Archive for the ‘Toyotas’ Category

Time travel

October 8, 2022

Truckin’, like the doo-dah man.

• Editor’s note: It’s a gray, gloomy day here at El Rancho Pendejo, and Hal Walter’s road-trip tale has put me in mind of my own meditation from the spring of 2000, when the vile Crusty County weather had me thinking about snorting that long white line to wherever.

“I have been buggered to near death by the clock.” — Jim Harrison in “The Beige Dolorosa,” from the novella collection “Julip”

“How do I shut this alarm off?” my wife asked some years back. Her sports watch was cheeping incessantly, like a baby bird in a sack of crack.

“Like this,” I replied, snatching the watch from her, placing it on the kitchen floor and pounding it into a flattened silence with a claw hammer. We both laughed, but warily; killing time just isn’t that easy.

Still, when you see time limping along like it does in a snowbound April in the Colorado mountains, scraping the slush off its boots on the welcome mat of spring, there arises a murderous desire to put it out of its misery. So Shannon has begun hiding the hammers as I glare at the clock, as if I could will its crawling hands into picking up the pace, spinning me up some sunshine.

• • •

“We’re going to be late,” I warned my friends Hal and Mary as we dawdled first over stout, then over coffee, in a succession of Bibleburg bistros. It was my 46th birthday, and we were headed to Colorado College for a poetry reading by one of my favorite authors, Jim Harrison. Harrison seems the sort to bark at nitwits who interrupt his work, and I wanted his autograph, not his antipathy.

Jim Harrison laid his Jim Hancock on my copy of “Warlock,” though it was not among his favorite works.

As it turned out, we were right on time, and Harrison was late. A student of Zen Buddhism with his own temporal compulsions, Harrison announced: “I’m not a long reader. This will be exactly 52 minutes.” A koan for a birthday present.

Frankly, I’d have settled for a little less light and a little more warmth. Spring brings Colorado the heavy snows that we used to get in winter like everybody else, and the way my mental batteries were running down under the gray-flannel skies had me convinced that I was solar-powered.

My last escape attempt, a mid-March road trip to a cycling festival in California, was too short and not nearly sweet enough. I’ve been contemplating another to someplace where the locals’ knowledge of snow is limited to what they’ve been able to glean from the Encyclopedia Britannica, but you can’t pilot a Toyota truck to the Virgin Islands, not even in four-wheel drive.

And then there’s the expense. The rising price of gasoline aside, it’s not always possible or desirable to sleep in a pickup, which lacks certain amenities — like a toilet, shower, sink, stove, furnace and elbow room, especially when the camper shell is stuffed fore to aft with a bicycle, a cooler full of beer and a day pack crammed with computer gear and drawing tools.

Even if you pack camping gear and spend your nights outside the truck, you’re doomed to an occasional Motel 666 if for no other reason than hygiene, an impulse that will cost you anywhere from $30 to $60 a pop, depending upon your ZIP code at the time.

So lately I’ve been eyeballing used RVs and wondering whether I’m old enough to own one. This is not unlike like cigar-smoking; you have to be of a certain age to pull it off without looking ridiculous.

Too, as a cyclist who has played mirror-tag with many a blue-haired land-yacht captain over the years, the notion leaves me feeling a little like a Lakota warrior applying to join Custer’s 7th Cavalry.

And the entry fee for the RV lifestyle is a high curb to hop — even an elderly, smallish Toyota RV can run from five to ten large, while free-lance cycling journalism pays on the small side.

• • • 

In the essay “Going Places,” from his collection “Just Before Dark,” Harrison advises: “Do not scorn day trips. You can use them to avoid nervous collapse.” So with a light snow falling and the promise of more on the way, I jumped into my ’83 Toyota 4WD and headed north to talk to a guy who had a used, slide-in, pop-up camper for sale.

