I didn’t want to buy it but I’m so glad I did.
I broke my truck last week. Twice. The second time, I broke it so well that it would have cost more to repair it than what it was worth.
That truck was a 2003 Ford F-350 SuperDuty Diesel with a super cab, long bed, 4WD, and a towing package. I bought it back in January 2013 to replace my Ford F-150. I needed a truck that would pull my RV and although my wasband had assured me that I’d be able to keep his Chevy 2500 Silverado pickup in the divorce, he decided to put some pressure on me by yanking it out of my possession. I responded by trading in my truck for another one that would do the job.
I was done letting him hold me back from what I wanted/needed to do.
I never liked the 2003 Ford, but I had to admit that it did the towing job a hell of a lot better than that Chevy. Got better gas mileage, too. But it was ugly green and the paint finish was wearing off on the hood and roof. The interior was drab and worn. Still, I only needed it as a hauling vehicle, so I really didn’t drive it that often. Owning it wasn’t an ordeal.
And I sure did haul things with it. Not only did I move the mobile mansion between Washington and California several times, but I also used it to haul a flatbed trailer full of stuff from Arizona to Washington in September 2013 when I finally closed down my hangar in Wickenburg. And how about the load of Pergo — two full pallets of the stuff — that I hauled the 15 miles between Lowes and my home in Malaga? One load made a round trip when I realized I didn’t like the color after all and had to return it.
Last summer, someone offered to buy it from me. I told him I couldn’t sell it until I sold the RV I needed it to pull. In hindsight, I should have sold it.
Last Tuesday morning, I hooked up the old Ford to the mobile mansion and headed south for a snowbirding trip to Arizona, which I’d follow up with my annual migration to California for frost season.
I noticed on the way into Quincy — that’s about 40 miles from my home — that it wasn’t taking the hills very well. By Mattawa, I thought it was something I should probably get looked at. I worked my phone and tracked down a Ford dealer in Pasco who would look at it that day. I almost didn’t make it. The damn truck just wasn’t interested in climbing hills with its 12,000+ pound payload.
I limped to the Ford dealer by noon, unhooked the RV at the curb, and drove the truck into the service area. I’d driven a total of about 130 miles.
While they looked at the truck, I looked at replacement trucks. They had a 2008 Ford F-250 super cab with a 6.4 liter engine and 4WD. I wanted a replacement that was 2010 or newer, but this one was red and I’m partial to red. I talked to a sales guy. They worked up numbers with me. The final number was just a little more than I was willing to spend. Some friends I was texting with supported my decision to just get the old Ford fixed.
I got a diagnosis and an estimate. It was a lot of money. But they assured me this would fix the problem. Best of all, I’d be back on the road by noon the next day.
I okayed the work and took a dealer shuttle ride to a hotel on the Columbia River.
I called for the dealer shuttle first thing in the morning. While I waited for them to finish up, I started prepping the RV for my snowbirding stint. It had been on a sale lot since October so it was pretty much empty. I’d “packed” it by moving in big plastic bins full of the stuff that had been in it before I put it up for sale. That morning, I worked on the bedroom, making the bed and putting away the clothes I’d brought.
True to their word, the truck was ready by about noon. I paid the bill, drove it to a nearby gas station, and topped off the tank. Then I went back to where the RV was parked and hooked it up. By 1 PM, I was back on the road.
My goal was to get to Salt Lake City to spend New Year’s Eve with a friend. If I made Boise by nightfall, I’d be able to get to Salt Lake just after noon on Thursday. Things were looking good.
Until I started losing power climbing hills. Deja vu.
I’d just gone past La Grande, Oregon, when the truck’s power cut to a low-gear crawl. I got into the shoulder, which was just wide enough for my rig. And then the truck’s engine just plain died.
I’d gone about another 130 miles.
I got on the phone. First, I called the service guy at the Ford dealer in Pasco to give him a piece of my mind. Then AAA. Then the La Grande Ford dealer. There were a lot of calls going back and forth. It was after 3 PM and would be dark in less than 2 hours. I needed the truck and the RV moved off the highway shoulder, preferably back to the same place.
Fortunately, I’d added AAA RV coverage to my policy the week before. I know for a fact that it saved me $350 because that’s one of the quotes I got during my phone marathon. In the end, the La Grande Chevy dealer came out with a tow truck and a truck with the necessary gooseneck hitch ball to move my RV. (Yes, it’s fifth wheel, but it has a gooseneck hitch.) While semis roared past us on the freeway, they managed to get the RV unhitched and rehitched to the other truck. That wasn’t made any easier by the RV’s landing gear deciding to break down. More phone calls to find an RV dealer who could look at that and possibly fix it.
