My lack of posts lately has been noticed by at least one reader (who emailed me), and I do have to say I feel a certain sense of needing to post more. Truth be told, I have been very busy with a number of projects, the most pressing of which is getting my little Toyota truck ready for a trip south. I’m hoping to drive this truck from Boston to Mexico City in October, with plenty of stops along the way for whatever adventures await me.
The truck in question is the proverbial “driven by a little old man on Sundays” vehicle. It was purchased new by my Grandfather in 1989 in North Carolina. While he loved cars of all kinds, he drove very little in his old age. When he passed away in December of 2000, he left the truck to me, with 48,000 miles on the odometer.
Despite seldom driving, my grandfather had a plethora of vehicles, including a 1977 Cadillac Seville, a 1995 RAV-4, and the 1989 Toyota pickup. Despite being the nicest car of the bunch, the Seville suffered a horrible fate, becoming home for several of his many cats, none of which appreciated the Seville for what it was and ultimately destroyed the interior. My parents inherited the RAV, and I was fortunate to get the truck, which during my ownership saw fairly light duty Home Depot runs, a few drives back and forth to Baltimore (where I lived for a spell in early 2001) and other assorted errands until I stopped driving it several years ago due to a cracked turn signal light that (combined with my relative indifference) effectively kept it from passing inspection.
Almost a year ago, I decided that it would be the perfect vehicle to drive to Mexico. My other car which I use regularly is a two-seater, 2001 Mercedes SLK230 with a retractable top. The Merc is a wonderful car, reliable, fun to drive, fast, yet easy on gas (at least on the freeway), but I feared that it would draw too much unwanted attention in Mexico. No, the truck would be the perfect vehicle. Every Mexican campesino, it seems, has a beat-up Japanese pickup. The Toyota would be perfect for flying under the radar: gringo, yes; rich, no. Kidnap someone else.
So I started to renovate it. Despite my white-collar career, I partially worked my way through college as a freelance mechanic, so I’m pretty handy with a wrench. And the Toyota needed all my tender loving care. I replaced the bumpers (rusted through), shocks (shockingly flabby), front brake system (mostly unstoppable), the windshield (as cracked as the idea of driving to Mexico), the cracked turn signal light (signifying nothing), and various other things. About three weeks ago this work was done. I heaved a sigh of relief, insured it, registered it, and proudly attached the new plates with special bolts that would foil any Mexican policeman, thief, or random souvenir seeker who sought to separate the plates from the vehicle.
First order of business was to fill the nearly-empty tank, and then get the new tires mounted, and get my state inspection sticker. When the shop called me later that day, they said the truck failed inspection due to a leaking fuel tank. After all that work, I was devastated. But I agreed that I couldn’t really drive around with a leaking gas tank, even if it wasn’t leaking very much (which is why I hadn’t noticed it myself). So I carefully drove home, scarlet letter “R” (reject) prominently displayed on my windshield. Fortunately no cops stopped me, and I safely made it back.
And this, dear readers, is why I have posted so little recently. My days have been filled with my regular work, while my late afternoons and evenings have had me working on my truck with renewed urgency. Now that I’m paying insurance, I really want to get it done. I may post further details on the work, but let it suffice to say that after pulling the old gas tank, it became clear that replacing it was going to involve a certain amount of cleverness, patience, and legwork to find the right parts. Furthermore, I also discovered severely rusty brake lines (cleverly hiding between the gas tank and the frame), and those too need to be replaced. Sadly I also found that wrenching under a rusty old car is rather more exhausting than it used to be, and this has left me with little energy for blogging or other things.
From time to time, I have asked myself this: If I knew a year ago what I know now, would I have restored the truck, or would I have trashed it? The answer depends on my mood. Sometimes I think I’m truly nuts. You’re going to drive to Mexico in that thing?!? I hear in the back of my mind. But the truck still only has about 60,000 original miles, starts and runs like a charm, is a brand with a reputation for phenomenal quality, and still has sentimental value as having belonged to my grandfather. Every time I drive it, I remember him fondly. I’ve also already fixed most of what could reasonably go wrong. And now that I’m deep into the project, I can’t stop. Call me crazy, but then many of my friends here consider me crazy for spending so much time in Mexico. Can fixing up such an old truck really be any worse?