28 Mar 2010, 11:30pm
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2005 Dodge Caravan 4th anniversary

This is somewhat obscure but while searching through papers for the upcoming tax adventure, I happened upon the original sales document for my 2005 Dodge Caravan which I purchased exactly four years ago to the day, March 28, 2006.  Since then I have added 69,271 miles to its already high one year total of 28,702 – it was probably a rental that maxed out early – making a grand total, as of today, of 97,973.

 I marked the occasion by not driving it at all.  Instead I cycled the 23 miles to and from my job at the Texas Transportation Museum.  It was a windy day, too, and the ride was, as usual, significantly less than enjoyable.  Too many busy roads impossible to avoid.  I have an easier time cycling to my other job at Camp Bullis, which I did for the first time this year on Friday.  Yesterday, Saturday, I took the museum’s 1924 Ford Model T truck for a ten mile spin which was unsatisfactory, as it has just come out of the shop – again – and it needs some more work before everything gets settled in nicely.  The same day I also took the museum’s 1929 Ford Model A truck to a meeting at, of all places, the Barnes & Noble store at Henderson Pass and Loop 1604.  Nothing makes you appreciate how much of an improvement the A was over the T like driving one right after the other.  And both will make you feel like you drive in luxury in any kind of modern vehicle.

 The 2005 Dodge has been, so far, a wonderful form of transportation.  I no longer drive it anywhere near as much as I used to, mainly because research for my “San Antonio On Wheels” book which obliged frequent out of town visits to places like Kerrville and Seguin is long finished.  Since I have owned the vehicle, it has only been out of the state once.  I think I have only had the third row seats installed and occupied maybe three times since I have owned it.  On the trip to Orlando in 2007, accomplished more or less non-stop in less than twenty-hours each way, we took out one of the second row seats as well and placed an inflatable mattress so my wife and I could lay down between driving shifts.

All in all, I am delighted with it.  I bought from a Red McCombs used car lot which now sells new KIAs and HYUNDAIs.  There is a flip side to their slogan, “Where the deal gets done.”  Having sold cars for a while, not too long ago, I knew how the system could work to my advantage, despite being in a tough spot with a badly damaged trade-in, less than glamorous credit and nothing to put down.  I told them up front what it would take for me to leave in one of their cars and they made it happen, with a pretty good interest rate to boot, something my own lousy credit union could or would not do.  My bottom line buying point was a low monthly payment.  How they made it happen was up to them.

 It helped that they happened to have a short wheel base minivan with non fold-flat seats on the lot due to go back to the auction the next deal.  Dealers will do just about anything to avoid sending such “cold” vehicles back.  Not only was this the first minivan I have owned, it my first non convertible.  But I like the thing, I really do.  You can drive it for hours and not get a sore back and the backs of the second row seats go almost horizontal which is wonderful for taking naps.  I have heard that the trade off for the utility of fold flat minivan seats is that they are nowhere near as comfortable plus they don’t recline.  That’s a bad deal, if you ask me.  Admittedly the seats on mine are a tad cumbersome but I’ve only had the second row out two or three times, and the discomfort is not worth the sacrifice, in my experience.

 The thing has been very reliable and gets pretty good mileage.  Before they started selling 10% ethanol gas, which screws up the performance of the Model T and the Model A something rotten, I used to get over 26 MPG.  Now I only get 25.  It has the popular SXT package, with a lot of nice features.  The most amusing is the CD / tape deck combo.  Who would have guessed in 2005 that both formats would be completely obsolete so soon?  The tape deck has one big advantage.  It allow me to play my MP3 player through an adaptor.

 I also spent some time today on a John Deere back-hoe / front end loader combo today, smoothing out some of the museum’s unpaved roads after this weeks rain.  Talk about getting in touch with the fundamentals.  And in yesterday’s mail I received my first ever toll road bill, for a couple of trips in Austin over the last few weeks.  No toll plazas on those roads, just a bank of cameras and scanners at certain points.  I guess over the next few years I’ll be getting more and more of those unhappy-grams as souvenirs of my continuing travels around the state.  I’m optimistic the Dodge will see me through many more comfortable miles.  I’m certainly happy so far.


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