My Wonderful Toyota Truck
Above: My 1985 Toyota truck on the Burr Trail in Capitol Reef National Park, Utah, my favorite road in the U.S. (June 2001).
Sometimes I joke that my Toyota pickup truck is my best friend. In some ways, though, I suppose it is.
That's 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 some 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 cute name like some people do with their vehicles. It's just "the truck."
Above: Here's the cab of my Toyota truck. 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 those custom-fitted seat covers.
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
the hard way, 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.
I've spent a lot of time over the years installing various stereo systems because I love listening to music while I drive. 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 (i.e., manual
transmission) 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.
My truck fortunately has never been broken into. It has, however, once been vandalized. That 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 a great traveling companion.
I've posted a map of my road trips from 1980 to 1999 below. Every line that you seen on this map that's not orange (i.e., everything after 1984) is a trip that I've taken with this truck. I've
also posted a short video of my truck.
(Hover your mouse over the map to see my 2001-02 trips, described on this website)
Above: Here a short video about my Toyota truck and some of the wonderful places it's taken me.
Above left: Here's the back of my truck. My truck's seven-foot-long bed 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, which is really comfortable. In fact, I sleep much better here than in a 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.
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 hundreds of pictures that I've taken of my truck from all around North America
during the past 22 years, shown in chronological order. How many different bumpers on it can you spot?
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)
Above left: Driving across eastern Colorado. (January 1985)
Above right: The messy passenger seat during a cross-country drive, in Kansas. (January 1985)
Above left: Brad, a friend from the University of Wisconsin, at a Milwaukee Brewers baseball game. (April 1985)
Above center: Camping in Ontario, Canada, trying to figure out where the heck I am. (October 1985)
Above right: 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 left: Visiting my friend Carole, (see News:
June 14, 2001) near Atlanta, Georgia. (November 1985)
Above right: 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 left: Camping on the shores of Lake Mead, near Las Vegas, on the way to my summer
ranger job in Colorado. (June 1986)
Above center: 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 hot day. (July 1986)
Above right: Camping in Cape Breton Highlands National Park, Nova Scotia, during a trip around
North America. (October 1986)
Above left: 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)
Above left: Visiting my old friend, Troy (see News: June 14, 2001) in San Diego.
Note the wooden bumper. I built it out of 2-by-4's because I couldn't afford a steel bumper. (June 1987)
Above right: Camping at Looking Glass Rock in southern Utah with my friend, Laurie, after a waterfight. (August 1987)
Above left: The odometer turning over 100,000 miles in Leucadia, California. (April 1989)
Above center: Visiting Laurie in Whittier, California. Note the new steel bumper. (April 1992)
Above right: My Aunt Betty in Capistrano Beach, California. (April 1992)
Above left: My parents in Bellingham, Washington, before another solo cross-country trip. (May 1993)
Above right: At Looking Glass Rock, Utah, my favorite campsite in America. (June 1993)
Above left: Near Lee's Ferry, Arizona during a four-month drive around America. (April 1995)
Above center: Lonely U.S. 180 near Petrified Forest National Monument, Arizona. (February 1997)
Above right: Zion National Park, Utah. (February 1997)
Above left: My dad and I in Bellingham. This was a day after I broke my arm while hiking with
him (see News: August 10, 2001). (July 1997)
Above right: At Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. (May 1998)
Above left: In Madison visiting Cynde, an old friend from my University of Wisconsin days
(see News: August 14, 2001). (June 1998)
Above center: 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)
Above right: But my truck did make it to 200,000 miles. This was in Portland. (July 1998)
Above left: At Cape Sebastian on the Oregon coast. Note the new shiny steel bumper. I always wanted a shiny bumper. (June 2001)
Above right: Historic blockhouse at Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park in North Dakota. (October 2001)