Friday, July 21, 2006

Why I gave up the perfect windsurfing van


I used to drive this really neat extended E-350. Passenger van, with all but one rear bench ripped out - lots of space in the way back for all my gear and a very nice sleeping platform (the 'Econolodge'), with one rear bench remaining for my kids. Good family/windsurfing vehicle compromise - if you can call it a compromise to respond to competing pressure (space for people vs. space for gear) by just upping the ante and going gargantuan.

The thing was a pig to drive, sucked gas like no tomorrow, was expensive to maintain (heavy duty vehicles need heavy duty brakes, tires, and other wear parts). It also introduced a wee bit of strain into my marriage (my wife like the fact that it made me happy, but she disliked having it in the driveway, hated having to drive it on family trips, and generally had a bit of an allergy to it).

But man, was it functional! It fit all my gear, and since I was commuting to work in it, I always had all my stuff with me for that quick sneaking-out-of-the-office session (the windsurfing version of the 'liquid lunch').

Then gas prices hit $3/gallon. I filled up the beast one day, and even though the tank was far from full, the pump cut off since the credit card pre-authorization at the pump only goes up to $75. Then I did the math. I was now commuting a fair bit, so I was putting over 23K miles/year on this van. About 8K of that, by the way, was purely windsurfing related - going to races in the Gorge, going down to the Bay Area once a year, or going up to Squamish, or just chasing wind locally. You get the picture - this was not really sustainable.

Then we decided that, because we now had two kids and lots of kid-related car-pooling, Jen needed a mini-van (actually, it's an MPV - a Multi Purpose Vehicle - not a minivan - or so the dealer told us...). So we were going to sell either her Subaru or my van. And doing the math, I just couldn't justify keeping the beast. I started to think about trailers a bit more seriously than before. So then last winter, I built one. Look here for a pdf (warning - it's almost four MB, so do this over broadband...).

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