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We had this window of opportunity, see. Six days of freedom to make a5000-mile round trip from The Car Connection’s headquarters city, Detroit, to Torrance, Calif., to pick up a newly refurbished motorcycle. We also had a one-week loan of a new 2003 Dodge Ram 1500 Sport Quad Cab pickup truck, a truck with a bed just long enough to fit one high-performance bike, sideways.
With a bag full of jeans and T-shirts, a double handful of CDs for the player, and a credit card just begging to be stuck into gas pumps from here to there, we started our solo sprint to the coast and back. Our route of travel would be Interstate Highway System, period. From 94 west in Michigan to 69 south to Indy, from there on 70 west to 44 in St. Louis, merging with 40 in Oklahoma City, across the Texas panhandle and the New Mexico, Arizona and California deserts to 15 south at Barstow and 10/605/405 through Los Angeles to Torrance. From St. Louis on, we would be crisscrossing the old Route 66 on what is, in effect, the New Route 66, from there to California. If it sounds like alphabet soup with some digital action thrown in, it was — but easier than it sounds.
The new Dodge Ram that would take us there and back is a magnificent beast, almost too tall for our 6’4" frame and yard-long arms. It is the first production pickup truck to ride on standard 20-inch wheels, vaulting that first step into the cab even higher off the ground than before. Families of average stature will have to keep small stepladders in the beds.
The completely redesigned Ram features an even larger, more vertical grille than before, and that means the hood and the leading edge of the hood take up still more of the driver’s view. It’s very difficult to judge where the front bumper really is, but it’s like that on all domestic full-size pickups. With the new Ram, it’s a matter of degree.