Archive for Monday, November 24, 2008

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Shifting gears: Parents say decision to switch to minivans is no joyride

Scott Braden, of Lawrence, says he enjoys driving his wife's minivan because it's easy to haul cargo, and children to Boy Scout activities.

Scott Braden, of Lawrence, says he enjoys driving his wife's minivan because it's easy to haul cargo, and children to Boy Scout activities.

November 24, 2008

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Lori Kemme, Lawrence, used to drive a sports car like her husband, Scott. But when the Kemmes were planning on the birth of their son, Lori traded in her car for a new “mom vehicle,” the Dodge Grand Caravan. Now, Lori and Scott have a vehicle for the whole family, including their two dogs. Kemme is picture with her 14-month-old son, Ronan, and dogs Bennie, left, and Toby.

Lori Kemme, Lawrence, used to drive a sports car like her husband, Scott. But when the Kemmes were planning on the birth of their son, Lori traded in her car for a new “mom vehicle,” the Dodge Grand Caravan. Now, Lori and Scott have a vehicle for the whole family, including their two dogs. Kemme is picture with her 14-month-old son, Ronan, and dogs Bennie, left, and Toby.

Yes, it’s a status symbol of sorts.

It’s big, full of horsepower and gives an instant update to the guy tailgating you exactly where you stand in this world.

However, it doesn’t scream your bank account balance like a new Hummer or show off your green tendencies like a shiny Prius.

Instead, it screams “I have kids in my life!” just as much as an honest-to-goodness honor-roll bumper sticker.

It is the minivan.

Over the years, it has been much maligned as the vessel of the soccer mom and a dinosaur nearly killed by the rise of the SUV. But these days, it is the trusty helper for many around Lawrence, both men and women, who have embraced the minivan as both godsend and motor vehicle.

A man and his van

Scott Braden is supremely comfortable behind the wheel of the white minivan that he drives during his alternate life as a Scout Master.

“It was a kid-related decision,” says Braden, father of two Boy Scouts himself, sons Andrew, 18, and James, 13 with wife, Cammie. “Just for transporting kids and all, even before we were really involved in Scouts, with kids and traveling to see family in Wichita and all, it was just nice having the minivan.”

Usually, the Lawrence resident tootles around in a Ford Taurus, something nice and practical for his day job as a regional manager for mortgages for Commerce Bank. But, a few times per month, he gets behind the wheel of the family van and converts the Town and Country into a hauling machine for Boy Scout Troop 55.

Scouts, camping gear, lumber from The Home Depot — anything and everything goes inside the van. Recently, he stuffed in giant tomahawk tripods for a camp activity.

“The stands are 8 feet tall, and so they won’t fit in my car, so I had to take the back seat out of the van,” Braden says. “The van for me is a passenger van, but it is also a cargo van for hauling Scout equipment. Which is nice, because I can take five of the seats out, so it’s just a two-seat van, and then I can fill it up with camp boxes and gear and sleeping bags and things like that.”

Giving up her sports car

Where Braden is quite secure behind the wheel of his minivan, Lori Kemme was apprehensive about giving up her little sports car in favor of her 2006 Dodge Grand Caravan.

She knows it sounds like something a guy would say — Woe is me, my life is over, I’m driving a minivan — but she acknowledges that it was a sad day when she traded in her sports car for her shiny, reddish van.

Kemme didn’t yet have her son Ronan, but she and her husband knew they wanted to start a family and one of them would have to ditch his or her sports car in order to make room.

“We both had little sports cars and so we each decided that mine would probably be the best one to let go,” says Kemme, who also says she felt a bit as if she was “giving up my youth” by purchasing one. Though she is quick to add, “I like the minivan, though.”

Will Carroll, a sales manager at Jack Ellena Honda, 2112 W. 29th Terrace, says that if he had to buy a family car, he’d face the same dilemma that Kemme felt — a loss of youth in purchasing one. Which is exactly why, he says, that the sport utility vehicle has become the “new” minivan for many families.

“It definitely has become the minivan,” Carroll says. “I would probably put my wife in an SUV rather than a minivan, just because of the fact that it’s more manly and if I had to drive it, it would be cooler. I think that’s kind of the mentality of it.”

But Braden says, uncool or not, status symbol or not, he is proud to be driving his van because he knows exactly what it can do for him.

“I mean, it doesn’t bother me to be driving a van, I’m not into this macho masculinity, stereotype thing,” Braden says. “You know, it serves a purpose for what I need it for, so I’m fine with it. You know, I’ve driven tractor-trailers and I’ve driven cars, it’s nothing to be driving a van. It’s a functional vehicle to me, it serves a number of purposes.”

