Blondie’s New Ride

Towels and newspaper headed for an animal rescue.

Well, it’s time.  Time to replace my truck.  The 1999 Chevy S10 pick-up I’ve been driving has almost 200,000 miles on it and it’s just time to get something younger.

We were thinking about getting another Subaru: a car, and abandoning the pick-up idea all together.  At first thought, I couldn’t remember much of anything I’ve hauled in the truck since I stopped building furniture for a living.  Now, I mostly haul dogs.  Having an SUV or cross-over with room for a couple of crates inside would solve the problems of hauling a dog (who is too wild to ride inside the cab with me) on real hot days, or bitter cold days, or in the rain.  But then I started to remember:

  • Those times I hauled firewood home for winter heating
  • Those times I hauled trash for Humane Society of Jefferson County
  • Those times I hauled 20-some bags of kibble for Newport Animal Shelter
  • Hauling supplies for Steele Away Home when they moved
  • Hauling away a large live animal trap for Helen
  • … and a few other times of doing favors for friends

No, having a pick-up has proven quite useful on many occasions, and is likely to do so in the future, given new things I’ve gotten into.  Besides, it is rumored that if a mountain man gives up his truck, he ends up eating kale pancakes and playing ice hockey.

Marie changed her search from a Subaru Legacy for herself so I could have her Forester, to a pick-up for me.  This was aided by the fact that she had already seen one that caught her eye.

While scanning the Imports & More web site, a 2003 GMC Sonoma stood up and waved at her.  It was as though an angel of God was standing behind her whispering in her ear, “Look at this one, even though you’re not looking at pick-ups now, look at this one.”  It was impressive.  And once she changed her search parameters, she knew right where to start.  We looked at others, but in the end, it was the Sonoma that drew us all the way to Lenoir City for a test drive.

new truckI won’t bore you with the details of our search  or the attributes of this truck, all that’s important, I’m sure, is that Blondie again has reliable transportation for her weekly trash run and occasional veterinarian visit.  And I have a dependable transporter-of-all-things.  We paid cash for it so we’re not in debt over this upgrade, just skinnied down on emergency/retirement funds for a while.

One other issue we want to address is the acquisition of an aluminum truck cap to enclose the bed of the truck.  That will protect crated dogs from interstate speed winds, winter cold, summer sun, and rain.  By going aluminum it will be easy to take off if I need to haul a piano or something.  Fiberglass caps are awful heavy for one old fart to moose around by himself!


The one shortcoming that I’ve found in the Sonoma has to do with storage:

  • Both the S10 and the Sonoma have glove boxes of similar size and shape, so the owners manual for the truck, insurance card, spare fuses, tire pressure gauge, and a micro tool kit made the change intact.  The S10 was carrying some spare bulbs for turn signals and such in there too, but I moved them into the workshop.
  • Both the S10 and the Sonoma have pockets molded into the cover panels of both doors. What was in the S10 moved to the Sonoma.
  • The S10 had a voluminous center console between the seats which included a square tray for things I wanted to keep handy as well as two levels of storage inside the arm rest for maps, napkins, plastic flatware, tissues, hand sanitizer, and some CDs.  The Sonoma has a flip-down arm rest that opens up to reveal enough space for a half-dozen CD, a change bin, and space for – maybe a light pair of gloves (it’s odd how I never seen to keep gloves in the glove box).  I moved the maps to the glove box (tight fit now) and bought a Rubbermade Auto Caddy to replace the stuff tray. It just sits on the hump and can easily be moved should there be a need.  I haven’t come even close to filling that up yet!
  • The S10 has a large pocket on the back of each seat in which we kept things like a pair of folding umbrellas, rain ponchos, jumper cables, a copy of the Bible, binoculars, and plastic emergency flags.  The Sonoma has no such pockets.
  • The S10 had two jump seats in the extended cab, behind and below which were empty spaces where I tucked away an array of bungie cords, ratchet tie-down straps, rope, and such.  The Sonoma has one jump seat with a molded plastic liner that hides (and blocks) much of the usable space.  The space that is available is just right for the jumper cables.
  • I always kept a heavy-duty, 20 foot tow chain coiled up under the drivers seat of the S10.  The Sonoma’s seats sit too low for that. I did, however, find space to tuck a folding umbrella under each seat.  For the tow chain, I modified an old camera case and coiled the chain up inside that.  It just fits and will make getting it out of the cab for use easier.  I keep this case on the passenger side of the doggie cabin and cover it with a pillow so its still comfy and usable by a passenger.
  • There is a large, deep bin in the inside of the 3rd door where I keep two ratchet load straps, my bungies, and the doggies seat cover, when it’s not on the passenger seat.  Cochise always insisted on riding shotgun with me, but he’s gone now.  Callie has been preferring to ride in front, but lately she likes being in back better, so the seat cover is stowed more than it is installed.
  • Pretty much everything else went into a small backpack Marie bought me, and that hangs over the lid (seat bottom) of the jump seat.  I’ve got it tied on so it doesn’t slip off but it can be removed if we need to get it out to dig through it for something.  I can also access it easily from inside the extended cab area.  It’s not so bulky as to prevent a dog from poking a nose out the wing window, not does it consume a lot of space making it difficult for two large dogs to ride there (like Blondie and Callie, who do it all the time).

New Plan for A Shell

Marie came across what appears to be the ideal solution to offering shelter for dogs in transport boxes in the back of the truck yet making it possible to convert back to an open-bed pick-up when one is needed: a CONVERTIBLE camper shell!  It folds down!

Bestop Supertop Convertible Truck Camper Shell

I did a LOT of research on the Bestop product before placing the order, including comparing it to another brand: Softopper.  My research turned up:

  • Many satisfied customers on both sides.
  • Both products claim to use top quality materials, and this is validated by customer reviews.
  • The Softopper is available in black, grey, and tan, the Bestop is available only in black.
  • Bestop has been making tops for Jeeps for a long time.
  • Softopper uses chrome plated steel tubing, which is prettier than the plain metal castings of the Bestop version.
  • The Softopper mechanism seems more elegant in design than the Bestop, but the Softopper is not adjustable on the front rib like the Bestop.
  • Softopper is easier and quicker to fold down (and up) than Bestop.
  • Softopper has no side windows (part of why it folds down quicker).
  • Softopper’s rear flap secures by a Velcro strip adhered to the trucks painted surface, Bestop secures via a metal bar that snaps into brackets on each side rail.  A rubber bulb strip seals against the tailgate top.
  • Softopper makes extensive use of Velcro fastenings (part of why it folds down faster).  I’ve seen what happens when Velcro meets dog hair.  It isn’t pretty.
  • Bestop uses J channels and heavy duty zippers for most fastenings.
  • The Bestop canopy can serve as a sun shade by removing windows and rear flap, protecting crated dogs from blazing sun yet allowing lots of air flow.
  • The Softopper is (currently) around $100 more expensive than the Bestop product.

My conclusion is that since I don’t expect to need to fold the cover down often, the flexibility in configuration and the zippers vs Velcro issue make the Bestop the choice for me.  It has been ordered and I eagerly await its arrival.

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