Sunday, July 15, 2012

Say Hello to my Toad...

...and say farewell to my faithful truck.

Ranger Rudy has served me well for eight years. It runs beautifully, looks great, and aside from a faint odor of cat urine seems almost new. It has less than 50 thousand miles and best of all, it’s paid for. I remember exactly why I bought a pick-up truck back in 2004 – I was annoyed at the delivery charge for bringing mulch to my house each spring. So I decided I’d haul it myself. As it turns out, not a single shovel of mulch even soiled Rudy’s dark emerald green bed. It did haul a lot of plywood in my model railroading days and more recently it pulled Penelope Pop-Up to various campgrounds in the Northeast.

Ranger Rudy was named after a beloved cat who kept me company for fifteen years and Penelope Pop-Up was named after another departed feline friend.
Ranger Rudy was very good at towing. It is rated to tow 500 pounds more than my behemoth motorhome, the vehicle with the powerful V-10 engine which gets all of seven miles to the gallon. But Rudy isn’t so good at being towed. In fact, unless you load it on a trailer it can’t be flat towed at all. (That’s with all four wheels on the ground, the preferred method for pulling something behind a motorhome.)

It was inconvenient not having something smaller to drive around after setting up the motorhome in a park. I worked around it as best I could. In both Savannah and Nashville I stayed at campgrounds where the narrated tour bus comes to pick you up. In the suburbs of Atlanta, I stayed in a campground that was a short walk to the city express bus stop. In Fort Lauderdale I rented a car. But often I felt stuck in the campground. There were nearby attractions I wanted to see but not so badly that I was willing to break camp – stowing everything in a motion-safe place, bring the slides in, the jacks up, disconnecting the hoses and electrical cables, and then driving around in a 35 foot long, 12 and a half foot tall tank.

I needed a dinghy that I could tow behind the motorhome. Some people call a dinghy a “toad” presumably because they are “towed” behind the coach. RVer’s have such a sense of humor.

So Ranger Rudy had to go. Yesterday I traded her for a Suzuki something-or-the-other SUV, a car that ranks on the automotive sexiness scale in a tie for last place with the Ford Pinto. I really wanted a Jeep. Now that’s a sexy car. It conjures up images of macho men in the outback, surfers enroute to the beach, the studly older brother of my childhood best friend.

I weighed the pros and cons. The Jeep is fun. The Jeep is heavy, expensive, lacking in cargo space, cold in the winter, hot in the summer, noisy, rough, gets terrible gas milage and has a nasty tendency to roll over. The Suzuki is practical. Both are four wheel drive vehicles that can be flat towed. Seemed like a dead heat.

In the end it all came down to money. Whatever I decided to get, it would be have to be a used vehicle. Let someone else pay all the initial depreciation. The Suzuki dealer made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. He would take Ranger Rudy in exchange for the something-or-other and give me a check for $500. That’s right, he paid me to take it off his hands.

I haven’t named the something-or-other yet. I haven’t even decided if I like it. It’s kind of fun, has a ton of room inside, a sunroof, and lots of other gadgets. Oh yes, it can be towed. It’s a silver blue color that matches the motorhome.  It isn’t very sexy but then again, neither are toads.

The unnamed coach and the unnamed something-or-other, i.e., the toad.