In the end, we got the RV dropped off at an RV fix-it guy and the truck dropped off at the Ford dealer. By then, it was well after 5 PM. I got dropped off at a motel walking distance from the Ford dealer and had to force a tip on the tow truck driver, who I suspect felt really sorry for me.
The motel was called the Sandman. Really.
In the morning, I checked out and walked the 8/10 mile from the motel to the Ford dealer. Although it was 17°F (according to the sign on a bank I passed), it really didn’t feel that cold. Just kind of brisk. I think it’s all about wearing the right clothes — and not having any wind.
They told me they had “the best diesel mechanic in Oregon.” Okay. I told them what had been done the day before and even provided them with a copy of the work order.
While they looked at the truck, I looked at new trucks. The sales guy they hooked me up with, Michael, was a nice guy around my age who knew how to listen to what a person wanted. Of course, they didn’t have any matches. But they did have a nice 2012 Ford F-350 SuperDuty Diesel with Crew Cab, long bed, 4WD, and 6.7 liter engine.
That was a lot more truck than I needed. I planned to replace the mobile mansion (eventually) with a truck camper and had been advised that a 3/4 ton pickup would be enough. I figured a 2010 F-250 or equivalent with a super cab and long bed would be enough.
But this truck was nice. It had the Lariat package — that’s Ford’s deluxe truck package. That meant perks like heated and air conditioned fully electric leather seats, bluetooth voice activated stereo system, back up camera, tail gate step, full running boards, electric back sliding window, sun roof, etc. All kinds of bells and whistles I’d never had in a car or truck. It had a factory spray-in bed liner, was rigged for a gooseneck hitch, and had a towing package that included integrated trailer brake controls. In other words, this thing was not only a nice truck, but it was already completely set up for me to tow my rig.
It was expensive. I won’t deny it. It was a lot more than that red truck and a ton more than I wanted to spend. And it wasn’t red. It was a classy two-tone silver that I had to admit looked pretty sharp.
I sat on the fence for a while. I tried to contact several friends who were knowledgeable about trucks to get their input, but none of them were around.
I thought about what my wasband would have advised: Don’t buy it. Do more research. You don’t need it. Cancel the trip. Go home.
So I bought it.
We did a bunch of paperwork. Michael took me to the gas station and topped off the fuel tank, as well as the reservoir for some sort of additive I’ll need to put in every 10,000 or so miles. (Yeah, I need to read the book.) I bought him lunch. We got back to the dealer and pulled up to the bay where my dead truck — which they’d never even gotten started — sat with all kind of diagnostic equipment attached it it. (The diagnosis was bad. The Pasco dealer had misdiagnosed the problem and fixed one of the symptoms but not the cause. In all honesty, I was lucky the La Grande dealer was willing to take it on trade.) While I moved everything out of the truck’s interior, the work crew moved my 100LL fuel tank off the back of the old Ford and onto the back of the new(er) one. We strapped it into place — I’ll likely have it permanently removed when I get home with it this spring. Then I said goodbye to the old truck and left it behind forever.
Michael came with me to the RV repair place, where the owner had just finished fixing the RV’s landing gear. I think he just wanted to drive around in my truck. I paid the bill there and hooked up the RV. I dropped off Michael on my way to the freeway.
It was about 1 PM when I got on the road.
By this time, it was already New Year’s Eve and far too late to meet up with my friends in Salt Lake City. I adjusted my travel plans accordingly. Boise was still my destination for an overnight stay. I hit the freeway running — and immediately experienced an amazing difference in the way my new rig ran.
Uphill, downhill, flat ground — that new used truck pulled the 12000+ pound load as if it were nothing.
We made excellent time to Boise, mostly because I was actually able to drive at the speed limit, even uphill. We spent the night in a less than satisfactory Super 8 near the airport, then hit the road at 5 AM local time. We were in Vegas by 3 PM. The next day, we were in Ehrenberg in time for lunch with my friends.
Since landing at our first campsite on the Colorado River backwaters, I’ve had a chance to drive it on the freeway and back roads without the fifth wheel attached. This truck is fast. And comfortable. And a real pleasure to drive.
A few of my friends, on hearing that I got a new truck, told me that I deserved it. I doubted them at first, but now I have to agree: I do.
And it was worth waiting for.