Kara and I walked clean through the showroom of CarMax, straight into the lot, directly to the largest pickup trucks we could spot. Actually, "large" may be misleading. I own a large truck. It barely fits in conventional parking spaces, scares the crap out of me when I drive it into parking garages with low head clearance, and it knicks the curb nearly every time I take a corner. So "large" isn't quite right.
Ginormous. That's a better term.
Short of pulling a cargo trailer, I thought trucks had a sort of upper limit on size. But as it turns out, there's a lot of wiggle room in the truck category. You can go from something resembling a Matchbox toy to something that looks like gun turrets should be mounted on it. I've lived in Texas all of my life to this point, and I've seen, driven, and ridden in a lot of trucks. And somehow it escaped my notice that some of these things are ginormous.
We spotted two different models that had some promise. The first was a Dodge 2500 Cummins Diesel—a recommended truck from a lot of folks pulling RVs. Kara immediately loved the sexy lines and curves. It got to her inner cowgirl, I think. And I admit, there's something attractive about the body style of a Dodge. But I've heard all kinds of stories about the engines and mechanics of these things, and that worried me a tinge. I was told by several-who-know that if you're going to buy a Dodge, buy the Cummins Diesel. Because it has super powers or something.
The next truck to catch our eye was the Ford F-250 King Ranch.
I'm not prone to ga-ga when it comes to vehicles. There are cars that do make me drool, but they tend to be of the high-performance variety. Or muscle cars—there are a few muscle cars I dig. And even though a friggin' adore my Toyota Tundra, and I think she's a sexy beast all her own, I've never had that pseudo pants-twinge that people seem to have when to look at a fine piece of machinery.
But I admit, the King Ranch was a tempting gal, with all of her curves in place, and dressed to the nines on top of it all. Full leather interior, wood grain accents in all the right places, and all those technological bells and whistles in the dash—hubba-hubba.
We went back into the dealership, and I found and introduced myself to Gary, one of the sales guys who was hovering near the entrance, looking for a guy just like me.
Gary is an amicable kind of guy. He looks like he's probably in his mid- to late-fifties, with hair shot gray and neatly groomed so it stood at full attention. His skin had that reddish sort of hue that said he spent a lot of time in the sun, probably here doing his job for most of it. And when he smiled, there was a genuine human in there. So I liked him.
After the pleasantries and the scanning of driver's licenses and the perusing of vehicles on their website, we told him we'd like to test drive the Dodge first Gary happily took us out to it, and pulled us out of the parking lot before giving me the wheel.
The Dodge was beautiful, without doubt. But I may have mentioned—ginormous. And for some reason, they had neglected to put one of those steps on it that helps human beings actually have a fighting chance at climbing into the truck with anything resembling their dignity intact. I thought we might have to hire Sherpas to get me and Kara in and out of the thing.
But utilizing a few awkwardly placed handholds and all the lower body strength we could muster, we finally got ourselves settled in the front seats.
The amenities on this truck were nice. Leather seats, just like the F-250, but somehow not as attractive. Though they were climate controlled—and on a blistery day in the high 90s, that was very much appreciated.
No built-in navigation on this model, for some reason, despite there being all the equipment for it. Nice stereo. Backup camera with proximity sensor. Plenty of places to plug in anything USB. And, very cool, a couple of 110V power inverters for plugging in small equipment that might need wall current.
All that's cool, along with all the various storage compartments and nooks and crannies we would surely fill. But how did she drive?
It was like driving a fluffy cloud.
Smooth. So smooth, I questioned whether we were actually moving or just watching a shockingly realistic video simulation. And quiet—we heard the road noise, but it was like it wasn't happening to us. Sort of like taking Vicodin to numb the pain.
And the handling overall was just amazing. It was soft and comfortable. This truck had a turning radios that seemed impossible. I thought at one point I might straighten her out from a turn only to encounter past Kevin going into the turn.
Outside the vehicle, things were a little less quiet and comfortable. The diesel engine sounds like a diesel engine. It's loud and rumbly and ever-present. I imagined that sound at 5 or 6 AM, on mornings when I sometimes like to get an early start and go find a Starbucks, where I can knock out the coffee and writing birds with one stone. The neighbors we have now, with their insulated brick homes and double-pane windows, would hear that truck. What about later, when we're in the RV and our neighbors are often people sleeping on the other side of thin sheet metal or fiberglass?
Of course, that's the life you sign up for, when you live in an RV. Isn't it? So ... wait ... aren't we signing up for a life living in an RV? Am I going to rumble Kara out of bed every time I go to Starbucks?
Something to consider.
But we didn't have to consider it long. Because next on the test-drive list was the King Ranch.
I'm going to confess that there's a gap in this story. There was, in fact, a King Ranch sitting on that lot when we test drove the Dodge. But while Gary had us looking at vehicles on the internet, we found one that was a full year younger, and had a full 10K miles less on the dial. So we opted to have that one brought over, and we came back a few days later to give her a test drive.
