Out of Bounds

The Good Times Keep Rolling

Outdoor folks have never had it so good when it comes to toy haulers

By Rob Breeding

Playing in the outdoors requires lots of stuff. For me that means fly rods, boats, shotguns and dogs. For others it’s mountain bikes, kayaks and skis.

Maybe the most essential piece of gear for outdoor types is the gear hauler. That’s certainly so if your playground is some distance from your abode. I’ve assembled a list of favorite spots that stretch from Canada to Mexico, with a bunch of special places scattered between. I drive, a lot.

These days my gear hauler is a pickup, a Ford F-150. I like Fords. It’s a family thing, but my pickup preference is more tribal than practical. We live in the golden era of internal-combustion-engine-propelled, outdoor-toy transportation devices and there are plenty of great vehicles to choose from.

I’ve driven my truck for nearly eight years and 200,000 miles, yet it remains light years better than any vehicle I previously owned. In comparison, my dad’s Ford work trucks were crude, underpowered, smog-generating buck boards. 

My pickup is practically a Rolls Royce in comparison.

It hasn’t always been so for American iron. Dad drove some pretty nice F-250s from the mid-80s on, but that was after the bleakest era in American automobile manufacturing: the 1970s. New emissions, fuel economy and safety regulations pushed automakers beyond their capacity to build capable vehicles.  

One example: desperate to make them lighter, Ford drilled holes in the frames of its trucks, turning steel into Swiss cheese. That didn’t work out so well.

The dismal state of early-80s vehicles was best summed up by Merle Haggard in his classic 1982 country hit “Are the Good Times Really Over,” when he lamented, “I Wish a Ford and a Chevy could still last 10 years, like they should.”

When Merle wrote that song, getting a vehicle to the 100,000-mile mark was an achievement. I hope to hit 300k, so long as repairs don’t eat away all the money I’m saving on payments.

The new stuff lasts longer, has more power while delivering better gas mileage, and produces cleaner emissions. And modern vehicles really have it over the old stuff on safety. Crumple zones and air bags protect passengers from harm, and advanced electronic stability control keeps drivers out of trouble in the first place.

Outdoor folks have never had it so good when it comes to toy haulers.

I prefer trucks over SUVs as I have a lingering fear one of my pups will get sprayed by a skunk and I’ll never get the smell out of the headliner. 

Something like that happened a couple years back while I fished the Big Horn River near Fort Smith. Doll usually loiters on the bank nearby while I fish, but on this occasion she went exploring and found a rank cow pie in a nearby pasture to roll in. She was smelly and green from head to tail.

I did my best to wash her off in the river, and that apparently made quite the sight. A guide who was pulling out just upstream nearly clobbered me with his oar when he mistook my foul dog for an abused osprey — they are both black and white after all. 

Doll rode home in a crate.

My next vehicle may be electric as that’s the big push in the industry. Ford does have a new hybrid pickup that sports a generator function. Some Texas families used their hybrid trucks to run heaters and such, to get through last week’s storm.

Regardless of propulsion, I’ll stick with pickups. The new Bronco looks awfully cool, but smelly dogs and auto interiors don’t mix.

I hate to argue with Merle, but it seems the good times aren’t over after all, unless you have to spend 10 years inside a rig that smells like wet dog.

Rob Breeding writes and blogs at www.mthookandbullet.com.

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