Big Boy's First Week


These are the adventures I have with my 2010 Dodge Grand Caravan SE. The events are real, but I may have changed names of people involved and left out some identifying details.

How It All Got Started

Suse - 1999 Ford Taurus SE

When I was younger, we always had a tradition of naming the cars we had and basically treated them like they were members of the family, each vehicle associated with it's own personality and gender. Maybe it was due to influences such as Herbie and Knight Rider. As I got older and got my firts vehicle, a used 1983 Chevy S-10 with automatic transmission (got that one in 1986), that got named "Slushbox" by my Dad. I later just referred to the Chevy as "Slushie". After it was time to get another vehicle, I ended up with a 1987 Pontiac 6000. I loved that car a lot and worked on it a bit. He was outfitted with racing stripes, and even was a 5-star car at He had originally been named KITT but then after hearing of a lot of legal drama revolving the Knight Rider restoration community, I renamed him Dryden and that stuck ever since. I was very sad to see Dryden go due to a badly rused out frame. That's when I welcomed Suse, a 1999 Ford Taurus SE which I got in 2008. She was a great car. Always dependable, never complained. Again, rusted out frame done her in as well, sadly.

Having a very limited income and no finances to get another car, time was running out where I'd end up stranded and unable to get food or do needed shopping. Friends of mine offered to buy me another vehicle and we agreed to start the search in March 2017.

On March 2nd 2017 we had a big windstorm with gusts over 60 mph. It took Suse's bottom plastic panneling right off on the passenger side. Only one end was still bolted to the front fender and the rest of it hanging down. Another smaller piece in back was completely off and half in the adjascent parking spot. The inside of the panel was littered with loads of chips of rusted metal. I knew that was pretty much the end right there. The car was literally falling apart.

Suse's days were numbered. The search was on.

Monday, March 6, 2017

I had remembered seeing a mini van for sale at the local garage where I usually get my car serviced. I didn't look at it then because it wasn't March yet. I noticed the ram emblem on the front and was already leary of Chrysler products. A relative had lost an alternator in their Plymouth while traveling in a remote area back when I was a kid. They also complained about the poor customer service at a local dealer where they wanted to get another issue repaired. Another time, I had to rent a Dodge Shadow while waiting for my first vehicle to be repaired after a drunk hit me from behind. That rental car had such bad rotors that it had to be exchanged for another car.

But by now, I really needed another vehicle and time was running out. I made an appointment on the previous Friday to look at and test drive the mini van on Monday. We were having a cold spell here so I wanted to wait for it to warm up a bit before taking a look.

During that weekend, I talked to several people about Dodge Grand Caravans and had heard great reviews. So it did make me a little more hopeful. Perhaps Chrysler had improved dramatically over the past few decades. I also did some research online and also put together a check list so that I could be sure to cover everything important to me.

At 6 am on Monday morning, I got up to use the bathroom and noticed that there was very low water pressure. I knew that something had gone out and so I started stocking up on water. It was a good thing because a couple hours later, when I was about to leave to look at the van, the water was out completely. When I went to leave, I found out from a neighbor that a water main burst across the street.

I arrived early and looked the van over. Then I got the fob from one of the mechanics and went through my checklist. The mini van was practically brand new! No rust except for very minor rust coloring just starting on the underside, which was normal for a vehicle 7 years old, and actually not at all bad considering the area I live in! The 2010 Dodge Grand Caravan SE looked to have a lot of features, and is flex-fuel capable. The Caravan needed nothing, really, as it was refurbished at the garage. The tire pressure light stood on but I didn't realize until later that it was really a low tire, and not a faulty sensor.

The mini van started right up despite setting in the cold for awhile and not being warmed up. The test drive was great! I could get in and out easily, and it was really smooth (if not a bit tight on the brakes due to the cold), and very quiet. It was a joy to drive! By the time I returned it, I was already hoping that my friends would get it for me. But at $7,500, it was pretty steep but a very good deal for the shape it was in and only 86K+ miles!

