The Ranger Road Trip, Part 3: Looking Ahead

Part 1: Getting There  |  Part 2: Heading Home

I took the Ranger to work on Tuesday, so that I could meet up with Mom and Dad to hand off some of what I’d brought home – all of which made it unscathed. Following that trip through Northern Virginia on Tuesday, I parked the Ranger and got back in my F-150 for a few days. Heated seats and adaptive cruise control never felt so good.

Now that the Ranger was in my garage, it was time to clean it up and find it a new home.

The weeks following my cross-country drive in the Ranger were busy, with time racing in the M3 at Summit Point, and on foot at the Spartan Race “Beast” in New Jersey. I found some time to get the Ranger cleaned up, working in the evenings and on one long Sunday.

After 3,000 miles of cross-country travel, I figured an oil change was in order. Additionally, the 1-2 upshift was randomly getting a bit firm. So, a quick trip to Advance Auto and $75 later found me with fresh oil, five quarts of Mercon V transmission fluid, and new filters for both the engine and transmission.

I’d never changed automatic transmission fluid before but it looked simple enough. I elected for a “drain and fill” of the fluid, which is less disruptive to an old transmission and changes about half of the fluid. My Mityvac fluid extractor came in handy and was able to suck most of the fluid out of the transmission’s dipstick tube, which meant I was only left with about half a quart to pour on myself and the garage floor. The fluid changes went well and the truck shifted worlds better afterward.

Next up was finishing my interior cleaning. My uncle smoked in the truck for years, and the cleaning with Simple Green only went so far. I had wiped down the interior panels, but still had the carpets and seats to deal with. Spending $50 at Harris Teeter allowed me to rent a Rug Doctor for the day. I removed the front seats – only eight bolts, thankfully – and was left with a bare cab and fully accessible carpets to clean.

I filled the Rug Doctor with their strongest cleaning solution and fired it up. It took the carpet from “ew” to “almost new” – leaving only a few cigarette burns as a reminder of the truck’s past. I hit the “leather” seats (the jury is still out as to the composition of the seat covers… they may be super nice vinyl) with some cleaner and a stiff brush. Everything reinstalled nicely and looked (and smelled!) worlds better.

After returning the Rug Doctor and running the Ranger through the carwash one last time, I stopped by the local park for some photos. It was a beautiful day and the colors really popped in each image. I posted my Craigslist ad that Sunday around 6:00 PM, figuring I’d deal with a handful of generally difficult people before getting one person to see it in person and offer me half of my asking price. Strangely, the exact opposite happened.

Around 8:00 Sunday evening, I got a reply to the ad from a man named Kelly and his girlfriend. They wanted to come see the truck Monday afternoon and would be coming from Fells Point, in Baltimore. I figured anyone willing to drive from Baltimore to Alexandria in rush-hour traffic would be serious, so I picked a meeting location, and we met Monday evening around 7 PM.

Kelly goes crabbing about four days a week, he explained, and after his Dodge Dakota was wrecked while parked, he needed another small pickup truck to use. The truck wouldn’t be going too far, so the mileage (now at 214k) didn’t bother him. He knew how to fix the air conditioning that had gone warm. He was incredibly impressed with how clean it was underneath. After a 20 or 30 minute test drive, he offered nearly full asking price and had brought cash with him.

One stack of Ben Franklins and a signed title later, Kelly from Baltimore was the owner of the Ranger. He dropped me off at home and headed north on I-295.

Everyone asked me “why” when I mentioned this plan to drive my uncle’s high-mileage truck from one coast to the other. For me, it was more of a “why not,” and the trip turned out to be equal parts fun and eventful. I don’t have much of a reason to drive cross-country, short of moving, and this was a really neat way to see part of the country, visit with some friends, and connect with my uncle in a way. I find it fitting that the Ranger spent its entire life on the water in Washington, and that it’ll continue to live its remaining days on the water in Maryland. Hopefully it serves Kelly well for years to come.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention at least a few statistics from the trip, so without further ado…

Miles Driven 2,915
Average Fuel Economy 21 mpg
Best Fuel Economy 23 mpg, from Ohio to Pennsylvania
Worst Fuel Economy 16 mpg, in crosswinds through North Dakota
States Visited 11: Washington, Idaho, North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia

Part 1: Getting There  |  Part 2: Heading Home

About Jake Thiewes

Fan of all things wheeled. Competes on four wheels with a 1997 BMW M3, and two feet in Spartan Races. Queso enthusiast. Will badger you to come to the track and get rides and/or HPDE seat time, because everyone deserves to be a slightly better driver.

4 thoughts on “The Ranger Road Trip, Part 3: Looking Ahead

  1. It will be fun to follow that pickup on Carfax over the coming years to see where and how it ends up. The story aligns a little with my Integra LS purchase – flew to another state to buy it 2 months ago, experienced a little bit of drama on the way home, did some maintenance, and now letting it go to someone who will appreciate it. The buyer, Ken, is flying in Sunday morning and driving the car home to Denver. Glad to give it to a good home. Enjoyed following your travels in the old Range. Now back to racing – I want the whole nitty gritty on recent happenings at the track. Cuz I know there is a story to be told. Have a great weekend!

  2. While I was, for the most part, up to date with your drive-back saga, it is nice to read your concise wrap up. I enjoyed your Everyman comment about spilling transmission fluid on yourself and the floor – if you have every changed oil or fluids, this is a been there, done that moment. The “ew to almost new” is a great tag line that some company should snap up for a marketing campaign. The leather seat digression is a topic that should be further explored by the car community. A definitive answer would be great. I will give you an “amen” on the Craig’s list crowd and likely negotiating style. Your “why not” is nice. It’s interesting to know that you can drive cross country and only drive through 11 states.
    Thanks for sharing – this has been a fun read.

  3. Great story! I enjoyed all three parts tremendously. My daughter drove East to West, to move to CA, and enjoyed all the states except for Nebraska, which she insisted was the ugliest state in the US. She took a mid route and especially enjoyed Utah. Good pictures too. It’s great that you took such good care of your uncle’s truck and found a good home for it – a fitting tribute!

    1. Thanks Darby! Glad you enjoyed the details 🙂 I was hoping for that mid route but weather had other plans, unfortunately. Would have been perhaps more interesting sight-wise but I’ll have to re-visit that option with more time. Definitely glad the Ranger went to a good home in Maryland and gets to spend more days by the water!

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