It is amazing what 2 inches can do for visibility. I can now see out the window and over the tops of my side mirrors. What a thoughtful husband I have!
Newt is pretty big; I am not. In fact, I am what you might call "vertically challenged." I sit squarely at 5'3", about the same height as the majority of my fifth graders. When an adult walks into my classroom, I usually have to wave so that said adult can identify me amongst my ever-growing sea of students.
When we took Newt for a test drive, I was a little worried as I could barely see over her steering wheel. I found that If I just sat up straight, I could manage just fine. Blue Truck was also an F250 Super Duty, but the dash wasn't quite as high.
Sitting up straight has been working for the past three months. Mostly. When my husband and I go somewhere together, he typically drives his truck which is fine with me. We recently went to a party where I was the designated driver, so we took Newt. My husband was a bit freaked out when he saw me peering over the steering wheel like the proverbial old lady.
I told him I was thinking of ordering a cushion, but I hadn't yet done it. To my surprise there was an Amazon box waiting for me the other day, and in it was the seat cushion you see above. I was tickled pink!
The cushion has an adjustable strap that buckles below the seat. It took less than five minutes to install. The foam is firm and supportive, but it is taking me a bit of time to get used to it. I had to adjust my mirrors and pull the seat forward another inch to reach the pedals.
These bigger trucks were definitely not built with 5'3" ladies in mind. And since I purchased Newt with a few miles on her already, I didn't get to pick all of the features that I might have liked. A powered seat that you can raise would have been nice. The seat cushion was a lot cheaper than buying brand new though.
It is amazing what 2 inches can do for visibility. I can now see out the window and over the tops of my side mirrors. What a thoughtful husband I have!
Like I said on Monday, I am still learning about Newt. Every time I pull out my owner's manual, I discover some new option or feature that I didn't know Newt has. This weekend, I discovered some pretty good-to-know buttons.
Sitting smack dab in the middle of California's Central Valley, Bakersfield is flat. It's hard to test out a tow mode that holds a lower gear when you're driving on flat ground. I live on the east side of town though where the valley butts up against the very southern part of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. My husband suggested I haul up to the top of Round Mountain Road. He assured me there was a good spot to turn around up near the top. As it turns out, that spot was too muddy and bumpy, so I went further on up the road.
While two vehicles will fit across the road, it's pretty narrow, and there is no shoulder. Or better said, there's no useable shoulder. As I wound my way up the road, I started eyeballing even that questionable shoulder because I wasn't finding any kind of spot suitable to turn my 27 foot long trailer around. Not only is the trailer long, but Newt adds another 14 feet minus the 2 feet where the trailer is hitched. It's a lot of rig to just "turn around."
I eventually came to a driveway. I stopped in the middle of the road, which you can do when there is zero traffic, especially since I had reached the end of any buildable land. From that point on, the hills are dotted with nothing but oil derricks. I gave that driveway the stink eye, and made an executive decision: I was going to make a three-point turn.
Let me paint you a picture: a road barely wide enough for two cars, no useable shoulder, and what shoulder there was, was muddy, a down-sloping gravel drive way, and a driver who had only driven this truck and trailer combo around the block. Once. Two months ago.
As I took stock of the situation, best friend's voice rang in my ear, she can back that thing up a gnat's ass. And I did. It took a few back and forths, but within five minutes, Newt and I were facing downhill. I smiled smugly to myself, I love girl power, and headed back home, tow mode engaged.
Rather than just park and unhitch, I decided to pull up near the hose and give my trailer a quick spray wash. I've done this a zillion times. Once most of the sitting around for two months gunk was gone, I backed up to my parking spot. Or at least I tried to. I realized that I was hitting the gas, but my truck wasn't moving. For a moment, I panicked, certain that I must have backed into the hedge. I jumped out to take a look and realized that both truck tires were planted deep in the marsh that had formed around the leaking spigot.
I shook my head and could only laugh. Just a few days before, I had asked my husband a question about engaging Newt's 4-wheel drive. Blue Truck had 4 wheel drive, and back in my endurance days, I used it with some frequency. It had been close to 10 years since I had used it though. While perusing my manual the day before, I had done a quick verification that Newt's 4 wheel drive worked the same as Blue Truck's.
