Friday, April 15, 2011

To Dodge, or not to Dodge

That is the question.

Every day you make decisions. What to wear. What to eat. Some decisions are more important. What kind of car to buy? Do you even need a car now?

Ten months and 2 postings ago I wrote a blog about roadie vehicles. The vehicle of choice for most roadies for many years was the Ford Econoline. Awesome, tough, reliable. It can carry all your stuff AND you can sleep in it. I’m talking, of course, about the life style of the young and restless. Those of us nomads that travel from renaissance festival to renaissance festival (or gig to gig for you musicians). We were young. It was fun and an adventure to be on the road. We would fix a small bed, a few shelves, perhaps some curtains. Called it home. Some vans had little A/C units stuck in the back window. Many had big dogs taking up the whole passenger seat.

We grew older. We were still on the road. The comforts of life started looking better and better. We’d get a 12 foot bumper pull trailer to pull behind our van, giving us more room to haul our stuff. Years passed. The bumper pull was traded for a gooseneck or fifth wheel, and the loyal, now ragged looking Ford was retired with much love and fanfare and replaced with a Dodge Ram 3500. It was the influence of the 1990’s and we felt we were all moving up in the world. And, we didn’t attract as much attention from the DOT.

The Dodges (and Ford Power Strokes) and the nice sanitary looking travel trailers represented to us a sort of moving up in the world. As if we were attaining the dream of our parents by finally getting that house in the “good” neighborhood. But we missed our vans. Our vans, with so much of who we were written all through them. It was like letting go of our childhood pets that had shared so many memories with us.

But there are still those of us who like to be creative in our travels. Larry and I bought a 42 foot dragster hauler trailer and have stripped it out and we are rebuilding it into our on the road home. Then, because it was a tad too much for our Dodge Ram 2500, we made the difficult decision to sell the Dodge and go bigger. We bought a International 4700 series crew cab. Larry finally has his own big truck again!

Ok, well, it isn’t a BIG truck. More like a Class 5. But it was bigger than even those F-450’s, but under CDL weight. This turn out is going to be cool!

Reality sets in. Time for ANOTHER major decision. After selling the Dodge, we were left without a run-about vehicle. My sister loaned us an old Ford F150 for the summer. At the end of last year, we found a great deal on one of the online auctions and acquired a beautiful 2002 Ford E350. It was clean. It runs great. Truly, the best van I’ve ever had.

Gas hog.

It’s a fact. Trucks get better gas mileage than vans. Especially the diesels. So, here we are, thinking of changing vehicles again. Here is the question. Do we sell the Ford van and the International and get a Dodge RAM3500? This is a tough one. Last August it cost us about $440 in just fuel for the International and the Ford F150 truck to go from Colorado to Texas in our bi-annual migration. A distance of barey 1000 miles. I remember when it cost us around $50-60 to make that trip. But the price of fuel is hurting everywhere.

Cons for having only one vehicle:

  • We will still have to try to fit everything into the trailer and truck. We want to take our small 12 flatbed trailer with us so we can have something to haul the ponies on short trips, and we would pull that with the van while the International pulls the big tailer/i.e. house. Also, we were thinking it would make things easier if we carried all Crystal Mountain business stuff in the Ford, thereby avoiding any potential problems from the DOT if they ever caught us hauling business stuff in the International or the trailer it pulled. THAT immediately makes you commercial.

Pros for selling the van and the International and having just one truck:

  • One vehicle means repairs on only one vehicle. It also means lower insurance for just one vehicle.

  • Larry and I and the dog get to ride together every trip. No need to be constantly calling each other on the phone, or talking on the CB, or having to keep up with each other.

  • A Dodge RAM3500 will pull the big-ass trailer just as easily as the International will (turns out the International only has DT360 instead of the DT466 they told us it had. The International has a Allison automatic, so it only gets about 10mpg anyway, and it would cost money to put in a manual tranny to get better fuel mileage. Our old Dodge 2500 had a manual tranny, but because it didn’t have the dually rear-end it didn’t pull the trailer well enough.)

  • Pulling the trailer with just a Dodge 3500 will no longer attract attention from the DOT’s. They love to harass truck drivers, and if you aren’t clean it can be a HUGE pain. Larry and I have taken absolutely EVERY precaution about being legal with this International and the Smokey Bears still want to pull Larry over and tell him he isn’t legal.

  • We can get better fuel mileage with a Dodge 3500 even pulling the trailer. Empty we can probably get 8-20 mpg and loaded probably at least 12-13 mpg. Both the Ford E350 and the International get only about 10-12 mpg empty.

  • I have heard the dually’s are a stiffer ride, but the two Dodge 2500s we had road like a Cadillac……and Larry might be able to enjoy A/C again.

So, should we sell the Ford and International and buy another Dodge?

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