My 1994 Conversion Van serves as our Comfy Highway Vehicle for long road trips, Child & Stuff Hauler from home to college and back, and most recently as recumbent owners it has become our main vehicle for bicycle transport. This Van was custom built by a local shop that specializes in handicap accessible vehicle builds. It has two permanently mounted Captains chairs up front and two more Captains chairs mid-ship that are removable. I’ve also got a three person sofa-bed on a six inch slider that mounts in the rear or mid-ship. It’s a very versatile, very low mileage, and surprisingly high maintenance vehicle. I could go into a very long list of repairs that this Van has undergone in it 56,000 miles of use, but I won’t.
My story is about the cost of this beast over the past three weeks. Shortly after we returned from our little get-away in Holland Michigan, I brought the Van in for an oil and filter change and ended up putting on a $600 exhaust system. No complaints here as the original system lasted 15 years, which is virtually unheard of here in the rust belt. I had that uneasy peace where you know you’re O.K. now but something is looming in the not-too-distant future. It never seems to fail that if I put needed and normal maintenance work into a vehicle, a nasty, unexpected and unjustified repair is just around the corner.
Here it comes. This past Friday the bride and I were driving the 480 mile round trip to Albany NY to visit one of our daughters. It was her birthday and we were bring her lots more of her stuff. The Van has a full gauge package and as luck would have it, the amp meter was acting up…the needle actually bounced when I hit bumps in the road! Finally it indicated that I was no longer charging the battery sufficiently. It was now 3:45pm and I was on the NYS Thruway, a toll road. I now had to; get off the toll road, find a repair shop and think about finding lodging and possibly a rental car and was facing the possibility of not being home in time to go to work Monday morning. Oh dear!
Now the fairy tale ending….Approx. one mile farther I saw the exit for Amsterdam NY.
I made a bee line for the exit ramp and by sheer luck we happened upon a repair shop that was still in business, and open. The mechanic quickly determined that my three year old alternator was shot. Wooden Shoe know it. Jeepers, it only had 20,000 miles on it! It was only putting out barely enough to keep the truck running, any accessories would finish off the battery. No kidding! He was willing to do the repair but had no way to get the parts at 4:00 on Friday afternoon. We are looking at Monday, however he knows of a Monro Muffler across town and they’re open until 7:00pm. I pulled into the muffler shop at 4:15pm and the angels there, after some discussion, managed to have me back on the road at 6:15pm. It only cost us $600, groan.
I didn’t know what but I knew something was coming along, and as I expected it was expensive. Lucky for us though, what could have become a majorly expensive delay of days turned out to be a short side adventure of just a couple of hours. I think I’ll steer clear of cities with Dutch names also, just in case there’s some connection.