The view from Faraway Farm

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I've sold off a truck, a trailer, a tractor, a Land Rover, and other odds and ends in an effort to downsize my conveyances, but last week I did a (hopefully) brief reversal. While planning to sell another truck, I thought about how it would leave us situated on snowy winter days. Not good, was the conclusion. Where I live, I feel it is important to have at least one four-wheel drive vehicle, preferably two. My fiancee refuses to trade her Honda Fit for one of the new all-wheel drive versions of that car, and I understand why. What a great car, until our hill gets covered in snow. In recent years on those days she takes one of my four-wheel drive rigs. I figured that I would not have two all-wheel/four-wheel-drive vehicles within a matter of weeks, so I set about to remedy the situation. Enter ebay.

I spent weeks of spare time searching for what I wanted. While another Jeep Cherokee XJ series was appealing, I was shocked at where the prices of good Cherokees XJs have gone. How about $14,000 for a mint Cherokee? I suppose I and many others should have kept our mouths shut about what great vehicles they are, because now they are in greater demand and that creates higher prices. The price I paid for my most recent Cherokee XJ (purchased just last spring) was my goal for the new one, and all you could find for that price was junk. That made me stop my search and focus on other brands with good reliability records. It also uncovered a bias I've had for years when I decided to search for four-wheel-drive Toyotas.

First off, I was never really attracted to any of Toyota's offerings. To my biased outlook they seemed overpriced, and the kind of vehicle a non-enthusiast would seek out because they were the darlings of Consumer Reports for so many years. Any darling of Consumer Reports was sure to be an enthusiastic dud in my biased view. Even though I had created a wildly successful marketing campaign for a Toyota dealer in the 1970s (the model for an ongoing national campaign that they still use to this day), I just couldn't muster any enthusiast-style excitement about the brand for my own use. Being fully aware of having a mild bias (I have owned a couple of Toyota trucks and liked them both) I decided to run counter to it this time around and see what I could find that drove all four wheels.

Using geographical criteria mixed in with all the other important factors, I found a 1998 Toyota 4Runner in northern New Jersey, not far from the New York Thruway. It was a popular listing, and I soon found myself in a cat-and-mouse bidding game with another bidder. I managed to fake the other bidder out (almost pure luck) and had the highest bid when the auction time ran out. Suddenly I owned a very attractive, very clean, rust-free 4Runner situated over 200 miles away. My significant other graciously gave up a full day of quilting (her passion) to assist me in retrieving my new acquisition. It seems to be a very good one.

Driving it over 200 miles on interstate highways and twisting mountain roads proved to be a breeze. The Toyota is nearly fully loaded with leather and a moon roof. Just about all my favorite modern conveniences were present and working. I was sad to see there were no heated seats, but that can be remedied. The driving position fits me perfectly, and despite the miles that it has accumulated over its lifetime, nary a shake or a rattle could be sensed. Subsequent use has endeared it to me even more than I thought possible. This temporary upsize before another downsize will keep the count of conveyances even, and it also handily took care of a foolish bias that I needed to lose.

Arlo Mudgett's Morning Almanac has been heard over multiple radio stations in Vermont for nearly 30 years, and can be tuned in at 92.7 WKVT Monday through Saturday mornings at 8:35 a.m.


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