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Home > Close-Ups > My Wonderful Toyota Truck



My Wonderful Toyota Truck



Note on April 2020:  I wrote the following page about my Toyota truck back in 2001.  In April 2020, I created a 7-minute about my truck and posted it on YouTube.  To see the video and read a more complete description of my truck, please see my webpage at:  http://www.extremegeographer.com/news/post-trip-news/april-8-2020-the-pickup-man


Sometimes I joke that my Toyota pickup truck is my best friend.  In some ways, though, it's not a joke because I've spent more time with my truck, a 1985 long-bed, than with just about anyone I know, it treats me well, and it's my faithful companion.  And, unlike a lot of women I know, it's never stood me up!  During my trips around North America, my truck becomes my home since I much prefer to sleep in the back of my truck than in a tent or even a motel room.  In fact, I've slept in my truck over 600 nights (almost two years) and, since I don't have a house, it's more of a home than anything else I have.


I bought my truck in 1984 in Portland brand-new and have driven it over 250,000 miles through 48 states (see My Previous Roadtrips).  I've never given it a name; it's just "the truck."  Even though it's 24 years old, it still has the original engine and brakes and I've rarely had any trouble with it, probably because I treat it gently and do just about all the maintenance on it myself.  And my truck still gets 30 mpg on the highway, just like when it was new.

Shortly after I bought it, I got a canopy and installed carpet in the bed because, as I've learned, it's not fun to sleep on a metal bed during a cold night.  I also built a strongbox where I store my laptop and camera equipment and removed the cab window so I can reach into the back from the driver's seat.


Since I really enjoy listening to music, I've spent a lot of time over the years installing various stereo systems.  My current stereo system includes a: 

  • Kenwood 8017 receiver/MP3 player

  • Kenwood 150-watt, 4-channel amplifier

  • 11 speakers (6 in front, 4 in back, plus a removable 12" subwoofer)

I'm pretty protective of my truck and have let only two other people drive it, my nieces Heather and Sarah,  when I taught them how to drive a stick-shift.  By the way, I think every person should learn how to use a stick-shift because they might have to drive one some day, especially if they go overseas.  About 90% of all cars in the U.S. have automatic transmission and 10% have manual transmission, but those numbers are reversed in many other parts of the world.


Fortunately, my truck has never been broken into.  In fact, the only time that anyone has vandalized my truck was in Austin, Texas, during my 2001 trip around the U.S. when someone keyed my door (see News: June 29, 2001).  I'm still ticked off about it because, yes, my truck is my friend -- and it's a great traveling companion. 


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Above left:  The cab during my current trip around America, as I got ready to leave Mark and Jayne's house in Minneapolis.  That's my 12" subwoofer on the floor, a DC-AC inverter in my cigarette lighter that I use to charge my laptop and camera batteries, and my MP3 receiver.  I mounted a 150-watt amplifier behind the seat and recently installed custom-fitted seat covers.

Above center:  My pickup's 7-foot-long bed... which is also my bed.  I've slept in this truck in almost every state, spending over 600 nights here.  I sleep on a custom-cut, furniture-quality 4-inch-thick foam pad.  It's really comfortable and, in fact, I sleep much better here than in a tent or motel room.

Above right:  My truck's padlocked strongbox, which I made out of heavy 3/4" plywood.  This is where I keep my laptop, camera and other valuables locked up when I'm not carrying them.  I bolted the box to the bed so it can't be lifted out.  I've also got drapes for all the windows and there's a light on the canopy so I can read at night.  Yeah, it's a pretty neat truck.


A Photo History

When most people go traveling, they take pictures of their friends or family.  When I go traveling, I take pictures of my truck -- or of people standing next to my truck.  Here are just a few of the pictures that I've taken of my truck from all around North America during the past 22 years, shown in chronological order: 


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Above left:  The odometer at 273 miles, a few days after I bought my truck  (December 1984).

Above center:  My 3-week old truck at my brother Dave's house in Sacramento, before I bought my canopy  (December 1984).

Above right:  My bumperless truck's first cross-country trip, at Monarch Pass in Colorado  (January 1985). 


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Above left:  Driving across eastern Colorado  (January 1985).

Above center:  The passenger seat during a cross-country drive, in Kansas  (January 1985).

Above right:  Brad, a friend from the University of Wisconsin (see News: August 14, 2001) at a Milwaukee Brewers baseball game  (April 1985)

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Above left:  Camping in Ontario, Canada, trying to figure out where the heck I am  (October 1985).

Above center:  If there's no campground nearby, like here in Manassas, Virginia, sometimes I'll just sleep in a motel parking lot.  I've learned, however, not to ask the manager for a wake-up call  (October 1985).

Above right:  Visiting my friend, Carole, (see News: June 14, 2001) near Atlanta, Georgia  (November 1985).


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Above left:  In Madison after graduating from the University of Wisconsin in 1986, all packed up and ready to head west.  That's a sleeping platform I built  (May 1986).

Above center:  Camping on the shores of Lake Mead, near Las Vegas, on the way to my summer ranger job in Colorado  (June 1986).

Above right:  In Moab, Utah during a camping trip with my friend, Julie (see News:July 22, 2001), who's filling the cooler with ice on a very hot day  (July 1986).


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Above left:  Camping in Cape Breton Highlands National Park, Nova Scotia, during a trip around North America  (October 1986).

Above center:  My sister Doti at her house in Lincoln City, Oregon, before my drive to Florida  (January 1987).

Above right:  After living in Bradenton, Florida for four months, I packed up and headed west  (May 1987).


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Above left:  Visiting my old friend, Troy (see News: June 14, 2001) in San Diego.  Note the wooden bumper, which I built out of 2-by-4's because I couldn't afford a steel bumper  (June 1987).

Above center:  Camping at Looking Glass Rock in southern Utah with my friend, Laurie, after a waterfight  (August 1987).

Above right:  The odometer turning over 100,000 miles in Leucadia (no pun), California  (April 1989).


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Above left:  Visiting Laurie in Whittier, California.  Note the new steel bumper.  (April 1992).

Above center:  My Aunt Betty in Capistrano Beach, California  (April 1992).

Above right:  My Dad and Mom in Bellingham, Washington, before another solo cross-country trip  (May 1993).


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Above left:  At Looking Glass Rock, Utah, my favorite campsite in America  (June 1993).

Above center:  Near Lee's Ferry, Arizona during a four-month drive around America  (April 1995).

Above right:  Weldon, a friend from U.C. Riverside, looking spiffy in Sun City, California  (February 1997).


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Above left:  Lonely U.S. 180 near Petrified Forest National Monument, Arizona  (February 1997).

Above center:  Zion National Park, Utah  (February 1997).

Above right:  My Dad and I in Bellingham, the day after I broke my arm while hiking with him (see News: August 10, 2001)   (July 1997).


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Above left:  At Grand Teton National Park  (May 1998).

Above center:  In Madison visiting Cynde, an old friend from my University of Wisconsin days (see News: August 14, 2001(June 1998)

Above right:  Trying to cross the muddy Lemhi Pass in Montana while following the Lewis and Clark Trail to Oregon.  I didn't make it. (June 1998).


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Above left:  Hitting 200,000 miles in Portland  (July 1998).

Above center:  At Cape Sebastian on the Oregon coast.  Note the new shiny steel bumper  (June 2001).

Above right:  At the Burr Trail in Capitol Reef National Park, Utah, my favorite road in the U.S. (June 2001).