A Man and His Truck

| 10/12/2010 1:43:21 PM

OK, OK, let’s get this over with, Cam owns a truck. I know what I’m going to hear, “Cam, the off-grid guy with the solar-powered electric bike owns a truck? What a hypocrite!” There — we got that out of the way. Hope we all feel better.

Yes, I own a truck. I’m an environmentalist, but I live in the woods, have a market garden and heat with wood, and a truck comes in handy. I use it to haul manure to the garden and firewood back in from the bush. I probably use it once a week, sometimes less, but it is a truck. Every one has an impact on the planet, and my truck is my “Achilles Heel.” I haven’t been on a plane in 20 years, but I do own a truck.

I bought a truck when we moved to our off-grid home 12 years ago. It was a Ford Ranger, their smallest truck, so as close to a “green” truck as you can get I guess. It was a 1993 model, and it was 5 years old when I bought it. It was an amazing truck and unbelievably helpful around the place, but in the last few years it was starting to show its age. So after 17 years of service I don’t think it owed me anything. When I began having to use the service of the local mechanic a little too often, I decided it was time to replace it. The truck still worked, but it was at the point where I was lucky if it started on two out of three attempts, and when you’re in the bush in a snowstorm, that can be a little disconcerting.

I had looked around for a replacement truck for a few years and was always appalled by how expensive vehicles are. I saw one that I liked in an Autotrader magazine. It was still for sale three months later, which would have scared off most people, but it sounded like a challenge to me. It was a 2000 model, so I was moving up seven model years, and it was high mileage, 250,000 kms (155,000 miles) but it was only $4,000! The catch was that it was being sold as is. In Ontario I would have to get it certified, and if there were major problems with it, I’d be on the hook. The high mileage was not a concern because I didn’t intend to drive it very often or very far, and the body was in good shape.



I went to take a look at it and I really liked it. It’s a four-wheel drive. It has always been my dream to own a four-wheel drive vehicle. I know what you’re saying … “Yeah, you and all the yuppies in the suburbs.” Point taken. But unlike urban dwellers who only need four-wheel drive to get them over the pile of snow the plow leaves at the end of their driveways (which they could just shovel), I get stuck — a lot. My wonderful neighbor Alyce gives me a trailer full of horse manure on a regular basis, year round. And I spread it all over the property, year round. I hate to think of the amount of time I have spent trying to get my rear-wheel-drive Ranger unstuck. It had snow tires, I loaded it up with fresh lengths of poplar for weight, and I tried to follow ruts from previous runs in the bush, but if I’d put all those hours of getting that truck unstuck into earning an income, I’d be a rich man today.

Jared Barnhart
10/14/2010 8:57:23 AM

I also feel like a bit of a hypocrit driving my truck. But, like you said it's a matter of practicality. I have a '92 Dodge Dakota 4wd. I got it for a great price. It isn't much to look at but it gets the job done. Most everyone in North Dakota who has a pickup has a four wheel drive. We can have some brutal snow storms, and if it isn't a school day - the plows don't run. And in the country, you may not see a plow for days. I too, love my truck.

M Fowler
10/13/2010 12:22:44 PM

I've got a '96, 5-speed, plain jane ranger. I love it! It has 166k miles with no issues. It has been the best vehicle that I've ever owned. I typically get in the high 20's mpg. Each time I have considered a replacement vehicle, I still pick this truck. So, why would I want to pay for something that I already have? 4-wheel drive? Maybe one day.

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