I drive a truck. It is a 2013 Chevrolet Silverado, Texas Edition, in Summit White, running on a 5.3-liter Vortec V8 engine. It has twenty-inch chrome wheels and chrome trim on the bumpers, grill, and side-view mirrors. It measures six feet tall, six feet wide, and nearly twenty feet long. It makes no practical sense for me to own this vehicle. My daily commute is ten miles of interstate and downtown Austin streets. I get 15.1 miles per gallon according to my truck’s digital display, but I fear the actual number is worse. My truck doesn’t fit into most parking spaces, or any of them well, and parking garages are navigated at a white-knuckled crawl. My truck’s bed isn’t suited for most simple tasks, like transporting groceries. I wouldn’t risk seeing, through my rearview mirror, heads of lettuce and rolls of toilet paper flying out the back and on down the road. But its largest loads have included an Ikea couch for my suburban home, an aerator rental for my suburban lawn, and a barbecue smoker for my suburban backyard.
The first truck I drove was a 1994 white Chevy that saw close to 200,000 miles and earned the name the Ghost, for a variety of reasons, along the way. I also slept in it, for a variety of reasons, enough times to figure out how to make it comfortable. That truck carried just about everything I owned during more than a few moves, first from my family’s house to college in Denton, then across several states to a first job down on the Gulf Coast, and finally back to Texas, with more trips than I can remember up and down Interstate 45. I had to learn to replace brake pads and distributor caps to keep it running, and I once fixed an ignition lock cylinder in a parking lot behind a Denton bar. Near the end, it always disappeared from the roads for a couple of weeks during inspection time.
The Ghost met a sad death via a blown transmission in the suburbs of North Dallas. It too was never practical, but when the time came a few years back to purchase a new vehicle in my new city, I never considered anything else. Perhaps because I knew, despite all the shortcomings, that a pickup is built for a rural lifestyle but can help remove you from an urban one. Like seeing a few friends tumble into the bed and hearing their muffled laughter as you drive through the city streets. Or sitting on a tailgate, even if the truck is parked in your suburban driveway, to enjoy a few beers with your dog (mine is a beagle but has never hunted rabbits). Or believing that George Strait was recorded to sound better in a truck’s cab. Or driving with the windows down on a warm spring day and somehow feeling like you’re in one of those golden-grass prairies where advertisers always seem to park their Chevys.
I imagine most of your driving will be done in a Texas city or suburb, and I can’t, in good conscience, suggest that you settle on a truck to get around. I warn against it. Be careful and resist the urge. I promise driving a truck won’t help you create any ties to your new state’s rural roots, but spending one day on a city street, sharing it with trucks like mine, may help you understand that practicality doesn’t have much to do with being a Texan at all. There’s a reason for that. It’s that I, like so many of your new neighbors, don’t enjoy driving anything else.
This piece is just one bit of wisdom offered in our April 2015 cover story, “Welcome to Texas!” a friendly user’s guide for our state’s most recent transplants. To read more advice, go here.