“If we’re going to go on all of these adventures, we need a new truck.” My husband sighed as I brushed off his concerns.
“When we bought the F150 we were confident that it would be ok. We have a better hitch and so far we’ve been fine.”
And so the conversation went as it always went, with the end result being that our paid off F150 was plenty capable of handling what we had thrown at it over the last five years.
I wasn’t raised a truck girl. Living in a family of six with three younger sisters, no one was clamoring for a truck, even when we spent five years living in Wyoming surrounded by them.
During my first year knowing Jeff, he owned two separate beater trucks. On our first date, we sat on the hood of his truck while we waited for fireworks to explode over Lake Michigan.
But when he traded the trucks for a beat up 1984 Mustang convertible, I believed our truck days were behind us.
Then we rented a new Ford Ranger for our honeymoon. I didn’t want to drive it. Then I drove it and fell in love. Then Jeff’s car died shortly after we moved to Indiana and we decided to buy our own Ford Ranger.
We’ve been a truck family ever since.
With the exception of a weeklong trip to Yellowstone and back in our early marriage, our little Ranger was our standard camping vehicle. We loaded up our camping supplies in the bed, our Siberian Husky Sierra jumped into the back seat (for a couple minutes as least), and we took off for adventures.
When our son was born and we could no longer transport two children in both vehicles, we had to start considering what we would do with our truck. We didn’t want to give up having a truck. We needed more room for our family. Jeff was still holding onto dreams of someday buying a camper. But we were also struggling to get out of the financial hole formed by a complicated move to a new city.
We made the financially irresponsible decision to lease a new F150.
Ok, so by most financial advisers’ books it was an irresponsible decision, but it bought us enough time to dig ourselves out of enough debt that less than three years later we were able to get a loan for another F150 that I believed would be a part of our family forever. Both trucks had enabled us to transport our whole family everywhere necessary and had also opened the door for two separate camper purchases that got our family back outside and into nature. I was convinced that nothing could stop us now.
Except perhaps our dreams were bigger than our vehicle.
Jeff warned me. He said that when we decided to trade up to a bigger camper we were pushing it. He thought we could make it work, but it was going to be a stretch. Then he got spooked by our seriously derailed end to our summer vacation to Arches and back. We bought a much better hitch and installed it before a long haul to Big Bend for Christmas break, and it appeared to make a difference.
But then I planned for a summer vacation to Colorado that would include a trip all the way up through the Rocky Mountains. We had done smaller mountain inclines before and we were fine, kind of, although it did elevate Jeff’s blood pressure a bit. When planning vacations I had only ever looked at mileage, not the elevation that the mileage went through.
Note to non-Coloradan visitors to the Rocky Mountains: when planning a trip, make sure you also look at your routes in relation to elevation.
Our vacation to Colorado was beautiful. We had wonderful quality family time.
We also endured the scariest drives of our marriage.
Over the course of the week we were in the Rockies, we went over one mountain pass after another, climbing up to 11,000 feet multiple times and enduring 6% grades coming down. We listened to the engine and brakes work as I prayed that we wouldn’t go too fast into a vehicle in front of us or too far over into the canyon on our right. With my Colorado sister-in-law’s help, we looked at alternate routes and selected the best of the bad, even though there often wasn’t much of a difference.
And somehow, we all got home in one piece.
I finally understood what Jeff had been saying for years; our truck was great, but it wasn’t big enough to handle my exploration dreams. I didn’t want to buy a new truck. I loved our truck. But I needed to get realistic about what our truck could handle.
And it couldn’t handle another trip like that.
We were faced with the reality of changing vehicle technology that was going to significantly decrease our trade-in value and a truck shortage due to work stoppages caused by a global pandemic.
I hate making rash decisions and I repeatedly told Jeff this needed to be carefully navigated. We wanted to keep traveling with our family and do so safely and responsibly.
After a lot of discussion and further research by my dear husband (who had been researching this on the side for years), we made the trade-in and came home with a diesel F250 that is perfectly capable of handling both our camper and the mountains, whichever mountain range we decide to cross next.
RV owner lesson learned? Just because your vehicle can do something doesn’t mean that it should do something. Apparently the “weight police” on every camper forum on the world wide web know what they are talking about.
Now we just need Texas fall to arrive so that camping is bearable again and we can see what it can do.
Sarah is a high school English teacher, yearbook adviser, wife to an amazingly supportive husband, and mom to two quickly growing kiddos. When she’s not working to balance life as a working mom, she uses this space to write about the wonderful complexities of life as a wife, mother, and teacher, as well as her family’s camping adventures whenever they can get out of town.
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