Gary greeted us in the waiting area, and cheerfully took us out to the parking lot, where we got our first glimpse at ... well ... heaven.
She was two-tone, with a light colored lower paneling circling her all around, and a lustrous, deep, deceptive-looking brown up top.
Now, I know what you may be thinking, because I was thinking it, too.
You're thinking the color of crayons or dried mud, or the dull and dingy brown of trucks from the 90s. You're thinking, "There's no way. There's no pizazz there. Brown? Brown is boring?"
But we are both so far off the mark.
This brown was gorgeous. It was deep and mystical. It looked delicious. There were flecks in it that made it feel rich and textured. It was like staring into the finest chocolate on earth, preserved in amber, polished to jewel-like perfection.
I never thought I would love brown.
But then I opened the door.
"Ooh," I heard Kara say from the other side. And by "other side," I mean about a zip code away. She was standing there with the door open and staring at the opposite end of the vast, leather-clad valley between us.
The seats and the rest of the interior were sheathed in rich, soft leather. The woodgrain highlights were placed tastefully and tactfully around us. The dash—expansive as a desert—stretched away into a horizon that led to the distant mountain range of rolling hood, which revealed the luxurious brown as the sun glinted from its curves.
Air cooled seats. Soft, smooth, oddly comforting steering wheel. An array of controls and inputs and devices that would put the Enterprise to shame. And when my buttocks met the cushioned leather—they became grateful to me for the first time in decades. Grateful buttocks are a marvel to behold.
We test drove.
The Dodge had been smooth like silk as we moved through the little neighborhood next to the dealership, and onto the freeway to really let the hounds out. I had been very impressed, and so had Kara.
But the King Ranch ...
In my dreams, we're still driving it.
It was like being in a catamaran, gliding across a glassy-smooth body of water on the crispest spring-like day you've ever experienced. It was like gliding down a snowy embankment on skis made of butter. It was like ...
You know ... I know I'm the Wordslinger and all, but word are kind of failing me at the moment. Because that ride was nearly indescribable.
I even drove us intentionally over some potholes and bumps to see if she'd even notice. She did not. I'm reasonably sure we were actually just hovering everywhere we went.
Like the Dodge, the F-250 has a complement of USB ports, SD card readers, video and audio inputs, and AC power inverters. Unlike the Dodge, the F-250 had full navigation, built-in wifi hotspot, and a few dozen other features that Kara and I didn't realize we wanted until we saw them.
But I think the thing that sold it, or least put the finishing touches on it, was the engine noise. Because there wasn't any. Or, there was barely any. Somehow, Ford has made their diesel engine sound like any other automobile. No rumbling. No RV-shaking timbre. No worries about waking up the entire neighborhood as I slip out to Starbucks or wherever this beauty will take me.
So in short, we know exactly which truck we're going to buy.
Now, here's where the story gets a tinge sad.
Because as yet, we haven't closed on the house. We've had a couple of offers, both of which were insultingly low-ball, and our counter offers met with silence. We've had loads of people come through, and love the house, but new offers are a little slow in coming as people check their options and make their considerations. So as yet, we're still a house away from the RV.
Which means we're a house away from the truck.
We really felt like it would be better to walk in with a bit more cash in the bank, a bit bigger downpayment, and a bit more of a sure footing in the direction of our ultimate goal. We felt it would be best to wait until closing to start dealing for the wheeling.
But we definitely know what we're buying, when the time comes.
That specific truck may not be available. And that's the risk we'll have to take. But one like it is sure to exist out there. We know how she drives. We know how she looks. And we know she's going to be the one to get us from Point A to B-thru-Z. Now we wait.
The whole experience of this has been interesting, though.
I've bought new vehicles plenty of times. I've helped negotiate deals for friends, too. I've test driven a ton of trucks and cars. But I've never really been so intentional about what I was after before. I've never walked into a dealership with a list of criteria that wasn't just a "nice to have," but was a "must have." And I've never had to consider the towing power or the engine noise or the road noise or any of those other factors. It was always, "Does this vehicle feel cool? Yes? Buy."
The same is actually a little true for the RV. The notion of living in an RV isn't really new for me. But in my bachelor fantasies it was always about getting the cheapest thing that put a roof over my head and getting on the road. Now, with Kara, I have to consider that this is a home, not just a house. It's not "the place where I crash and keep my stuff." It's "the place where we make a life together while we explore the world around us."
So all of this has demonstrated a marked change in me, from the boy I was, to the young bachelor I was, to the young married guy I was, and now to the married and wiser man I've become. As Kara and I get our plan together, as we prepare to go "into the green," to go find life in new places and live it until we move on to the next, we're doing things that scare us and make us uncomfortable. We're doing things that force us to stretch the definition of ourselves. We're making ourselves new.
We're lining up pieces now, but the journey should start soon. And we can hardly wait.