It's finally happened: we've said good-bye to the big red van that's been an integral part of our family for the past ten years. This fifteen-seater Dodge Ram Van, a de facto bus that was widely known as the "Pearlmobile," has been indispensible on so many occasions (taking our boys and all of their belongings cross-country when they began college, to name just one--and for more on our behemoth of a vehicle, the ultimate "Wagon Queen Family Truckster" if there ever was one, see "Trading in the Big Red Van for a Sportier Model," Nov. 8, 2011). We've put 225,000 miles on that van, had the brakes changed numerous times, and spent a small fortune just keeping it filled with gas. But finally, the amount of money it costs to keep it running has outweighed its usefulness to a couple of empty-nesters who have two other working vehicles at our disposal, and--other than when our youngest son is on breaks from college--only two drivers at home. At this point, it's just taking up space in our driveway. It's just a huge obstacle around which we're going to have to plow or shovel when (or if?) it snows this winter.
This past summer, we had to put over $2,000 into our beloved big red van just to get it to pass inspection; the previous year, we'd spent about the same amount to have the rusted-out floorboards in the back replaced. The old girl was starting to become a real money pit. So the last time we had major repair work done on her, we made a decision: we would keep her as long as her expenses were minor ones; but the next time we had to shell out a huge amount of money to fix her, we were going to have to get rid of her. We knew that day would probably come sooner rather than later.
Well, that day came about a week ago. The van hasn't been starting on a regular basis lately, and when it does, it stalls out unless you keep your foot on the gas at all times. We took it in for diagnostic tests and found out that it was going to cost a minimum of $1,000, and as much as $1,700, to get it in good working order again. There was no quesion: it was time to find a way to unload the van that had seen us through so many good years when we were raising our boys but had lately become "Old Unreliable."
Instead of trying to sell our van, my husband contacted the St. Vincent de Paul Society. They will come and pick up any kind of vehicle--even a boat--and take it off your hands. When they sell your vehicle at auction, the charity receives the proceeds and you can write off that amount on your taxes. (A minimum tax deduction is guaranteed, and then if the vehicle brings in more at auction, the charity adds the difference so that you can claim the higher amount.) For us, the idea of giving the van to charity felt like the right way to go. We hate to think of it rotting away in a junkyard and imagine that someone out there who's good with cars--the kind of person who used to be called a "grease monkey," but I suppose that's not PC these days--might be able to fix it up and get a few more good years out of it. The tow truck driver who came to take our van away last night commented, "This is a pretty nice vehicle for a donation!" That rattled me momentarily and made me think--gulp!--What are we doing? How can we get rid of the Pearlmobile? My husband told him how we'd raised five sons and the van had been so useful to us during those years, and he said that we were going to miss it. Then I started snapping pictures as the driver did his thing, hooking up cables so that that our enormous van could be pulled up the ramp of the truck, and the guy looked over at me and said, "Now you're making me miss it!"
I will miss that van (I spent so much time in it, it was like my little second home on wheels), but I know that letting it go was the right decision. We'll miss you, big red van. Thanks for all those years of dedicated service to the Pearl family.