The Beauty of the Beast
Their beloved Suburban exemplifies ‘all-season.’
It was 1990 and it was love at first sight. We had just relocated to Colorado, and with only one (rather decrepit) vehicle, we needed transportation for our new jobs. Begging rides and calling taxis for the 12-mile trip to work nearly negated our wages. Scanning the ads for anything in our price range, I zeroed in on a 1972 Chevy Suburban. They wanted $700. We didn’t have it. With a smile and a prayer, I managed to convince the owner that I’d make payments. The Suburban, which we dubbed Yellow Beast, made my heart skip. She looked like a logging crummy— the kind my lumberjack uncles and my dad rode in back in Oregon. She got us to work, all right, but that cheerful truck has also shivered us awake on many frosty mornings, leaving us groping for warmer socks while emerging from damp sleeping bags. Yellow never understood the word “heater.” I tell my other half, Tony, that even if the heater worked, the rust holes would remain. Still, she camps like a champ. We pack two storage containers with a Coleman stove, canned meat and kitchen supplies. They ride on the backseat, along with camp chairs and an emergency box filled with oil, a funnel, tools and warm clothes. And Yellow Beast has a designated boot corner, replete with newspapers to corral our hiking gear. In the spring, she’s our fishing truck. Lumbering over the mesa, throwing dirt and rocks to the side, she can shimmy to the finest lakes. In summer she becomes our wood truck. Chain saws straddle cut wood stacked high, and an orange Forest Service permit pokes out from a log, the paper held in place by a saw file. Damp leaves coat the old roads during hunting season. Then she only needs a tarp to become a meat- for-the-freezer truck. Finally winter steps in, shrouding Yellow in snow. This is the time of year she lives for. Ski gear rests in back, and a thermos of tea sits beside me on the bench seat, along with a sack of homemade cinnamon rolls waiting for lunch. Yellow still needs help to get into four-wheel drive. When the roads are slick, I jump down and trudge to the front tires. Gloves on, I twist the arrows on the wheel hubs until I hear a click, then clamber back in. She’s well-known, too. On one trip, a friend strode to our cabin to ask if we had cell service: “Knew it was you guys because I spotted your old truck from the mountain.” Can’t hide Yellow. Wouldn’t want to. She’s one of the best investments we’ve ever made—and, no, she’s not for sale.
Cher and her husband, Tony, make the Beast comfy for camping with sleeping bags, foam and quilts. Inset: Cher and grandson Anden take a lunch break.