Category Archives: trucks

How did you guess?

They say you can tell a lot about a person by the car they drive. And considering how many people, upon seeing my truck, immediately surmise that I own a boat, I’d have to say that’s true. Only the other day it happened again. A fellow at Shoprite glanced over as he loaded groceries into his sedan, his eyes lingering for a moment on my old red Dodge, (I’ll note the bed was devoid of a prop, shaft or rudder at the time,) and he chuckled. “Sailor?”

“Trawler,” I replied, though in fairness the truck dates back to my catboat days, and many traces of my true ragboat tendencies still remain. But as I shuffled tools to make space for my boat bags of groceries, I stepped back and regarded the truck to consider what it was that gave me away.

First off, the truck itself. A Dodge Dakota that I’d driven off the dealer’s lot two decades ago.  Worn, scuffed and comfortable as a pair of old work boots, but still mechanically sound due to years of diligent maintenance and a spouse who can weld and machine parts no longer available. A great little truck, big enough to be functional but small enough to be practical. Once a strong seller, the number of aging Dakotas still on the road has steadily dwindled as their upkeep, not to mention the ‘Cash for Clunkers’ program, took their toll and sent many of these sturdy little trucks off to the automotive glue factory. To us, that would have been like dumping the trusted and reliable old family dog at the pound to trade it in on a cute new puppy. Thanks, but no thanks.

Replacing driveshaft bearings – boat maintenance is perfect practice for days like this.

So the old Dodge rumbles along, a testament to that sailing ‘fix it’ mentality. But there’s another clue, and this one is pretty straightforward. The bumper stickers. They’re rather self-explanatory, and even the non-boating ones make it fairly clear the driver has a warped sense of humor, which I believe is mandatory for anyone hell-bent on restoring any aging boat.

And for those who have spent too much time working on a boat, a quick look inside confirms any lingering suspicions: this is indeed a boater’s truck.

This is pretty much standard for what you’ll see in the cab. Tools and batteries. Parts catalogs. Mixing containers, work gloves, etc. Boat cushion on the driver’s seat, (I’m only 5’2″ and I like to look over the steering wheel, not through it.)  And let’s not overlook the ‘trim’ on The Wand of Power…

Years back, I found myself waiting at a train station with time on my hands and some line in the cab. Ever since, it’s been a conversation piece whenever the truck goes to DMV for inspection.

But it’s not just me. I’ve noticed how automotive preferences among boaters break into some interesting but fairly consistent patterns. Go-fast powerboaters drive massive, powerful SUVs and superduty pickups, ones usually visible from space due to size as well as the vast amounts of chrome trim, or they lean towards flashy sports cars. Most sailors seem to prefer faded old Hondas, Subarus, or Volvos, especially in the station wagon configuration, usually with the rear seats folded down and loaded to the headliner with gear and a ladder strapped to the roof. Aging Ford Rangers or Mazda pickups are also a popular choice, as well as the occasional VW TDI, (my other car as well.)

Who knew?!

One of the things I love about my old Dodge pickup is the familiarity. I’ve been driving that truck since I was in my twenties, and I know every inch of it so well I often joke I could drive it with my eyes closed, though that isn’t really an advisable approach. All the same, lately  it was getting pretty dark inside the cab. Over the last few years more and more bulbs within the dashboard were burning out, which is understandable after eighteen plus years of illumination. But it was getting downright dim, so we finally decided to open the dash and replace the dead ones.

Ultimately we replaced all nineteen, burned out or not, considering the likelihood that any still operable ones were probably on their last days.  But aside from finding a loose screw between the gauges that appears to have fallen in there before the truck even left the factory, the Dakota had one more surprise in store. I’m driving along today and somewhere around 2000 rpm I see a green triangle light up on the tach, apparently to inform me it was time to shift.  In eighteen years, over 118,000 miles and more shifts than I could ever begin to calculate, that arrow had NEVER lit. Perhaps that bulb had been bad since day one, or perhaps it wasn’t in its socket properly. All the same, the Dodge has an ‘Upshift’ light.

It just goes to show, new surprises can lurk in the last place you’d ever expect them.


The drive out to Long Island to retrieve one college student has not returned any high scores today, not for best mileage (scroll down) or worst, not for best transit time (40 minutes) or worst (5 hours in the Dakota, rarely getting beyond 1st gear) though 2.5 hours is far longer than this trip should require.  But it’s great to see the kid, and the hours of Long Island traffic will never deter me from dropping everything to bring her home for the weekend.

