The story of the van(s)

It’s been awhile but life has been busy. Here’s part of WHY it has been so busy.

On June 2nd (four days after my last blog post), we decided to drive two and a half hours away for a little day trip. A bit of shopping (our first Target Canada experience), eating out and making memories with our kids. On the way home, in the rain, our engine light started flashing. We pulled over to check things out and when nothing obvious could be found, we kept driving. Less than two minutes into our drive from there, the hood of our minivan flew up into our windshield and smashed it. No shattered glass or anything but scary nevertheless. Mike pulled over, put the hood down and kept driving. We finally got to a gas station and found that the van needed oil. Meanwhile the windshield was in pretty rough shape and we were all shook up still.

We got home safely (thank you, Lord!) and the next day, I took the van down to see about getting the windshield changed. The glass place suggested that I would probably have to check with ICBC (our insurance provider) to see if it would be covered as it was so severe. They said it was possible the van would be written off. So Mike took the van to ICBC.

It took less than a full day to know that the repairs would cost too much and the van would be totalled. We then waited two more days to find out how much we were going to get. We heard back on the 6th that we would get $2850 for our 1998 minivan – more than we could have sold it for ourselves. We were about to buy another seven passenger van when someone messaged me to let me know that they had an eight passenger minivan, less mileage than ours and three years newer. She accepted an offer of $2500 and with the 12% tax, we broke even on the purchase. Date of accident: June 2nd. Date of purchase on new van: June 8th.

Fast forward two weeks. The van has been great, aside from an issue with the air conditioning. My dad came to visit and on the 24th, we drove a bit out of town to take him to a hydro dam and go on a tour. We had a great time – took the tour, lots of pictures and went out for ice cream before we headed for home. We had the eighth seat in the van for my dad so he wouldn’t have to drive everywhere in his car.

About halfway home, the engine light came on.

So Mike pulls over, checks under the hood, doesn’t see anything obvious and we get back on the road. The thing is, we can’t get it to go faster than about 50 km/hr. My dad said it sounded like the transmission. Engine light keeps flashing and the van just gets slower and slower. We were at the base of a hill going thirty and Mike turned to me and asked if I thought we would get up the hill. I suggested that maybe he should stop before we attempted it.

At that point, my dad thought he saw smoke but Mike didn’t. He backed up to a little dead end gravel road so he wouldn’t be on the shoulder. Then we all saw smoke. Popped the hood and there were flames. My dad started to yell. GET THE KIDS OUT OF THE VAN NOW.

So we went into panic mode for a few minutes getting the kids out and well away from the van. Then when it appeared we had some time, I asked that the carseats also be taken out. I was fishing something else out when I heard hissing and watched the fire go out. Turns out it had melted through the coolant lines and that was what put out the fire.

At this point, we’re all out of the van, the carseats are out and my dad and Mike pulled everything else out of it, right down to the jack and the manual.

We sat on that little road for more than an hour while Mike hitched a ride up the hill to call BCAA and get a tow truck. Oh, yes, where we stopped just happened to be out of cell service.

I had a bottle of bubbles along with me and a bag of cherries. I fed and entertained my children, nursed Sam sitting on a tire while we waited. Oh, I am so thankful my dad was with me and I didn’t have to be left alone with my kids on that road. The forecast had also called for a storm but that didn’t happen either.

June 24th: van breaks down.

June 25th-July 1st: we wait. While we wait, my dad is here visiting and we are able to put three kids in the back of his car and two in Mike’s work truck. Slightly against the rules but we didn’t overuse it. This time around, it took ICBC three days just to tow the van to their lot to start looking at it.

July 2nd: We finally got a call from ICBC. The guy wanted to know what mechanic we’d like to use if they needed to look at it in depth. He figured it was likely it would be another write off but wasn’t totally sure.

July 3rd: I phoned ICBC to pester them a bit. Found out that it was a write off for sure. Was told I might have to wait a week to find out how much we would get.

July 4th: Happy Independence Day, Americans. ICBC called first thing in the morning. Jenny told them I was unavailable because I was asleep and so they called Mike. He called me awhile later and broke the news.

$1600. $900 less than what we paid before taxes.

During the last eleven days, I have been looking at classified ads every day, multiple times a day. Hunting for something affordable and smart for us to buy. We have a few ideas, one is to buy something cheap and just drive it until we need a bigger vehicle. Or drive it until it dies. The other idea is to spend more – more than six thousand dollars more – on a fifteen passenger van. A van that we will most likely need in the future anyway.

This is a tough one, folks. And it’s not over yet. Stay tuned…

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