ROADTRIP 1:1000 > The Van

“Hey, I think my friend has a van that he wants to sell.”


I had put it out there, and the universe seemed to be answering, and rather quickly at that.  Travis made a phone call and a few minutes later, we went over to Levi’s and checked out his van.


“Tell me again why it’s been sitting for a year and a half?”


“Well, my wife didn’t like it, we were kinda trying to sell sit, but not really…I could get more for it, if it weren’t for the hail damage…”  Strange, vague answers that made no sense made no difference.  I liked her from the get-go, this 2005 Dodge Grand Caravan SE – 7-passenger, 3.6 L, dual-sliding door poster girl for a soccer mom van.  There was a spiraling crack that took up about 1/8 of the bottom-right of the windshield.


She fell into my lap just before I was to leave for the northeast, with a nested trip back to Ireland within that.  I asked Levi to hold onto her until I got back November 10.


While in Ireland, I had Mike pick her up and give her a good once-over.  He suggested a few things upon inspection but said for the most part she was good to go.  In retrospect, while this may have been a passable inspection for general use of the vehicle in the U.S., I am afraid it was insufficient in regards to where the van was headed.  We underestimated the difficult roads ahead and overestimated the ease of finding both quality parts and labor on those same roads.


Shortly after my return stateside, I met with Levi and we settled on a price: $2000.  Levi had me write “$200” on the Bill of Sale “for tax reasons.”


I cleaned her up, took some photographs, and took out the measuring tape.  I had plans for her.


First, I measured her for the platform – mattress above, storage below.  The upward slope of the floor from the front to the back was problematic, but once I laid the dimensions out, I was fine (?).  I settled on a 6” memory foam mattress and rather arbitrarily decided on a 23” amount of headroom, which seemed far more than most van setups I had/have seen.  I knew I had the Thule box to go on top of the van, so I went to ease and comfort inside, knowing more stuff could ride on top.  I sunk all five seats into the floor and set out.  (Had I to do it again, I might consider a hinged design that allowed for the usage of at least the two seats directly behind the driver.  This could would allow for more options for the occupant inside, as well as allow for possibly picking up hitchhikers in order to defray costs and provide some company along the way.  And hopefully not get murdered.


Once the platform height was decided, I ordered the storage containers that would be placed underneath.  As soon as they arrived, it was off to spend some time with Uncle Jim, who built the platform as sturdy as a brick shithouse, complete with 3/4” plywood glued and screwed to a 2x4 frame on 2x8 joists.  Dad and I would lather this wooden behemoth with multiple layers of lacquer/stain in Las Vegas, one of my last stops in the U.S.


The next thing was the curtains, which my mother, my aunt, and I went to insane lengths to fabricate.  In an uninsulated garage, Gretchen and I spent hours taping up newspaper, tracing the contours of the windows, generating patterns so my mother could cut and serge the blackout fabric, complete with buttonholes through which the suction cup hooks would pass, thereby suspending the curtain.  In theory.  (Sadly, the most I would ever be able to manage was two windows – 12-14 hooks, maybe.  That was once, and the curtains didn’t stay up for long.  Turns out temperature, humidity and even slightly curved glass are formidable opponents.  This painstaking design and production was replaced on my last stop in the U.S. after watching a do-it-yourself video online.  Tawnie and I measured the length of the side windows and cut blackout fabric a bit longer than that length, and we suspended these curtains with binder clips (my weapon of choice on the trip) tucked in to where the plastic covers met the fabric ceiling of the van.  The end.  Actually, I did use one of the Montana curtains in the back window, so all was not lost.  Ah, good times…)


The van was equipped with a Kenwood KDC-X300 receiver, a power amplifier, (2) 6x9 and (2) 5 ¼ Kenwood speakers.  Life is too short – and roadtrips too long – for lame sound.


She sat for a year and a half.  I wonder if she though her life was over.  It hadn’t even begun.


If she could move and speak, I wonder if she would kiss me or curse me of hug me or shove me, weep, scream, cheer, rant, or rage.  We have seen so much together.  She was my chariot, my concert hall, my library, my classroom, my soundbooth, my refuge, my closet, my kitchen, and my bedroom.  She was my home for 472 days.


By all accounts, trust me when I say that she should not have made it down some of the roads I took her on.  She did everything I asked her to do, every time I asked her to do it.  She took me quite literally to the end of the earth.


Part of me wanted to ghostride her off a great cliff at the end of South America, or make her a raft, set her on fire, and push her out to sea.


But she has more adventures in her.  We both do.


She was sold to a lucky young fella from Australia on April 11, 2018, in Talca, Chile.  They promptly turned around and headed south, to what I do believe to be her delight.

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