Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Vehicle Fun

Every September Rob enters school with both of our vans tuned up and ready to run for another nine months until he’s done school again.  Each September we take the insurance off the the older vehicle and drive the newer 1995 Pontaic Transport (red)… yup, that means the other vehicle is even more then 16 years old!  By time Christmas break arrives in December the red van is either in need of some work or has been parked and exchanged for the 1992 Transport (white) until time allows for repairs to be done.  At least one day each Christmas Break is spent working on vehicles, getting them back into shape until May when Rob will emerge from his books again.1992 Transport0001

This past school year was no exception to the rule … we had our share of fun with vehicles.  Being our first year out of the city it was a new challenge to try and survive with only one vehicle during the school year, but since Rob ended up carpooling most days it was a challenge we decided to take.  Now it is August and I can hardly remember what the issues were, but I do remember that as spring arrive vehicle issues increased.  First the red van was in need of some major time-consuming repairs (fuel pump? can’t remember), so it was parked in exchange for the white van.  This vehicle then began to give us issues and not having time to work on it we were thankful for my parents who lent us their car for a period of time.  Rob finally emerged from his office one evening, not because he had time but because he needed something physical to release his mind stress, and managed to get the white van running again.  It wasn’t the most reliable feeling running, but it was running … most of the time.  There were our share of times where I simply couldn’t go somewhere because we had one vehicle or were vehicless.  Then there were the times where I forgot the concept of only having one vehicle and would book things only to get ready to go and realize I had nothing to go too  … yup, I have blonde strands … you think I’d clue in after this happened once … and yes, we’ve gone with one vehicle before, but Rob was always close enough to school that he would just bike if a vehicle was needed, or if necessary I would drop him off/pick him up … so while we had one vehicle, I had priority over that vehicle.

It became apparent that the dear old white van who had served us relatively faithfully over the past 9 years was not going to make it to it’s 20th birthday.  It was beginning to rot out underneath and seeing as the repairs for the red van would add up if we had to buy parts, it was time to make the two vans into one.  Since the white van was rotted that meant we would have to drive the red van, even though engine wise the white one drives much nicer and would be a better option.  Another pull for the red van is that fact that even though it’s 16 years old the a/c still works!   So we will no longer be confusing everyone on whether we got a new van or painted our van … we will now strictly be driving a red van … if we arrive in something of a different colour you may ask whether we painted it (unlikely), got a new van (possible) or are borrowing a van (another possiblity) :)  We’re not sure how much longer this van will do, it hasn’t exactly been our favourite vehicle as far as reliability and how it drives, but since it still runs we’ll see how far it will go.


Retiring one vehicle meant deciding whether another vehicle would be necessary.  Because it looked like Rob would not have a carpool option for next year it wasn’t a hard decision to make.  Having the vehicle gone a couple days of the week mostly worked fine, but having no vehicle at all during the week would be rather difficult.  Next was the decision of what kind of vehicle.  That dear faithful 3800 engine is no longer available.  We also did not need to have two vans anymore … when we bought our second van we had 4 children and both vehicles had to accommodate the whole family (you know, for those regular winter vehicle switches when one vehicle wasn’t running anymore).  Fuel mileage of course was a big factor also, giving that the price of gas is usually around $1.25/L or more.  The last month of school I could not keep Rob focused on his task of school work and constantly found him looking around the internet at vehicles and wanting to go off and look at vehicle.  Thankfully he did not have the time to go running off everything he thought he found a good deal and the white van held over until the end of the school year.  As soon as he was done his one week practicum it was off car shopping … and he’s very thankful he ended having to wait that long as a really good deal popped up allowing him to get the VW Jetta that he wanted. 

Rob had a strong desire for a Volkswagen Jetta TDI or a Jetta Wagon TDI.  But these vehicles come with a price tag.  Yes, very fuel efficient, but after you pay the initial cost have you saved anything.  We sat down at the computer and used the handy Excel program to do some calculations on vehicle prices and vehicle mileage.  In the end we determined an amount of money for each mileage category that would make it a good deal that at the end of the two years of school would cost of the same.  We reviewed our vehicles, put them under the proper category list and went “shopping” (behind our computers:)  I was so thankful when we finally found a vehicle … I was so sick of doing calculations and hearing vehicle talk.  Rob was especially excited because not only did he find the vehicle that he really wanted but he got it  at a 25% discount in comparison to similar vehicles and in relation to our Excel calculation that means he did really well as we’ll still get the lovely fuel saving costs.

So here’s Rob’s new pride and joy!  A 2003 Volkswagen Jetta TDI.  So far Rob is just tickled pink as the car is peppy and fun to drive and it gets him 52mpg.  He was determined to get 1100km on the tank, but his wife refused to push or show any acknowledgement that she knew him if he ran out of gas on the highway.  So he had to give up and get gas as the next available gas station … leaving him at 1050km … so close!



Now for those of you who know what TDI means and who know me … you’re probably thinking that this vehicle is only meant for Rob.  Steph drive manual transmission?  Impossible!!  Ya, I know, I’m the most uncoordinated person around.  Having to use two feet and two hands to drive … ahhhhh!!!!!!!!!!!  But, alas, a new vehicle had to be one we could both drive and that means this vehicle is indeed manual transmission and believe it or not I am indeed learning to drive it.  While the girls are sure that I have tried to kill them a few times, really, it’s not going all that bad.  I am starting to get over that feeling of hating to drive the car.  I had thought be now I would be a bit better at it, but still struggle from time to time with stalling it, only taking the comfort in knowing that twice Rob has stalled in in my presence (maybe more when I wasn’t around).  I keep thinking I’ve gotten the hang of it and then have a day where I just can’t seem to get the gears right or take off without staling.  So frustrating and discouraging.  While mostly it’s going good I find when I drive in the city I feel like I’m a new driver all over again.  I can take off now without the fear of stalling but I am like an old granny, slow and always on the lookout driving with miles of space around me.  I still feel I do not know how to react in a quick situation … forgetting to push the clutch in if I have to brake quickly, not being able to take off as quickly as I’d like for fear I’ll stale it instead (and then get a big huge transport run over me), etc.  I know that eventually it will become second nature and give that it’s only been a couple months and I don’t drive it all the time, I suppose it’s going okay … hey give me credit, my second time driving was almost downtown Hamilton (to McMaster), I’m willing to take the challenge and realize that I have to just get out there and do it and figure it out.  Hopefully I don’t blow the transmission in the process!!  I just want to note here that Rob assured me that my driving would not do that and would not have an effect on that and that if the transmission ever blows he will not blame it on my driving!!  You all have that in writing!

So for the time being our vehicle “fun” is over.  We now have two vehicles again! We recently found out that Rob will have his carpooling option available again after all, but we will be keeping both vehicles on the road (insured) this winter since it’s hardly a savings on the insurance to drive only one vehicle … due to our lovely speeding tickets! :(  Our insurance doubled this year when we had only one vehicle insured as they combined our speeding tickets and dropped our driving record making our rates go up.  But, if we insure two vehicles then they no longer combine our tickets and so our driving records go back up.  So for a little bit more we get to drive two vehicle and have less hassle of who gets the vehicle when.

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