Over a year ago I was driving my Bentley in Las Vegas and a car ran a red light and drove straight into the side of it, sending it first into a sideways slide, and later to the body shop. The body shop repairing the car is extraordinarily slow. At first this bothered me and I was constantly checking in with them to see when it would be done. Then I bought a minivan and no longer cared. I still don't have the car back, after almost a year and a half.
I'd say that my family had a minivan since I was little, but really my dad had a minivan. He loved that thing. And then after ten years or so it died and he bought another, and another still when that one reached the end of its life. He was a carpenter, and his minivan could hold a 4x8 sheet of plywood in the back with the seats removed. I've followed in his footsteps in that I also do projects all the time, and being able to carry a 4x8 sheet is pure magic.
All minivans are pretty good, but the Dodge Grand Caravan, also known as the Chrysler Town and Country, or now the Chrysler Pacifica (not to be confused with the crossover they stopped making which was also called a Pacifica), is the best one to buy. The primary reason for this is a patented feature they have called Stow-n-Go seating.
Stow-n-Go seating means that every seat other than the front two can be folded flat into the floor in a matter of seconds. Lift up the cover to the storage area, pull a tab on the back, and the seat is flat. You can go from seven passengers to two with more cargo space than a truck in under a minute.
It's hard to explain to non-minivan-havers just how amazing this is. Want a five seat car with more legroom than a limo? Great, just stow the middle seats. Want to go skiing with four people? Drop the back seats, put all your gear in the back and ride in the four bucket seats. Need to buy a ridiculous amount of furniture at IKEA? Pop down all of the seats and you have a 4x8 area with quite a bit of height as well. I usually leave all of my seats up except for one of the middle seats. Then when I go pick up my packages or shopping I can just load it all in the side door instead of dealing with a big trunk.
Even the rear seat splits into a one and two seat section. It's amazing. And when the rear seats are up the storage space that they fold into makes the trunk huge. In Hawaii we keep 4 boogie boards and 4 beach chairs back there all the time.
Because they're low to the ground, minivans get pretty good gas mileage. My 2005 one gets about 17-22mpg depending on whether I'm driving locally or taking highways, and the 2010 we bought in Hawaii gets slightly better. They're very comfortable to drive because you're sitting upright and have plenty of headroom. There's tons of space between the seats, and if you have fewer than six people you can put down the middle row and the rear row couldn't touch the back of your seats if they tried. Side doors slide open, which is pretty cool, and the rear windows pop up for theft-free ventilation. Newer ones, like our 2010 have power sliding doors and trunk. Some models have built in vacuums.
I love using our minivan in Hawaii as a scuba car. Open the sliding doors and one person can set up on each side, sit down, and get into their gear. Fold down the double seat in the back and a third person could do it in the rear. What other car could do something like that? We once did a scuba trip with nine tanks and three people and had room to spare.
People don't think that minivans are cool, so the prices are low. I paid $2500 for my 2005 and we paid $6000 for the 2010 (which was certainly higher than it would be in non-Hawaii cities).
Now I don't really care about the Bentley. It's a cool car and I really appreciate the craftsmanship, but I think the minivan is equally cool and certainly a lot more useful. Other than possibly buying an old Porsche to learn how to fix cars, I can't imagine I'll ever buy another non-minivan.
A lot of friends made fun of me for the minivan. Then they rode in it and heard my spiel, and now many of them want to buy minivans. It's easily my favorite vehicle. If you're in the market for a car, think about a minivan!
Photo is our Hawaii minivan set up for a scuba dive.
I once went to a B.B. King concert, not because I'd ever owned a single song of his or had any familiarity with his music or his genre, but because I knew he was the best at what he did. In that same vein, I've always wanted to experience Burning Man, not because I care about hippies, techno music, drugs, or art, but because it's the biggest and best event of its kind in the world.
For years I intended to go to Burning Man, but the problem is that Burning Man requires a huge degree of preparation. As I found out firsthand, it's located in one of the least hospitable areas of the United States, which means that you need more stuff than you're used to needing (goggles, water, etc.), and you must provide it all yourself. So each year passed by with my intentions dissolving into the reality of a fast approaching deadline and not having prepared at all. But this year was different. A friend of mine took the initiative to rent a huge RV, recruit a Burning Man veteran to come with us, and generally organize the trip.
"Well," I thought, "it's never going to be easier than this. I may as well go."
Sue and I took a tour of the Tesla Model S factory in Fremont, CA today. This is the old NUMMI plant. If you haven't heard the NUMMI story between GM & Toyota, and you're a car buff, there's a This American Life episode about it that's just mind blowing. The net of it is that GM tried to learn Just In Time assembly practices from Toyota, they built a factory together for Toyota to transfer this know-how to GM, and GM completely blew it. The factory shut down and was sitting idle after that fiasco.
When Elon Musk was looking for a place to build his new Model S sedan, he approached Toyota with a $50MM bid for it, which Toyota accepted. Why would Toyota sell a car production plant arguably worth $1 billion or more for $50MM? For the answer to that, you really have to understand the relationship between Musk and Toyota, which is well portrayed in this 2010 WIRED magazine article.
As a reservation holder for the Model S, I'm proud to support one of the most amazing entrepreneurs of our generation. What makes Elon even more amazing is that he's not only revolutionizing the automobile industry, but the space industry as well, with SpaceX... at the same time. Elon, my hat is off to you.
Below are a number of pictures and vidoes of the factory and the event, which was very well done.