Queen of the Southwest.

The ubiquitous white Chevy van has embarked on its final trip. She was donated to Goodwill at approximately 10:30 am on Friday December 19th. The full-sized queen has been slowly dying for years, sadly. She never got the attention she deserved, spending most of her life in the southwest corner of the driveway. But the lack of attention was not for lack of love. Her birth in 1992 predates any of our neighbor’s houses, our pool, two of my cousins, one niece, and the Red’s last winning season. Here’s a look at the aged beauty through the years.

1992 – The entire family made the trip out to Piqua on a rainy December night. Paul Sherry RV and Vans stayed open late so we could browse their massive showroom of full-size and conversion vans. Alex, Lauren and I had decided we liked the model with a television mounted to the roof. My parents were ready to make the deal but balked when the salesman told them it wouldn’t fit in most parking garages. He suggested a similar van with the television sitting on the floor. No objections from the kids, this one was kickin’ too. Nintendo, two radios, electric back seat that folded into a bed, interior mood lighting, exterior running lights and fog lights. You didn’t even need to turn over the cassettes in the tape deck, it did it for you.

1993 – The van quickly established her place as an omnipresent beast in the driveway. Her position in the southwest corner altered many basketball games, taking away about a quarter of the the court. We later used her awesome rear ladder as a slam dunk platform. We played countless games of PIG or HORSE, utilizing her monolithic presence. This photo shows a 5 year-old me me in my dashing blue short shorts, hucking a custom-made paper airplane. Here I am later in 1993 riding a bike without training wheels for the first time. It was raining out, but I had just taught myself to ride and I didn’t want to go inside. Judy, the babysitter, bought the tiny pink bicycle at a garage sale.

1994 – Here’s my Dad and my sister Rachel. Not sure what’s going on. Rachel might be going to college.

1995 – The van never saw much action. Most of the dings and dents she accumulated through the years occurred while safely parked in the driveway. But the 1995 year might have been her highpoint. Judy would use it to drive Alex and me to piano lessons twice a week, plus all the other random excursions to who knows where. We took the van on our yearly trip to Hilton Head, SC. 1995 marked the first year we went to Kelley’s Island, however. Every year, “the moms” would take “the kids” in the van up past Sandusky and camp in the state park. This photo shows Kathy Hart loading up some wood we bought on the island, with my Mom and Matt Little in the background. My mom’s friend Debbie would later make a habit of sleeping in the van instead of in the tent. It had the comfy fold-out back seat, of course. As seen in this November picture, the van also sometimes served as a goalie. In the sense that it would eat up anything that would roll under there, anyway.

1996 – Other awesome features of the van included a radar detector and a CB radio. I used to like to turn on the radio just to listen to the truckers talk to each other. I talked back a couple times, but I was never comfortable with the fact they could tell I was a little kid. The CB was a nice touch. The Brady’s had one in their station wagon, too. Every wholesome family should have one. It was also great for entertaining the friends.

2000 – By this time the van was being used more sparingly. I had finally quit piano lessons, and Judy got a new car that had a working heater. We still took it camping, though Debbie started complaining about the van’s uncleanliness (still choosing to sleep inside, of course). That’s my Aunt Kathy in the photo, halfway through applying the required camping makeup.

2003 – Camping again. This was the first year I brought a friend with me. The number of families making the trip had dwindled and we needed to keep our numbers up. That’s my friend Patrick fighting with the poncho [See post]. The van got a second wind when I got my drivers license. I enjoyed driving the monster around, plus I was mowing lawns across town and the lawnmower couldn’t fit in my 1992 Toyota Celica. Here’s a nice shot of two other since deceased autos that the van managed to outlive. Dad’s 1996 Mazda would soon be traded in for a new Toyota, while Mom’s 1998 Honda would be totaled in a flash flood under my care (oops).

2004 – The van endured a long, rough winter [See post].

2006 – The van was once again being used almost exclusively for the yearly camping trip [See post], plus occasional chlorine runs for the pool. I was now driving the Honda, which was easier for moving the lawnmower around.

2007 – The 2007 camping trip almost never happened when the van refused to leave her parking spot in the southwest corner of the driveway. Well, that’s not exactly how it happened. My mom backed the van up, managing to hit the basketball pole. Instead of pulling forward as logic would suggest, she kept going. The mechanics of the situation were really quite incredible. The bumper had literally wrapped around the pole. Continuing backward would crush the trim, and might not get the van past the pole at all. Moving forward would at best rip off the bumper. Completely at a loss, AAA was called. The tow truck was actually able to lift the van up, move it sideways, and set it back down. Incredible. This would prove to be the van’s final trip up to Kelley’s Island.

2008 – We took one final adventure in the van to picked Alex up from college in New York City. The van moved surprisingly well in the tight urban landscape. She even served as a temporary giant lock box, keeping all of Alex’s stuff safe while we took the subway to a Yankees game. She was fickle, however. The white Paul Sherry tire cover fell off somewhere in the city, leaving only a metal ring surrounding the ugly spare tire mounted in the rear. The metal ring would later fall off, as well. Not many of the awesome features worked any more. The CB radio was busted, the radar detector didn’t detect police officers, and the fog and trim lights didn’t work. The television and VCR worked, but would randomly shut off every once in awhile. When she refused to start in December, the decision was made to retire her. Goodwill picked her up at about 10:30 on a blustery Friday and left us with $500 worth of tax credit and a whole lot of memories.