Tuesday, December 23, 2008


You know that you have arrived at a certain point in your life when the only lust that you feel is for a mini-van. In my younger days, I drove many makes and models of vehicles, mostly bought very used and cheap from a relative or friend. The first car I owned was a 65’ Chevy Impala three door that I bought for $100.00 from one of my brothers, I don’t remember which one since they both had owned it back and forth a few times. It had once been a four door until one of my brothers; again I can’t remember which one, got mad at it one day and kicked in one of the back doors so hard it would no longer open. I was twenty-one and in college and to that point I had either ridden my bike to get somewhere on campus or taken the bus, all well and good if you are going to class, but quite difficult if you were trying to do the grocery shopping, not to mention I went to college in northern Ohio where the winters and snow last half the year so no bike riding most of the school year anyway. Though this first car was somewhat a sad thing, it ran and was welcome, although it burned almost as much oil as it did gasoline leaving a huge cloud of heavy white smoke in my wake. And if it hit a bump at a rate of speed higher than 10 miles an hour, the whole thing began to shake and quake violently for a few minutes until it settled itself down again. I sold it a couple of years later for $50.00 to some high school kid, that car sure did get around; bless its little metal heart.

At some point not long after the Chevy I got an old Delta 88 that I was convinced was trying to kill me. Its wheels came off twice! The first time it was a broken tie rod. The second time something somehow sheared the center part of the wheel rim away, it looked like someone had come along and used a giant can opener on it. Both times I was able to feel something was wrong and pull over before the wheel completely fell off. Finally, I went out one morning and when I started it the battery exploded and the hood flew up and I decided that I had had enough! I got the title out of the house, laid it on the seat along with the keys and called the junk yard to come get it.

The one exception to my ownership of used cars was a 1994 Ford Ranger, the only new automobile that I have ever bought from a dealer. I drove that little truck to 275K without once changing the timing belt and it was still going strong when I sold it. That was the vehicle I owned when I adopted my first daughter 7 years ago, but having a baby in the front of a truck just plain wasn’t safe or comfortable, so I also got a used 1994 Isuzu Trooper, which was like driving a tank; it could plow through just about anything. That one I sold several years ago, again, still going strong at 300K and with its original engine! You can’t say I don’t get my money’s worth when it comes to vehicles I’ve owned.

The car/truck I have been driving for the past 3 years is an old Ford Explorer, again, bought used from a family friend and believe it or not, it is a 1994 model… I just can’t seem to get beyond that year. It now has 185K on it, has only two doors and I have two rather large child seats in the back. I have become amazingly adept at lifting my youngest, who weighs 23 pounds, one handed into her car seat on the opposite side of the back seat, then stretching the length of the car to strap her in, then somehow managing to wiggle my way out again, I must then wait for daughter #1 to get in and settled then readjust my driver’s seat for the billionth time and get myself in. When it is raining we all get soaked and cranky going through this procedure, the mom most of all. Once recently, there was a piece of paper on the backseat floor and as I was kneeling on it to strap in daughter #2 the paper caused my knee to slid sideways and I ended up stuck on my belly with my legs poking out and waving helplessly. I had to reach around and push the front seat adjustment forward in order to give myself enough room to get some leverage, (thank goodness for yoga!), my 8 year old laughing her head off at me the entire time. Oh, my lost dignity.

