I have a theory that “you can never find a cheap vehicle when you need one”, thus you need to buy cheap vehicles whenever you see them for sale. This allows you to have a few handy spares. However this week that theory was shot full of holes. (or at least proven to have a few exceptions) I was pulling out of Tall Tree Avenue onto the Sterling Highway when Shane commented “the suburban is really smoking”. I replied “I didn’t think it was smoking more than normal” and we headed down the road. Soon however, it became obvious the Suburban was suffering a more severe bout of dementia than normal. As it was wheezing and gasping, we passed an old van with a “For Sale” sign in the windshield. Suspecting the Suburban’s condition was terminal, I pulled over to the side of the road. (It wouldn’t accelerate anymore anyway, we were just coasting)
After we stopped, I got out and looked under the Suburban. It was shooting small geysers of transmission fluid in several directions, some of which hit the exhaust and smoked vigorously. “Looks like we’ll need to walk” I told Shane, and we started walking back towards the direction of Tall Tree. It was a nice day, and it is always good to get exercise. And, unlike our last breakdown when we had to walk, I had my .454 revolver with, so there was little chance of getting eaten. (unlike Pa, you don’t need a license to conceal carry handguns, although the .454 is so big it’s like hiding a shovel under your coat)
After walking only a hundred yards or so, we came to the old van for sale. It was a 1984 Dodge van, with “$800 or best offer” written on it. I called the number and offered the fellow selling it $500. “Sure, if you take it today” was his response. I replied “I was indeed hoping to drive it away today”. So Mike, the guy selling the van, came down from his house to talk to us. (It was parked at the end of his lane)
“Where is your vehicle?” Mike asked. I pointed down the road, and said it broke down, and “we were in the market for another one.” So Mike took me on a short drive to an ATM in Anchor Point, I got cash out (the ATM withdraw limit was $400 but I had $95 in my wallet, and he agree to trust me to get him the remaining $5 later) After a quick call to State Farm to get insurance, we were on our way again. I held my breath on the drive to Homer, (well not the entire way) because it didn’t have current plates on. However, all went well and stopped at the DMV, which was on the way to Spenards Lumber anyway. (Alaska, unlike the tyrant DMV’s in Pa, lets you transfer titles without dragging the seller along) I was getting lumber to build a shed. (no permits needed in Alaska for building things either)
Normally I wouldn’t pick old Dodge vans, being a Ford and Chevy fan (yes you can be a fan of both) however the price was right, and as a bonus it had a 4 speed on the floor manual shift. With it’s 318 V-8 engine, you can actually burn rubber with it. It is also equiped with a nice hitch.
Ironically the old van must have come from Pennsylvania at one point, because it had some sappy Penn State stickers on the back. No, the van doesn’t have a current inspection sticker, and it never will, as they are not needed in Alaska. (notice a pattern here between Alaska and Pa?)
Oh, and this Mike guy? Turns out he is a Suburban guru, with many old Suburbans parked out behind his house. Part of his Suburban collection is one lifted high enough to have what looks like Farmall tractor tires on it. He also has a cheap transmission for sale that will fit right in the Suburban. So I guess the Suburban story is not as finished as I thought it was.
The moral of the story? Always keep $500 cash in your wallet.