on the road again, and (another) ode to the minivan.

Last Saturday, I drove for ten hours to deliver a dog down to southern Connecticut. Today, I get to do the drive again, to pick her up from her Week of Loooove.

Yes, I will have the kids with me.

Let’s just say that this week’s Dadcation (which will take place either Friday afternoon or Saturday morning) will be particularly well-deserved.

The Grand Marnier is now in its sixth year–we got in in December 2005. (Hey, I blogged about it back then…revered excrement, I’ve been doing this Interblogs thingie for a while, haven’t I?) In its five and a half years, it has been almost entirely trouble-free, which is undoubtedly attributable to the fact that we purchased the 70k miles extended warranty. Other than regular wear-and-tear items like brakes and such, it has needed no parts replaced other than a passenger side window motor (under warranty) and a tailgate latch pressure switch. Six months ago, it carried us all the way down to South Carolina in our Epic Family Vacation and Family Visit without a hiccup.

Now, a lot of guys knock minivans, but I wouldn’t want to make a trip of that length with anything but a Grand Caravan or similar vehicle. We had enough luggage for two adults and two kids, a ton of wedding and family presents, and provisions…and not only did everything fit into the cargo compartment behind the third row seat, but we still had the third row available for taking naps, changing diapers, and so on. We also had enough space to hang up the fancy wedding clothes in their garment bags so they’d arrive wrinkle-free. The sliding doors make it easy to load and unload little kids in crowded rest stop parking lots, and the seats are comfy and offer lots of leg space in every row, even for people who are six feet plus.

In everyday utility use, the folding seats are incredibly handy, because you can switch the seating configuration around as needed, turning the van from a seven-seat minibus into a two-seat cargo hauler “pickup with a roof” without ever having to take a seat out of the car. I’ve hauled bedroom furniture, bales of insulation, renovation debris, bookshelves, a dozen eight-foot 4x4s, and a hundred other items in that minivan without trouble. For sheer utility and flexibility, it’s handily the best vehicle I’ve ever owned.

The best part is that we made the last payment on it a few months ago. It’s still purring right along, and our intention is to drive it into the ground. At my current rate of mileage accumulation, I’ll probably have the Grand Caravan for another five years at least, by which time I probably won’t need a minivan anymore. But you know what? One of those Siennas with all-wheel drive would be a slick upgrade…and by that time, they’ll probably come with all kinds of Star Trek gadgets that will make the current models look like 1970s panel vans. With the way air travel is going, I foresee us driving everywhere we can, and the minivan is a long-range family cruiser without peer.

That doesn’t mean I don’t still want that Porsche 911, but there’s no law against having both…yet. <cue Rush’s “Red Barchetta”>

8 thoughts on “on the road again, and (another) ode to the minivan.

  1. Chris Allen says:

    I’m with ya. We bought a Honda Odyssey last year and have loved it. A couple weeks ago, we took a 2500 mile round trip vacation to my parents house in Mobile. That was probably the most enjoyable trip we’ve made down there and we’ve added Thing 2 since our last attempt (2008).

    My wife, who hated minivans before we had a 2nd kid, loves the Odyssey and wouldn’t part with it.

  2. aczarnowski says:

    I can’t help but picture Dexter at the beginning of season 2 tossing a body into his new mini-van and agreeing with you – “The room in these things really does come in handy.”

    I was eyeballing an Astro the other day. Too bad they are discontinued, and were made by GM.

  3. Al Terego says:

    See now, hippies ain’t always so wrong…

    Probably won’t be seeing G.M.’s like yours on the flea in forty years, though. Who’da thunk flowers, free love, and whacky weed would segue into such a great (but eeevil!) capitalist investment?

    http://cgi.ebay.com/ebaymotors/1967-Volkswagen-VW-Bus-13-Window-Deluxe-BEAUTIFUL-/320690320209?pt=US_Cars_Trucks&hash=item4aaaa1f351

    AT

  4. Fred2 says:

    Amen brother, they ain’t styling, though the Odyssey is the nicest of the bunch now that teh Grand CAravan discontinued the rounded look.

    But holy crap, the utility of them is mind boggling, and considering all they can haul and do, they get pretty decent fuel efficiency.

    I just wish you could get one with a manual tranny.

  5. Alan Fisher says:

    Bought the Plymouth Gran Voyager in 1998. Splurged on the “Espresso” model (lots of Town and Country upgrades inside to use up inventory at the end of the model year) I am looking forward to the next 5 years in it. Hauls lots of gear on shooting trips and we manage 4 adult sized people and a 140 pound dog on 7 hour drives for vacations. I feel plain wierd when I try to get into or out of a sedan. I am unlikely to even look at anything smaller when that day eventually comes that I must move on. I have happily become “The Mini-Van Man”. Chrysler really did blow it with the incredibly ugly “box” look. My eyes have wandered to other makes as a result.

  6. libertyman says:

    I always enjoyed my Chevy vans – they were 1 ton rated, my last one had seats for 12, They were great on trips — you could bring, well, everyone and everything! Take out some or all of the seats and you had a nice place for the cooler to act as a coffee table in the middle. Best of all was the view from the drivers seat. I put a small Vega steering wheel on one in place of the bus sized wheel from the factory. Great fun!

  7. og says:

    Dude. Shut the HELL up.

    You know that thing can hear you, right? NEVER brag about a vehicle. Just be nice to it, and keep driving.

  8. Desertrat says:

    I still have fond memories of my ’71 Chevy 3/4 ton van. The first brand-new critter I’d ever owned. Only 18 mpg on the highway, but that was better than most other vans. And it topped out at 130, after I did a bit of tweaking.

    But you can’t beat the old VW bus as a 4-wheeled motel. Many and many a time it was my hunt camp in the back country. Even pulled my race car with it.

    Today’s minivans are okay on pavement, but not everybody lives on pavement…

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