The road to minivandom

“You get all those people, driving up from the city, in their minivans,” he fairly seethed, with added emphasis of disgust on the final word, as if discussing some sort of biblical plague. “They clog up the roads and don’t have a clue about what they’re doing.”

The longtime inhabitant of the small mountain town-turned-ritzy-resort was bemoaning the latest scourge to descend upon his once pristine paradise. First came the lifts into heretofore personal powder stashes, then the McMansions, followed by big boxes and traffic lights. And now this, in his opinion, the most despicable social abomination yet, right up there with Starbucks drive-thrus and crystal meth labs: the minivan.

Sure, he himself was the father of two and a proud owner of a mid-sized SUV, which for all intents and purposes, was nothing more than a minivan in 4WD Eddie Bauer clothing. Yet, somehow, he couldn’t see past the automatic sliding doors and captain’s seats and into the painful truth.

And who can blame him? No hip mountain dweller worth his or her weight in the latest Patagonia gear would dare be caught dead in something as unhip, low-slung and mundanely pedestrian as a minivan. Subarus, yes; pickups, for sure. But Astrovans and Caravans? Perish the thought.

Call it peer pressure, but for years I quietly stood by, keeping my objections to minivan discrimination to myself. See the truth is, I have always had a certain affection for this uncomely offspring of the conversion van and family truckster. Sure, it may be the vehicular equivalent to “mom jeans,” but I see them in a more flattering light. Dare I say, the minivan, despite its legions of kid-toting and coupon-cutting devotees, is the ultimate sport utility vehicle? In fact, even before I became its target demographic, I entertained thoughts of minivan ownership. What other vehicle can neatly stow a kayak or fully assembled bike inside, yet still comfortably sleep two or provide transport to several of your closest road-tripping buddies? All this and cupholders, too? So it’s not exactly a chick or dude magnet. Let’s face it, minivans are about as sexy as fanny packs or socks with Tevas. But it’s not about appearances. If it was, I’d bother getting out of my pajamas before walking the dog or going to the grocery store. Besides, widespread disdain is a small price to pay for never having to wrestle with a cam strap or front-wheel quick release ever again.

But why speak up now, after years of quiet persecution? Well, in case you haven’t guessed, it’s not just because “some of my best friends” drive minivans. That’s right, against all the protesting of my inner rebel and nonconformist, I have become the newest member of the “Minivan, Twice the Fun” movement. Complete with moonroof and seat warmers.

OK, maybe it seems a bit braggadocios, but a new car only comes along once every few decades in my household. And Lord knows, I’ve paid my dues on many a long road trip in our faithful Willy Wonka wagon (miraculously gets smaller as the odometer rolls higher.) And let’s just say the old gray Sub, she ain’t what she used to be. Sure, she’ll drive you to frozen-over hell and back, but the bod’s seen better days (which reminds me, I’m still on the lookout for the purple Izusu Trooper that ruthlessly smashed into her in front of my house. You will pay, hit-and-run scum.) Her seals are sagging, the windshield is hanging by a thread and dog hair has found its way into places I didn’t even think possible.

In hindsight, I think minivandom was destiny. See, many years ago, an ill-conceived college ski trip in a borrowed CJ-7 – of which I had only received a rudimentary training on its even more rudimentary three on the tree – went quickly from weekend joy ride to crash course in mountain driving. Suffice to say, the only thing stopping me from a tilt-a-whirl ride into an I-70 big rig was a steel blue Astrovan. I still remember the female occupant, as she clambered from the vehicle followed by her three children and knelt in the snow, next to her vehicle which now had built-in air conditioning, wailing in anguish.

However, it wasn’t until I had kids of my own – and a minivan – that I finally understood her grief. She was obviously distraught over the loss of her prized minivan.

And who wouldn’t be? Even after a few weeks, I’ve grown quite attached to my big rig. See, it’s all about personal space. (OK, I know that’s the typical American thing to say. I should instead be waxing eloquently about my new Prius, which I hoped to win in the KSUT raffle. But before you pen the poison letter, allow me to say we are first and foremost a bike family. Our vehicles spend more time warming the curb than humming on the asphalt. And anybody who has seen me hauling groceries in the Burley trailer or our used-bike-lot of a yard can attest to this.)

Anyway, carbon footprint aside, allow me to explain in these four words: built-in DVD player. (OK, two more if you consider “wireless headphones.”) As anyone who has spent several agonizing hours in a confined space with two squabbling offspring, an anxiety-ridden dog and a road-dazed spouse knows, this is the next best thing (and might I add legal) to self-medication. In fact, the only thing that could be better would be swivel front seats so as to not strain myself getting in and out of my seat to administer back-seat beatings, er, behavior modifications.

Call me a glutton, conspicuous consumer or even the dreaded soccer mom if you will. I can handle it – all from the computerized comfort of my ergonomically designed, faux mahogany “control center” (did I mention the seat heaters?). And for all you naysayers who see the minivan as one more step on the devolutionary ladder to ruin, you may be right. But at least I’m enjoying the ride.

– Missy Votel



In this week's issue...

January 25, 2024
Bagging it

State plastic bag ban is in full effect, but enforcement varies

January 26, 2024
Paper chase

The Sneer is back – and no we’re not talking about Billy Idol’s comeback tour.

January 11, 2024
High and dry

New state climate report projects continued warming, declining streamflows