Over the years we have had a lot of solid work vans come and go. They start out all shiny and new, taking guests out on posh Wine Country Tours and end their life cycle as rusting old surf vans full of salty, wet gear – no longer suitable for guests to actually ride in. Only guides. It has been a long tradition at Adventure Company to name these 4 wheeled creatures, making them a true part of the crew. Each has his own personality and stories. Oh, if they could talk…
Over the years we have had Rosie, Steely Van, the mini-Adventure Van and our new Van-na White, but none have been quite as loved and abused at the old “1-2”. This white 1991 Ford Club Wagon had been with me since 2000, my first 15 passenger. A true beast, powered by the largest V-8 ever put in a club wagon with the gas mileage of a tank. I bought her from the vehicle maintenance department at Westmont College. She had 2 gas tanks, which after on-going confusion resulted in a giant “1” and “2” being painted on her side. Hence her name: she was so big and used so much gas, she had to have 2 tanks on a manual switch, which were clearly marked and often misunderstood.
“1-2” had a glorious run as our main adventure van. We loaded and unloaded literally thousands of trips over her 10 years of dedicated service. Huge kayak trips for school kids at Refugio, where every piece of gear I owned was loaded inside, piled to the ceiling, stacks of boats on the rack, towing our triple-decker kayak trailer in full glory. On those days there was only enough room for 2 guides, the unlucky one had to drive.
In her heyday “1-2” would work all types and sizes of trips. Bike-kayak combos fully loaded, 2 person surf trips with next to nothing inside, kayak trips and wine tours by bike, or trainings where all the guides piled in and jammed out to the current music and yelled to be heard over the noise. I was always proud to see her pull out of the driveway on another run.
But alas, nothing lasts forever, and she started to show her age and the years of guide abuse. Dented, scratched and generally starting to fall apart, but she rolled on. Rust never sleeps and her roof started to go, eventually rusting through so you could see daylight in some spots. We had made it a “no guests” van years before the rust took over. Once she was really worn, the guides started to joke about her. She smelled bad; the windshield cracked from the rust, the steering was fun like a video game. Someone plugged a rust hole with a napkin to keep it from dripping on their shorts. At one point the floor started to grow some small mushrooms, in the wet winter.
I had been telling myself for the last three years that the “1-2” was ready to go – the problem was I needed her and she was like a good old reliable friend, she always came through for you. If you have ever managed a fleet of vans or trucks, you know what I am talking about. Some vehicles just run all the time, even when neglected and others seem to always break down even if serviced every 3k miles. The “1-2” ran. And this last year as she made her final trips, with her seats all missing and carpet stained, full of saltwater and rust; she kept running until the very end.
So when the time came to put her down, with her broken back window and rusted out roof – I went to get her keys and drive her to the junk yard. I sat in her busted driver’s seat one last time, put my foot on the brake, turned the key and nothing. She wouldn’t start! It was like she knew that her time had come and she just wasn’t going to go! She blew out her own starter to keep from her fate. After a few repairs I got her started and took her to the yard myself. It was tough to see that old friend go, but it was time. It was raining outside and inside the van. I could barely see the road due to her windshield and general condition. I was in my rain gear and still getting wet while driving. She was no longer safe to keep on the road.
The wrecking yard guy took one look at her and said she was done, he didn’t even think he could save the rack. I signed the papers and said goodbye to my faithful old outfitter van. That night we drank a toast to “1-2.” She will be remembered as a good old work van that was tough and reliable on a thousand real adventures. Too you “1-2”, rest in peace.