living the dream 2009-2016

seven years and at least eight road trips have passed. in the moment of a double take, while i turned, blinked and then quickly looked back, so much time has gone by in those short years. the 3 year old baby is well into his 10th year. the 6 year old big kid is going on 13, a big kid on the slow transformation to an adult. it seems like we were just at the AAA in east liberty, getting the title of the 2001 red vw eurovan weekender transferred into our names. we were giddy with excitement at the road that lay open wide before us with this purchase. a dream all wrapped up in one pop-top van. this vehicle was going to be our only car, our every day transporter to things around the city, and our weekend transporter to our other life, our climbing life. oh the road trips we could take! we had barely owned the van before we began planning life around it. the kids couldn’t wait to romp around the pop up. this eurovan was the perfect purchase for us. absolutely perfect. it was just a vehicle, yes, but it also became our symbol of the good life.

it’s hard to try to sum up these past 7 years. i can list all the big road trips: 2009 denver, colorado; 2010 hueco tanks, el paso, texas; 2011 6 week tour of the u.s. from pittsburgh to hueco to tucson, arizona to santa cruz, california, to salt lake city, utah to denver, colorado and back home; 2012 maple canyon and salt lake city in utah; 2013, steamboat springs, colorado and heuco tanks; 2014, hueco tanks; 2015 hueco tanks. and there were some other trips to connecticut and philadelphia and florida. but what’s hard is conveying in this short post what these trips meant to us. how we were challenged and how we grew as a family. the really amazing take your breath away good moments and the punch you in the gut hard moments when you just wish you were back home. all the stuff we got to see! we had birthdays on the road. the boys lost teeth on the road. we made new friends on the road. we made old friendships better. the van got us to every destination. she only broke down when we were home, around pittsburgh.

we aren’t going to remember only the road trips in the van though. there is also the every day around-home memories too. the van took us to back and forth to the hospital every day for 2 weeks when oren fractured his skull in 2009.  giving friends rides to places around town. moving furniture. sitting in the van for two hours on the coldest night of a very cold winter waiting for a tow on washington blvd the time the alternator belt broke. looking out into a sea of cars in a parking lot and being able to spot the van poking her head up above every other vehicle. driving to the pool in the summer. driving to the ice skating rink in the winter. driving to soccer. piling bikes in with the kids and driving to the bmx track. driving, just driving the van. i loved driving that van.

we had a rough 2015 with the van and as a family. the van started breaking down in small ways a lot. i don’t want to go into the litany of all the things that went wrong. but it was really starting to wear on us, especially brian who was the one to get her to a mechanic and have to figure out how to get to work around it. the last half of 2015, we drove my dad’s jeep about as much as we drove the van. for whatever reason, 2015 was also sadly devoid of camping and climbing–the things that reminded us of why we really loved this vehicle, why we spent so much time fixing it. and things were tense in our family with a tween in the mix. it was like the dream was falling apart.  things just didn’t fit right anymore. it seemed like we were forcing it too much and failing. we didn’t want to admit it, but we were outgrowing the van.

the last trip to hueco we took began to convince us. although the van had a newly rebuilt transmission, it would go into safe mode randomly here and there. this meant that it wouldn’t shift out of second gear and the engine had to be turned off to “cool down.” the first time this happened was in dallas, texas when we were already over a twelve hundred miles away from home. so for the whole trip, in the back of our minds, we were worried we might not get home without some serious trouble and maybe a long distance tow. it was too stressful. it tainted the whole trip. but the last nail in the coffin came back home. it was christmas eve. there had been some noise in the front end for a while, but now it was really, really loud. so loud that people would turn and look and not because the van was so cute. but on our way to church that night it got really, really, really loud. embarrassingly loud, and it seemed like the van was losing power. brian drove the van home that night, but it barely made it. the alternator was broken. and so were we. we had to get rid of it. it was time to buy a new car.

today, saturday, april 9, 2016, almost exactly 7 years to the day, the van’s new owner drove her away from our house. it has been months since we have driven her more than a few blocks. she sat out back in the alley, her top peeking over the back fence at us. we sold her on ebay to a man from new york with two boys. he has friends who are vw westy folks, and so the van goes to a good home, to people who appreciate her charm and will care for her well. i am writing this little piece as a sort of eulogy to her–not because the van died. i really thought up to last year that we would drive her into the ground, that we’d be her last owners. but she’s gone on to possibly bigger and better things. this is a eulogy to her, but also to what our life was with her. things are changing for us. our family is changing and our needs are different. the dream has to change too. so i’m saying goodbye to all that for now, at least to how it’s been until now. we aren’t a family of little boys anymore. and it seems we have less time to gallivant around the country to the next climbing destination. it’s not that the dream is over, it’s just changing. now we need to figure out how to live the dream in this new phase of life.  and with a different vehicle set up, one that doesn’t feel so perfect. and it’s hard, for me at least. it’s hard to say goodbye.