With no shift on the fly, I hopped out and locked the hubs in place, clicked the knob to 4-low, and gave it some gas. Newt popped out of the mud with ease. Rather than press my luck, I drove around instead of backing up.
The moral of the story is that I can only back it up a gnat's ass. Any wider than that, and I am SOL.
Equestrians are all about buttons. We want cute ones on our breeches, tricky ones installed on our horses, and if your truck's got some cool ones, all the better. Over the weekend, I learned how to use some of Newt's.
I haven't talked a lot about Newt since she joined our household, but I've sure been enjoying the heck out of her. So far, our adventures have been limited to making the trek to work to the barn, and back home again. Day after day, week after week.
One of my favorite things about the truck is the over-sized fuel tank. It holds a whopping 48 gallons. I only have to stop for diesel twice a month, and frankly, I could probably go three weeks on one tank. For convenience, I pop by the gas station every other weekend. So far, I generally put in about 35 gallons which costs me about $135.
I haven't hauled the horses anywhere yet, but over the long weekend, I thought it was high time to hook her up to my trailer again and learn how to use the manual shift option and the tow/haul button.
As I was finishing hooking up, I switch my dash screen to "towing" and got a nice little surprise.
After going through the checklist, which I found pretty cool, I took Newt for a longer drive up around our closest mountain. It was about a 40 minute round trip. When I got back, I got to try out one of Newt's other buttons. Stay tuned ...
First of all, if you're just casually stopping by, you might not know that Newt is my New Truck which just replaced my 19 year old Blue Truck. It was kind of a big deal to part with BT. She'd been in my life for a very long time. The only thing I've had longer than BT is my husband.
I am not really a fan of bulky key chains, but I do like to have something hanging there. And since Newt is now part of the family, I wanted something attached to her keys that might help me recover them in case I ever lose them.
I first found HalterTags.com way back in 2011. I ordered a tag for each horse's halter. Those tags are still going strong. I liked them so well that I later ordered tags for Izzy's halter and all of my blankets. Those too are still working just fine. So when I thought about a key chain for Newt, I immediately thought about a Halter Tag since Newt is really part of my equine family.
While the brass tags are GREAT quality tags that seem to last forever, I must offer a bit of a warning. First, I wish I would have ordered Newt's tags in brass instead of harness silver as they are already scratched from putting on the rings. The scratch wasn't just cosmetic. I could feel it, and it was pretty sharp. I ended up using a sponge-type nail file to smooth out the sharp edges; I don't remember the brass tags being that "soft."
The second thing is that these TOOK. FOREVER. TO. ARRIVE. I ordered them in the middle of November, and they only just got here. In fact, after three weeks, I finally emailed the company and asked whether they were on their way or not. I got a very quick and polite response saying that the Christmas rush had happened earlier than expected. In apology for my order taking so long, they generously offered me a second tag of my choice for free. I used it for my spare key fob. I very much appreciated the gesture. That's good customer service.
Even though the tags took a while to get here, and even though I'm slightly worried that the harness silver might be too soft to really last, I really, REALLY like the tags. They're thin, small, light weight, and just "there" enough to put a smile on my face when I pick up my keys.
And besides that, it's just cute that Newt has a halter tag.
I have had my new truck, Newt, for about a month now. Boy, do I love her. She is everything that I hoped she'd be. She's not as hard to park as I thought, and her low end torque, what helps get her moving, especially with a trailer, is a whopping, 935 lb-ft of torque. That means when we're stopped at a light, I can actually go forward without mashing the gas and barking the tires.
Newt's dash is a literal computer. It reports all kinds of information. It knows when my trailer is hitched up and offers me all kinds of data. I have a DEF gauge, DEF is the additive that all diesel engines require, but I haven't needed to add any yet. The screen that I finally landed on for daily driving is the one that shows hours running, miles to empty, average fuel mileage, and miles driven.
When the dealership delivered Newt, the fuel needle registered full, but I knew they had driven at least 120 miles. I headed over to the gas station and topped off the tank. It took 13 gallons of diesel. I reset the Trip 1 data to what you see in the above photo, and then I drove it. For ten days. All of the Trip 1 data changed except for the miles to E. It stubbornly sat at 568 miles to empty. The fuel gauge never wavered. It too sat firmly at full.
