Editor's note: Rochester mom Angela Youngblood chronicled her car-shopping adventure across Oakland and Macomb counties last year for a series we called Patch Drives. Patch readers went along as Youngblood test drove a Honda Odyssey, Ford Flex, MINI Cooper, Chevy Suburban, Dodge Journey and Chrysler Town & Country. Here is the long-awaited ending to her research and travels.
Last spring, I was van shopping. I was searching for the right fit for our family. You all went along for the ride while I tried out different SUVs, minivans and even a MINI Cooper. Eight long months have passed and I finally got my new ride.
Let me back up a bit.
Since we last talked, the van has been falling apart little by little, sort of like my pride. After test driving the cars last spring, my husband and I (mostly my husband) decided that we should really drive my giant van as long as it worked to save money. And that is what I’ve done.
When the air-conditioning broke this summer, we just rolled down the windows. When it started rattling and shaking when it went over 55 mph, I stopped driving anywhere the speed limit was over 55 mph. When the running board started breaking apart and skidding along the road spraying sparks as I drove, I just pulled over and duct taped it back together.
People knew when we were coming. The van sputtered as we drove. If it rained the engine would make a squealing sound.
But it got us where we needed to go.
After my initial disappointment about not getting a fancy new car with all the bells and whistles (or working air-conditioning and highway drive-ability), I accepted the van. I even grew to love the van.
I sporadically changed the duct tape using my daughter’s collection of bright colors. I hung pink fuzzy dice on the front mirror. I made it my own colorful display of self-expression. On any given day you could hear Sesame Street songs or Madonna jamming from the one good speaker depending on who I had in the van with me. We were a cross between the bus in the Muppet movies, the Mystery Van from Scooby Doo and the bus in The Partridge Family. Groovy for sure.
A coat (or van) of many colors
One day I pulled up in the car loop at my childrens' school to drop them off and noticed not everyone appreciated my display. As I kissed my daughter good-bye, we both noticed a few little girls pointing and laughing.
"They’re just jealous,” I told her.
“I don’t think so mommy,” she replied.
As I pulled away, I worried. I never thought about my van being a life lesson for my children. But as my kids learned in kindergarten, everything is a “teachable moment.”
Maybe my groovy fan was my kids’ coat of many colors if you will. Just like Dolly Parton’s old song. You know, Dolly’s mom sewed the coat with all the colorful patches and each patch, each stitch was full of love. Dolly felt rich even though the kids made fun of her. Maybe my kids understood that with each strip of colorful duct tape I put on our van I was lovingly holding our lives together, getting them safely where they needed to go. Maybe this van was teaching all of us to be proud of who we are no matter what it looked like to others. My heart was full of pride about turning a junky van into a life lesson.
None of those lessons mattered when the van started leaking rust all over town as I drove and the auto shop informed me it would cost thousands of dollars to fix. The time had come. It was time to finally make a purchase, eight months after the initial search.
I could nap here
My new minivan, leased from Dick Huvaere's Richmond Chrysler, is a Town and Country Touring 2013 — like the one I test-drove for Patch. It has leather seats, workable windows, good pick-up, the very important satellite radio and it’s highway ready. It’s so nice I want to drive all day, I want to pull over somewhere and take naps in it. It’s so nice I want to drive up to the car loop and show it off to those little girls that had pointed and laughed and ask “How you like me now?”
I’m not suggesting everyone drive around in duct taped vans. Because believe me, along with the good times, there were many times of worry, where I was left wondering if that very moment would be the moment the van stopped working. I am suggesting that delayed gratification isn’t such a bad thing. I am also suggesting that we all just relax and do the best we can.
In this over-indulged, pampered world my kids have a true appreciation for our new minivan. They are excited about even the smallest of features. “Look at these cup holders!,” exclaimed my excited first-grader JT.
Believe it or not, I actually am going to miss the quirkiness of the big van. But it won’t take long for me to make this mini my own. The pink fuzzy dice have been hung and the Madonna and Sesame Street CDs have been loaded.
Watch out, Patch readers: I’m hitting the road.