“Old Blue” is back in the pasture, which is actually a gravel-covered siding alongside our driveway. Her mileage is now 126,953. Again this year, she came through.
“Old Blue” is actually gray, a few degrees lighter than gunmetal. “Old Blue” is not a hound, not a cow, not a horse.
“Old Blue” is a 2007 Chevy Silverado. Her major distinguishing characteristic is a pushed-in quarter panel on the passenger side. I put that there back in 2012, the year I first owned her. The quarter panel kissed the side of the garage door opening as I learned about the Silverado’s extra-wide turning radius.
But, hey, as I age, I have an extra-wide turning radius myself. Just watch me stagger around the barn toting 50 pounds of chicken feed.
Nobody calls my Silverado by the “Old Blue” name. I don’t even say it out loud, for fear of revealing yet more evidence of creeping senescence because she is in fact gray.
But in my heart and in my thoughts ... “Old Blue” she is.
Normally, “Old Blue” sits quietly in her graveled paddock, run once a week to head to town for feed or gasoline, with an occasional hookup to our trailer to haul a mower, gravel, sawdust, dirt, etc. In her first two years with us, “Old Blue” logged fewer than 5,000 miles annually.
In that same time frame, we discovered Florida.
We trek to the panhandle region near Panama City, preferring wintertide temperatures in the 60s and 70s to the heat of peninsular Florida.
That first year, 2013, we drove a car and stayed for 10 days, making a 3,000-mile trip.
But the return was made with shoulders hunched to accommodate northbound bags of citrus. When not driving, I did contortions to get my feet into the passenger seat, its floor cluttered with what would not fit rearward in the Honda Civic.
The next year, we took a larger car, my Hyundai Sonata. That sufficed for storage but its usual 34 miles per gallon plummeted into the low 20s.
Bicycles were the culprits. Two bikes racked behind the trunk created such drag that, disbelieving, I had to refill in West Virginia.
“Heck,” I thought, “that’s close to the mileage we can get with ‘Old Blue’.”
So we saddled up “Old Blue,” despite my concerns about hauling a truck with more than 100,000 miles on a 3,000-mile-plus trip. But our mechanic said she seemed sound.
The bicycles fit nicely behind the tailgate. “Old Blue” got her regular 16.0 mpg on the trip to Florida. En route back, the mileage was 15.8, substantiating a slight uphill tilt to the United States from the Appalachee Panhandle to the Upper Appalachians.
The truck ran flawlessly, and has for the two ensuing years, including this past year, with one exception two years ago. Some dumbass left the transmission in “automatic, “a status that keeps the front hubs locked, to guide us out of Pennsylvania’s snow-slicked roads. The hubs overheated, predictably, by North Carolina, causing an unplanned early cool-off stop for lunch.
The transmission clunked reassuringly back into two-wheel drive after lunch. We have had no trouble since then.
“This time, Chevy sure did something right,” said the young fellow at Sigel Automotive when I brought the truck in for its pre-Florida checkup.
Then I had an afterthought: Air conditioning. Who thinks of air conditioning during a Pennsylvania winter? Sure enough, the truck’s coolant was a few pounds light.
When the Florida temperature hit the 80s, as it did a few times, we were delighted that “Old Blue” chilled her cab to comfortable levels.
The trip included detours to see family on both the downward and upward legs. For the record, it spanned 4,693.4 miles, using 297.6 gallons of gasoline at an average rate of 15.9 mph. The cost, ranging from South Carolina’s $1.98/gallon to our Keystone State rate near $2.50, came to $744.
I might need to replace tires as well, so, for “Old Blue’s” gnarly large winter treads, add another $800 or so. That’s fine by me. In winter, “Old Blue” does yeoman work, hauling us over icy roads, while my Sonata sits in its graveled siding. I have now learned how to ease her into the garage and avoid the 5 minutes or more it takes to scrape snow and ice from a full-sized pickup.
Unloaded, she backed into her siding for a deserved warm-weather respite. Once a week or so, I’ll click the remote starter to verify that it still works – a Godsend in winter – and then ease her out for a trot to town and back.
Yes, she is gray. And yes, technically, “she” is an “it.”
But in my mind as I see her each morning, without a word being spoken, she endures as what many men think of as “my beloved pickup.” But I don’t speak such sissified sentimental stuff out loud.
I just smile and nod to my graybeard, “Old Blue.”
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Denny Bonavita is a former editor at newspapers in DuBois and Warren. He lives near Brookville. Email: email@example.com