Monday, July 28, 2014
PLACERVILLE, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

Rock doc: The ’87 truck

By
November 17, 2010 |

I came to a sharp fork in the deeply rutted road of my life this fall. I had to decide if I would continue to limp around on Saturdays in my beloved but inefficient ’87 pickup, or sell it off to some poor soul in more need of it than I.

My eight-cylinder American-made truck has a relatively small engine in it, the most petite offered in its day. Still, you can feel the engine torque the body of the truck when you turn it on. Perhaps that’s why is gets only about a dozen miles to the gallon, and that’s at 50 mph with a strong tail wind. If I’m towing anything, or have a heavy load in the truck’s bed, the miles per gallon figure crashes into the single digits. In short, my fine truck is not what you’d call fuel efficient.

But a rural geologist needs a truck. It’s part of the image, isn’t it?

Still, lately I’ve been strongly tempted to sell the thing off. The truck costs money in gas and oil. It requires funds to insure. New studded snow tires add to the fun. The truck is old enough it breaks down, including in the middle of the road, leading to towing bills and major charges from my mechanic. (I suspect my pickup pays his mortgage, but perhaps it only seems that way to me.)

There’s always the dream of a new, more fuel efficient truck. There are models that actually shut down some of their cylinders on the highway when they are not needed, helping to boost mpg figures. Or I could switch to a smaller truck entirely, making efficiency gains hand over fist. And, of course, the new truck could be a glaring yellow with red flames painted down the sides. What could be better?

But perhaps we Americans have learned something in this recession. Maybe rather than allowing myself to be seduced by an expensive new truck I’d seldom use, I’m better off sticking with what I’ve got. My ride isn’t swank. The cab is smelly, a mix of the aroma of wet-dog, decaying cushions, and deep-seated mold. The engine runs a touch rough sometimes. I burn just a bit of oil. And I don’t get great gas mileage. But I don’t put many miles on the truck. And I can operate and fix my truck for far less than the price of the annual interest of a top-of-the-line new truck, even one without flames painted on the sides.

It may be corny to say it. But most of us citizens of this fine republic have had to reexamine at least some of our financial priorities in recent years. I know it’s felt that way to me.

I could, in truth, live without a truck at all. But it’s convenient to have one for taking loads of yard waste to the dump, for lending to young and strong folks moving from one home to another, for towing utility trailers, and for taking a load of household goods (where does all the stuff come from?) to the annual church rummage sale.

So I’m going to keep my old truck. It’s not always convenient to use, because it does break down. On the other hand, I can think of it as an adventure every time I drive, something no new truck offers an owner. Maybe that’s the kind of out-of-the-box thinking we need to hang onto during this long crawl upward out of the deep recession into which we fell.

Here’s my last thought, one meant to remind us of the season and to help us through our financial challenges.

Modern trucks are a marvel of engineering and even basic science. And it’s a fundamental truth that, more broadly speaking, there is still a powerhouse of science and engineering research in this large and diverse country. Everything from modern medicine to electronics to agricultural engineering to research in genetics is rapidly gaining ground. Perhaps with our renewed personal values about what’s really important, and our bedrock national advantages in sciences and engineering, the U.S. will see progress in the coming years in many important respects.

May it be so.

Dr. E. Kirsten Peters, a native of the rural Northwest, was trained as a geologist at Princeton and Harvard. Follow her on the web at rockdoc.wsu.edu and on Twitter @RockDocWSU. This column is a service of the College of Agricultural, Natural and Resources Sciences at Washington State University.

Comments

comments

E. Kirsten Peters

.

News

Fatal accident in Camino

By Cole Mayer | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
County’s chief lawyer: No Brown Act violation

By Chris Daley | From Page: A1

 
General Plan workshop today

By Chris Daley | From Page: A1

Two growth control initiatives get green light

By Dawn Hodson | From Page: A1

 
Sand Fire burns more than 4,000 acres

By Dawn Hodson | From Page: A1, 2 Comments | Gallery

Agricultural Crop and Livestock Report released

By Ross Branch | From Page: A3

 
35 people displaced in Tahoe hotel fire

By Tahoe Tribune | From Page: A3 | Gallery

.

Opinion

The balancing act: Toxic waste spreads

By Larry Weitzman | From Page: A4, 2 Comments

 
Bee-ing silly

By Mountain Democrat | From Page: A4, 1 Comment

 
.

Letters

Want more water?

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A5, 1 Comment

 
Refugee crisis

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A5, 1 Comment

Letter to Speaker of the House

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A5, 2 Comments

 
GDPUD misinformation

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A5

At the crossroads

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A5, 1 Comment

 
.

Sports

Camp experience is ‘priceless’

By Mike Bush | From Page: A6 | Gallery

 
Speedway races cancelled

By Democrat Staff | From Page: A6

El Dorado doubles up on Pro Players

By Mike Bush | From Page: A6 | Gallery

 
Under the Scoreboard: July 26, 2014

By Democrat Staff | From Page: A6

Schedule: July 28 – Aug. 2, 2014

By Democrat Staff | From Page: A6

 
Roundup: July 26, 2014

By Democrat Staff | From Page: A6

Local spiker shines

By Democrat Staff | From Page: A7

 
Sports Scene: July 26, 2014

By Democrat Staff | From Page: A7

.

Prospecting

A beautiful day at Wakamatsu Tea and Silk Colony Farm

By Cathy Barsotti | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Bipolar Insights: From point A to point B

By Marcia Rose | From Page: B2

Cool time at Cowboys and Cornbread

By Democrat Staff | From Page: B2 | Gallery

 
Foothill gourmet: Things get corny

By Donna Brown | From Page: B2

 
As we were: Recreation district grows

By Ken Deibert | From Page: B4

Cantare names new director

By Cantare Chorale | From Page: B10

 
After 5 Club to meet

By Senior Day | From Page: B10

.

Essentials

Divorces

By Charlotte Sanchez-Kosa | From Page: A2Comments are off for this post

 
DUI Log: June 25-July 9

By Cole Mayer | From Page: A2

Crime Log: July 14-16

By Cole Mayer | From Page: A2

 
.

Obituaries

.

Real Estate

.

Comics

Shoe

By Contributor | From Page: A8

 
Sudoku

By Contributor | From Page: A8

Rubes

By Contributor | From Page: A8

 
New York Times Crossword

By Contributor | From Page: A8

TV Listings

By Contributor | From Page: A8

 
Speed Bump

By Contributor | From Page: A8

American Profile Crossword

By Contributor | From Page: A8

 
Tundra

By Contributor | From Page: A8

Horoscope, Tuesday, July 29, 2014

By Contributor | From Page: A8

 
Horoscope, Monday, July 28, 2014

By Contributor | From Page: A8