Wednesday, January 11, 2012

I am NOT that guy…

…NOT the guy in the shiny new SUV all pimped out with twenty inch tires –- really, TWENTY INCH TIRES –- listening to his tunes from not one or two sources, but six, punching up his Nav system.  His is the dark capsule hurtling down the road with multiple screens glowing lurid colors and little creatures in the rear never glancing out the window. It cruises by, fog and driving lights gleaming and mirror turn signal lights blinking a cheerful goodbye, leaving us in a pool of dim yellow tugging our little aluminum trailer behind.
 I am the guy with the well maintained, not-shiny-at-all utility vehicle “of a certain age” and a body style long since declared Retro. She usually sports roof racks of some kind and we can load or unload two bikes from inside in three minutes flat or load bikes and a canoe on top with just a step stool and a couple friendly boosts. Everything works (as the old pilot in me requires) and the mileage is mentioned reverently in numbers rounded to the nearest 100,000 miles. She still looks respectable, if not not  exactly handsome and I like it that way because that is what I look like. 
So, it is with a heavy heart and a lightened wallet, I announce that once again I have several years to go before I will feel comfortable sliding into a fishing camp in the mountains among honest folk who work hard and drive not-shiny-at-all vehicles.
Our new tow vehicle is the same color inside and out with more length and more power and infinitely more gadgets than I thought I would ever see or need.  It has fewer nooks and crannies to store the stuff I usually carry, a lift gate that interferes with canoe hauling and roof rails that defy the use of my large collection of Yakima racks. It rumbles with the throaty power of a 6.2 engine and sounds perhaps better, but about as loud as the old car’s rear end whine.  Inside there are seven seats  and half again more speakers.  Most everything will heat up including the windshield washer fluid -–THE WINDSHIELD WASHER FLUID!
Perhaps we were ready for a new TV (tow vehicle).  Certainly those pulls up the side of the escarpment to the Skyline Drive made us wish we had a transmission temp gauge.  (This one has that, cleverly secreted in the Driver Information Window where it would otherwise not annoy or confuse.) But it was quite pleasant “resting the horses” at a scenic overlook after such a climb and gave the ole girl a real “presence” and gave us something to pamper and care for that does not require a walk in the early morning hours.
So how did we come to this juncture with a strong, stylish new mare in the stable and a vague sense of unease?  Well three things: a long distance courtship, the disconcerting allure of a pretty face, and perhaps a little buyers remorse.
Buying a vehicle through a broker at auction is like buying a mail-order bride; there are pictures, alluring descriptions of her attributes, a few lingering questions about her past and little practical chance for a test drive.  It was the description that lured me in.  “2008 GMC YUKON XL 2500,” meaning the big, strong, cargo-hauling, trailer pulling 3/4 ton that is as rare as hen’s teeth.
“Go look at that one”, I said, distracted already from the one with the older body style and attractive aluminum color being offered at a competitive auction. 
“It’s not a 2500”, my utterly trustworthy broker reports from the scene.
“It’s a DENALI!”  (the one with the attractive grill.  The one I have never driven or sat in or even considered myself worthy of…)
“Same big engine…. I see a transmission cooler….. Man this thing has retractable running boards. … has Navigation and after-market DVD system in the rear headrests, smells good… really, it doesn’t have a scratch or dent anywhere. Captains chairs.  Cool, they tumble forward WITH POWER!”  He continues, finding and operating all the gadgets—this goes on longer than the pre launch countdown at Canaveral.
“Everything works.”  He pulls up the computer maintenance records and reports “new brakes, new tires, alignment, regular fluid changes at the dealership…”
“This is a good one.”  
So, after a transporter ride from Orlando, a complimentary detailing “no fragrance please”, she appears, gleaming with that toothy grill smile and absolutely flawless.  She looks great, if somewhat muscular, and smells nice and is shiny and soft and fit in all the right places.  She chimes sweetly  in response to my tentative touch, seems confident and capable. There is that allure -- that mystery – of buttons and switches and capabilities as yet unknown and perhaps unknowable.
“Lord, I am not worthy,” I think, as I cast a glance at our sainted old Yukon, all stripped of her personalizing racks and thoughtfully stored gear. “She still looks good.  She will make someone a fine vehicle,” I think, as my trusted broker appraises her with a cold  detachment, mentally calculating her blemishes and flaws.  Betrayal?  Probably not that, but there is that feeling, like walking a daughter down the aisle, that no one will ever love her as well.
In the ensuing few days I visit her in the carport, manuals in hand, exploring her many virtues and mastering her  technology.  She slapped my shins raw with her retractable running boards until I found the disable switch.  Maybe that will be useful in our dotage. The super clean smell is a little cloying, so we are waiting for a few sunny days to air her out. We still find it easier to use the Yukon because she sits in the driveway with signs on her, but tomorrow she passes from our hands to a new, hopefully gentle and appreciative, new owner.  The grand girls appeared for a test drive with IPods and DVDs and mastered the technology in minutes. When the navigation disks arrive, they will surely be just as useful.
We are still taking the measure of our new princess.  The aforementioned inconveniences have been discovered, but the sound system is sparkling.  Although she is taller than the Yukon, a hitch part or two will bring her in line with the Airstream. The Airforum gurus have demystified the air suspension/ trailering questions; a few pieces of hardware will again provide  safe cradles for the rigged fly rods.  The bikes ride steadily in the cargo compartment with lots of room to spare and, oh yes, the 20” tires are growing on me. Beautiful leggy wench!

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