Big sigh. Newt's fuel gauge was obviously broken. I have a 100,000 mile warranty on her, so I put in a call to the service department here in town and made an appointment for the following Tuesday. The very next day, a Friday, I started Newt up and saw the fuel needle drop a tiny bit. The next day, it dropped down to three-quarters full.
That weekend, I pulled out the owner's manual and started looking at some of Newt's specs. When I saw the size of the fuel tank, I almost had a heart attack. Newt lugs around a massive 48 gallon tank. I started doing some calculations based on the computer's miles per gallon average and realized that Newt has a range of about 700 miles! No wonder the needle hadn't moved. I cancelled the service appointment.
Once I realized how big the tank was, I filled it up again, and reset the trip data. This time, the miles to empty came in at close to 700 miles. Things were working just fine. In fact things were better than fine. I realized that I would never again have to fill up while driving to or from a show. I drive about 300 miles a week which means I am only going to need to get diesel about twice a month.
I was a little embarrassed about the whole Newt is Already Broken thing, but since then, I've been reading my truck's manual. Like they say, read the directions first!
Getting rid of a car (and a truck) and replacing it/them with a new truck is a lot like moving. You have to pack, sign A LOT of papers, swap out keys, unpack, and then figure out your new routine.
I think I am finally all settled in, but just like moving into a new house, nothing ever goes perfectly. I've had to make a few little adjustments over the past week. Figuring out my keys took longer than anything else.
Juke had a keyless ignition, one of my favorite inventions of all time. There was no actual key, just a fob, and as long as it was in my purse or pocket, I could start the car by pushing the button. I could also unlock my door by pushing the button on the handle. The best thing was that I couldn't lock my door if the fob was in the car, and believe me, I tried. About a million times.
We have an alarm system at our house. To deactivate the alarm, you enter the code at the door that leads from the garage into the house. Entering the code also unlocks the door. All of that means that I have been living a keyless lifestyle for four years. It has been fantastic.
As luck would have it, a few days before Newt arrived, our gage door suffered a fatal injury which meant replacing it. It's been ordered, but we can no longer use it until it is replaced. That means that I have had to park outside and can't use the keypad into the house. I now have to unlock the door with a key. It has been more than a little irritating to have to schlepp all of my stuff (work, barn, groceries, you name it) through the front door as I hear, "Disarm System Now... DISARM SYSTEM NOW... DISARM SYSTEM NOW" in an ever increasing tone of urgency.
Not only do I now have to use a key to unlock my front door, I also have to use a key to start my vehicle. First World problems, I know. Newt has a regular ignition, regular except for the shape of the key. It's a "switch blade" key. With the press of a button, a long narrow key pops out of the fob. Newt has keyless entry, but no one at the dealership where I bought the truck knew the code. Normally, I wouldn't have cared too much except that I have grown incredibly fond of not needing a key in my hand to unlock my door. I was also ridiculously concerned that I was going to lock my keys in the truck since I had grown lazy about knowing where the keys were. Juke wouldn't let me lock the keys inside, so I never thought twice about hitting the lock button.
Even after a half a dozen calls to the dealership in Paso Robles, no one could find the door lock code. Ultimately, I gave up and called my local dealership who immediately reassured me that they knew how to retrieve the code in fewer than 5 minutes. All it took a was a quick scan of the barcode located beneath my steering wheel. Suddenly, I was once again keyless - at least for locking and unlocking the door. I still need a key to start the engine, but at least I can liberate my keys if I accidentally lock them in the truck.
Besides getting the keys sorted out, there have been a few other getting to know you moments. I had to find a place for my Trailer-Aid to live. I had a great storage compartment behind Blue Truck's backseat, but Newt has under seat storage instead. The Trailer--Aid was too big, but it does fit nicely behind my saddle rack in the horse trailer.
I also had to find a place to store my road/travel kit. It has jumper cables, a mini air compressor, first aid supplies, flares, a flash light, and on and on. It's a handy thing to have, but it too lived behind Blue Truck's back seat. I am not sure I love where it is, but my choices are limited.
