Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The King Is Dead - Long Live The King!

The title seems appropriate with the once-per-generation transfer of royal precession... The ole' van, as predicted when I first posted about our accident 5 weeks ago, got totaled out. With a "book value" of $500 (!), and a repair estimate of about $4,000, the insurance company presented me with a check for $560 to replace the wheels that have transported me nearly 300,000 miles the last 20+ years.  It seems unfair somehow that the van I was hoping to get to 500,000 miles (I bought it used with 70,000 miles, final mileage was 363,000) could be wiped out like that while I was stopped at a traffic light! Anyway, the deal is finished, fortunately, they came to tow it away (I'd been driving it fine since the accident!) while I was in the hospital, so didn't have to go thru any tearful goodbyes!

Love at first sight?
Knowing the date would be coming up eventually, I was looking for a suitable replacement. While not usually used for carrying people, I've used it before for sleeping in the rear, but mostly it was used to support my astronomical observing. Hauling around large telescopes, it is inconvenient to constantly load and unload gear, so it would be nice to have something like a large Sports Utility Vehicle (SUV). I've never really considered a mini-van, though the improved gas mileage would be attractive. Our group of amateur astronomers from Russia are talking about returning for an eclipse trip in 2 years, but getting something like the 15 passenger van we rented for them last time likely wasn't worth the expense and didn't really suit my long-term needs.

At home in its new yard...
Perusing Craigslist, I saw a couple possibilities, but interestingly, on a whim, Melinda and I were out looking around and at a local dealer found a modern version of the ole' one! In fact, it was the same exact Ford 150 Econoline Clubwagon, though an '05, 17 years newer than the ole' '88. Looking brand-new with 92,000 miles, I figured if I was exceedingly happy with the old one, the new one should work well too, so we got it! Final purchase was delayed until I got out of the hospital on Saturday, but has exceeded all my expectations. It is exactly the same size, though a 7-seater with 4 captain's chairs and a bench seat,  has lots of power, airbags and a few subtle changes that I had wished the old one had, so it seems perfect. There are a few bugs to work out - had it out for its first astronomical outing last night and I couldn't figure out how to turn out the interior lights (timed out eventually in about 10 minutes). But other than that, it looks like a successful transition has been made...

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