Comments

d_prowess 6 years, 8 months ago

There was nothing specific about the story I can note, but something about the whole thing just made me throw up in my mouth a little!

Shardwurm 6 years, 8 months ago

LOL!Welcome to reality! Wait until they not only drain your bank account but stretch you to the limits of your patience. Don't worry, in another 20 years or so you'll be able to buy that hot car again...of course you'll be a burnt-out shell of your former self...and likely to be on the verge of alcoholism.On the plus side when you're in your 80s you'll have someone to dab the drool off your mouth and change your diapers while they quietly wait for you to expire so they can raid your life savings.Why do we have kids again? lol

Shardwurm 6 years, 8 months ago

The above was satirical and not meant for literal interpretation.

The_riot_is 6 years, 8 months ago

Just my luck....I finally get my picture in the paper and I'm driving a mini-van. At least I don't see a soccer ball decal in any of the windows.

jamoca 6 years, 8 months ago

The big 3 automakers begging us for a bailout could do something innovative for a change and design more fuel efficient minivans. These vehicles are not only used by bigger families, but by little league coaches, teams, etc. They are sorely needed and neglected, and yet families are hit in the wallet with such poor gas mileage performance.I love these gas prices, but they won't stay like this forever...

BuffyloGal 6 years, 8 months ago

What does this say about the type of world you want to leave to your children? There are plenty of sedans in between a sports car and a minivan and they can hold both kids and gear just as well without seriously wasting gas. The illusion is just an illusion.

inatux 6 years, 8 months ago

The go banner across the top of the page is atrocious.

morganlefay 6 years, 8 months ago

Who cares?! Must be a really slow news day...

supercowbellninja 6 years, 8 months ago

nice story - minivans are very functional cars, but honestly pretty lame, uncool rides.

alm77 6 years, 8 months ago

My favorite line about minivans: "If a vehicle in which you can have sex is not sexy, then I guess I just don't get it." - Liz Westlander http://www.lawrence.com/weblogs/gotki...

salad 6 years, 8 months ago

If you're sooooooo worried about your image, there is another alternative to a minivan, in this country we call it a station wagon. Audi, VW, BMW, Daimler, and Mazda all make amazing looking wagons. I love my Audi A4 wagon!Minivans, however, are VASTLY better than any stinkin' SUV. Our aunt rented a giant SUV for us on our last vacation, even though we asked her to get us a minivan. It was extremely inconvenient to use and not at all kid friendly. It also got horrible mileage.

Danielle Brunin 6 years, 8 months ago

I'm confused. Why do you need a minivan for one or two children? I know there's the whole thing of "Look at me, I'm a parent with a minivan! I'm giving up my life for my kids." There is definitely something symbolic about it. However, my husband and I have found that our Camry, as well as our Corolla, works perfectly fine for kids. They certainly get better gas mileage. This really was a pretty stupid article.

BigPrune 6 years, 8 months ago

I like my minivan because I sit up high and can look down at the little people in their little cars.You might notice me driving down the road. I have a bumper sticker that says, "Another proud contributor to the population of the planet" and "Future taxpayers on board" and "Doing our part to pay for your welfare."

storm 6 years, 8 months ago

Cross-overs (used be called station-wagons) and hatchbacks are thee best hauling vehicles ever made and they're not unisex.

KU_cynic 6 years, 8 months ago

I don't know what upsets me -- a typically cynical Generation Xer -- more: LJW features (like the nauseating Boomer Girl columns) in which baby boomers act like they have invented getting old,ORLJW features (like this minivan story and the columns by young mothers) in which the so-called millenial generation acts as if it discovered the joys and complications of family life.

KansasPerson 6 years, 8 months ago

I get the feeling we're going to see comments reading "Slow news day!" every Monday until people get used to the fact that Monday is when the "GO" magazine appears in (or wrapped around) the J-W.It isn't really as apparent from looking at the website that it's not really part of the newspaper, except for that garish banner across the top of the story. People who overlook that might think that we just put this sort of thing on our front page.

d_prowess 6 years, 8 months ago

I would like to nominate the post by KU_cynic made at 12:56pm for a POTY (post of the year-I am sure the LJW will be developing such an award some day). It was probably the funniest thing I have read in a really long time.

Bladerunner 6 years, 8 months ago

They forgot to mention how much fun a mini-van can be at the Drive-In movies. Oh yeah baby!

mom_of_three 6 years, 8 months ago

a minivan with one kid might be handier than a car, say if you have a dog or two, along with a kid.

alm77 6 years, 8 months ago

rodent, my kids have friends. My 7 seater (SUV) is filled regularly.

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