Sunday, November 12, 2006

The Perfect Family Vehicle

We have experienced life with an unreliable vehicle for 10 months now. Back at the beginning of 2006, we were involved in a 7 car pileup on the bridge curving over the river and toward our town. It was a rainy January night around 8 pm. My husband had just picked me up from the hospital where I had worked a tiring 12-hour shift on our bustling maternity unit. I was 6 and1/2 months pregnant with our second child and our 2 and 1/2 year old daughter was in her carseat behind me.

The air was filled with light fog, and the constant spittle of winter rain slicked the asphalt, causing it to shine in the headlights. My husband was driving the speed limit in the right hand lane. He was watching the road, driving carefully amidst the blur of rainstreaked headlights and I was chatting about the events of my shift.

As we drove up a small incline in the road, I saw a grey car without lights on in the lane immediately ahead of us and yelled "Car!" when I realized it wasn't moving. My husband slammed on the brakes while intermittently pumping them against the slick road and we screeched to a full stop literally 2 inches from the car's rear bumper. The SUV directly behind us did the same, screeching to a stop within inches of our car. Unfortunately for the driver of the 3rd car, she was going way too fast and had no time to even depress her brakes. She slammed headlong into the SUV, which slammed into us, which caused our front bumper to become lodged quite determinedly beneath the rear bumper of the originally stalled car.

We continued to brace ourselves as the sound of screeching brakes cut through the night. Besides mild whiplash and residual anxiety, we were without injury. But the aftermath of car repairs and insurance delays continued for months.

Our car should have been totalled, but they decided to repair it instead. It has been difficult to know which repairs are a result of the accident and which are par for the course of owning a 1985 Volvo station wagon. Needless to say, our car "big blue," was already dragging it's legs like an old gopher, and is now crawling on its final front leg. Just last week, the heat and defrost function stopped working. And if you know anything about living in a rainforest, which I'm sure you do, you know that defrost and heat is essential.

The Volvo is mine and predates our wedding of 4 years ago. I bought it from my brother back in 2000 after "Mahli", my burgundy 1980 Volvo sedan, tuckered out. Both "Mahli" and "Big Blue" have served their time, carrying me thousands of miles between Arizona and British Columbia.My husband is 6 foot 8 inches and has done well to tolerate the low, cozy entrance to the driver's seat. For over 4 years he has wriggled and contorted his expansive frame into an insertable posture, tweeking his neck and back in the process. So, friends, we have started to look for a new vehicle.

For years, the Volkswagen Westfalia has been top on our list for vehicles to someday own. It is the perfect family vehicle. Most models seat 5 or 6, are fully camperized, sleep 4 adults and are fairly easy to repair if the owner is willing to slow down, take a swig of ginger beer and read the manual. We have also heard a lot of involved stories about these beauties breaking down at inopportune times, so that means we need a good one!

For a few months, we explored the possbility of owning a Mitsubishi Delica (check them out at These unique-looking vans seat 7, run for MANY kms per fill-up of Diesel, are imported from Japan, and are amazingly affordable at $7,000. We seriously considered the Delica and put our names on a list to be contacted when one was available. In the meantime, we visited two friends who had recently purchased one and were able to take a closer look. We discovered that the amount of headroom is less than our old Volvo! My husband looked like a giant on a mini-bike trying to fit into the driver's side. So, we abandoned that possibility. And now we are on the search for a sweet deal on a sweet Westy.

Feel free to smile and honk and to send good thoughts our way when you pass one on the highway.

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