Wednesday, April 12, 2017

I Was A Truck Drivin’ Man, Well I Thought I Was

Hi Bill

Today I was thinking about when Pat and I moved from Volga, a small town outside of Brookings SD, to Dell Rapids, a small town about 20 miles north of Sioux Falls. At that time, Pat was working at the University Center in Sioux Falls and I was still working at South Dakota State University in Brookings. We figured that Dell Rapids is pretty much halfway between our two employment cities, although Pat’s commute to the south was a little shorter than my forty-five minute commute to the north. Anyway, that move brought many changes to our daily routines.

I had to endure getting up a lot earlier to make that drive to SDSU, but Pat was happy to give up her hour commute from Volga to Sioux Falls. Both of us quickly adapted to waking up early and making the drive each workday morning, although I was able to gradually adopt a much more flexible schedule than Pat had to endure. Anyway, after making those commutes for a couple of years they became fairly routine. However, we discovered that South Dakota weather turned out to be a bigger factor during our commutes than we anticipated.

We were very naive about being able to cope with weather conditions on the interstate between Sioux Falls and Brookings, and neither of us had a rugged vehicle that provided at least minimally safe transportation during snow events. Therefore we couldn’t always make the drives to work and back during snow/ice/blizzard conditions. Luckily, our employers were mostly sympathetic toward us during those conditions.

However, I decided that I needed a more rugged vehicle that could get me through snow, ice, wind, wild fires, and volcanic eruptions. Unfortunately, I couldn’t afford to buy a vehicle that could conquer all of those forces. Therefore, I leased a Ford pickup truck. Well actually I leased a 2001 XLT Super Cab 4X4 Ford Ranger for two years, which cost me $255 per month. Then, doofus that I was (and still am), I paid the dealer $705 to install a Box Cover and Bed Liner on my new expensive (leased) toy. In my defense, I figured I was going to love this new toy and would be purchasing it at the end of the lease period. 
The truck had a much higher ground clearance than any other vehicles I had owned, and it also had four-wheel drive. Therefore, I was confident that it would enable me to blast through much deeper snow than the other vehicles I had owned. It also provided a fairly spacious truck bed that could help me haul all kinds of stuff to wherever I might want to take it. I thought I was all set for my daily commutes between our little town and the South Dakota State University campus in Brookings even when heavy snow was falling.

Unfortunately, I really had no significant experience with driving any kind of truck, except U-Haul rentals when Pat and I moved from Omaha to Cincinnati, back in the day. I also rented a big-box truck when we moved from Cincinnati to Brookings, South Dakota. In addition, I rented other trucks to help move our daughter from Minneapolis back to South Dakota and move our son from Minneapolis to Fargo, ND. However, those were all U-Haul trucks that were big and heavy when loaded and I drove them on mostly dry pavement.

Anyway, I really liked my spiffy little gold, four-wheel-drive, Ford pickup truck and I enjoyed my daily commutes between Dell Rapids and Brookings with it. I was convinced that the truck’s road clearance and its four-wheel-drive would get me safely through ice and snow during my winter commutes. I was all set!

I sailed through the summer and fall and was actually confident about driving through some snow during the coming winter storms. The first time we got a couple of inches of snow I just sailed right through it without even hardly slowing down. I had four-wheel-drive! However, when the snow became heavier and deeper I continued to blast right through it, until the first time I found myself spinning off the highway. I did not completely leave the berm of the road, and luckily I did not collide with any other vehicles. Somehow, my enthusiasm for donuts in the snow had waned! I was annoyed, until I realized that I had forgotten to Turn On The Four-Wheel-Drive. I pushed that button and got right back on the road and finished my commute with no problems.

Well that snow melted and my commutes were once again without trauma. I also remembered to turn on the four-wheel-drive when I encountered snow. Therefore, I still thought I could just blast through the snow without slowing down very much. That stubborn belief caused me several more frightening uncontrollable spinning episodes on the interstate. Someone, eventually suggested that adding some weight in the truck bed should help foster a more stable and controllable drive through snow and ice. So, I put some large bags of salt back there to help stabilize my commutes. However, surely I did not need to slow down much in my rugged, weighted-down, truck during those commutes. Well, unfortunately I endured a few more close calls and even got the truck stuck in the snow a few times. Clark’s ego took quite a beating during that first winter with my “not so beloved” truck. It is amazing that I did not have any collisions or rollovers during my first winter with that truck. Stubborn person that I am, it took me a while to admit that I must slow down when there is snow and/or ice on the road.

Clark and His Truck 2001
I was much wiser during my second winter in that truck, but my romance with the truck had diminished. I did not purchase it at the end of the second lease year. Instead, I returned it to the dealer. In addition to Pat’s car, we also had another car that I used for my commutes to work and back. In 2005, I bought and new large Mitsubishi Endeavor, with all-time four-wheel-drive. That vehicle was, and still is, wonderful, and luckily I have treated it much more kindly than I did that pickup truck. However, I often wish I still had a small truck for hauling stuff, but I can usually get most things that I need to haul into my Mitsubishi. Then there is always U-Haul for other stuff. I am a very careful driver in those rental trucks.

Well, I hope you enjoyed this recollection of our move to the south and my commutes to the north. For some reason, neither of us could work in the same town that we lived in. We each made daily commutes in opposite directions. Anyway, we don't work anywhere now so who cares!

Take care. 



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