A van for the ages
“I’m driving the van into the city today to help Elizabeth move out of her apartment. I hope it doesn’t break down,” I said, flippantly. Of course, you guessed it, the car overheated on Van Ness Avenue, in the middle of rush hour. Miraculously, there was a legal parking spot right at the corner of Turk, and even more miraculously, a really nice tow truck driver named Louie who was dying to get out of the city traffic and brought me all the way back to Santa Rosa that day.
It turned out that there was a huge hole in the radiator, and the repair was going to cost somewhere between $500 and $700 – too much to spend on a car worth about $1,000.
What started out as a beautiful champagne-colored Chrysler Town & Country minivan morphed over the years into a well-worn and well-loved member of the family. It was 16 years old and had over 227,000 miles on it. It had been to Wyoming, Tijuana, Burning Man, St. Louis, West Virginia, Arkansas, and all points in between. Its dents were like scars or tattoos, commemorating the various adventures of its life, like the time when a windstorm ripped our camp apart, hurling tent posts into the side of the van.
I drove it to Mexico with a boatload of teenagers on a church trip to build houses in Tijuana. While they slept in their dusty tents, I set myself up in the back of the van, feeling like I was in a luxury condo with a real roof over my head. I drove it down roads that were so rutted it’s a wonder we ever made it back home, but we did. On one such trip, a young man got a terrible case of heat stroke. He was lying across the back bench of the van, his body convulsing, and I thought to myself, “This boy might die right here in my car.” That did not happen, thank God and those Mexican paramedics who got him across the border and into the emergency room.
Our son Gus used it in college to transport his lacrosse teammates and equipment to games and tournaments. He and a friend used it to search for family roots and roots music in Appalachia, and later that summer were stopped for speeding through Colorado in the middle of the night. It wasn’t easy to convince him that, yes, that officer probably did have probable cause to search the van.
Over the years it acquired bumper stickers – SF Giants (of course), and one that declared “If there is no struggle, there is no progress,” which gave it its hippy vibe. It lost the back bench, which was left outside for too long and ended up at the dump. The radio got scratchy, but the AC still worked. We thought about selling it over the years, but as it lost monetary value, it gained sentimental value, and it was actually very handy to have around, as long as you weren’t going very far, didn’t drive it very fast, and gave it plenty of time when braking.
But now the time has come to say, “Farewell, faithful minivan. We’ll never forget you!”