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A love affair with a pickup
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I understand the attraction guys have for pickup trucks. I know it full well.

I hate being without mine. Even when I’m on vacation and driving a nice, new rental car, with a multi-disc CD changer and player with new tires and a clean interior, I miss my truck with the dented tailgate, the substance on top of the place where the jack is because my nephew left a gummy bear there and it melted and the third door that won’t open anymore.

And I miss my baby now, but not for long, I hope.

Some years ago, I was on my way back from the ACC basketball tournament in Charlotte. My engine was making a set of odd sounds, but nothing that sounded too out of the ordinary.

But then a bunch of lights I hadn’t seen before started coming on and I started hearing what sounded like a warning alarm that I didn’t know I had. In a blink of an eye I started losing power. I had an exit in sight and, as fortune would have it, pulled into the parking lot of a motel.

I popped the hood — like I had any idea what I was looking for and could do something about it — and saw that my alternator was on fire. Not a raging inferno, mind you, but enough of a flame to maybe roast a marshmallow or two.

I went to the front desk of the motel and asked two questions, the latter of which certainly raised an eyebrow with the night clerk.

“Do you have a vacancy and a fire extinguisher?”

Got both of them.

So before departing Cartersville — Atlanta’s push northward is on the verge of consuming the otherwise quiet town — on Tuesday morning, I made a couple of calls, one to a repair shop that was nearby, or as nearby as I could find, and to a rental car agency.

With my engine sounding like there was a chain saw steady ripping away at its innards, I pushed my baby to the repair shop, happily shutting off the motor before it shut off on me.

Somewhere on I-16 east of Statesboro and west of Savannah, they called me with the estimate.

That morning, I told them what I thought the problem was — an air conditioning compressor about to go toes up and my fears it would freeze up and take my new serpentine belt and then everything else with it — and the fella on the other end said that without looking at it, it was probably going to run me $600 to about $1,000.

My planned vacation to Seattle, Vancouver and Whistler flashed before my eyes. I could see there would be no Mariners tickets to watch Ichiro play. No trek to the rain forest outside of Vancouver. No hiking around Whistler with a reward of a big steak at The Keg waiting.

The damage? About $735 and change. Not great, but not as bad as it could have been, I suppose.

My sister chimed in that it was a time to get a new truck. So did my lawyer, on his way back from his house at Amelia Island and headed to Vegas.

I got almost eight years and more than 250,000 miles in that beauty. It’s just getting broke in good, you know?

My previous truck, also my first one, lasted me 10 years and nearly 290,000 miles. I drove it to Montreal, to Miami, to places in Georgia I didn’t know existed and a thousand other spots on the map.

No way I’m not milking this one for all it’s worth, especially since it is what was once my savings account.

A day, maybe two, after I bought this truck, I was at our favorite late-night hangout. Needing to excuse myself, I entered the bathroom and heard someone say, “Well, somebody in here just got a good deal on a new truck.”

It was, in fact, the guy who sold me my ride. Said he had played in the Padres chain. Whatever.

I shot back, “Hey, you’ve got my savings account.” Funny thing is, never saw that guy come into our home away from home — and work — and practically everything else — again.

And this truck, like its worthy, stalwart predecessor that only had a cassette player and a couple of dents of its own, is the most important kind of vehicle.

It’s paid for. It’s got a new radiator. It’s got a new belt. It’s got a fairly new battery. And it’s gonna have what I consider the most important invention of all time — air conditioning.

And it’s going to be mine all mine again.