As I bounced crazily down our steep, corrugated goat path to the county road — this truck, which under a previous owner carried a camper, has springs apparently salvaged from a buckboard — I realized I’d forgotten my watch. A moment of dismay, then satori; I had more than enough time to make the noon appointment, and there was nothing of pressing urgency requiring a timepiece, so screw it.

So, after checking out the camper — affordable and nicely minimalist, with a cabover bed, a small sink and stove, a pedestal table and bench, and a furnace — I spent the afternoon idling around downtown Bibleburg, where it was not snowing, the roads were paved, and distractions were available in variety.

Drank a pint of Guinness and ate a burger in Jack Quinn’s; looked for Harrison books in the cavernous used-book store Gateways; sipped a tall Americano in a Starbucks staffed by two pleasant young women chattering away like magpies. Then I took my sweet time getting home, and not just because I was following a snowplow and an 18-wheeler up a slushy Hardscrabble Cañon.

Again, Harrison, in “The Beige Dolorosa” from “Julip”: “The clock is the weapon with which we butcher our lives.”

The character who writes this line on an index card — an academic rebelling against the tyranny of the clock as he comes to terms with a vastly altered life — then wraps his watch around the cord of his Big Ben electric clock and dangles both in the toilet, flushing and laughing.

He continues: “The damnable watch still worked. I put it on the floor, stepped up on the toilet seat and jumped, smashing the watch to bits. It occurred to me that I was getting a little excitable, so I took the remnants of the two timepieces outside and peed on them to complete the scene appropriately. I reached back in the cabin and turned off the light, the better to see the stars. They were so dense they made the sky look flossy, almost a fog of stars which had drawn infinitely closer to me than ever before, as if my destruction of time had made me a friendlier object for their indeterminate powers.”

Smash your watches. Pee on your clocks. Go look at the stars.

Taconook

October 26, 2021

Well, now I know what I want for Christmas.

Start passing the sombrero*, y’all. I think you’re gonna need a big one.

* A tip of the hat to Adventure Journal, which agrees with me that “if Toyota was fun and not merely practical, they’d put this sucker into a production run.”

‘You went to bed with a functioning vehicle. …’

May 22, 2021

Base camp at the overflow area in McDowell Mountain Regional Park, circa 2004.

Ken Layne kicks off this week’s installment of Desert Oracle Radio with a nod to a critter I know all too well — the “truck roach,” a.k.a. the wood rat.

Back when we were camped on that windscoured rockpile near Weirdcliffe in Crusty County, Colo., the deer, bears, ring-tailed cats, buzzworms, mountain lions, coyotes, and wood rats paid us regular visits. Once or twice the rats found their way into our laundry closet via the exhaust ductwork from the washer-dryer combo, which I then would have to disconnect and drag onto the deck so the furry little burglar could make his getaway.

On one memorable occasion, after we had relocated to Bibleburg, we drove back up to the Weirdcliffe place for a relaxing weekend in the boondocks. Herself dashed inside for a wee, and in short order I heard a screech worthy of a slasher film. An invading wood rat had managed to escape the laundry closet only to drown in the downstairs toilet.

But the pièce de résistance of our rodent experience centered on our 1998 Toyota Tacoma pickup, pictured above.

This outrageously expensive machine was practically brand new when one day it developed a hitch in its gitalong, an inexplicable stutter in its step. “This won’t do, not at all,” I thought, and lurched down Hardscrabble Canyon and over to the Toyota dealer in Pueblo that had sold me the thing.

The shop dudes said they’d have a quick look-see and suggested I go grab a bite of lunch. When I returned they were having themselves a huge hee, along with a haw or two or three.

Seems that when the young wrench assigned to my problem popped the hood, a giant wood rat leapt out of the engine compartment, then took a high-speed lap or two around the service bay before rocketing back into the truck somewhere.

The sonofabitch had been gnawing on the wiring harness, which explained the spastic nature of the vehicle’s operation. I got a new one of those along with some advice about various potions for discouraging peckish ratoncitos.