Just like moving into a new house, I immediately wanted to change the flooring on Newt. Blue Truck had a rubber floor, something we paid extra for. My husband had purchased WeatherTech FloorLiners for my Juke, something I can no longer live without. Newt has carpet and carpeted floor mats. Yeah, no. In fact, that's a hard no. Before Newt had been in the driveway for 48 hours, I was already clicking options to determine my floor's configuration on WeatherTech's website.
Rather than two mats, one for the right and one for the left, WeatherTech makes a single liner that stretches from the driver's side over the center hump to the passenger's side. As you would expect from WeatherTech, the liner fits precisely and snugly.
Since I go straight to the ranch after work without stopping by the house, my barn boots and clothes live behind my seat in the truck. No matter how well I rinse my boots before tossing them in the back, they're still dirty. No matter whether I touch a flake of hay of not, it still finds it's way to the truck. My back floor mats get dirtier than the driver's side mats do. I had to have a rear floor liner, too. Like the one for the front, this one is also a single piece that stretches all the way across the floor. I am insanely happy with how well both liners fit and look.
Were they cheap? No. The set, with tax and shipping, cost $266.86, but it was totally worth it. They fit better than the standard mats, and they really keep the dirt under control. I can either do a quick vacuum, or when they get really dirty, they pop right out and can be hosed off.
Newt and I are still getting to know each other, but I already love her. Nothing against Blue truck, but it's amazing how quiet "new" can be. Sirius Radio, Navigation, Blue Tooth, back up camera, and a dashboard computer that reads like a NASA switchboard don't hurt either.
I am looking forward to our next show so I can really flex Newt's engine muscles. That's the real reason for getting a truck like this, power. And I ready to start wielding it!
All my life I dreamed of owning my own truck and trailer. Every single time I passed a truck and trailer motoring down the road, I stared longingly with envy, certain that the driver had to be the happiest human being on the planet.
When I was 29 years old, we bought Blue Truck, our second truck, but the first truck big enough to pull a trailer. A few months later we bought the trailer, a two-horse with living quarters. I really and truly thought I had died and gone to Heaven. I could not have been happier. The very first weekend that we had that trailer we went to the Sunland 50-mile endurance race. Having my own transportation meant I could go wherever I wanted, whenever I wanted.
My childhood dreams did not disappoint. Having a truck and trailer has been been just as awesome as I always imagined it to be. In the mid-2000s, my first trailer was stolen, so I replaced it with the model I have now, a Silverlite three-horse with living quarters.
That 2000 F250 Super Duty 4x4 with a Triton V-10 engine was still around though, doing her job with nary a complaint. The second trailer was bigger, but even at 15 years old, Blue Truck did her job. As you already know, last week I finally decided to trade her in for a younger model. A less likely to break down model. Something with a 100,000 mile bumper to bumper warranty.
When I told my students that I was trading in Blue Truck for a new truck, they laughed and said I should call the new truck, NEW TRUCK, because it rhymed with Blue Truck. Kids are funny. And often times right. Instead of New Truck, I shortened it to New T, or Newt.
While Newt is new to me, she's actually been around the block already. Newt is a 2019 model with only 22,000 miles on her. Buying slightly "used" saved me about $15,000. Newt is a Ford F250 6.2L Power Stroke Diesel. She has four-wheel drive, a crew cab (which seats 6), and an 8' long bed.
Before shopping for a new truck, I made a list of absolute must haves, things I wouldn't compromise on no matter what. On my list was a Ford F250 with a diesel engine. It had to be no older than 2018 and have less than 30,000 miles. It also had to have Blue Tooth, navigation, and a built in trailer brake. And I needed all of that for around $50,000.
Surprisingly, it didn't take me long to find almost what I was searching for, and actually, I got a lot more than I needed. Newt came with four-wheel drive, something I didn't need, but it's nice to have. Newt checked off all of the boxes except for one. There was no navigation system. Paso Robles Ford was interested in a sale though, so they got creative pretty quickly.
It turns out that replacing a Sync system without navigation for one with navigation is pretty simple to do. In fact, it only took a few hours. With the navigation installed on a 2019 F250 diesel with well under 30,000 miles, I signed on the dotted line. Since the navigation unit had to be ordered and installed, I asked that Paso Ford also arrange for the installation of the gooseneck hitch. I am super pleased with how that turned out.
The truck is now ready for hauling. The ball is installed and a wiring harness was also installed in the truck bed. The truck comes with the wiring for the plug at the bumper, but that doesn't work too well for gooseneck hitches, so now I have one installed in the bed itself.
