I take a perverse pleasure in driving the wheels off of my vehicles before resigning myself to buy a replacement.
In the case of my 2006 Dodge Caravan, at 209,000 miles, the wheels almost literally came off when the rack and pinion blew up and the sloppy tie rods got sloppier.
I blame my penchant for squeezing every last mile out of a vehicle on my rural upbringing. My mom rinsed out plastic bread bags to reuse; my dad hammered used, bent nails flat to use them again. They did well for themselves and could have bought new plastic bags and nails, but that’s just not what you did when a little effort let you reuse something.
And there’s the fact I don’t much care what my vehicles looks like (obvious to anyone who’s seen the old rusty van). There are people who care about what kind of vehicle they drive; it’s part of their identity, something they take pride in and makes them happy. I get that.
Then there are those of us who view a vehicle as simply dependable transportation. And I’m cheap, so not having an auto payment for the past decade or so is a positive.
Despite its age and looks, the old Dodge never once stranded us. Amazing, actually, after what I put it through.
It’s towed the boat and camper across the Midwest. It’s been over the Big Horn Mountains, through Yellowstone, up and down Pike’s Peak, to the Grand Canyon, Canyonlands, the Black Hills, countless trips up north, to name a few.
When they raised the speed limit on Wyoming interstates to 80 mph, it did just fine during all-day cruises under a burning hot sun. Although, I admit, when it got to 90 mph, which was pretty much the speed everyone was driving, it would make some unsettling vibrations and make my wife stiffen up and clutch the handle above her door.
We often packed four or five grandkids and their gear in it for a trip to the cabin, although I usually threatened to throw two or three of them onto the side of the road by the time we got to Royalton.
The old minivan was anything but pampered.
I hauled bales of hay in the back, chainsaws and lawnmowers leaking a little gas, enough lumber over the years to build an expansive house, slabs of rock, enough paver stones to make the rear van springs scream in pain.
All manner of stains, tears and unidentified spots decorated the inside. The ceiling fabric had smudges of soot from some charred lumber I took out of the fire pit at the cabin and hauled home for some reason.
All in all, lots of fond memories. Taking the old workhorse to the junk yard’s an emotional thing.
And yes, the replacement’s a minivan, too. If she only knew what she’s in for.
Tim Krohn can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 344-6383.