It was just over a year ago when I drove my 4×4 Toyota Tacoma over to the dealer’s to get its annual safety inspection.  Just the routine kind of thing we all do with our vehicles.

Alas.  My little visit turned out to be anything but routine.  The service manager returned a short while later with a sober look on his face.  “Sorry to have to break this to you, but your frame is rusted through.  It won’t pass inspection.”

With over 300,000 miles on the truck I wasn’t particularly shocked.  It had the dings and wear you’d expect on a vehicle with that many miles.  And in the last couple of years the transmission had gotten kind of balky about going into reverse sometimes.  But otherwise the truck ran quite well. The engine was strong.

I took the news with what I hope was a degree of equanimity.  That was helped along with what the service manager said next.

“Toyota has a special buy-back on ’95 to ’00 model year Tacomas that have rusted frames.  Your ’97 qualifies.  You’ll probably be surprised with what they’ll pay you for it.”

It wasn’t like I had a lot of choice.  Without that inspection sticker about the only thing you can use a vehicle for is as a short-haul farm vehicle.  I began looking into that.  Turns out I needn’t have bothered.

Within a couple weeks I had a call from Toyota corporate.  They had inspected my vehicle, determined it qualified for their buy-back program, and would be willing to cut me a check for just under $8K.  Would I be interested?

Frankly, I was shocked.  With the number of miles it had on it, I figured the truck was worth maybe 2-3 grand.

I tried not trip over my words when I replied “well, er, yes, I think that would do okay.”

A week later I met a rep from Toyota at the dealership.  I drove around to where my old truck was parked in the corner, spent a bittersweet ten minutes retrieving the stuff I had left behind the seat and in the glove box, and then went inside where I sat down and signed a couple of documents.  The rep handed me the check and shook my hand.

Toyota, for their part, were dumb like a fox.  They turned what should have been an aggrieved and pissed off customer into someone who felt they not only got full value out of their vehicle – I’ll take 300,000 miles on any vehicle I ever buy, any day of the week – but who also felt like they came out way ahead, what with that check for 40% of the original purchase price.

I took the check and walked downstairs to the showroom.  And two hours later I walked out with the keys to a brand new 2009 Tacoma 4×4.  A truck for Ginny.

Both my previous pickups had been dark – my ’89 had been Charcoal Gray and that ’97 was Black.  I thought I liked dark trucks.  But every time I’d walk past that ’09 White Tacoma of Ginny’s, I’d turn and look back it.  Just like you’d do when passing a pretty girl on the street.  I loved the way that truck looked.  And it didn’t take long for me to decide that when the time came to buy mine, it would have to be in that very same color.

My plan had been to buy it later in the summer, returning us again to a two-truck family.  I even told the sales guy when I was sitting there buying that white truck for Ginny that I’d be back in just a few months.  Alas.  Life has a way of intervening sometimes.  That plan got put on hold when we ended up having to put a new roof on our house.

When November rolled around, I drove down to hunt camp… in my Honda Civic Hybrid.  I certainly won’t speak ill of that Civic.  It’s a terrific commuting vehicle, gets amazing gas mileage, and is just simply a remarkably good car.  I love it.

But a hunting vehicle it most definitely is not.  Pulling up to camp in it, I felt kind of like what it must feel like to show up at a Kennedy Center concert wearing Bermuda shorts.  Just a little bit out of place.

Then, of course, we had the winter from hell.  If I took Ginny’s truck to work – which I did a couple times – she was pretty much stuck at home.  Living where we do, we truly need two trucks.

And now, finally, we have them.

jeff's new truck

jeff's new truck

jeff's new truck - rear

jeff's new truck - rear

jeff's new truck - gravel

jeff's new truck - gravel

For nearly 25 years a truck was my primary means of transportation.  And although that Civic scoots me up and down the HOV lanes on I66 in fine style, I’ve missed that rough-hewn character – and the utility – that only a truck can provide.  It’s nice to finally have it back.

I figured with all the recall brouhaha of late that I’d have no trouble finding exactly what I was looking for – a 2010 Tacoma Access Cab, in White, with the 6-cylinder engine, 6-speed manual transmission, SR5 option set, and the towing package.  I was wrong.  I could find only one example of that model in all of northern Virginia.  And so it was that I swung by Miller Toyota in Manassas Wednesday night on the way home.  A couple hours later I drove it home.

Finally I’d have a home for the bumper sticker that I’ve been holding for it….

God save our snipers

God save our snipers

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