I tried to lock up the van but didn't quite understand how to use that fob. I never had a vehicle with those types of features before. So I let them know I was unable to lock the doors. They are good folks so I figured if something was wrong, I knew they would fix it. I found that it already passed inspection, had new brakes, new battery, and was good to go. The van came from a Christian non-profit and was used as a bus for clients. It was well maintained and had all the recalls fixed as well.

I got home and thus began a two-day flurry of activity and planning. I called my friend and they talked it over amongst themselves, then got back to me that yes, they would get the van for me! It was like I had won a brand new car on a game show or something! I was so happy!! And very thankful!

The water started working again just as I was getting lunch ready. Then the rest of the day was taken up with planning, arranging to get rid of my car (the Taurus), phone calls, plans for more phone calls, getting information together, all kinds of things that go into buying a used vehicle to replace the one you have. And of course, there was the further research into the new(er) vehicle to see what exactly it was capable of. In addition, I was expecting a package that next day and had to divert it to be picked up at the UPS store because I didn't know if I would be home (it turned out that the package was delayed anyway).

Due to the family tradition of naming cars, I was also trying to think up a new name for the mini van.

In researching the van, I learned that some have the ability to connect to a smart phone via Bluetooth, and also can accept voice commands for the radio, navigation system, etc. Watching YouTube videos showed me that the voice prompts to set this up is in a female voice. The thing is, I didn't remember if that van had those features or not? I decided to go back the next day to find out and to see what was up with why I couldn't lock those doors.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

I went back to the garage to take a second look at those locks. The lady who was takes care of the vehicle sales (I'll refer to her as "the seller" to avoid confusion) and I went out and she showed me how to use the fob to lock the doors. The doors locked just fine. I could have smacked myself on the head. The locks icons I got confused even though it was plain what was lock and unlock!

It's A Boy!

I also told her I knew how to tell the gender of the van. She looked at me quizzically until I explained about how the voice prompts for setting up the smartphone Bluetooth, etc. were a female voice. So if there's a speaking icon and a phone icon on the radio controls, it's a girl. If not, then it can't speak and thus doesn't have a female voice - so it'd be a boy. We both got a chuckle from my observations. :) She let me take a look at the radio and there were no speaking or phone icons. It's a boy! :)

I didn't remember to take photos when I went to test drive the van, so I took photos on this second trip.

I got home and my friend had arranged to pay for the van that day at around 1 pm. I then went about some phone calls that I needed to make to arrange the disposal of the car, information from the DMV on what I need for transferring the plates, and many other things. The time came and I called my friend to update them and I found out that they too had car trouble of their own and thus would be delayed. The good news was that the seller would take my old car and then sell or dispose of it and I asked that the seller give my friend the money made to help compensate for part of the cost of the van. So everything was all set as soon as my friend could get to the garage. Then they would come here with the van and we'd do all the paperwork for both vehicles and put the plates from the car onto the van while my friend went to the DMV to process the paperwork.

Big Boy Comes Home

Later that afternoon, that's exactly what we did. All seemed to go pretty well. My friend went off to the DMV while the seller remained a little longer to be sure nothing was left behind that they wanted to keep, and we chatted for a bit. All of a sudden, we both hear tires screaching and the nasty sound of metal impacting metal. We both looked at each other in shock. The seller says they hoped that wasn't my friend! I looked down the street to notice some other car going over a speed bump so I said it might be they misjudged the speed bump and went over it too hard or something.

After the seller left with my car, I went about going over the van, getting stuff in it, cleaning out helicopters and leaves from the little platform at the top under the hood, filling up the windshield washer fluid, and getting used to some of the features. I noticed that this van was a very basic model. It didn't have a lot of the features others would have. Just the bare minimum from factory. But it did have a CD player, aux input for MP3 player or phone, a nice AM/FM radio, very nice sounding speakers, a couple power inputs, lots of storage space, power windows in front, power locks. No power seats or power back windows that I could tell. No alarm from what I was told. There was no navigation/multimedia radio. It was the basic radio. But overall the van had loads more features than my car did and it seemed so fancy! I also took the opportunity to get some photos before it got too dark.

