for the rest of my higher education. At Monmouth College, where the student body is largely comprised of suburban Chicago minds, I encountered a very different vehicular phenomenon.

As the country mouse among city mice, my truck signified a tough agrarian existence. My newly-acquired “farm boy” image was further heightened when I cut the shoulder-length hair I'd sported throughout high school. My summer job working for my grandfather's farm implement sealed the deal, as I proudly wore my WALLJASPER CONSTRUCTION hat throughout the school year. I'd somehow gone from the hippie/punk kid driving a little foreign clunker in high school to the down-home country boy sporting the hulking pickup in college. I cannot really qualify this change in perception as good or bad, but it was certainly an interesting realignment of reality. Over the next few years I wore my agrarian heritage on my sleeve as something that made me stand out at Monmouth.

That old GMC would go on to be featured as a part of the ZBT homecoming float, haul pianos, drums, and more than its fair share of students, and cart all of my personal possessions to my new home in Davenport, Iowa.

But as all things are cyclical, my life would lead me back to a foreign vehicle. The GMC didn't do well for my wallet as I zipped around the Quad Cities on sales calls. So I sent it back to the farm, where it could be free to roam as God intended.

And I bought a Toyota. The more responsible choice.

*I apologize for the potential political incorrectness of the term rice burner as a pejorative synonym for an Asian made vehicle. This term is common vernacular in Southeast Iowa, where an American owned car company was held in much higher regard than any foreign made vehicle.


  1. Personally I'm partial to the mini van, although I did always want a monster truck, like GRAVEDIGGER or something, but that's only because I crave attention and like to smash things.

  2. Hmm. In the works are diesel engines for 1/2 ton pickups. Would make the fuel efficientcy something of a moot point. I think as a matter of green energy more people should look at diesel motors as they put out less pollutants then gas engines.

  3. Anonymous - Diesel is definitely a great option when attempting to lessen your carbon footprint, especially with the advent of Biodiesel.

    In regards to the cost savings, however, it leaves a little to be desired. Diesel fuel is as much as $.50 more expensive than gasoline in some parts of the U.S.

    It is certainly a good alternative, but diesel still has some hurdles to overcome.

    Thanks for your input.

  4. Chris - Why don't you jack up your minivan and paint flames on the sides? You could be the SoccerMominator!

    I'd stay out of the supermarkets with that one though. Resist the urge to demolish a cart corral. Or a bag boy.