01 December 2007

the downside of fuel efficiency

I am generally very anti-big vehicles. Like the horrible Hu.mm.er. Or the almost as horrible Ex.cur.sion. I think people need to be given a choice: your big truck or your life. Pick one and we, the other citizens of the world that we hope will last until our grandchildren’s days at least, will take the other. Pick. Now.

Then again, I do think there are times and places for big four-wheel drives. I needed my four-wheel drive in Rwanda. If I hadn’t had four-wheel drive, how would I have gotten out of all those ditches into which I backed? Okay, I probably would have done exactly what I did when I dropped my front passenger tire into a manhole: hired people to lift it out. That works, too. But it is very satisfying to be able to get oneself out of the predicaments into which one gets all on one’s own, just by jumping out and locking the tires and putting the truck in four-wheel drive. (I don’t know why so many ditches just LEAPT up and surrounded my back tires. The ditches of Rwanda had a conspiracy to make me look stupid, is all.)

Also, I needed all ten seats (two benches and two sideways flip-downs) quite often, and if I didn’t need the space for people, I needed it to haul things. Things like dead goats that had to be brought to the Ministry of Agriculture. That was fun. (Actual Truth: I refused to get in the car when there were dead goats in it. I made someone else take them. They were dead. DEAD.)

A four-wheel drive with a pretty high clearance is basically essential anywhere in South Sudan or Liberia. Even the capitals. You are going to need the truck just to maneuver the potholes. Little cars – I know, I drove one for a while in Liberia – are practically swallowed up by the potholes. Although I do hear that they are repaving Tubman Boulevard right now.

You also need a four-wheel drive up here in the mountains of Colorado in the winter. When I walked over to meet my sister for lunch, I suddenly noticed, while crossing a driveway, that I was going nowhere. I was moving my feet, but they were slipping back as fast as I moved them forward. I was on a treadmill of ice. I’m sure I amused the two passing cars.

When I borrowed my sister’s car to run some errands after lunch, I had to call her almost immediately. “Um.” I said, “do you happen to have a shovel?”

She came out with a snow shovel and we shoveled out the wheels. Then I pushed the pedal to the floor and she pushed at the hood. A shower of snow rose from the spinning tires. I slip-slid backwards and forwards and backwards again. When I finally got started going forward, I didn’t dare stop but just waved at her as I blasted my way through the snowbank at the exit from the parking lot.

I love a Corolla for the gas mileage and the sparing of the earth, but in some conditions you really wish for a Land Cruiser.


Monday's Child said...

Hey :)I just sent you my Ecuador trip Adventure story... let me know if you get it.. or not.. :)

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