Saturday, August 15, 2015

The Saga of the Orange Truck

Written 2007, revised 2015

My Darling Husband takes great pride in being a logical, reasonable, and efficient person. He's also, well, cheap. He says "practical and frugal", but really, he likes doing things on the cheap. Which is why, when my grandmother died last year and I inherited some furniture, he didn't want to ship it. Initial estimates were $1800 to ship the dining room table (seats 12 with all the leaves in) and chairs, and a child's bedroom set (two twin beds, desk, chair, dresser, bedside table, dressing table, and carpet) plus random other stuff from Grandma.  Personally, I thought $1800 was a good deal, considering they'd bring the "pod" to us, we'd pack it, they'd deliver to the door at the other end.  But no, it was too much money. Fortunately (?!) Auntie P in Massachusetts had a storage pod in her backyard (don't ask), so we hired a truck, moved the furniture, and there it has sat for nearly a year.  Now with us conveniently close this summer, DH figured we can just hop down to Massachusetts to get the stuff, and he'll haul it back when he comes home.

Unfortunately, our big blue truck holds only three people, so we can't use it as the family vehicle in Vermont. My beloved Honda Pilot doesn't really have the power to haul a trailer full of furniture back to Colorado. DH's solution?  Buy another truck! Okay, we've been talking about buying a replacement truck, one that can be a backup vehicle if the Pilot is in the shop, and one that doesn't require so much maintenance. So DH went out and bought an EVEN OLDER truck (1978) that has been sitting unused in his friend's yard for about three years.  

You see, DH figures he is SAVING money this way. The idea is, we buy this truck, fix it up some, he drives it across country and uses it as transportation in VT, then we buy a trailer and pick up the furniture. When we get back to Denver, he sells this truck and the trailer for the initial price, and that way we don't have to pay the $1800 to ship the furniture. MUCH more reasonable, practical, and efficient than taking our Honda Pilot and shipping the stinking furniture, which was my silly plan.

Before I go further, please take a moment to picture the "new" truck. It's a 1978 Ford. It is BIG and orange and has a brown plastic-wood interior. There are rust holes through the bed in at least one spot, and one side is more Bondo than metal. True, it has an extended cab, so it does have room for us all.  Sort of. The jump seats behind the driver are perpendicular to the road, and are little more than low boards with brown naugahyde on them. Even better, for safety reasons the kids have to be in the front seat (sitting sideways makes for dangerous head bouncing, plus their car seats can't be buckled into the back). But their car seats are kind of permanently installed (again, for safety). Since DH does the driving, this means I get the back seats. Of course, to get there I have to crawl over the front seat. 

I am NOT the smallest or most graceful of people. Imagine a slim hippo wallowing over a bench seat, trying not to kick the kids in the head, or tangle feet in the seat belt or step on the horn (It happened. I hit my head on the roof. More than once). Plus - 4/40 AC (that's 4 windows, at 40 miles an hour). From my huddled perch I recently discovered that the driver's end of the seat is held up by a stack of washers held roughly in place by a bolt. You know -- flat, round, hole in the center. I counted 15, but we were bouncing so I'm not sure how accurate that was . . . Oh, and the radio is AM only.  No tape deck, not even FM.

Can you see where this is going?

DH put in about 20 hours of his own time and paid someone else a couple hundred dollars to fix up the Orange Truck (fuses, gauges, patches over the rust holes). I got him a wonderful new iPod-ready stereo and loaded his iPod with audio books, and he declared himself ready to go. We cheerfully waved him off.

Four hours later I got the first call from the beside the highway just the other side of the Nebraska border. Possible oil leak, may have seized the engine.

Yeah, okay.  I gave him the Auto Club info (honey, the card is in your wallet -- remember?) and told him to let me know whether I should strap the kids into the faithful (and practically new) Honda Pilot Car and come get him.

In the second call he told me a mechanic took a look, added 6 quarts of oil, now it seems to be running fine.  

Third call - truck's getting 7 miles a gallon, he's filling up the oil almost as much as the gas tank, but it's running fine. Really. And oh, the speakers have gone out, so he has to use the headphones to listen to the iPod.  I resist pointing out that the Pilot has a good sound system.

Next call - May actually be as much as 9 miles a gallon! I resist pointing out the Pilot gets 22.

Next call - truck is "running a little hot" so he has to drive with the heat on.  Through the Midwest. In summer. I resist pointing out that the Pilot's A/C works really, really well.

Next call  - gas continues to be more than $3.00.  He figures gas and oil will cost him more than $800 heading east, probably more on the way back because he's be hauling a load. I resist pointing out that he's spending an awful lot of money to save $1800.

Then I call my mother and say "I told you so I told you so I told you so" because it's never a good idea to say that directly to my spouse.

After three days DH did get to Vermont safely. Now, however, he's not sure the orange truck can get him back to Denver, especially pulling a load. So, he's found ANOTHER "new" truck. It's the youngest truck he's ever owned (a 2001 - only six years), and only has 171,000 miles on it. And at $7500 it's "cheap". This doesn't, of course, account for the fact that the current owner estimates that he'll need a new engine in two years. DH keeps saying "it's only $7,500!"  I have expressed my reservations, but  the fact that we can buckle the kids into seats in the back and I get a door has pretty much won me over. We're going to try to sell the orange truck for $2000 -- a loss of only $250 in the end.  

Next, we acquire a trailer . . .  Oh, joy.

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