My years alone in the wild left me with many impressions – some more profound, some less so. The hermit-like wanderings certainly helped me figure out what’s really needed to live in this world; it’s not hard to determine when you’ve got to carry it all on your back. Living in such a real and fundamental place as the mountains also convinced me that humans are generally much more directed in all kinds of decisions by image-consciousness, less by reality or need. From time to time my book, The Dying Fish, is punctuated with pontifications along these lines – ideas integral to my personal journey.
A year and a half or so after finishing the last of my hikes it came time to acquire a car again, something I’d given up during my wanderings. Many, I think, expected me to go for a Jeep, a pickup truck or an SUV of some description – mountain man vehicles capable of getting the job done and taking me in to the rugged backcountry! But I had a different idea as I started to shop. How much car did I need for the majority of the things I do? What choice would be most cost-effective? Which vehicle deals with adverse road conditions well enough to handle the western Pennsylvania winter? How much space do I need for my gear?
And so, after some deliberation, but not too much scrutiny of minutiae, I bought a Scion Iq, almost the smallest car that can be put on the road. I spend a huge amount of time outdoors, often in inhospitable situations and this is enough car to get the job done. But at least 95% of my driving is along paved roads that a golf cart could traverse. Would I buy a vehicle for the 5%, paying the added up-front cost, cost of upkeep and gas?
The big tough vehicles certainly do project the image of toughness so coveted by suburbanites far and wide and that’s great if that’s your thing but it’s not mine. I just don’t need it. I drove big trucks when I was a kid, fresh out of high school in Tennessee. It was a rush and roar and a surge but I was the same person; the truck was just another outward thing – a decoration; and I’ve matured.
The very first test for my vehicle came the day I purchased it when I put 3 adult men inside and took it up to 70 mph uphill on the interstate. Having passed this necessary test, I filled out paperwork, wrote out a check and drove it off the lot.
I started early testing the Iq in the snow and found that it was probably the most stable thing I’ve ever put on ice. This was before I bought the studded tires to take on ice roads to go in ice fishing. I tried deep snow and found that it did have a limit but that limit was hardly ever reached in Pennsylvania. I’ve taken it to the most remote parts of the Pennsylvania mountains in the winter, climbed ridiculously steep inclines (stopped just for fun and ground my way up from 0) and got to where I needed to go. I’ve taken it to New York City and scooted deftly in and out of traffic. I’ve taken it to the Adirondacks and tried it on 4-wheeler trails where a few people were very surprised to see me. I’ve taken it to the backwoods of western Maine where I parked it next to the lake at The Last Resort, many miles off the pavement. Sand in South Carolina. Last winter it carried me two days northwest to Minnesota where I drove it around on ice and snow a bit more in temp.’s down to about 15 below and slept in it too. It doesn’t get stuck and it carries all the gear I need with room to spare.
All this is to say, it takes me in to all the places I need to get to, cheaply and worry-free. And here’s something more to think about before plunking down $30,000 for a Chevy Suburban: If you can drive all the way to your fishing / hunting destination, do you really want to? If you were really a hardcore woodsman, couldn’t you grab the backpack and snowshoes out of the back and cover the ground, more quietly and more observantly?
And in many places, such as the Adirondacks and much of mid-state Pennsylvania, there are gates that restrict how far in you can take a motor vehicle and you can bring a Scion Iq to these as easily as a pickup.
So, that’s my case for the tiny car but I could keep it simple and just say it’s what I choose to drive for my own reasons. I take pleasure in making my slick city car go places it was never meant to and I like testing the limits. As a libertarian, I wouldn’t wish to force my way on anyone even in the automotive realm.