Some people view their cars as appliances – just a way to get from home to work and back for a few years. When the payments are done, many people just trade their car in on a new model and forget they ever owned it.
That’s not what this story is about. This is the story of Dan and Kathy Klager and their 2001 Mazda MPV, affectionately known as Minnie Van. After 15 years and over 191,000 miles, Minnie has become something more than just a vehicle in their garage.
“We purchased Minnie in September of 2001,” Kathy said. “This was the first new vehicle that either my husband or I had owned. When we bought it, there were 21 miles on it. We had our four-year-old son with us, and he fell in love with it, too.”
Over the years, the Klagers have taken Minnie to 39 states and the District of Columbia, and the van carries many memories.
“We camp and we backpack a lot. We like long trips – sometimes weeks on end,” Kathy explained, “and that little minivan can hold a ton of equipment and handle a variety of roads. She carried our son to kindergarten, was the vehicle he learned to drive on, and last year took him to his freshman year of college. She carried us to Florida something like 11 times in the two years that my mom was battling cancer. She has been our daily driver as well as our travel vehicle.”
“Once we were in Glacier National Park,” Dan recalled. “We took a wrong turn and went about ten miles out of our way. We turned around, and all of a sudden, a grizzly bear crossed the road right in front of us. We have memories like that.”
To keep their MPV in great condition, the Klagers are diligent about maintenance, and keep careful records of the van’s history.
“We have a book that we keep in the driver’s side door,” Kathy said. “In it is recorded every gas station visit and location, and every tune-up or repair done on her. Since her life history is ours, we refer to the book when we want to remember when it was that we visited such-and-such a place.”
Minnie is still with the Klagers, and they have no plans to replace her.
“It’s still going strong,” Kathy said. “That minivan has been incredibly reliable, comfortable, and practical. She still rocks and looks pretty darn good. We live in Wisconsin, the land of salt on the roads, and that’s something to be able to say. We’re really glad Mazda made a great product.”
In the time they’ve spent together, the bond between the Klagers and Minnie has become more than just maintenance and reliability. It’s about the places and events that make up a family’s life together.
“It’s just so full of memories,” Kathy said. “When you’re driving, you’re involved in life. You meet people, you take detours to see what’s there. The things we’ve been able to see and do have been amazing. I’m not a person to get sentimental about machines, but when Minnie finally gives up the ghost, I will likely sob. She has been there for nearly every important event in the lives of our family. Actually, she’s part of our family.”