Yesterday, I hooked up to the trailer. It took me a minute as I needed to get my bearings; Blue Truck had a short bed while Newt has a long bed, a difference of about two feet. After a few back and forths, I had everything lined up. I've been hooking up by myself for almost twenty years. Newt might be longer, but the process is the same.
After adjusting the mirrors and checking that the lights and brakes were working, I took the trailer for a short drive. All I did was drive the trailer out through the neighborhood and back, but that short little jaunt left me feeling quite impressed. I couldn't even feel the trailer back there.
After unhooking, I took Newt to the gas station and topped off the tank. Blue Truck's tank was around 25 gallons, but its fuel mileage was so poor that I had to get gas before I hit 200 miles. Newt's tank? It's HUGE! It will cost a fortune to fill it up, but at least I can get to a show and back without needing to stop for diesel. Twice. Sorry, Blue Truck. Your mph kind of sucked in your old age.
All that's left to do is actually go somewhere.
One of the reasons that Newt, my new truck, didn't make it home on Saturday was because she's getting a gooseneck hitch installed. Blue Truck had a B&W Hitch with a roll-over ball. You pulled a pin, and the ball flipped down beneath the level of the bed. The safety chain was hooked to two large eye bolts that screwed in and out. With the ball flipped over and the eye bolts removed, the truck's bed was flat and ready for use.
There was no way in hell that my husband and I were going to install the new hitch, even though B&W provides a great video with instructions. Instead, I opted to have Paso Robles Ford use their local company to get the job done before I even brought the truck home.
B&W has made a ton of improvements over the past two decades. They've changed the way the ball appears in the bed while (hopefully) improving its performance. To move the ball out of the way now, you pull a pin from under the wheel well which releases the ball. You lift the ball out of a 4 inch hole, flip it over, and drop it back in on its head - so to speak. Then you re-engage the pin.
Since I traded in both Blue Truck and Juke, Newt will serve as both my hauling vehicle and my daily driver. Having a cleaner bed with nothing to unscrew and remove will be pretty convenient.
While I was perusing B&W's website, I found a great video that explains how they designed their gooseneck hitches. If you're at all interested in buying a trailer or you have a new one, it's worth the two and a half minutes. They also have a long list of towing products including bumper pull hitches.
Besides a new hitch, Newt is also getting a navigation system installed. Newt came with Ford's Sync option, but it only allowed for music, voice, calling, and entertainment, not navigation. That was a deal breaker for me. One of the things I most wanted in Blue Truck's replacement was GPS. Newt will have it in the next few days.
Hopefully at least one one of these things is being installed today. Monday's holiday slowed down the shipping process, but I was assured that deliveries would be made in two days, and that was as of Saturday. I'm a realist though, so the truth is that Newt is probably still sitting on the lot awaiting the arrival of either the hitch or the navigation system. It's no biggie. I can wait.
To be continued ...
This weekend was a bit bittersweet. I finally let go of Blue Truck. I am not going to lie; it was hard to do, and I got pretty emotional about it. I am Blue Truck's original owner, having had her for nearly 20 years. That's longer than many of you have had your spouse or kids.
After our first house, Blue Truck was the most expensive thing we had ever purchased. That body style had just come out, so what we were looking for wasn't yet sitting on a lot. We took a lot of time custom ordering her. She had a Triton V-10 engine, four-wheel drive, beefed up differentials, a tow package, no carpet (for which we paid extra!), and a crew cab body style to accommodate two rowdy Labrador Retrievers. Blue Truck also had power everything from the windows to the door locks. And this was when windows were still rolled up with a crank handle. Oh, and we had a CD player.
We spared no expense on that truck knowing that we would have it at least ten years. Little did we know that it would exceed our expectations by another decade. We ordered Blue Truck in the late winter, but didn't get to drive it home until the end of May. We were living large, that's for sure.
In the beginning "the truck" - she didn't yet carry the moniker, Blue Truck, belonged to both my husband and myself. There was a lot of arguing over who got to drive it. Eventually, we settled on a weekly rotation. My husband drove the truck one week, and I got to drive it the next.