Big Boy Gets His Name

As I was getting used to the van, a neighbor comes out to take out trash and I talked with them. We are very close and if they don't see my car out there for too long, they usually call to see if everything is OK. So I had to show them the new van so they knew which was my vehicle again. I gained more compliments and we talked a bit. I kept telling them "He's a Big Boy!" and it just seemed to come out not once but a few times. So I got to thinking, this must be his name!

After my neighbor left, I started to hear sirens that sounded like they were stopping over on the other street across the way. So I locked up the van and walked over (a very short walk) to take a look. I saw a car with the air bags poofed, and grocery and stuff all over the side of the road and front smashed in. On the side was a car that looked like it was spun around and partly still in the road. That car looked T-Boned. I was in a state of shock at first because the one with the front-end damage looked to be the same color as my friend's car. Then I saw the front emblem. Definitely was not my friend's car! That was a relief! Besides my friend had to go in the opposite direction but I didn't know if they needed something from that store across the street first or not.

After awhile, my friend came back with the registration card and sticker, the 10-day inspection sticker (I had made an appointment to get the van inspected on Thursday as I was concerned about driving in the wind that was predicted for Wednesday - the next day.) After my friend left, I proceeded to get the stickers in the car and put the registration card in my wallet. Later I remembered to go get the insurance card which I got emailed when doing the transfer and put that in the folder in the glove box.

Being quite happy with my "new" van, I decided even if it was dark out by then, I'd go take a drive around. It was a warmer than usual evening so that helped as well. I went and bought some "goodies" to welcome Big Boy to his new home: A locking gas cap, some anti-theft license plate bolts, and Strawberry Pine Tree air fresheners (a pack of 3). The interior did smell like a new car and while some like that "new car" smell, I'm not a fan of it. So I decided to get that diffused somewhat.

I then settled him in for the night. I decided the next morning I'd do some shopping and since he only had a quarter of a tank of gas left, also get gas before the predicted afternoon wind storm hits. They were saying we could get up to 50 mph - 60 mph winds, which is what we got in the last one that took the paneling off my car.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017 - The Big Windstorm

The first thing in the morning I got out and bought some food, so that I'd have something to tide me over. I didn't plan to drive Big Boy at all from the afternoon on.

Then I called up a friend of mine that I knew in the area. No answer so I drove home. On the way back the phone rings. Naturally I'm not about to answer it while driving! I ignore it and go park at the local drug store. Then I called back and I was good to go visit so I drove all the way back.

While there we talked, and my friend said they were "jealous" of my van. There were more compliments and we talked about the features. They told me about the Panic button and how you could use it to find your car in the parking lot. So I tried it out and sure enough, Big Boy raised a fuss! I was glad I read about it in the manual as well and knew how to shut that off!

Towards the end of the visit the wind was picking up so I wanted to get home and not have to drive in high winds. On the way back I didn't even notice the wind at all inside the van!

As I was having lunch, my other friend's husband dropped by (they are the ones that bought the van for me). We had spoken earlier about a plastic part at the bottom of the seat that was coming off and about putting the license plate anti-theft bolts on. So he came over to do that. The wind was getting pretty wicked about then! He got finished with it all and we talked a brief bit and he went on home.

Maybe an hour later, at 1:40 pm, the power went out. By then I had finished a good lunch and was working on the computer. So I shut the computer down since internet was also out, and grabbed my phone to see what the situation was. Looked like everything all over the place was out!

I decided to check up on Big Boy as I did park him away from a tree I normally park in front of but still was hoping he was OK. I didn't notice any problems so I went up to dump a little trash out and talk to some folks. The wind was so bad I couldn't barely walk or even breathe! We all talked about how the power was out everywhere.

I waited it out, and did stuff indoors, waiting for the power to come back on. After 2 hours I knew that we were in it for the long haul. The utility company was saying it could be literally days before power could be restored. I knew then I was in trouble. It was going to be very cold the next night with dangerous windchills and still high winds. I figured I'd sleep in Big Boy and keep warm, and charge the phone.

