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Rutledge: God bless childless couples who take excellent care of minivans

Pristine minivan.JPG

Climbing into pristine 12-year-old minivan is like going home again.


By Mark Rutledge

Saturday, April 21, 2018

The 2005 minivan rolled a little beyond 200,000 miles and decided that this would be the finish line. The catalytic converter was rattling, the transmission was knocking, and the air conditioner was on the blink — again.

“We have to do something,” said Sharon, who was about to leave our then-residencein North Carolina for her hometown in Ohio. “I’m not driving for 12 hours in this August heat with no air conditioning.”

This was the pretty blue van that my father purchased new. He had wanted one for carrying passengers more comfortably during regular trips to visit Pennsylvania’s Amish country. Sadly, Dad’s health was soon on the decline. We took over the payments and the pretty blue van.

That vehicle was loaded—leather seats, sunroof, awesome stereo and power everything. It never stood a chance.

I worked hard at keeping that van clean and nice, but three little girls can spill a lot of soda and french fries between the seats. Softball equipment soiled and battered the cargo area, and the paint collected a multitude of bumps and bruises—most heavily around the rear bumper.

Strolling through the shiny new colors at the dealership, I lobbied for a white one with tan interior. I was soundly outvoted on the grounds that all three family vehicles would then be white.

For the record, I never liked the grayish-brownish exterior of our 2015 van. Also for the record, I did not intentionally crash our two-year-old van earlier this year just because I disliked the color.

There were no injuries, but the van was a total loss. The insurance paid off the loan and left us with a healthy amount toward another vehicle.

This is where I must give full credit and glory to Sharon. She located a gorgeous pre-owned van at a local dealership. It’s the same make, but a 2006 model—a year newer than our old blue-and-battered beauty.

Old No. 3 obviously has been resting on a velvet pillow. It has relatively low miles and even more fabulous features than our previous two vans.

We were able to buy it at just under the insurance amount we received on the one I totaled. And the best part: It’s white with tan interior. Sweet victory!

I cannot get over the pristine condition of this van, inside and out. The people who drove it obviously never owned a dog or attended a single softball tournament.

A few days after we bought our classic 2006, I spotted a blue model on the interstate that looked for all the world like our old 2005—but even worse for wear. The stick-figure family on the back window included six or seven stick children, a stick dog, and a pair of stick cats.

Damage to the hatch door was in the shape of a pole. The plastic front bumper was unhinged and flapping on one side.

From the passenger side of our sleek 2006, I caught a quick glimpse of the driver as we slowly passed. He looked exhausted.

I wanted to power down my tinted window and yell, “Hold out for the white one with tan interior!”

Contact Mark Rutledge at mrutledge@reflector.com or like him on Facebook at Mark Rutledge Columns.