Trackday Diaries: Sometimes the Light's All Shinin' on Me

Jack Baruth
by Jack Baruth
trackday diaries sometimes the light s all shinin on me

There’s a great scene in Clear and Present Danger where Harrison Ford says, “Where are you taking me, Marty?” in that great post-Han Solo angry growl of his, and Marty replies, “It’s you who have taken us here.” And so it was with me and the B&B. Just over a month ago, I asked you to help me pick a pickup. One of you read that article and promptly broke my wife’s heart by making us a fair but not overly generous offer on her Tahoe.

I have to say that for all of Danger Girl’s well-known bravery in the face of pain and suffering — this is, after all, a woman who managed to get her SCCA comp license and a couple of race starts less than 18 months after having three pounds’ worth of external titanium scaffolding unbolted from her — she did not cope very well with the idea of not owning a Chevrolet truck of some sort.

I don’t think she made it plain in her story, but with one six-month exception she has had nothing but either half-ton Chevrolet work trucks or Tahoes since the day she turned sixteen. (The truckless interregnum? A fleeting romance with an Equinox.) Two of those trucks — count ’em, two! — were totaled at high speed by the unlicensed-and-undocumented crowd out in New Mexico. The others she drove until the engines called it quits. This happened more than you might think. At one point in her life she had a 210-mile daily commute. Things really are different in the Southwest.

“I don’t see why I can’t have just a plain white work truck again,” she told me, which made me cringe at the molecular level like Jeremy Irons in Reversal Of Fortune contemplating his attorney’s food-stained 50/50 “dress” shirt. No member of my family has ever actually owned a full-sized pickup of any type. Twenty years ago, one of my uncles bought a Toyota T-100 to tide him through a few years of home renovation; to this day, my grandmother acts like he got a Confederate tattoo on his neck and spent 20 years on the open road pushing a Kenworth between Amarillo and Anchorage. I didn’t relish letting anybody see me in a plain white work truck. Although I’d been looking at the Silverado LT All-Stars for a while, I was pretty sure that when push came to shove I was going to buy a Sierra Denali, put a cap on it, and tell my relatives it was a Yukon XL.

“I think GMCs are for people who are, you know, trying to act fancier than they are,” was Danger Girl’s comment on this situation.

“YES!” I replied. “That’s exactly correct! That’s the American middle class right there, and we, my darling, are swimming with the tide here! In fact, if they made a Cadillac half-ton pickup, I would get that! If they called it the Fleetwood, I’d pay full retail, even!”

“One of my uncles bought a GMC once,” was her flat-voiced response. “He wasn’t exactly the hardest worker.”

“That’s fine!” I cried. “I’m not the hardest worker either! There’s a dealership down the street that has a dark-blue Denali! Let me show it to you!”

“You can show it to me,” she said, “but I don’t know why I would look at it, because I don’t bother to look at trucks I don’t want.”

“Well,” I offered, in a rather defeated tone, “what about that Silverado LTZ Max Tow that we used for the Road Atlanta race?”

“I don’t know. It was awfully…” and here she gave me a definitely non-Azalean look, “…fancy.”

Faced with a situation that could have easily landed me behind the wheel of an ex-power-company Silverado LS, I decided to lie. I told Danger Girl that the only way to get heated seats was with the LTZ package.

“We saw, like, twenty LT All-Stars with heated seats at the dealership.” I was getting nowhere.

“I meant heated and cooled. Also, I need the Corvette-ish engine. And I need the chrome grille. It’s very important.”

“But you can’t get the chrome grille with the Z71 LTZ.” Christ, she knew the option book better than I did.

In the end, I simply threw myself on her mercy. I explained that I needed certain things in a truck — the 6.2-liter V8, the Bose speakers, the ventilated seats. I explained that the Z71 package would have a small but palpable negative effect on towing. Last but not least, I offered to pay for it myself as a kind of delayed wedding present.

In the end, I needed more than mercy — I needed pity. Two Friday nights ago, I made a horrific mistake at a skatepark that saw me fly a measured sixteen feet to a face-first landing on bare concrete. It was all but crippling, made worse by the fact that my son watched it happen. So, for twenty minutes afterwards I had to ride the ramps with him to show him that “we don’t give up or walk away after a crash,” even though I was swallowing a tablespoon of blood every time I took a deep breath. “What can I do to help,” my wife asked, as I lay dazed and bloody on a homemade hospital bed of old pillows.

“You can…” I whispered “…just let me get the one that doesn’t have the God-dammed Z71 package, please, at some point my father is going to see this truck.” Then I pretended to pass out but before I could pretend to pass out I actually passed out. The next morning I gimped over to the Chevrolet dealer and performed all the actions related in Tuesday’s column.

And that is how I became the owner of a 2017 Silverado LTZ crew cab “long bed” with the 6.2, with the Max Tow package, and with pretty much every factory option on the books except for LED bed lighting (I’ll add it later), driver’s assist handle (I’m really suffering with the lack of that right now, actually) and sunroof (Danger Girl wouldn’t let me have it). To my sorrow, it’s made in Mexico, but so was one of my most reliable Texas-area girlfriends during the earlier part of this decade, so I’m willing to let it go.

