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
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.