Back in 2002, I decided that we needed a pickup. We had never owned one and, to me, having a vehicle with multiple capabilities seemed like an ideal move.
Findlay Toyota in the Valley Automall had a one-owner white 2001 Toyota Tacoma extended cab with 11,000 miles, a six-cylinder engine, an automatic transmission, two-wheel drive, excellent tires and wheels and the purchase price that was ideal.
More than 13 years later, we still have the Tacoma, which just passed 215,000 miles. I must say that in 41 years of marriage, the vehicle is probably the best-ever automotive purchase that we have made.
Vehicles can actually become part of your family simply because they safely take you from one place to another. In looking back, we have enjoyed thinking about where the Tacoma has taken us for the past 204,000 miles — and without one single major issue.
The Tacoma has been to San Diego countless times. It has taken me to many offroad races. It has been to Salt Lake City and it has taken us down Route 66 in Arizona.
During the five years that we owned a cabin in Duck Creek, Utah, east of Cedar City, it safely delivered us to and from the area countless times. Getting to Duck Creek requires journeying east on Utah State Route 14 to an elevation of about 11,000 feet. It is a two-lane road and while the summer travel has included landslides with boulders the size of a house, it’s the winters that are absolutely terrifying.
On our first trip to Duck Creek, a friend of ours named Spencer Johnson joined me to review real estate conditions. With snow piled 12 feet on either or both sides of the road, we carefully followed the tracks in the road in an attempt to avoid the icy spots that tend to hide under layers of snow.
Some seven years later, we still laugh about the trip that we never should have taken, especially the trip back down the road in a two-wheel drive truck. Climbing State Route 14 in the winter is one thing, but going back down that road is another story and the Tacoma did just fine.
On another trip up Highway 14, we had to use chains because of icy conditions at the eight-mile mark. It took a while, but we were able to make the next 20 or so miles to Duck Creek over a road with steep cliffs, horrible snow conditions and a level of fright that you never forget.
During one late-night trip to Cedar City before heading back to the cabin, a deer came out of the center median. The Tacoma’s excellent handling capability came in handy as I veered to the right, clipping the animal with the left side front bumper and fender.
Hitting a deer head-on can be deadly considering that some unlucky souls have been killed when the animal flew through the windshield. Luckily, all we have are a couple of dents on the driver’s side of the truck.
Most recently, during the monsoon season, it was refreshing to know that the Tacoma would handle well on rain-slick roads. The fact that it sits high off the ground was yet another huge benefit and its ability to tow trailers has been invaluable.
Through it all, we have never had any major mechanical issues with the Tacoma. Basic maintenance on brakes, tires, struts and a radiator are the only repairs that have been needed since we signed the paperwork in 2002. Yes, the truck has been serviced in a timely fashion and, yes, we have followed the advice of our technicians.
Count us as customers who have appreciated not only the versatility of the vehicle, but the countless memories the truck has played a part in generating over the years. We have been through mud, sleet, snow and challenged by some of the steepest roadways in the country; and through it all, the truck has gotten more than 20 mpg on the highway.
Findlay Automotive Group Chairman Cliff Findlay once said he would gladly put any of his prized grandchildren in a Toyota. I concur, especially as I think back at hundreds of great memories and the miles traveled in our Toyota Tacoma.
It’s been a great ride.