We noticed we were precariously close to hitting the 100,000 mile mark on our car. This was a huge moment we had been eagerly anticipating, but only four of us were in the car. Luckily, our fifth family member was just within the remaining mileage, so we drove over to pick him up.
When we got there, we turned over the keys to our teenage son, and let him have the honors. My wife Bridget blasted the Tom Cochran song “Life is a Highway” on the iPod, and five us cheered as the number changed from 99,999.9 to 100,000.0.
We were all genuinely excited.
I know these days 100,000 miles doesn’t sound like that much. But these are minivan miles, I’m talking about here. This car has seen and done it all.
*Before we hit a thousand miles, my youngest son (who was three at the time) shoved a dime in the CD player—ruining it forever. We found out that the only way to replace the CD player was to remove the entire dashboard, and when they told us the price, we opted to drive the next 99,000 miles without a functioning CD player.
*The first 30,000 miles covered 15 states, and included bouts of car sickness in at least four of them. The first one happened on a long road trip to Georgia before we figured out we needed plastic baggies in the back during long trips.
*On the way home from that first road trip we had one of the most terrifying bathroom emergencies I’ve ever experienced. A writhing-in-pain newly potty-trained boy forced us make a difficult decision in one of the worst possible neighborhoods of Chicago at night. In case you were wondering, even the scariest looking Walgreens has a restroom, and some of them have armed guards in the parking lot.
*Around mile #50,000 the car was rear-ended at 30 miles an hour while we were in a funeral procession. Never volunteer to be the last car in a funeral procession. We started a cartoony domino effect with the other cars ahead of us.
*I believe the first transmission went out at 61,000 miles, or approximately one thousand miles after the warranty ran out.
*At the 75,000 mile mark we brought a new family member home in the minivan—a dog we rescued from an animal shelter in Kankakee. That dog is the only member of the family that is still thrilled to ride in the minivan EVERY SINGLE TIME. Of course, we also found out that she gets car sick too, and after one unfortunate incident on the way to soccer practice one night, she is no longer allowed to ride in the van on days she has been experiencing digestive issues. I’d explain it in more detail, but I can’t do it without gagging.
*Around the 85,000th mile, our oldest son got his permit. He drives…the…car…with…very…strong…stops…and…starts.
*At mile #90,000 a tire blew out on a mountainous and shoulder-less portion of the Pennsylvania Turnpike. We would still be there trying to figure out how to change the tire without getting killed if a Good Samaritan who apparently didn’t value his own life hadn’t stopped to help us.
*The second transmission had a three year warranty that expired (I’m not exaggerating here) only three days before it died. If you’ve ever wondered whether or not those warranty numbers are strictly enforced or not, let me just assure you they are.
I mention all of this not just to celebrate our impressive milestone, but to issue a word of warning to those of you looking to purchase a used car. When you get to the minivan section, keep on walking.
The raw mileage numbers on those things do not tell the full story.