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ERIC BERGESON COLUMN: 200,000 miles

Last week, my pickup's odometer rolled over to 200,000 miles. Although I carried a camera in the cab to catch the moment, I missed seeing the big row of zeroes when I ran to town for milk one morning before I was fully awake.

Last week, my pickup's odometer rolled over to 200,000 miles. Although I carried a camera in the cab to catch the moment, I missed seeing the big row of zeroes when I ran to town for milk one morning before I was fully awake.

Such a big number inspired me to do some math. The results were sobering.

In the past six years, I have burned over 10,000 gallons of gas. The total amount of gas used has cost more than the pickup.

I change oil every 4,000 miles or so. That means the pickup has had 50 oil changes. Of those 50, I performed one myself. One. Think of the money I could have saved if I had done just half of those oil changes!

Of course, performing oil changes myself would have increased the chance of me not tightening the plug on the oil pan and burning up the engine. It was probably money well spent.

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Equally sobering is the time it takes out of one's life to run up 200,000 miles. Assuming that I traveled those miles at an average speed of 50 miles-per-hour, I have spent 4,000 hours driving over the past six years.

If you split that up into eight-hour work days, I have spent two out of the past six years on the road full time. I have never aspired to become an over-the-road truck driver. Now I just realized I am one!

If I could have arranged to be reimbursed for those miles at the prevailing $0.485 per-mile rate, I would have been paid $97,000 for those two years of work. Not bad, but no such luck.

Some of those 200,000 miles were business, but not nearly enough. Sandwiched in between trips to town for stamps, which are fully deductible, were three or four trips to each coast, which are not deductible.

The pickup has performed admirably under far from ideal conditions. It has been as loyal as a good dog, faithful and dependent despite abuse and neglect from its owner.

For instance, I have checked the oil once in 200,000 miles. That happened because I knew Dad was watching out his window and I thought that would be a good chance to impress him with a demonstration of adult responsibility.

For the first 196,000 of the 200,000 miles, my spare tire was unavailable due to the fact that I didn't have the key to release it from under the box. After realizing that this could be a problem, I had the lock on the spare cut off. I had a flat tire within a month.

Now, that's a good pickup, one that doesn't get a flat until the owner is equipped to fix it!

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Good vehicles fix themselves much of the time. The four-wheel drive acted funny for about two weeks this winter, then it got better. The U-joints sounded like they were going to fall off last year, but then I rotated the tires and everything healed up.

The rear taillight went out in 2004, at least according to the dealership in Tucson, which rotated my tires. Amazingly, by the time I got back to Minnesota the bulb had fixed itself. I didn't bother to call the dealership to report the miracle.

The transmission clanked a lot during miles 25,000 through 75,000. Three times I drove with lay experts who said I needed a new one. An actual professional offered to fix the transmission for $2,000. I ignored them all, rotated the tires, and everything turned out fine.

Whenever the oil change people told me I needed a new air filter, I ignored them. Whenever they said I needed a transmission flush, I ignored them. Whenever they said I needed a new serpentine belt, I ignored them. Nothing bad has happened yet.

I had some free oil changes at the dealership in the year following the purchase. Every time I went in, some salesperson would try to convince me that the drive train was about to fall off and the engine was about to need an overhaul. Better buy a new pickup to avoid all the problems.

Instead, I decided to believe the salesperson who sold me the pickup in the first place. "This thing'll run forever," he said. "Just remember to rotate the tires."

Visit Eric's Web site at www.countryscribe.com

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