When I arrived, Felicia was at work on her laptop. I’m ever amused by her  laptop’s screen backgrounds, usually featuring some favorite anime or graphic novel art, such as the image below. She’s informed me that  in the last week (even while taking 18 credits, working one job on campus and an internship at Marvel) she’s read 13 graphic novels. I blame her parents, that’s what we get for raising a kid on Starblazers,  Moonknight and vintage X-men comics.  I’d worry if her grades were suffering, but she’s been on the Dean’s list throughout her time in college. I’ve already asked her to throw me a few graphic novels she’s finished. I’ll admit, it’s her screen background from Runaways, the series she’s currently immersed in, that caught my attention.

Go figure. Yes, the subject matter all makes me smile.  I love the way this image so perfectly captures the energy and motion of the moment.  And for those who don’t know the series,  not to worry.  The duckies will be fine as will the little girl leaping to their aid. The same can’t be said for the lovely red semi.

(This blog slightly cuts off the image. For the full image, click HERE.)

Puppies, pickups & powerboats…

Please phrase your answer in the form of a question.
Uh, yeah… what’s three things that all leak?

I’m way behind on my blog, but for all you lurkers (I know you’re out there) I figured I should throw in an update. This has been a busy summer, hectic for the most part, most currently with three things to blame.

First off, Loki. I will be posting some pictures as soon as I have a chance, but for those wondering, Loki is doing fabulous. His manners are wonderful, and aside from one paperback book in his first days, he fully understands the difference between toys and ‘not’ toys. The crate door hasn’t closed in weeks, there’s been no need. Puppy leaks are minor, and occur only in moments of nervous uncertainty. (He could care less about the vacuum, but sneezes scare him silly.) He and Rex, our younger boy, are fantastic playmates, perfectly matched and wonderfully agreeable with each other. And to our delight, he and Moxy, our dominant senior girl, snuggle together constantly, and Moxy’s normally serious disposition has turned sunny. Loki is such a fast learner, and he’s chosen Moxy as his mentor, looking to her and following her lead. The only down-side to that is seniority has given Moxy certain privileges, and over the years we’ve slightly spoiled Moxy, while Rex’s manners are much better. These days Moxy’s finding she has to clean up her act, while Rex is reveling in the whole “I’m the GOOD dog” status. And now that Loki figured out he has to sit first before meals or treats, he seems to have it in his mind if he sits whenever, he’ll be rewarded with a treat. He’ll look at us, sitting so perfectly, then glancing at the pantry. “Look. I’m sitting. Now you give me food. That’s how it works, right?”

Second. The old Dodge is OLD. I seriously believe Frank would’ve shipped the Dakota off to the glue factory a dozen times over if not for the fact that he knows how fond I am of the beast. I’d rather drive that 17 year old POS than the very beautiful, very tricked out, head-turning Mustang Convertible. I know that whole ‘cash for clunkers’ carrot tested his resolve, but these days there’s nothing out there we’d want to replace it with. This week’s leak involves a minor amount of power steering fluid. Hmmm.

Finally, I suppose I shouldn’t include Annabel Lee on the leak list, as it seems (knock on wood) that’s the one thing she isn’t doing, at the moment at least. All is dry and sound aboard, though we’re still perplexed by that sticking point on the steering. The suspect bolt was, indeed, binding, but not enough to cause that one spot to hang up as it does. There are a number of possibilities, from the simple to the ‘I don’t want to think about it’. This will call for further investigation, involving dissembling things further, which will wait till winter haul-out.

Pain at the pump… part II

This is where I was headed with the previous post. The point I’m trying to make is while some people whine about the price of fuel for their personal vehicles, it’s those who drive for a living taking the hardest hit.


