Andersen: Driving in the F-350 nation
My new truck is a Ford F-350 4X4 6.7-liter 10-cylinder Triton Super Duty pickup truck. This thing is huge. Even the name is overwhelming. The truck was a gift to Huts for Vets, the nonprofit I run. This gargantuan pickup takes combat veterans into the wilderness for healing opportunities.
The F-350 is a practical vehicle for what we need with our program. But my God, this thing is a pig! When I’m behind the wheel, I feel like I’m spewing carbon into the atmosphere like ash from Vesuvius. Is there guilt? You bet!
Don’t get me wrong — I’m grateful for this truck, which was donated by Holy Cross Energy. I would be hard-pressed to run programs on rugged mountain roads without it.
The F-350 is a used truck that’s being recycled by Holy Cross. Perfectly maintained, it is powerful, sure-footed and dependable in mud and snow — a huge improvement from my family van, which I had been using up until this summer. Believe me — I’m happy to have this truck!
However, I feel deeply compromised when I climb into the cab and turn the key. The 10-cylinder engine roars like a Bradley fighting vehicle. This is a serious machine designed for hauling heavy loads through practically any landscape.
I can’t imagine what it’s like for drivers who use monsters like this for jaunting around town, for running errands to the grocery store, the post office and the 1,001 uses that don’t require a massive powerhouse on wheels.
The F-350 isn’t even fun to drive. Parking is scary if you’re near any other vehicles, and you can end up hogging two parking spaces. Wide mirrors reduce the margin of error in tight places, and you feel like a danger to any cyclist trying to share the road.
You will never see one of these beasts in a European town because it would scrape both sides of the narrow streets and frighten the local populace with images of an armored invasion.
Now that gas is selling at a discount, for which our grandchildren will pay a premium well into the future, the F-350 is somewhat affordable, or so it seems. It is only affordable, however, if you don’t look at the real price of gas, of which our nation is in abject denial.
But drive it I do, and with a strange feeling of empowerment from guiding this industrial monstrosity on wheels to where I need to go. The place where it all comes home for me is at the gas pump, where I insert a credit card to satisfy the 10-miles-per-gallon fuel consumption. It is here I cringe the most.
By comparison, my everyday car is a VW Jetta wagon with a 1.9-liter turbo diesel engine. The engine sounds like a sewing machine, and it runs like one — with smooth, powerful efficiency at about 50 miles per gallon. Honest!
The Jetta maneuvers well. It corners like a Porsche. It is a German-made Autobahn car that is meant for European towns and country. It is a smart car for the age of global climate change. It is a car that makes sense if you believe in an extended future for humanity.
Driving the F-350 can make you a nonbeliever. It can make you ignorant and capricious and careless about carbon. The F-350 is a climate-change denier. A (dis)belief system is built into it.
The vehicles we drive speak to whoever is driving them. There is a crossbred relationship between man and machine that changes one’s outlook and determines one’s allegiances.
I drive the F-350 when I need to. Otherwise, it sits parked on the hill behind my house. I look at it with appreciation, with practical value, with a feeling of dependability. How I look to others when I’m driving it, however, is a complete turnaround from the way I would prefer to be seen.
When I’m driving the F-350, I become everything it stands for — an unenlightened, excessive consumer piloting the wheel of an antiquated 20th-century behemoth whose days are numbered — just as the days of the Age of Fossil Fools is numbered.
Paul Andersen’s column appears on Monday. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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