Whoa. I bought a truck. Typically, I’d name a post like this as part of my cliffhanger collection—Cliffhanger pt. 5 or something like that. A time to catch readers up with what’s going on in my life, but I hope to do something more with this. More than a catch-up. Maybe cover some new ground. You can make an assessment at the end.
Last week, I wrote that buying a pickup truck seemed imminent. We had our eye on a
used preowned GMC Canyon. We caught on to this subtlety early in the process. “We’d like to look at some used pickups.”
“Oh, the preowned trucks are right over here.”
We test drove the Canyon on Sunday. It’s a fine-looking truck. It handled like a meaty car. The engine purred. I felt like a badass behind the wheel. We put the truck on hold. Do you know that CarMax will let you drive away in a vehicle without buying it? When we put the Canyon on hold, the sales-woman asked if we planned to take it home with us. “You have three days to decide if you want to keep it.” We told her to keep the truck, we’d decide and get in touch with her in a day or two.
Last week was Susan’s birthday. It was also our anniversary. Susan got a bit annoyed that her anniversary and birthday week got so heavily co-opted by buying a truck. On Sunday night, Susan’s parents came over for cake. Of course, we spent the whole time talking about the truck.
The next day, Susan’s father sent an email. “I looked in Consumer Report, that Canyon is a piece of crap! He didn’t really write that. He was far more polite and diplomatic, but the underlying message was that Canyon’s a piece of crap. He suggested that I take a look at the magazine. “You probably have a copy of it right there in the library where you work.”
Novel idea: I should use the resources in my library the way they’re intended to be used. Here’s what I found: all American pickups are crap. But boy they look good. Here’s a good truck: the Nissan Frontier. We test drove one of those too. It was fine. It lacked the sashay of a big-ass American truck. I envisioned parking it between a Ford F150 and a Chevy Silverado. A toddler truck sandwiched between it’s parents.
On Monday night, Eli and I spent hours researching Frontiers. So many options: four cylinders versus six. 2.6 liters versus 4.0. Four-wheel drive versus two. 2016 versus 2017. Two door, four door, crew cab, king cab. Oddly, a crew cab is bigger than a king cab. We put together our dream truck. Which is simply a 2016 Nissan Frontier SV Crew Cab. At CarMax, the closest one was in Greenville, South Carolina—eight hours away. Carvana, which I learned is the online approximation of CarMax, had none… nationwide.
I ran a nationwide search on Cars.com and one popped up in West Virginia. Just three hours and two states away. It was low mileage, much better than the one in Greenville, and five thousand dollars cheaper. I called the next day.
On Friday morning, Susan, Eli and I took off in our 2008 Mazda 5 for West Virginia. We’re a family that misses our launch schedule every time we leave the house. “Let’s leave at eight o’clock.” We leave at eight thirty. “Let’s leave before six.” We leave at seven. On Friday we planned to leave at seven, and we were in the car and moving at seven. Things were going well.
An hour away from home, a car pulled out of a gas station, into the road right in front of me, and executed a three-point turn. I hit the brakes hard. Not skidding hard, but ooh, I don’t want to T-bone that car hard. And my left-front rotor split in half.
As far as breakdowns go, this wasn’t the worst. We limped into the gas station, sat at a picnic table, and drank coffee and ate junk food while waiting for the AAA tow truck. This is where things get bad—the tow truck arrived two and a half hours later. The driver looked at out trashed rotor and said “Huh, I’ve never seen that happen before.” We picked the closest service station based on the two AAA recommended, and the driver towed us there. The guy who answered the door was easily103 years old. He refused to fix our car.
The next shop was a professional, national repair chain. But with the extra towing, we exceeded the AAA maximum and had to pay twenty-four dollars. The manager of the new shop looked at our rotor and said “Huh, I’ve never seen that happen before.” The tow truck driver said “Hey, I said the same thing.”
While I talked to the manager, Eli priced an Uber to a car rental company at a small regional airport. Twenty-six dollars. But a few minutes later when he went to book the Uber, the price jumped to sixty-five dollars. A plane had landed, and the three Ubers in Hagerstown, Maryland suddenly had plenty of work.
The auto shop loaned us a car to go to the airport to pick up the rental car. After delivering the loaner car back to the shop, we were starving. In a rush, we chose McDonalds. I hate eating at McDonalds. I gave up eating beef and chicken in February, so now I’m stuck with a fillet-o-fish sandwich. It has to be the least appetizing thing on McDonalds menu. As we merged onto the highway, I said “Eli, can you pass me my fries?”
“Oh, are there supposed to be fries in here?”
Fifteen minutes later, my phone chimed. The car was fixed and ready for pickup. Since the plan was to trade in the Mazda, it made sense to go back and get the car. Back to the shop, back out to the airport to drop off the rental (no refund), and back on the road to West Virginia. We pulled into the car lot at four o’clock. We made it home just after nine. Everyone was in a foul mood.
The truck is awesome. Eli and I took it to go mountain biking on Saturday. We vroomed up the mountains the Mazda barely cleared. With our front wheels hanging over the tailgate like two kids trying to fish change out of a fountain, we finally looked the part of the rural Pennsylvania mountain bikers we already are. We rode a new trail we just found online, now, possibly my favorite. We blasted classic rock the whole way home.
On Saturday afternoon, one of my blog readers wrote a comment on last week’s post: The truck will be handy when you have to skedaddle on November 4th when the pitch fork folks come after you for voting incorrectly!
And I responded: And they’ll know I did too, because I bought a Nissan truck like a commie instead of a Ford or a GMC or a Chevy like a patriot.
I don’t care. I love my new truck.