For supper, I grabbed some raw carrots and some cold oatmeal I had in the fridge. The water was cold so there was no heat or hot water either. Apartment maintenance had shut it all down after the power went out for safety reasons.

By the time it started getting dark, I already grabbed a few things and headed out to Big Boy to bug out overnight, if needed. It was already getting very cold out. I started up the van and charged the phone. But as soon as I shut things off after it was warm enough, it got too cold too quickly. At around bed time, I tried to sleep but it was just too cold. So I went back inside.

I talked with a neighbor who was going to stay with relatives and their relative said it was OK to spend the night with them as well. Now I don't normally drive much at night, and I just got the van the day before so I wasn't very used to driving it. The wind did quiet down a lot but everythig all over was very dark. Power was out everywhere and there were no signal lights in the area that were working. In addition, I didn't know where this relative lived exactly (even though I've known them for years). Turned out it was just way too far and too much for me to drive under the circumstances. So I chickened out halfway there. They called, very concerned for me and worried about how I would spend the night. They were so very nice! I felt bad but I just couldn't risk it. My nerves were on end as it was from all that had been happening the past few days, as well as this storm.

So I tried another friend of mine who I just visited that morning. Not only was I surprised to get turned down, but his explanation just wasn't very convincing. I won't go into it here, as I rather avoid the drama. But it made me realize just who my friends really were!

I decided to venture out to keep my phone charged and keep warm. It was tough driving but down the road there was power - and lights. And luckily the 24/7 supermarket was open. I got out of the van and noticed the front hood on the passenger side was all scratched up. I wondered what happened as I didn't remember that being there when I got the van. I figured some debris hit it in the storm. I went into the store and got candles, some non-perishable foods, and stuff to make a tealight candle stove / heater with. This helped me boil water and also provide a little heat. Though I blew out all the candles before trying to sleep.

The radio didn't have any news so I had made one more trip out to Big Boy to warm up and charge the phone. Then I came in and tried to get some sleep. I folded two comforters in half and had two quilted blankets on the bed, along with another small microfiber blanket folded in half. Then I slept in some warm clothes. Or tried to.

As I lay there, thinking of nothing so I could drift to sleep, my brain started feeling weird. I started getting nauseated. I started to get very ill. I called my good friend up and they stood on the phone with me for quite some time until I got better enough to try to sleep again. I did end up getting a little sleep. Only for 3 hours though. I knew even if power was on (even though it wasn't still) I'd not be able to make the inspection appointment the next day so I decided to call them in the morning to leave a message that I'll reschedule.

I did get a knock on the door late at night and another neighbor heard I was still up. They were getting ready to go to work (I didn't know they were even home!) and we talked about what we heard was going on out there. After they left I tried to sleep a little more. But I didn't get much sleep.

Thursday, March 9, 2017 - The Aftermath

Daybreak on Thursday, I got up, was a bit tired but yet at the same time rather awake. I had to go pick up that package at the UPS store that I diverted there that was to arrive here on Tuesday but I didn't know if I'd be home with the vehicle transfers. It was delayed and ended up arriving during the storm. So I had notified them I'd pick up the next day. I did that, and noticed the garage and surrounding area was without power. I figured my inspection would not occur anyway as the shop was closed. I got more supplies while I was out and got the phone charged up more. During the day I went out for warmth and charging in the van and noticed the shop still closed.