Although this old Ford has been amazingly faithful, and I bless it and give it a little encouraging pat each time it starts in the morning, I have for some time (some time being at least seven years now) lusted after a mini-van. I have always bought what works for my lifestyle rather than what looks good, trucks and small SUVs have worked for me because I have two kids, two pigs, two dogs and a cat to haul, and all the stuff that goes with that kind of brood; groceries, bags of feed, bales of straw, bicycles, the occasional stray creature, not to mention garage sale purchases that might require a bit of room. Plus, I commute about 90 miles a day for work and have relatives that live from Ohio to Florida, requiring space to have handy whatever we might need for whatever situation might arise. I have a very strong Boy Scout mentality (“always be prepared”), so should a situation ever arise where we might be required to live in our vehicle for say a week, I’m ready! Food, water, stroller, books, toys, diapers, candles, matches, glow sticks, blankets, bungee cords, rope, flash lights, hand warmers, gloves, hats, extra clothes, weather radio, tissues, baby wipes, karate gear, plastic bags, maps, port-a-potty, yup, I’ve got it all. Can you say “preparedness”? Needless to say, we need some travelin’ room when we roll, so a mini-van, which in reality are not really all that mini, is what I have had my eye on for years but have been unable to budget for. Though as the Explorer began its inevitable wind down, and I adopted a second child this past September, I just had to try and swing it. I have been saving and had planned to go to the local CarMax in January in hopes that I could find a deal. I was hoping they would be desperate and had been keeping a watch on the internet to see if prices were coming down at all…nope, but I was gonna try and get what I wanted for the price I could afford. Then, out of the blue this week, a co-worker in my department sent around an email offering her 2005 Honda Odyssey for sale for 2K less than I wanted to spend and half of what I thought I would have to spend! Wah hoo! I stared at the email a moment in wonder, what a fabulous coincidence! “M.”, my co-worker, is well organized and meticulous, her family had bought the van new and I knew it would have been well taken care of, and sure enough, she had all of the service records in order in a binder; every oil change! The van was spotless and she was even going to throw in the dual DVD player. I told her that if she threw in the holiday air freshener dangling from the gear shift we had a deal and within 30 minutes it was mine, the object of my long held desire!

As we went over where everything was and how everything worked, M. practically apologized saying that it was a basic model and didn’t have all the fancy features that it could have had. Are you kidding me? This amazing vehicle appears downright futuristic to me, the newest vehicle I have owned was made in 1994! I’ve never even owned a car with airbags before and this van not only has them in front but on the sides. The dash board panel glows like a space ship and tells me if the van needs something, this is more than my kids currently do. It balances itself, it self regulates, and it lets you know when something is wrong, even if your tires need air, goodness! Its passenger side airbag activates automatically only if someone larger than a child is sitting in it. This van’s keyless entry (that cool little push button door unlocker thingy), makes the use of a key to unlock anything almost crude, no more fumbling in the dark to find the keyhole while hold one child in my arms and having the other jump up and down beside me in her impatience to get in, with a push of a button on come the lights and open go the doors, fantastic! It has little cubbies everywhere to store stuff, even in the floor! And cup holders! Lots of them! A family can never have too many cup holders. It has a CD player; my last car had only a broken tape player. And FOUR doors?! Two of them sliding? Oh wow! I feel like I am finally taking the great leap forward! But of course, you who live in the 21st century are already familiar with these kinds of features.
Of course, there has been some getting used to this new-fangled family conveyer, like the first time I stopped to get gas and couldn’t figure out how the little gas door opened since it apparently locked automatically when closed. There I was, running late to work, 17° outside, hunting for some sort of button or latch amongst all of the controls. Just when I was about to resort to the manual, I found it down by my left foot, fortunately, it had a little image of a gas pump on it, otherwise I would not have guessed that that was what I was looking for.

And the second day I owned the van I put the key in my pocket while helping the kids out of it and apparently leaned against the panic button! Yikes, the lights flashed, the horn kept up a loud distressed honking, I looked around in horror... Lucky for me I had asked M. that very day what would happen if I pressed that button, so I knew that was what had probably happened. I didn’t ask how to make it stop however, I tried pressing the button a second time and that caused it to cease. Whew!

So we now ride in the lap of relative luxury among modern conveniences. I feel so much safer now and driving is, well, if not a pleasure, at least more enjoyable than it used to be. The kids of course love it almost as much as I do. Although daughter #1, in her loyalty, wanted to know what would now happen to our poor old Ford, anyone in the market for a mature but sturdy Explorer cheap? We’ll throw in a holiday airfreshener.

Just as a side note: In China, their mini-vans truly are mini (see photo). They were incredibly cute and actually looked like there was a decent amount of space on the interior. Unfortunately, they were not mini enough to fit into my suit case.


Debby said...

Cool! Congrats on the new wheels. I wear my cars out like you do & last year I bought a used Honda Pilot...it's been great.


Kara said...

Is this "M" the one from my department? If so, awesome van! That thing is so super duper comfy. Congrats!

kim said...

My first car was a 73' Delta 88 - totally rusted through the floor, overheated if you didn't have the heat on in the summertime and leaked like a sieve when it rained, but it could boogy when you pushed on the gas. I named it the Bluesmobile....I loved that car!