It's been three years now since my pickup died -- more like killed, actually. The first vehicle I'd ever bought (with a big fat loan from my parents I stress. I paid them back -- well, I paid MOST of it back ...) my Chevy S-10 Tahoe got nailed dead-on by a drunk driver while parked in the snow outside Squaw Creek Resort in Lake Tahoe, CA, in 2004. It still had a LOT of life left in it -- only 150,000 miles on the odometer despite its 16 year age -- but the crash totaled it.
Luckily, my brother -- my pickup's driver at the time (and yes I STILL considered it mine even though his name was on the title) -- wasn't anywhere near it. Working at the resort, he heard a loud 'BOOM!' and immediately got that sinking feeling. Sure enough, he found the drunk sitting in his smashed SUV beside my now ready-for-the-scrap-heap truck, staring off into space, and kept watch on the guy till the cops arrived.
Now, sure, all we're talking about here is a hunk of metal on two axles -- and a rather small one when compared to the big dualies or Class 8s I regularly write about today. And it wasn't all that much to look at, shaped rather like a doughnut box on wheels, painted dead black with no fancy trim. Ah, but how USEFUL that sucker turned out to be! That, to me, is what gets missed in all the carping about trucks these days. I moved myself home from college, then moved both my brother and sister to and from college as well. Moved my friends, my cousin, and my parents to new digs. Shuttled furniture for my in-laws. Loads of dirt, lumber, and tailings from various home improvement projects to the dump. You name it, that S-10 hauled it.
That S-10 had oversize tires, too, which helped it really grip the road. Once, I took a road trip with one of my best high school buddies, Jason Epstein, to Syracuse University (his alma mater) in the winter to catch a basketball game. Driving late at night in a howling blizzard, we had no idea they'd closed the highway between Binghampton NY and Syracuse (a good hour drive at highway speed) but there we were in four wheel drive, cruising along slow but steady, no slipping and sliding. That truck got us through. And the fuel economy it logged wasn't bad, either, I might add: its V-6 engine regularly got 20 mpg in the city and about 22 to 23 highway.
(A tip of the hat to Joyce Motors in Arlington, VA, here: they performed regular maintenance on that truck for over a decade and kept it humming like new.)
Took that S-10 cross country to Colorado for a skiing trip as its extended cab could fit three people (though not comfortably) and it went up and down the Rockies with ease. Once I got married and the kids started coming, though, the S-10's days in my possession were numbered. Thankfully, none of the car dealers I visited made me a decent offer for it, so I ended up giving it to my mom and dad, who used it for a few years as a work vehicle, storing it at their cabin in West Virginia.
Later, after my brother totaled his Jeep in a freak accident (he has NO luck with cars -- though his bad driving may have something to do with it -- sorry, Mike, even Mario Andretti wouldn't let you drive) he took the keys of my S-10 and drove it out West to California, narrowly missing a tornado along the way. And there it spent its final days, roaring along the Sierra Nevada range, dipping down into the nearby deserts, hauling ski gear and moutain bikes all over the place. A very useful truck indeed.
That's the thing about pickups and, frankly, trucks in general -- they are so useful. If I'd had to rent a vehicle for all the jobs I handled with my S-10, I would've spent more than the $12,000 sticker price easily. Because once people know you have a pickup, you're getting calls all the time to borrow it for something (as my neighbor Jay Rouse well knows -- I need to borrow his 10-year old F-150 again to get some mulch).
And talk about tough! Less than a year after I bought it, a tree fell on it -- the upper branches of a massive oak crushing the roof and engine hood. But I just crawling into the cab, fired the engine up, and backed it out -- with branches and glass spraying everywhere (not smart, but hey, I was all of 20 at the time. A DUMB 20).
A solid vehicle that did more than its share of work: that was my S-10. Thanks, Chevrolet. You did good with that one.