At a New Jersey Turnpike rest area in North Jersey, about 200 truck drivers carried signs and protested high fuel prices.”The gas prices are too high,” said one of them, Lamont Newberne, a 34-year-old trucker from Wilmington, N.C. “We don’t make enough money to pay our bills and take care of our family.”Newberne said a typical run carrying produce from Lakeland, Fla., to the Hunt’s Point Market in The Bronx, N.Y., had cost $600 to $700 a year ago. It now runs him $1,000.Using CB radios and trucking Web sites, some truckers called for a strike Tuesday to protest the high cost of diesel fuel, hoping the action might pressure President Bush to stabilize prices by using the nation’s oil reserves.”The gas prices are too high,” said Lamont Newberne, a trucker from Wilmington, N.C., who along with 200 drivers protested at a New Jersey Turnpike service area. “We don’t make enough money to pay our bills and take care of our family.”On the Turnpike, southbound rigs “as far as the eye can see” staged a short lunchtime protest by moving about 20 mph near Newark, jamming traffic on one of the nation’s most heavily traveled highways, authorities said.By day’s end, the protests ended up scattered; Major trucking companies were not on board, and Teamsters union officials and the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association denied organizing the protests.Federal law prohibits the association from calling for a strike because it is a trade association.Meanwhile in Washington, top executives of the five biggest U.S. oil companies said they know high prices are hurting consumers but deflected any blame and argued their profits — $123 billion last year — were in line with other industries.Clayton Boyce, spokesman for the American Trucking Association, said diesel prices are the worst he’s seen but said his organization does not support or condone the strike.His group is pushing for a number of measures to keep the prices down or to otherwise help truckers, including allowing exploration of oil-rich areas of the U.S. that are now off limits and setting a 65 mph national speed limit.Newberne said a typical run carrying produce from Lakeland, Fla., to the Hunt’s Point Market in The Bronx, N.Y., had cost $600 to $700 a year ago. It now runs him $1,000.Outside Chicago, three truck drivers were ticketed for impeding traffic on Interstate 55, driving three abreast at low speeds, the state police said. About 30 truckers drove in a convoy around metropolitan Atlanta at low speeds, police said.Near Florida’s Port of Tampa, more than 50 tractor-trailer rigs sat idle as their drivers demanded that contractors pay them more to cover their fuel and other costs.”We can no longer haul their stuff for what they’re paying,” said David Santiago, 35, a trucker for the past 17 years.Charles Rotenbarger, 49, a trucker from Columbus, Ohio, said he felt helpless.”The oil company is the boss, what are we going to be able to do about it?” said Rotenbarger, who was at a truck stop at Baldwin, Fla., about 20 miles west of Jacksonville. “The whole world economy is going to be controlled by the oil companies. There’s nothing we can do about it.”Jimmy Lowry, 51, of St. Petersburg, Fla., and others said it costs about $1 a mile to drive one of the big rigs, although some companies are offering as little as 87 cents a mile. Diesel cost $4.03 a gallon at the truck stop.Rather than join the protests, some truckers were forced to sit idle because of shippers’ fears of a possible strike.In western Michigan, independent trucker William Gentry had been scheduled to pick up a load and take it to Boston, but his dispatcher told him there was a change of plans.”She told me that her shipper was shutting down,” fearing that someone would sabotage deliveries if their drivers worked during the protest, Gentry said at the Tulip City Truck Stop outside Holland, Mich.He and Bob Sizemore, 55, a 30-year veteran trucker, decided to return to their homes in Ohio, 280-mile trips that would cost each one about $200 of their own money for fuel alone.”We can’t ride around here looking for freight,” said Gentry, 47, a driver for 23 years.If something isn’t done about fuel prices, the cost of consumer goods will shoot up, Gentry said. “People aren’t seeing that the more we pay, the more they’re going to pay.”

Pain at the pump…

Every time I hear someone whining over how much it costs these days to fill the ol’ Ford Valdez, I really want to scream.. Somehow, I really can’t feel overwhelming sympathy for someone who insists the need to drive some oversized land-barge just to shuttle the kiddies to soccer… oh, I know, “It’s safer.” Yeah, right. Something that rolls over at the thought of a sudden lane change… real safe. It aggravates me, when you could just as well drive around in some reasonable sedan or even a cool little Mini Cooper. My one neighbor has three kids, and she’s driven the Cooper for years. Most people can drive something smaller and more efficient, or better yet, take mass transit. That is, unless you drive, say, a Kenworth or the like.

Think about that, while the oil companies make record profits. Then read this…

For more information, just take a look here…

And now for something completely different…

Most times, the concept of NEW doesn’t excite me all that much. New usually means more plastic, more mass-produced and generic, lacking a certain style and grace that went out of fashion some fifty years ago. Nowadays (wow, does that make me sound old!) so much is designed on the computer, and most vehicles have acquired a mundane similarity, distinguished only by the occasional unmemorable variation. It’s an evolution of sorts, I suppose, all the same, I prefer the lines of cars, trucks, and boats from the 1930s through to the ’60s. There are a few exceptions after that point, where a traditional, ‘form equals function’ design still exists, but for the most part, little out there these days will turn my head. This is one of those exceptions… Perhaps they’ve gone a bit overboard on the chrome and lights department, (kinda brings to mind a blinged out Escalade) though clearly that has a following with some drivers. Love it or hate it, there’s nothing subtle about this one.

The Navistar Lonestar. Even the NY Times took notice.