Ode to the 80

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Aug 8, 2003
Well, it seems like we've had a run on no-starts, head gaskets and little random issues here on the board so I thought it was time for a little praise for these overbuilt gas swilling prairie schooners. I'm finishing a book on a winter voyage around Cape Horn in a huge square rigger 150 years ago. The parallels between the exhausted crew's admiration for their tough ship's ability to handle the massive pounding of rogue waves, subzero temps, a load of 500 tons of coal, and hurricane force winds all at the same time was an obvious one.

These trucks are crude, rough and uncivilized and get the job done despite an average mileage here on Mud's 80s that has to be at least 125,000 miles. That's around the world 5 times, gents.

Anyhow, last week we were in Park City, UT to ski. My wife flew down a few days in advance to ski with her Mom so I drove the 750 miles with our two kids alone. The kids and I opted to leave at 2:30am to beat an advancing winter storm. The 97 has 173,000 miles on it and a few days prior I checked all fluids, touched up tire pressures, RainX'd the windows and filled the washer with special ice melting fluid. As a precaution against traveling across N. Idaho through passes and then down Western Montana in the winter months, I carried chains and a full recovery kit as well as a shovel, some extra food and my Search and Rescue kit.

We left the house with full fuel tank on time, the kids having slept in their clothes. Had the block warmer turn on at midnight so we'd get heat right away. Light snow right away as barren streets delivered us to Interstate 90. After an hour, the 400lbs of gear in the back had settled into place and the only sound was the boom of the big twincam six up hills 3 to 5 miles long on a thin flat layer of white snow wisping across the road. The burley Hella lamps out on the ARB stood watch for the numerous deer while the HIR high and low beams blasted far down the road to make tracking smooth as the road undulated constantly. One solitary car oncoming was the total traffic.

Three hours later the ol gal had burned through a half tank so I put in to a shell station. With two sleeping children in the truck, I went in to pay the bill with my Glock concealed in the rare case somene attacks the car . Came out to gentle snoring and lit up the 4.5 for another few hour run. As it became dawn, I pulled out an Easter Bag for all of us and passed them around. We said a little prayer an opened them up to find little love notes and candy. IT made us miss her and a little more pressure was put on the fuel peddle. Yum Yum. During one long striaght approach to the 15 I tightened the driver's seat wings in and inflated the lumbar support, leaned the bottom cushion rearward and just got comfy.

Now the sun was up and normal people were starting their days running to Momma's down the road, etc The first town we came to looked promising to deliver the country breakfast I had promised. Good stuff.

Back into the beast where they have to climb up using the handholds, then buckle in amidst a drift of their favorite vid games, drawing pads a portable DVD player with headphones, and book. We 3 are happy there is enough room for all this plus bags of snacks I have let them pick out in the grocery store that we'd never allow at home.

Out on the open road we run confidenly through isolated areas with no thought of having an issue with reliability. None. Back to the steady thrum of the big 4.5 Liter 6. It puts them to sleep so I turn off the book on tap of an adventure we're listening to - not because I want to hear something else but more because I want them to hear this part of the story with me. We hit snow covered snow and don't slow down. Heavy sidewinds hit harshly, making other vehicles swerve. We merely lean on the suspsion without changing course. Tank after tank I point out to the kids we're getting 13.8mpg or 14.6mpg and for a time our lives mesh with the Cruisers life in a way that makes it clear to them that "Lucy's" health will deterimine if we get to Utah when planned. That health has never been a concern and is not now.

Lost in thought, I wonder to myself what to do if one of the increasing number of deer ends up on the freeway in front of us and after contemplating decide that I will not swerve, but brake hard and hit it as lightly as I can square on with the ARB. I idly calculate the odds of a deer running back to the side it came from (supposedly the best odd) versus standing or running the other way.

All the time I'm listening. I'm feeling. I've got a constant low level check for any impending malfunction that will reveal itself to me with a faint shimmy, whir, clunk or dashboard guage behavior. Nothing. She seems content to merely cruise along at 78mph.

Cars go on past and I think whether I'd like to own this one or that one. For each there is an advantage over Lucy of fuel economy or low price, etc. But for nearly all Lucy has an answer which is in a crash where you stupidly spin in front of us we will rip your car/SUV/Minivan's guts out. Or hit us in the side, in which case one of us will slide a few feet and recover while you go bouncing off into the 5 feet of snow along side the freeway. For the competent but annoying new Subaru OutBack Wagon, Lucy can carry 3 more people and hundreds of pounds more in luggage, + pull a trailer. Oh, and Lucy has no car payments, and didnt depreciate $10,000 dollars this year while you made payments of $4800 dollars. So which of us is traveling cheaper this fine March day in Montana sir? You in your year old $34,000 Subaru wagon getting 23mph, or me getting 14mpg.

I should stop for an extravagent lunch somewhere just to show off my financial advantage! The kids like that, but like me would rather trundle onward. We arrive on time with nary a blink from the Cruiser.

While there, I snowshoe almost every day starting from a road above Park City by the water tower which has become nearly impassable. Others walk the half mile to the gate. I am the first of the season to blast my way there, snickering all the way, turn around in near 30" of powder so I can leave the truck pointed downhill and drive into the even deeper snow to keep the narrow turnaround spot open for any other vehicle that dares follow my tracks. None do. Finally on the 3rd day of this I have trenched the road to the point other jeeps and a daring Subaru Outback also come up.

One day in Park City (a steep main street) the car in front of me miscalculated and backed hard into the ARB. Didn't leave a mark on my bumper, but crunched a trunklid, taillight and quarter panel to a surprising degree on their car. We exchanged info but I just chalked it up to parking a jungle-capable vehicle in an urban environment and got to say "Meh" in public for the first time. That felt good.

On the ride home to Idaho, another family in their '05 Acura MDX equally loaded decide they must get there fast so they run 80mph and we caravan with them. Surprisingly, our MPG drops to 13.5 and they manage only 19 MPG. Again, they've got payments on that thing, we don't. So the total cost of the voyage would be one sided in our favor.

All that trip, there was plenty of room for movie watching, gear stowage, seat reclining, and the knowledge that should something happen involving a deer or another motor vehicle we'd come out OK on it. It was relaxing. It was rewarding. It had all the earmarks of a classic 1500 mile Western road trip. One car wash and a vacuum and we were home and using her to get groceries and deliver the kids to school again. These girls can do it all and it makes me proud. In a month, I'll saddle one of them up to our 3 ton boat and once again admire their ability to do it all.....

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If that had a kickin' soundtrack, it would rock.;)

As usual, great testimonial and a fun read. :cheers:

You always seem to post these things at the right points in time.
That was great. The details allowed it to play like a movie as I read it and of course, reminds me why I opted for one of these beasts instead of a minivan to haul my wife and three children around.

Well written. I think that sums up nicely how most of us feel about our 80's. Just yesterday after parking my 80 I got out, looked at her, an thought to myself, what a perfect blend of durability and looks- an amazing machine.

Cheers to the 80:beer:
:clap: All hail the 80!
Nice read Doug!
Misty eyes.... I will never talk bad about my truck again.
Thanks Doug,

Now you made me feel bad for trading it in........
The Glock mention sure was a tease! I was waiting for you to cap a deer or something! :hmm:
That was awesome and very well written. Just kind of puts a smile on my face:)

Thanks Wife read it and I thought she was gonna cry! I am so proud to own a 80, thanks. When can we expect more?
Awesome. Some people don't seem to get the idea...

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