Friday, October 3, 2008


When I rent a vehicle for a job, I prefer cargo vans. They hold a ton of stuff, the bare metal floors (if you're lucky) make sliding heavy stuff in and out easy, and if the weather's bad, you can work out of the back (if you've forgotten this, that is).

But if I'm going to be going over rugged terrain and need 4-wheel drive, I rent an SUV. This puts me in the very small minority of people who actually use SUVs the way they're supposedly intended. And I've been burned before by "SUVs" that apparently don't work off-pavement.

For example, I had to do some work in an undeveloped area owned by someone who let us in as long as we didn't make a mess. We had to take "before" and "after" pictures to show we didn't disturb anything. This was back when the super-big SUVs had just come out, and we were driving a Yukon or something. Well, we made a wrong turn and ended up in a bog. It was covered by a nice layer of leaf litter, so it didn't look any different from what we were driving in before.

We got stuck. Ok, no problem, put it in 4-low and try again. All 4 wheels started spinning. We hopped outside and found out that the ground was a little, um, soft. I pushed while my partner tried rocking it back and forth (hey, it works for snow sometimes) and all that happened was I got covered in mud. And the SUV settled in up to the chassis. This was also the age of cladding, so we couldn't physically reach a metal bit when we dug a hole and tried to jack it up.

By the time the tow truck had rumbled in and we'd been hauled out, we were covered in mud and we'd made a monster mudhole. We didn't take an "after" picture.

We would've been better off with a civic - at least you can push those out yourself. Luckily, that whole cladding fad has passed and so has the era of monster SUVs. Now I have the opposite problem - I ask for an SUV, I get some minivan with no ground clearance. Oh, it's a crossover. "But it's got all-wheel drive" sez the perky enterprise rep.

I got crossover once (it was too late for them to bring another car) for a site where I had to cross a railroad track, and the underbelly smacked into the track. Now why have a high ground clearance in the front, so you think you're ok, and then the clearance of a subcompact in the middle?

So I'm pretty specific when I order an SUV. It has to have actual ground clearance, 4-wheel drive, and no 3rd row seating so there's actually room for my gear. I'm moving equipment, not a soccer team, dammit!

1 comment:

EcoGeoFemme said...

I haven't had to do any real offroading, but there are some muddy spots at my field site. My civic has served me remarkably well.