The Marine View Driver: The Fine Art of Converting your Car to a Pickup

In which the author loads a bit much into his trunk, and other stories.

by Mike Smith

When I started writing this column I had intended on describing the many times my cars had been stolen and the entertaining / almost-miraculous ways that we either got the cars back, got them repaired, or got them replaced. I thought I had some really funny stories.

I found though that as I’ve talked to other people, my stories ended up not being so unusual. Everyone I’ve talked to seems to have a story of car theft followed by miraculous recovery or singlular strange happening with a car that resolved in a very unusual way. So I’ll save the hilarity for later.

I have also found that people have widely varying love/hate relationships with their cars. There are car people, like me, who simply love cars. In this group there are those that buy a new car almost every year. There are some, like me, that wish for a new car every year. (Incidentally, when I go to the car show, I secretly think that this will be the year that I actually get to buy a new car. I’m still dreaming.)

Then there are those who only use their car for nothing more than simple transportation. Admirable, yet unimaginative. This is sad because with even a little imagination, a car can become a trans-formative tool.

To illustrate, I would like to point out that my first cars were barely-running pieces of art that accommodated my sleepy late nights after work as veritable motels. I admit I practically lived in my cars. I even slept in my car on occasion. Once I spent the night in the school parking lot just to make sure I wasn’t late for school the next day. I locked the doors. My cars were my pride and joy and probably kept me out of trouble, since I never stopped driving for long.

And lately, our cars have been used as farm equipment.

My wife and I are the type of people who use our car for everything. Even when we had a luxurious Buick, we still used it for our daily deeds. For instance, we used to go every week up to Seattle in the Othello district to fill our trunk up with lunch sacks for homeless guys. We would distribute about 30 of them every Saturday. We had a couple of boxes in the trunk and a couple of them in the back seat. An inauspicious job for a full-sized Buick, but we had it to do and it was our only car. But we also hauled fertilizer, sod, and plant starters. We like gardening more than cars.

12649486963_c688600489_zOnce when I had a business in Montana I would drive from Seattle to Montana in my little Honda Accord. It was a great car for an 800-mile trip, by the way. I would leave home at 10:00 pm and drive all night in order to arrive just outside of Billings at noon the next day. I would do some work, spend the night with my in-laws and hit the road in a couple of days to come back to Seattle.

My business never really went anywhere—not for lack of trying mind you—but I did get some benefits out of it. I had leased some farm land from my mother-in-law as part of the business. I had a half-section, as it is called. Actually, 330 acres. A full section is a square mile, or 360 acres.

The property is full of rolling hills and rock. Many of the rocks are slate and sandstone that seem to appear on the property only when you are driving through it in a Honda. But the great thing about these stones is they are the perfect size for path-making. I filled my Honda trunk with a bunch of these two-foot square stones and began a drive home. They are a perfect compliment to any garden. Like in my back yard!

Stone Path from MontanaMy trip home was laborious because Hondas don’t have a gross weight rating. I estimate I had about 600 pounds of sandstone in my trunk. It wasn’t fully apparent while driving on the dirt roads home from Montana, but once I hit the freeway, I was quite tail heavy. It made steering quite easy, but ineffective. In fact the steering wheel had almost no resistance. The front end was so light that even the slightest acceleration or bump made the front end leave the pavement. The wheel was very light to the touch. Over all, it was a little dicey. Oh, well… only 760 more miles to go!

I had to be careful heading down the freeway. Even though my trunk end was dragging and looking a little like an arthritic hyena, I must have seemed normal in Montana. Out our way it seemed that everyone was carrying more than their fair share of… whatever. Pickups were the vehicle du jour. I only had a Honda, but the droopy rear end was the common denominator. So, I drove incognito and unmolested all the way into Washington. I fit right in all the way home. I did put out a few streetlamps though.

I guess the street lamps have light sensors that tell them when it is getting dark. Somebody must have shined a light at them and tripped them so that they would go out again. I basically rode a wheelie from Billings to Seattle.

It was entertaining.

Yesterday we drove our little red wagon Dodge Caliber to the nursery and bought a bunch of plants for our yard. I know, it seems a waste of money; but we like gardening and we get tired of having a landlord-designed yard… of dirt.

So we plant at our own expense. All I can say is: the neighbors like us. So does the landlord, for that matter. As much as they don’t like to spend a dime on the place, they like the fact that we keep the yard sort of nice.

It was the first time we’d used the Caliber for its more-than-likely primary use… that is, trips to the nursery hauling plants and dirt. Even though it is one of the newest cars we’ve ever owned, and it has the latest bells and whistles available, we still used it as a truck.

It was nice. It felt like home.

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