Eventually, the newness wore off, and our lives changed. In 2005, Blue Truck officially became mine alone. We even changed the title to reflect my sole ownership. Somewhere along about that time I started calling her Blue Truck.
I've been contemplating replacing Blue Truck for more than three years. New trucks are expensive though, and I am still waiting on that money tree. I didn't suddenly inherit any money, but I finally came to the conclusion that Blue Truck was probably approaching the point where my chances of getting stranded were getting pretty good. Last weekend, I started internet shopping. I found something that looked right, so I made a few calls and threw in my perky, super-fun Juke for good measure.
Over the weekend, we drove both vehicles to the Ford Dealership in Paso Robles, a two-hour drive. It seemed unusual to me, but the dealership was quite used to taking multiple vehicles in on trade. Apparently it's done with some regularity.
I did all of my searching and then negotiating through the internet, emails, and texting. How weird is it to negotiate for a vehicle via text? Not that weird apparently. When the sales guy and I needed to find a text I had sent, I had to look over his shoulder to help him spot the right part of the message, and he had to scroll through a LOT of texts. Selling cars through a text message is his normal.
New Truck, Newt, for short, didn't make it home with us though. Newt needs a gooseneck hitch and a navigation system installed, so we drove home in a loaner. If everything goes to plan, which only happens sometimes, Newt will get delivered on Friday. I thought last week was long. This week is going to take forever.
To be continued ...
I'll admit that I am a little bit superstitious. Back when I was endurance racing, there was one, and only one, t-shirt that could serve as my pajama top. I am also careful about what I wish for. Jinxing yourself is a thing. I sort of feel like tempting fate, or the Universe, is pretty stupid, but black cats, broken mirrors, and Friday the 13th have never spooked me.
With horses though, it's best to honor all of the weirdo gods, the real one, too, and offering sacrifices whenever possible can't hurt either. You know, like not stepping on cracks, always take time to pet a dog whose tail is wagging, and don't hesitate to go back to double check that gate one more time.
I must have missed a sacrificial moment or forgotten to give homage to one of the gods of something - probably the weather god; he's always annoyed with me, because the stars did not align for me this weekend.
Early in the week, my friend Jen, who organizes tons of shows and clinics, texted and asked if I wanted to come and do an Erika Jansson Cavaletti Clinic on Saturday. I tried to do one earlier in the year but something came up. I hesitated for a few minutes - was I comfortable jumping into something again without a plan?, and then I threw caution to the wind. "Sure," I told her. "Sign me up." Izzy needs all the show miles he can get.
While we were at the schooling show the weekend before, I noticed that one of my trailer's tires looked a bit low. I made a mental note to ask my husband to bring out the air compressor and fill it up. Of course I forgot to do that, so on Friday afternoon, as I was loading my tack, I noticed the tire again and realized that it was more than low. I popped on my tire gauge. Instead of 40 pounds of pressure, like the rest of the tires had, the gauge read 10.
Reggie, the ranch's fixer of all the things, brought out his air compressor and filled the tire back up. Even though we couldn't hear or see a leak, I just couldn't drive 6 hours round trip with a questionable tire. I gave my favorite tire place a call, Les Schwab over on Buck Owens Boulevard, and asked if they could work on a tire that was still on the trailer.
Not only could they, but they have a large, covered bay for just that purpose. I was told which entrance to use and easily found the enormous covered parking for servicing large rucks. The manager, Justin, came out to greet me with a jack in tow. In less than 15 minutes, he pulled the tire, found the nail, patched it, and had it back on my trailer.
When he said I was good to go, I reminded him that I still needed to pay for the repair. He quickly shook his head and explained that they never charge to fix a flat tire even if I hadn't bought the tire there. Wow. That's amazing customer service. On a personal note, fixing a horse-related problem at no charge earns you my business for the rest of my life. Got a tire or brake problem? Check out Les Schwab on Buck Owens Boulevard; they'll treat you right. I headed back to the ranch feeling much better about Saturday's long drive.
But it was Friday the 13th, and like I said, I must have forgotten to sacrifice something because when I rolled into the barn at 6:00 a.m. on Saturday morning ready to roll, Izzy was missing a shoe and his leg was hot and swollen. Turd. He's fine, but I didn't get to do the cavaletti clinic after all.
Horses. What are you going to do?