I mentioned last Saturday that it’s been a wacky week for this crazy crew and I thought I’d fill you in on the trials, tribulations and adventures we’ve encountered recently. We finally made the decision that we’d buy a van, specifically a Ford Transit diesel, and convert it ourselves to mobile living quarters. David will regale you next Saturday with the pros, cons and criteria for the decision. I’m here to talk about the “getting there”.
Once the decision to buy a van was made, David was totally focused on finding a vehicle. He scoured the local ads, RV sales, Craigslist, e-bay and local Ford dealers for used or new vans that met our criteria. They were few and far between actually.
Locally, the Ford dealer had a new van that almost worked. We negotiated a reasonable price (although more than we really wanted to spend), but when we looked at the list of options for which we were paying, we noted several we didn’t want and several that the salesman had told was were included, but were not. “No problem,” he said, as I put my checkbook away, “we’ll figure something out”. The “something” he figured out was that we’d just have to pay more or do with less. We thanked him for his time and went back to the drawing board.
David found a possible candidate on Craigslist located in Roanoke, Virginia, about four hours away. The asking price was considerably more than the Blue Book for the vehicle, but the owner wouldn’t budge. We gave it a pass.
Then, David found the perfect van in Olympia, Washington. Even if you’re no geography whiz, you’d probably figure out that Olympia (just south of Seattle/Tacoma) is a bit of a distance away. The key was that the van had already been converted and it looked pretty appealing and the negotiated price was quite fair. After requesting several more pics and having several discussions with the owner, we decided it was worth the trip to Seattle. We’d rent a car here to BWI airport, fly one-way to Sea-Tac, pick up a rental car there, drive to Olympia, look at the van, buy it, stop in Nevada to register it and then drive back to the boat. Easy-peasy!
We were so psyched to buy this van, we could barely contain ourselves. We spotted it as soon as we arrived at the given address and it looked great. That is, until we took a look inside and the shoddy workmanship of the van upfitter had us shaking our heads in dismay. Installed windows were all gooped up with caulk that had smeared onto the van body. The carpentry was high school level at best, with rough, jagged cut-out edges and butt joints that rarely met. Formica was peeling up from the counter edge. Other than what Ford had installed from the git-go, everything seemed to be of an inferior quality. We wondered that if the cosmetics were this shoddy, what would the hidden workmanship like wiring and insulation, be like? Disappointment wasn’t an adequate enough word to cover our range of emotions as I booked a return flight to BWI and secured a hotel room for the night. (Thank goodness for frequent flyer and hotel points!).
Back in the hotel room, we talked about the van we’d just seen. Maybe we should just buy it and fix the problems? After all, we’ve traveled all this way and it’s not that bad. Luckily, prudence and sound judgment prevailed. We discussed it well into the night and finally likened the experience of finding the “right” van to finding the “right” boat. It didn’t happen overnight and “settling” should not be an option. We “kissed a lot of toads” before we found Nine of Cups. We’d wait and keep looking. David resumed poring over vans for sale.
By the way, the views of Mount Ranier as we sped past were beautiful and to all our friends in the Pacific Northwest, you wouldn’t have wanted us to visit you in our particular frames of mind. Next time around we’ll be more social.
We arrived at BWI fairly late in the day and decided another hotel room was probably in order before driving the four hours back to Chesapeake. David had seen a van on Craigslist located in Queens, NY a week or so prior, but after contacting the owner, found that it was sold. When reviewing Craigslist again, he noticed the same van was back on the market. He called the owner. It seemed the buyer had re-negged on the deal and van was still for sale. “Could we see it? Tomorrow?”, David inquired. Instead of heading back to Chesapeake, we spent the day driving to New York City borough of Queens, to look at another van. From the specs and photos, this van met all of our “must-have” criteria, some of our “would-be nice” criteria and the price was good.
There was Blue, sitting in the driveway of a suburban Queens neighborhood. The owner met us at the door and gave us the nickel tour, then let us check out the van from stem to stern. David inspected the engine, test drove, checked tires and under the chassis. Only 15 months old, Blue is still under warranty from Ford, has under 9,000 miles and had been meticulously cared for. The owner, a building contractor, had changed his work focus to real estate and no longer needed a van. Most other vans we’d seen were the classic, boring, Ford Transit white. Blue was, well, as his name would indicate, blue … metallic denim blue to be exact. We made the purchase and Frank, the previous owner, obligingly drove us to the bank for his payment and waited patiently with us for nearly three hours at the New York DMV for transit papers.
We stayed the night in Queens, celebrated with a fine dinner and a cheap hotel, and hit the road mid-morning the next day … David driving Blue and Marcie following closely behind, driving the rental car. We negotiated the labyrinth of downtown Manhattan traffic, heading through the Holland Tunnel into New Jersey, then Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland and finally the rental return terminal at BWI. All in all, an ostensible 4-1/2 hour ride that took 9 hours in heavy, stop and go traffic, around detours, through heavy downpours and thunder and lightning storms. We sighed in relief as we finally returned the rental car, reunited in the van and checked in at the hotel. What a crazy few days!
Driving back to Chesapeake, we stopped at Fort Meade to visit the National Cryptologic Museum (another story), just to give a vacation-flavor to our week long escapade. As we drove into the Atlantic Yacht Basin and parked Blue next to Cups, we’re hoping Nine of Cups will be the welcoming sister and not the jealous wife!