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Some drivers just can't let go of their vehicles

August 08, 2004|by TERRY HEADLEE

Several weeks ago when the odometer on my SUV flipped to 60,000 miles, a couple of thoughts raced through my mind.

The first, of course, was that my SUV no longer was under factory warranty.

The second thought was that once again, I had somehow managed to drive 60,000-plus miles in two years.

I figure I will hit the 100,000-mile mark by the time of the Mummers' Parade in 2005 and then 200,000 miles sometime in March 2009.

(Reader timeout: I'll be explaining a reader-submission contest that could win you $50, but more on this in a minute)

Anyhow, it occurred to me the other day that I've never actually driven the same vehicle more than 200,000 miles.

I know there are far more important accomplishments in life, but doing this, as well as seeing the Grand Canyon and Stonehenge, are a couple of things I'd like to do in this world before I check out.

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The last vehicle I owned, a 1993 Chevrolet S-10 pickup truck, had more than 197,000 miles on it when I stupidly decided to buy the SUV.

Don't get me wrong, I really like the SUV and all of its amenities. I had gone the last seven years without air conditioning - it broke while under warranty and after five attempts to fix it, I gave up. I also was weary of loading it up with 40-pound sandbags when the forecast called for snow.

Still, I was oh-so-close to the big 2-0.

I remember boasting about how my pickup truck with its original engine never broke down and that my goal was to drive it at least 238,000 miles - the average distance from the earth to the moon.

I gave it to my father-in-law, who within a couple of months, rolled it over the 200,000 mark (I always wished I had been there to see it) before selling it this past spring after topping 208,000 miles.

Prior to the Chevy, I owned a 1988 Dodge Ram 50 pickup truck - a stripped-down model with no AC, no cigarette lighter, manual windows and locks, and a rear bumper that was extra, not standard (I'm not making that up).

And yes, that truck still is humming along 16 years later with more than 200,000 miles on its odometer.

I actually had racked up more than 135,000 miles on it in less than five years when I gave it to my father-in-law in 1993 - the year I purchased the Chevy. He later sold the truck to his brother, Harold, who lives in Berryville, Va.

As of Wednesday, the Dodge truck had exactly 210,298 miles on it. I know this because I had my wife call him last week on the phone and ask him. I was, you know, curious.

So, here's the deal: I'm certain there are plenty of readers out there who have been driving the same car or truck for a long time. If you've been tooling around on your same set of wheels for a lot of years or have racked up a lot of miles - let's say 250,000-plus - then we want to know.

In a couple of weeks, we'll be putting together a story on drivers who don't get caught up in the trend of buying a vehicle every three to four years, but instead, because of love or necessity, drive their vehicles into the ground.

The reader with the best story will win $50.

Send your story by next Sunday to reporter Julie Greene either via e-mail at julieg@herald-mail.com or call her at 301-733-5131 or 1-800-626-6397, ext. 2320.

In the meantime, I'll let you know in March 2009 if I made it.

Terry Headlee is executive editor of The Herald-Mail. He may be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 7594, or by e-mail at terryh@herald-mail.com.

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