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.”
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