By the afternoon, I noticed that the power was on across the street from me. I had hoped. I was talking on the phone with my friend about what was going on so far and the power came back on at around 1:40 pm - almost 24 hours to the minute after it went off! I was relieved! But no heat or hot water. I called the office to find out when that would be turned on and they were already on it. They turned it off when power went out for safety reasons. I decided to go out and get food replaced. The garage is near the supermarket and I noticed it still had no power. I got home with the food and caught up with emails, and baked a good chicken meal (even though it wasn't quite supper time yet) and had a good hot substantial meal at least. I also kept my neighbor who went with their relative updated by phone in regards to power back on, heat, etc. By the time I got home from shopping the heat and hot water were working. Because my apartment got down to 60 - 62 degrees overnight, way too cold for me to sleep (and I had muscle spasms because of it), it took a couple hours to heat back up. I could have dragged out my ceramic heater but I wanted to be sure my neighbor's apartment would have been heated up so they could return so I figured when mine was heated, theirs would be. Then I called to let them know that it's heated, there's hot water and still electric is on.

I got a really good night's sleep on Thursday night.

Friday, March 10, 2017 - The Inspection

I called the garage and they were open and had power. They rescheduled the inspection for that morning. I had the choice of 9 am or 10 am so I took the 9 am slot (actually 9:05 am so to give them some start-up time). I got down there, and there was one guy checking out, and another lady waiting. I left my fob on the counter and sat down with my water and my puzzle book. Then all of a sudden all these people started arriving. It's a very small office so it got full fast. And they all knew each other. Come to find out there was an organization that had a fleet that had appointments. I offered to wait until they were all done if they wanted. But by the time I realized what was going on to offer this, they said my van was already in the bay. These folks are so very nice, though! And they got my van done very fast. Of course it passed. The one tire was very low but they put air in the tires and a tire was very warn but not so much that it wouldn't pass.

After that, I got a few things done, did some more grocery shopping for food, and again I parked away from the tree as we were to get bitter cold temperatures and again high wind gusts. It was already snowing that morning. By evening, after a good meal, I decided to try out the new washing machine (the UPS package I picked up after the storm). It's a nice little Panda countertop washer/spin dryer. I really needed it as going down to the basement to wash is rather hard, and my larger Panda washer was getting too hard to lift to bring into the bathroom and also to completely drain out. Well, I found out very fast that the belt slipped off it before I even got it! So my friend's husband came over again (it was already blustery outside and snowing) and he fixed it. I figured it would be better to fix it than go through the hassle of having to return it. It was only the belt. The washer worked just fine after that and I did get my laundry done, which I really needed to do. I didn't do it that Saturday as I figured I'd have the new washer on Tuesday (as originally thought) and would do it then. But things just didn't quite turn out that way.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

I have a ton of things to catch up on. Big Boy is still parked away from the tree with a soft coating of snow on him. I plan to get out and brush him off and maybe go for a drive just to keep him warmed up.

Thus is the start of the Adventures of Big Boy the Bugout Van! I have a lot of survival skills to learn! And I have to take into account my chronic illness and what extra things I will need and need to do to compensate. I hope to make it so I could go on picnics in the park, maybe some day if I can get so I can travel far enough, go camping. That's something I've never done and always wanted to do! I am hoping that Big Boy and I will have some fun adventures together! :)

Tuesday, March 14, 2017 - The Snow Storm

In the first week I've had Big Boy at home, we did make a couple more trips out to get more food and things that were needed. In anticipation for a big snow storm on the way, I went out to Home Depot and grabbed one of the very last extendable snow brushes they had. I was at least going to be prepared to dig Big Boy out if I have to!

The day started off with a little bit of snow on the van. I was able to easily brush things off as it wasn't heavy, and I was able to open the side doors and pull myself up holding on to the handle that is on the roof inside the fan. This made accessing and cleaning off the roof very easy!

I had forgot to move the van when I was done shopping the day before and I decided to wait until later. Big mistake. I should have moved him then. I went out around 5 pm that evening to do another cleaning and there was still more snow. I was glad I brushed it off earlier in the day. After getting the snow off, I tried to get out. He doesn't like moving in snow! And I learned very quickly what this little yellow light is on the instrument panel! That's Big Boy trying hard not to spin his tires! When I got back, I found a good safe place to park him ahead of the storm.

Wednesday March 15, 2017

The snow was up to Big Boy's tires! We really got socked in the storm. Luckily some good folks dug Big Boy out and I was able to move him over to another spot that was cleared.