July 17th, 2000

The Premiere OnLine Magazine for the Fly Fishing Enthusiast.
This is where our readers tell their stories . . .

MY Truck

By Sam Stroder

Every man who fancies himself an outdoors type must have his dedicated hunting/fishing/bum-around vehicle, preferably of the 4-wheel drive persuasion. Mine happens to be an '87 full size 4x4 Bronco, and it's got personality (in this particular context, of course, personality is synonymous with problems). Its air conditioner is broken, multiple air leaks in the cab establish the interior as a shouting-required communication network, the radio has a major short, tinting is peeling off of the windows, its oil usage is fast approaching its atrocious gasoline consumption, and its gasoline gauge is broken. Well, the gas gauge isn't actually completely broken. Rather it seems to "know" just enough to be dangerous — kind of like me — and has somehow respanned itself over less than quarter of a tank. Therefore after fill-up it doesn't come off "full" until only seven or eight gallons remain. At that point the soon-to-be-nervous passengers can watch the needle drop without the Discovery Channel's wonderful time-elapsed photography. Anyway, despite these shortcomings the Bronco has never left me stranded. It has rescued me from numerous snowstorms, not so low-water crossings, gravel pits, rockslides, mud holes, etc. I like it; it's MY Truck.

Back to the little issue of its poor gas mileage and dysfunctional gas gauge, however. Four of us recently made the trek from west Texas to Navajo Dam to undertake a little nymph fishing on the famous San Juan River of northwest New Mexico. One of the intrepid fisherman, who doubles as my brother-in-law back in civilization, had volunteered to take his crew cab Ford diesel (HIS Truck), but the night prior to departure he discovered a suspect alternator belt. Coupling this with the fact that HIS Truck's heater wasn't working and the updated weather forecast now called for a blue-norther to deposit a healthy dose of snow in the Four Corners area, we elected to change plans and take MY Truck—no problem. I proceed to shovel out the trash, add gallons of oil and quarts of gasoline (or vice-versa), air up tires (including the completely flat spare), and pack up vehicle-specific essentials (duct tape, wire, bungee cord; basically anything that can somehow be used to bind, tie, or otherwise secure parts together).

Lastly, I reset the backup gas gauge — a.k.a. trip odometer — and began assessing travel distances. Now I can read a map; can't fold one, but I can read one. So I apply the higher math obtained with my Bachelor of Science degree in Petroleum Engineering from Texas A&M University and figure that the 299 miles from Odessa, TX, to Vaughn, NM, is well short of MY Truck's approximate 360-mile range. We were ready.

So our merry little band got off butt-early the next morning. Our spirit of adventure was high, and we laughed in the face of danger; well, in the face of increasingly strong southerly winds, anyway. I rather smugly viewed the inclement weather as affirmation of our decision to take the vehicle with a working heater — MY Truck — and was confident that our first gasoline stop in Vaughn would find us well ahead of schedule.

One should never underestimate the effect of a strong headwind on gas mileage, however. Approximately 10 miles outside of Roswell, NM, 86 long miles from Vaughn, the gas needle twitched, then bounced, and finally commenced on its rapid descent. As the needle blurred past a quarter-tank, my no-longer-intrepid travel partners began to doubt MY Truck's value and openly questioned its owner's judgment as the thinning needle—ever notice how you can change the volume of gasoline in your tank by adjusting your eyesight level—passed "Empty" in route to "absolute vacuum." I gleefully claimed vindication, however, as we topped the last little rise and the now-gorgeous metropolis of Vaughn appeared on the horizon. MY Truck was obviously excited as well, as it lurched with excitement… LURCHED! MY suddenly asthmatic Truck now gasped, then sputtered, and finally wheezed into the first available automobile watering hole. We made it!

Correction; we almost made it. How is it that there can be a plethora of gasoline pumps but invariably all those on "your" side are being used, blocked by some "permanently" parked vehicle, out of service, etc? Ford really ought to equip their Bronco's with a gasoline fill-up port on each side; could call it a Murphy's Law-compliant gas tank or something like that. Anyway, forced to stop and back up, MY Truck died. She ran out of gas, quite literally, only a short flycast from the pump (ever notice how the feminine gender is normally used in reference to vehicles, particularly those of the problematic type; I personally find no supporting correlation, whatsoever, but was just making an observation…).

Over the last several years, my brother-in-law and I have developed an "adventure" criterion by which we evaluate the success of our fishing trips. No longer are our excursions categorized by such insignificant details as actual number or size of fish caught (go figure…). Rather a particular trip's success is now only conditional on the number and size of adventures experienced; retention of life and limb is not an absolute prerequisite, but definitely preferred. We probably won't remember many fishing particulars from the "San Juan Trip of '00," but we will most certainly remember the time that we almost ran—correction, did run—out of gas. Chalk up another successful fishing trip. ~ Sam Stroder

About Sam

Sam M. Stroder, age 39, committed Christian, husband, and father of three (8, 6, and 2) west Texas resident, '83 graduate of Texas A&M University, Engineering and Maintenance Supervisor for ARCO Permian (oil business). Started flyfishing with 4/97 guided trip to South Platte River landed 28" x 15 1/2" rainbow -- "hooked" ever since!

all rights reserved by Sam M.Stroder.

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