11 October 2012

Didn't we just leave this party?

Last July my commute vehicle, a 2001 Ford Focus, died miserably the day I found out I was hired- my first full-time job in 19 months. I sold my life bereft hulk for $500, and started the dealership rounds, finally ending up with another '01, this time a Honda. Happy feelings: new job, Japanese car that I can depend on, and the two large pizzas which accompanied on the Ford's death voyage.

Little more than a year later, we have our first protracted family vacation. First as in first ever. A whole week away from home in Atlantic City. It was beautiful, I got to walk the boards, I was in the ocean, I ate saltwater taffy and funnelcake. I even got pinched by a crab, twice. Not sure if it was the same vindictive crab, or just two surprised crabs. I thought they were seashells. They were not.

The van makes it all the way down, takes us out the two days we needed it, and makes it almost all the way home. As soon as we touch Pennsylvania proper, it gives up its spirit. I open the hood. There are belts lying around like so much offal, and the final diagnosis is that our beloved '96 Honda Odyssey has a broken timing chain after traveling its 238,000th-odd mile.

Our mechanic puts on the timing belt and water pump kit, and we're hoping to come up trumps for around $500, but they start it up and it sounds like the 7:15 from Tulsa just steamed into the station. I'm wondering if they put a coal conversion kit in it or something. Turns out, there's no compression in the first cylinder and it will take another 900-1500 to fix it.

Wonderful. Now what can we do? Three car seats do not fit in the backseat of a Honda Civic. Not even with imagination. Not horizontally, vertically, or diagonally. We would need the space-bending properties of a Stargate to accomplish it, and I don't see Richard Dean Anderson anywhere. Or Macgyver for that matter.

As a man, I would never drive a minivan without children in it. You can't roll down the window, crank up August Burns Red, stick your elbow out and feel awesome. It just can't happen. But as a family vehicle, I have grown to love that van more than I ever realized. Now that I'm about to lose it forever, I finally appreciate it. So I am struggling. Herein comes the quandary. We can spend 2 grand total and have it fixed up (probably). Or we can junk it and spend almost all the money we have saved (not much, think of buying a lawnmower with a canopy, and that's our budget) on a high mileage Japanese van that might have a catastrophic failure itself within the year? This is the classic story of the lady and the tiger. Either door I open may have a tiger behind it. Probably eating the lady, because like raptors, tigers can open doors.

I don't WANT to buy a new family van. In fact, I've just thought of a great reason why we can't. Aside from all of the Cheerios, Goldfish, and pretzel rods buried in the dark crevices of the seats, there is a sword from a Playmobil knight that was lost the day it was purchased. We just can't fail Sir What's-His-Name. Nor do I want to buy some car sight unseen from strange people who may or may not smell like curry, or have a very hairy dog, or a habit of spilling orange juice while driving, or any number of other things that happen to cars that just shouldn't.

Any suggestions are welcome. Even silly ones that involve horses or jetpacks. Or We Were Promised Jetpacks.

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