Remember a couple of years back where I made a rather bold, stake-in-the-ground, statement in a blog post?  Back then, I had such a different, pre-dad point of view.  It was such an innocent time.  A time with boundless amounts of energy, optimism and vanity.  At the time, it was all about maintaining that youthful, kid-less image.  It was about caring about style over function, performance over comfort.  At the time, a cross-over SUV seemed like a way to cling to those values, while getting some small level of practicality.

Mark your calendars (if you’re keeping track at home).  On August 12th, 2011 my will was finally broken and I have become a mini-van owner.  This post-dad point of view is 100% on-board with a mini-van and the lifestyle that it promises.  Mini-van’s are all about convenience and comfort.  They’re all about capacity and doors that open themselves with the push of a button.  They’re all about cup holders and arm rests and tinted windows.  They are about incrementally improving the family travel experience.

Just like last time, this is a new era.  An era that I fully admit that I resisted before but have come to completely embrace.  Next time I’m thinking about taking a stand on the topic, I’ll just remember this humbling moment when I waffled.


an end to an era

new-whipMy gas guzzling days are over.  I have shed my unnecessary extravagance.  The end of an era, so to speak.  This weekend was a big one in many ways (more about that later), but in particular it was a significant in our vehicular history.  This weekend, Suzy and I pulled the trigger on a new car – which spelled the end for the big shiny Ford F150.  You see, we’ve been talking about this for some time, our vehicle situation.  The truck, even though I love it to death, is just not practical as a family car.  It’s beautiful, it’s comfortable and quiet inside, it’s easy to drive, powerful as heck (V8 5.4Liter), but it has plenty of downsides for practicality.  Besides the fact that it’s downright expensive, it also consumes petrol at an alarming rate, it’s too tall for us to get a car seat in-out of, it’s not good for more than two people, etc…

And so, we began the search for a new vehicle.  I have a strong aversion to mini-vans.  I know, I know.  They are great for families.   Sliding doors are fantastic for kids.  Having three rows of seats is great for getting the grandparents in the vehicle too.  But they just carry that stigma – the soccer mom stigma.  (Don’t get me wrong, I fully intend to be a soccer dad)  Blech!  No mini-van for me.

And at the end of the day we found ourselves a great compromise.  We eventually settled on a gorgeous little cross-over SUV – which is really just a slightly larger than a station wagon.  In reality, it is a station wagon with a SUV-like gait.  It’s waaay more fuel efficient than the truck.  The payments are way less.  It’s safe, it’s quiet, it’s comfortable.  All said, I’m really happy with the purchase.

I was definitely sad to see the old truck go, but it was a good run.  We had some good times together doing truck-like things, camping, road-tripping, hauling loads and just driving to work.  Alas, these days are over.  Farewell dear truck.  We’ve embarked on a new era.

death defying vehicle of shame

So it happens that my truck recently sprung a small leak in the rear differential.  I noticed some spots of fluid on the garage floor, which typically means its time to take this thing to the shop.  My truck is relatively new (2006), so it’s still under warranty.  Thankfully.

I took the truck into the dealer to have it serviced on Thursday this last week thinking the job would likely be done in a day.  Which in hindsight is always a foolish assumption.  However, I got the inevitable call from the dealer that they didn’t have the parts that they needed to repair my truck and would have to keep it overnight, until they arrived in the morning.  Additionally, there were no rental cars available at the rental place so I’d have to wing it on my own.

In a last minute snap decision on Thursday afternoon, I worked a deal to borrow my friend Dave’s old Ford Explorer for the next day or so.  This would alleviate Suzy from driving me too and from work – which would have been quite a hassle as it is way out of her way (especially when I needed to a catch a plane in the wee hours of the morning on Friday).

There are some caveats to Dave’s ride.  It’s not the oldest vehicle out there, but it’s seen its fair share of hard times.  When picking up the car, Dave went through all of the potential issues with me, including the non-working driver side door latch.  I was so pleased to have a vehicle, in my desperate time of need, that I dismissed these issues without a care and happily took the keys.  It was shortly after this, as I was driving back to the office, that I realized the rolling safety hazard that this vehicle is.

Dave, if you’re reading this, I’m sorry… this is tough love.  Consider this my plea to you, to purchase a new vehicle as soon as humanly possible.

Where do I start?  Oh yes.  As I pulled away from Dave’s driveway you can instantly identify the sound of an exhaust leak sputtering from under the hood.  Putt-putt-putt-putt-putt… Not that big a deal but potentially a real environmental hazard.  As I rolled down the street at a slow 25 miles an hour, it felt like the suspension was in control of the car, not me.  Like I was floating on a cloud which in turn was skating across ice.  Hitting a few bumps on the road the suspension actually pitches forward and then backward in a dizzying see-saw type motion.  It’s the kind of feeling that makes you want to just hit the brakes in fear, immediately.  Dave, I know you’re probably used to this type of suspension, but let me tell you, this is not normal.  I’m no expert in the ways of automobiles, but I think this is dangerous.

Braking.  When you touch the brakes and they start with a low squeal then move into a solid low and grinding groan, it’s probably time to get them checked out.  Not to mention the fact that they feel so spongy that I was in fear that they were actually capable of stopping the weight of the vehicle at all.   I adjusted my braking style, so as not to careen into the cars in front of me.

Given that the driver side door does not work, the fear of being in a gnarly accident from the aforementioned suspension and breaking issues is amplified by the fact that I would potentially be trapped inside.   And that emergency personnel would not be able to free me from an almost certain fiery death.

Oh, and I would be remiss if I did not mention the “shame” component of driving this vehicle.  You are instantly identifiable on the road when driving this chattering, squealy, and puttering bucket of bolts.   When I pulled into the work parking lot after picking up the vehicle, a friend walked past me and took one look at the driver side door, replete with exposed door panel, wiring, and the controls hanging from a harness.  He immediately said “Is that your car?!” in an incredulous tone.   After I explained that I was only borrowing this car from another friend he scoffed that it would be better to not have any car at all.

Ok, so it may not have been all that bad.  I may have laid it on a bit thick for the benefit of my readers.  And don’t get me wrong, I am extremely grateful to have had a free vehicle to borrow while mine was out of commission.  Thanks for helping a friend out.

But Dave, sorry, it’s time for a new vehicle.