The Daughter Chronicles

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Mia's new van!

Mia got a new van. That's the good news. The story behind it, naturally, is long and torturous, like so much in Mia's life.

We decided we needed a new van for a few reasons. Mia is getting taller, so she didn't fit in the old van quite as well as she used to. She still fit, but it was clear that she would soon outgrow the van. She's also getting (in tiny increments) heavier, and while I could still lift her into the van and lift her wheelchair into the back, it's been a long time since Krys could do it, and that means that it's been a long time since Krys has been able to take her out anywhere by herself. So we wanted to get a van that had a ramp, so we could wheel her right in. That shouldn't be too hard, should it?

Well, we found a place that modifies vans for handicapped people, and visited their showroom. They were very nice, and they showed us a nice van with a ramp that comes out of the floor and doesn't fold. We wanted a Toyota Sienna, because the old van was a Sienna and we never had any problems with it. Krys looked around on the Internet and we decided that it was probably the best one to get. So the first place showed us a Sienna, and it was dandy. We told them to write up an estimate, and they said that would be fine.

But it took them a while. They eventually sent an estimate over to us, but it took some time, and we got a bit frustrated. This was in March (maybe April), and they dithered for over a month. In the meantime, we talked to Mia's lawyer about getting a court date to ask for the money we needed to buy it. During this time, they told us we'd probably need another estimate from a different place just for comparison. We found another place and went out there in June or so.

The salesman showed us a Dodge Caravan with a rear-entry ramp and a Sienna with a fold-out ramp. The fold-out ramp is cheaper, because it's not electronic - you just grab it by hand and flip it out. The Caravan was cheaper, but when we looked at some of the stuff on-line about it, the only good thing about it, it seemed, was that it was cheaper. So we asked him to write up an estimate for the Sienna with a fold-out ramp. That came in almost $10,000 less than the first estimate. Both of them factored in our old van, which we were trading in for about $6,000. So that seemed to be that.

We went to court, and they naturally approved the cheaper van. I didn't have a big problem with it; the in-floor ramp would be more convenient, but it wasn't worth the $3,000 more for it (the rest of the difference in the estimate came from the fact that the first place made some more modifications in their vans, which seemed to us a bit superfluous). So we told the second place that we were going with them.

The second place installs a lock on the floor of the van into which you slot the wheelchair (onto which they bolt a cylinder that slides into the lock), and they needed to do that after they got the van. So I paid him (if I have to buy a car, I love just handing over a check instead of worrying about financing), picked a color, and waited. A few weeks ago, he called me and told me the van was arriving the next Monday. Oh joy! Then, after the weekend, he called with bad news. On the way up from Tucson, the truck carrying the van (and several others) was caught in a dust storm, the like of which we often have here in the desert. Unfortunately, some kind of stone hit the back window of our van and shattered it. Yikes. He told me they were going to fix the window and I could bring Mia's wheelchair out so they could install their lock and also take a look at the van. So I drove out to the dealership (which is about 40 miles away from our house) and checked out the van. It was dirty, but other than the shattered window, it looked okay. He measured her wheelchair and found out they didn't have a big enough bracket for the size of her chair. Of course. But he said they'd fix the window, the part would be there in a few days, and all would be well. Yeah.

He called me the next week and said that once they got the van washed, they noticed that the exterior was pitted with tiny dents, and that it would cost a lot to fix it (not my money, of course, but his insurance company's) and it would take a while. I was a bit peeved, because I paid for a new van, but before I could ask for a discount, he said that his company had the exact same van, in the same color, in their store in Las Vegas, and that they could ship it down here. This one, he said, had an in-floor ramp, but his company wasn't going to charge us the extra few grand because it wasn't, after all, my fault that the van I paid for had so much damage. I said that was dandy, and once again settled down to wait for the van to be delivered. Of course, that weekend (not this past one, but the one before) was very rainy in Phoenix, and I kept having visions of another dust storm blasting our even newer van as it came down from Vegas. That would have been fun.

The van made it, though, and last week we finally got it. It took a few days longer to install the lock in the floor, but I didn't care - I wasn't about to tell him, but we could have used our old van for a few more months. Even though Krys can now take Mia out places without me, it's still pretty hot here and Mia doesn't like it at all, so we're probably a few months away from the weather being nice enough for Krys to go out with her. Still, it was cool to get the van. It seems like it's bigger than the old Sienna, but that might be an optical illusion. The second row of seats is gone, so Norah has to sit way back in the back, and I feel like she's in a different ZIP code when she's back there. She likes it, though, because the seats are a bit higher than in the old van, so she doesn't need her booster seat anymore to see out the windows (when she turned 8, legally she could have stopped using the booster seat, but she kept it so she could look outside). We got a bunch of straps to tie Mia's chair down, so that's nice. She needs to be angled a bit toward the middle of the van because her legs are so long that she still doesn't have a ton of room, especially because she hates bending her knees. But it's way easy getting her in and out! Plus, we have free SiriusXM radio for a year, and I'm trying hard not to become addicted to the "80s on 8" station. Damn you, SiriusXM!!!!!

So that's the saga of the new van. Now, some more pictures!

Here's another photo of Norah in the cavernous back seat area.

Here's a weird mountain man wheeling Mia onto the van. Much easier than lifting her, I tells ya!

Mia sits in the van. She seems happy about it, but who can tell with her? She gets backed into the van and then turned around the lock on the floor (see the next picture).

This is the lock into which we slide her wheelchair. It locks the chair but allows it to swivel. As you might expect, the straps to tie Mia down will come in handy, as the chair tends to move a bit when centrifugal forces work on it. That ain't cool.

The lighting in this photo isn't great, but this is looking out the side with the ramp. You can see the lock on the floor in the foreground.

Once again, the shadows aren't great, but this is the opposite view, looking into the van up the ramp.

We're happy so far with the van. It drives smoothly, and it seems to have more power than the 2005 model. It has some bells and whistles - I don't need the rear-view camera, but whatevs - and the design is a bit different (not in a good way) from the old model (there's nothing between the two front seats, while the 2005 model had a storage space there - in this one, the cup holders come out of the dashboard), but it's still nice to have. Now I just have to remain unaffected by the SiriusXM. Can I do it????


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