We never did figure out what happened to that particular wood rat, who must have been the most widely traveled member of his clan. I often thought of him holding forth to his grandchildren about the time he surfed a Toyota all the way to Pueblo and back.

Uncurb your enthusiasm

April 7, 2012
The White Tornado

The White Tornado, a 1983 4WD Toyota long-bed pickup that I bought in 1998 and finally sold yesterday.

For the first time in nearly 35 years I am without a pickup truck.

Yesterday I sold the White Tornado, my 1983 Toyota 4WD long-bed pickup, to the auto shop that kept it and our other rice-grinders rolling long past their sell-by dates. The owner’s grandson needed something that was easier on the wallet than the giant pile of Detroit iron he’s been driving, and since Whitey needed work it seemed appropriate to let a family of mechanics adopt the auld fella.

Whitey was the sole survivor of a once-mighty Nipponese fleet, which not that long ago included another ’83 (a 2WD version with nearly 300,000 miles), a troublesome ’78 Toyota Chinook pop-top camper (dubbed the Pee-wee because it looked like something Pee-wee Herman might use to lure unwary children from a playground); and a 1998 Tacoma that was the last brand-new, showroom-floor vehicle we will ever buy.

The fleet

The fleet, docked at Weirdcliffe. Not pictured: The Pee-wee.

And yes, I had them all at the same time.

One by one they all went west on me. The Tacoma we traded for my Forester. The Pee-wee we sold to a guy whose son needed a camper for fishing trips. And the 2WD ’83 went to the same folks who bought Whitey — they fixed it up for a young construction type who needed a work truck, and I saw it around town now and then for a couple years afterward.

I’ve had a truck since I still had hair, and it feels weird to look out the window and not see one up against the curb. But I got used to not having hair, and I suppose I’ll get used to not having a truck.

Maybe I can saw the ass-end off the Forester and drop a flatbed on the sumbitch.

Fat city Friday

November 12, 2010
Nearly three decades old, covered with maple boogers, leaves and acid rain ... and it still runs.

Nearly three decades old, covered with maple boogers, leaves and acid rain ... and it still runs.

Wow. Color me amazed. I hear that the temps are dipping down to 19 tonight and I think, “Hm, probably be smart to run the ’83 Toyota in for a quick check of its vital bodily fluids,” since it mostly lives out its miserable life snoozing beside the curb in front of Chez Dog.

The problem with my little scheme will be starting the old girl, which lately is about as easy as doing the people’s business in Congress. So I break out the portable jump-start system and give ’er a whirl.

Nothing. Zip. Nada. Niente. I could’ve brought a six-pack of monsters to life with the juice I poured into this thing and sent them all to Washington, D.C., to kick ass. Lord, this battery is truly fucked. And it’s not brand new, but neither is it particularly old. Out it comes.

I drag the misbegotten sonofabitch over to Advance Auto Parts on Nevada, from whence it came, fully expecting to have to buy a new one. The place is a madhouse. A businesslike young dude tells me the battery seems OK, if a bit undercharged, and says he’ll pop it into his charger and give it another look-see in about a half hour.

So I go home and give the battery clamps a good scouring because as an auto mechanic, it’s all I’m really qualified to do. I’m thinking, “Uh, huh, the battery’s gonna test out fine, so I probably need new cables, or a new starter motor,” mentally tallying the cost of maintaining a 27-year-old carbureted 4WD rice-grinder that I use about as often as Rush Limbaugh does what serves him for a brain.

But when I return the young dude has run a battery of complicated tests on the thing and declares it a miracle of modern science, leaking magnetism, black magic and voodoo and probably creating a singularity under my hood every time I turn the key, which explains the voices emanating from the radio, if not my head.

And he gives me a brand-new battery. Free of charge.

Thus the White Tornado is powered, oiled, greased and lubed, its elderly cooling system’s loins warmly girded against midnight engine-block explosions due to plummeting temperatures. Another fiscal tragedy averted.

And a man needs a truck, truly, if only to haul his fat ass around.