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Beachcomber - Sometimes You Need a Big Car

  • By Dave Barron
The giant increases in gasoline prices have certainly made a big hole in our wallets. Yes, price of gasoline has dropped a bit in the last few days, but it will go up again, just you watch. The price of fuel creates a big problem for all drivers, but especially for those who have large families and must drive a roomier car. I remember when we had an extended Dodge van. It was during the 1980s when vans were extremely popular. With a three-bench seat van we could peacefully transport our four children anywhere. Each one had their own bench seat to spread their legs and toys.  Otherwise it would have been a very disturbing trip, even a short one across town. Children tend to get into tangles when left alone, even briefly.
    The van really came in handy for other trips, too. I remember taking a team of eighth grade basketball players to many tournaments in Southern California. My wife used to be a volunteer driver for the school sports teams at St. Anthony’s Church School. Coach Bob Bettendorf was always happy to have volunteer drivers because there was no school bus.
    Our van also took us camping to the beach, Sequoia and Yosemite national parks.  When you take a family of six people on a trip you need a lot of room. In addition to carrying food and clothing for several days, you have to carry bulky sleeping bags and a tent. Plus, you always have to make room for some of the children’s favorite toys.
    I am afraid it would not be possible to carry all that stuff in a small mini-van and certainly not in a fuel efficient Prius.
    And yet, I only got about 12 miles per gallon in the Dodge Van because of a 383 cu-inch V-8 engine. Today’s V-8 engines are much more efficient, but still may only get about 18 miles a gallon on the highway.
    Then there’s a class of drivers that also must drive big vehicles. This includes repairmen, delivery men, contractors, and people who pull recreational trailers.
    Unfortunately, most of the fuel-efficient vehicles are small two person put-puts. I think Detroit needs to put their mind on building larger family and commercial vehicles that are power by hybrid engines and alternate fuels.
    So far, I’ve seen some “cross-over” cars that may fit the bill. You can squeeze six people into them, but I wouldn’t think of pulling anything but a very tiny trailer with them. A couple of friends have hybrid sedans of SUVs such as the Ford Escape or Toyota Highlander, but these too are limited to people. Don’t pull anything that might be too heavy.
 What do you think?

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