By Eric Barton
City & Shore Magazine
It’s spitting rain when I angle my truck down the tight driveway toward the happy couple. Actually, they’re looking a little frantic, two days to the wedding, tons of things to do, and the steely skies looking like they don’t agree with any of the plans.
By the time greetings are exchanged, huge raindrops are falling, then comes thunder.
“We better hurry,” the groom says as he carries a bougainvillea to the bed of my big rig.
Maybe “big” rig is an exaggeration, but my mid-size pickup is coming in handy as we haul plants that will line the aisles and dress up the altar. We load up the plants right behind the crew cab, where the wind won’t buffet them as I drive and marvel at how this vehicle holds far more than our sedans.
“This is big,” the groom says, jumping down off the tailgate.
Yes, but that’s also what makes driving a truck in the city so great. Comedian Louis C.K. once said owning a pickup is like always walking around with a giant suitcase. But what he didn’t joke about is the semi-superhero status a truck can give you. When called upon, the owner of a pickup can do what mere car-driving friends cannot: couch-hauling, mulch-piling and sometimes wedding-day-saving.
Pickups are not simply the utilitarian haulers they used to be. Yes, a truck frame does rumble over speed bumps and city pot holes, but in general the drive in a modern pickup is smooth, the steering soft and easy, the brakes terrific – not much different from your average sedan. Trucks nowadays are optioned like luxury cars, with plush leather, back-up cameras, blind-spot detection systems and quiet cabins.
After picking up the plants, the next wedding-planning task for my urban pickup is moving a pergola. It’s an important mission, considering the officiant and the couple will stand beneath it. At eight feet tall and five feet wide, it’s a challenge for my Chevy Colorado’s five-foot bed, the kind of big-cab, short-bed setup on most city trucks. We measure and calculate and just can’t figure a way the pergola will fit. Either the pergola legs would end up crashing through the rear window when I brake, or it would roll right out the back when I hit the gas. So a mover is hired.
The shame involved in watching movers succeed in hauling off the pergola where my truck cannot was too much, so I headed to the mall, in need of a new wedding tie. I angled the Colorado onto the entrance ramp to the Galleria at Fort Lauderdale’s second-story parking garage. Just before reaching the top, I spot a yellow bar warning of the six-foot clearance. The Chevy just slides underneath, the hard plastic radio antenna occasionally scraping pipes and concrete cross-beams.
This is another reality of driving a vehicle designed to haul loads of topsoil and tow horse trailers. Consider those insanely tight ramps in downtown Miami garages, or too-short parallel spots in Mizner Park or the café con leches you will have to skip because you just can’t find a way to fit in the lot at Tulipan. Entire neighborhoods will be off limits.
That became clear at the end of the wedding weekend, while bringing my urban truck to the day-after brunch. It was at the home of the groom’s parents, at a condo building on a Fort Lauderdale inlet. There was one visitor parking spot left, and so I began backing into the tight fit.
Just as I had the truck maneuvered between the yellow lines, I spotted a security guard waving her arm dramatically. “Uh-uh,” she said. “No trucks in the parking lot!”
The life of an urban pickup driver.
A Trio of Pickups Handy Around the Home
Technically considered a mid-size, the Colorado is among the smallest trucks, and that makes it ideal for a city dweller: good visibility, reasonable width, garages and parking lots generally all accessible. The drive in the Colorado is perhaps the most refined for pickups, with light steering and hefty acceleration and four comfortable seats. This is a brand-new truck, so there are glitches, such as a few cheaper materials inside that feel easy to break, the lack of a push-button start, and dash lights that reflect in the rear window, making it tough to back up at night. There’s no hidden storage compartments or room under the seats. Still, the Colorado feels capable enough to traverse the state for which it was named, while also boasting a drive that’s surprisingly tranquil.
AutoNation Chevrolet Delray, AutoNation Chevrolet Fort Lauderdale, Ed Morse Sawgrass Auto Mall, Lou Bachrodt Chevrolet, Phil Smith Chevrolet, chevrolet.com.
Ignore the marketing of the Tacoma, which talks up the standard GoPro clip on the windshield as proof that this is a toy to be played with in the dirt. Maybe, but the Tacoma is also a pickup that seems designed with the urban trucker in mind. It has, by far, the best tech, with a terrific touch-screen display and a phone app that easily ties in things like streaming radio. Near-secret storage in the side of the bed and under the back seat provide the perfect spot to hide a briefcase or purse. The hard plastic bed cover – definitely spring for this extra – can hide what you’re hauling and also folds back in sections for when you need more room. The interior is comfortable, although not luxurious, while also feeling tough in the way a truck should. Lead-footed drivers will find the asthmatic-sounding engine underpowered when pushed hard, but otherwise the Tacoma drives like a car.
AutoNation Toyota Weston, Al Hendrickson Toyota, Ed Morse Delray Toyota, Lipton Toyota, Toyota of Deerfield Beach, Toyota of Hollywood, toyota.com.
Ford F-150 Platinum
The Platinum edition of Ford’s full-sized truck makes this list because of a stunning cabin. There’s stitched leather everywhere, a dash that’s Mercedes quality, and wood that looks like it ought to become a family heirloom. That said, this is a truck so big it’ll rule out entire destinations – we gave up on a Lauderdale-by-the-Sea restaurant after failing to find a parking spot big enough. The cab’s back seat is so huge someone could lie down comfortably in front of your rear passengers and probably still not touch the front seats. Like all full-size trucks, it jostles over bumps, unnervingly for anyone used to driving a car. Mostly, though, this is a quiet, comfortable, powerful vehicle.
AutoNation Ford Delray, AutoNation Ford Fort Lauderdale, AutoNation Ford Margate, Pines Ford Lincoln, Plantation Ford, Pompano Ford Lincoln, Sawgrass Ford, southfloridaford.com.