Why didn’t I buy an F-150 or a Ram? Truthfully, I’ve towed with fully-equipped versions of all the current full-sizers and the Chevrolet is my favorite to drive. The big V-8 should have a National Park named after it or something. The interior is no-nonsense comfortable for the long haul. It doesn’t pretend to be a big rig the way the Ford and the Ram pretend to be big rigs. It’s just a truck. Everything about it simply works. I’ve have gotten it in Havana Brown if I’d had my way but I didn’t want that color as much as my wife wanted her color.

Yes, I would rather have snagged a Denali, but Danger Girl is right that there really is just a whiff of the striver about the big GMC. The SLT Max Tow 6.2 is the direct equivalent to the LTZ 6.2 Max Tow and it’s actually $30 cheaper if you configure them both the same way, but the only one I could find in Ohio was a tasty metallic grey that did not meet with the wife’s approval. I’m telling myself that this monster truck is the natural successor to the Chevrolet Kingswood wagons that made dignified but leisurely progress through the East Coast bedroom suburbs of my youth. And the fact is that I absolutely adore the thing. It rides pretty well, it has the same firepower as the USS New Jersey, and I expect it to last 15 years with no trouble.

Best of all, this proves that compromise is possible in a marriage if you really communicate with each other in the most forthright, pitiless fashion possible. I wanted a Denali, she wanted a work truck, we met in the middle. There’s only one little problem. In a few weeks, I have to drive it to South Carolina for my son’s golf camp. Which means that my father is going to see it. I am sure he will have something to say. But I will also have something to say. After all, he moved me and my brother from New York to Ohio before we were old enough to have any vote in the matter. So when he says, “Why have you brought this truck to me?” I’m going to say, “No, Dad, it’s you who brought me to this truck.”

Jack Baruth
Jack Baruth

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  • Tandoor Tandoor on Jul 15, 2017

    As a 42 year old currently sporting a ghastly bruise on my arm from the skatepark, I feel (a tiny bit of) your pain. Last year my boy asked to go and he was having too much fun on the scooter so I started bring his bike for me. I learned the hard way that I have no business on a scooter. Glad you got a nice truck (but not too nice) and y'all are happy. I'm curious about this sunroof business, does anyone really want a sunroof? Does anyone open a sunroof more than twice during the life of the vehicle?

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    • Dave M. Dave M. on Jul 16, 2017

      Life's too short not to have a sunroof. Mine is open daily. I wonder why DG has a grudge with them. Although I'm a GMC fan, her sentiment is hysterical. Congrats Jack - that sure is a beautiful truck.

  • Nrd515 Nrd515 on Jul 15, 2017

    My dad had no real hobbies and my spending money on stereo equipment, police scanners, and ham radio stuff in high school caused a lot of friction between us. He would ask me what stuff cost, and always get angry when I told him. Funny thing was, more than a few times, I caught him playing with my stuff when I came home unexpectedly. Congrats on the truck, I drive my friend's Sierra once in a while, and I like it fine from inside it, but I just can't stand the looks of the GM trucks anymore. The weird fender flares, the awful front end, it's just too much. I like the looks of the Ram the best, and the F150 is ok too, but the last GM trucks I've liked was the generation that came out in 1999. My 2000 Sierra was a decent vehicle, and never had any major issues, but the rear ABS was poorly done, and panic stopping on a rough road, and a lot of the roads in Toledo are rough was an adventure ride I didn't enjoy much. The 2003 Ram that replaced it after it was wrecked was superior in every way, IMHO.

    • Joeaverage Joeaverage on Jul 15, 2017

      I figure we are going through a styling period similar to the early 50s trucks with big toothy grilles and other odd details. I loved my '49 Chevy p/u though.

  • ToolGuy "Mr. President, no government agency, no think tank, and no polling firm knows more about the automobile customer than us. We talk to customers every day. As retail automotive dealerships, we are agnostic as to what we sell. Our business is to provide customers with vehicles that meet the needs of their budgets and lifestyles.”• How many lies can you fit into one paragraph?
  • Spamvw Three on the tree, even Generation X would have a hard time stealing one of those.
  • ToolGuy This trend of cyan wheels needs to end NOW.
  • Kwik_Shift Interesting nugget(s) of EV follies.
  • SaulTigh I've said it before and I'll say it again...if you really cared about the environment you'd be encouraging everyone to drive a standard hybrid. Mature and reliable technology that uses less resources yet can still be conveniently driven cross country and use existing infrastructure.These young people have no concept of how far we've come. Cars were dirty, stinking things when I was a kid. They've never been cleaner. You hardly ever see a car smoking out the tail pipe or smell it running rich these days, even the most clapped out 20 year old POS. Hybrids are even cleaner.