"Although I've been tugging rock since '96, I finally took Five Ten's advice in 2000 when I quit my job as a carpenter. I was 20 years old, scared, but it was the best decision I ever made. The plan was simple, get rid of all the things I didn't want or need and move the rest into a '92 Mazda B2200 pick up truck. I lived in this tin rig for nearly 2 years, it did the job just fine, took me from east to west and back again. But after the first year climbing full time on the road, I realized that (for better or for worse), I couldn't get enough and I wasn't going to go home anytime soon, I wasn't going to conform (whatever that means) and so I needed a bigger home. I was committed to the simple life.
I never made much money, I still don't, but I always made just enough to realize my dreams and make the important things come to life. If you want something badly enough, the odds are you'll find a way to make it happen.
In 2003, I bought a sprite used '97 GMC Safari mini van, it was the love of my life, cruise control, captains chairs, double bed, roof rack. I literally lived in this van for the best part of 6 years. If I could draw a red line over a map of North America and Mexico to show the miles behind me, it would look like a 3 year old got loose with a crayon. Circle after circle after circle. A trucker would be jealous.
On a frosty News Years Eve Day, 2009, in the Vancouver International Airport parking lot, after a long happy life, my van (White Lightening) decided it was too old to go on, and with a big smile and a tired cough, it rumbled for the last time under flurry conditions, I felt it's spirit lift when I pulled the key out from the ignition, White Lighting wouldn't be my Stallion any longer and it's sorely missed. Although 'WL' was a pig on gas, it was a sad day for me.
Now it's 2010, and for a whole year there's been a piece of my life missing, a year of driving cars, taking shuttles and flying planes. A year of camping in my tent, and bumming rides from friends. Whoever thinks living in a van is over-rated hasn't lived in one long enough. Living in a van will be the best decision you'll ever make. Think back to when you were a little younger, a little more wild, a little more free, the best times in my life were always the simplest of times. And I could not ignore it any longer. Two weeks ago I set out on a mission to find a new love. But with the sign of the times, I vowed this one to be a WINNER at the pumps too.
I tried them all, weighed every scenario, and decided that as dorky as it may be, the mini-van, is always pound for pound, dollar for dollar the best way to go. Of course if money was no object, I'd be rolling beside Verm in his FORD Sport Mobile, but I don't have an extra 60K, damn, I don't even have an extra 6K. So the search continued. Toyota Previa's, Honda Odyssey's, Chevy Astro's, then one post came screaming out at me, www.CRAIGSLIST.com - SQUAMISH, BC - '92, MAZDA MPV - $1000.00 - AS IS.
To make a long funny story short and boring, I bought it off a Tow Truck operator, who towed it in after two drunk drivers from Vancouver failed to show police their drivers license and/or insurance papers. 3 months later, he wanted to get paid, they had no money and still no license, they gave him the van as a trade and he put it on craigslist.
The next day, I gave him $1000 cash and drove it off the lot. 165,000km's, (approx 105K miles) and she purr's like a kitten. Let me show you what I've learned about mini-van's lesson number 1 - 6, with pictures, listed in order.
#1. The scrapes on the side here are called "Whiskey Scratches", obviously these drivers were drunk more than once, and backed into a few too many fence posts. The scratches devalue the vehicle to someone who gives a damn about how they look, but don't actually effect the engine quality - so a bonus for me.
#2. The van has a V6 engine, essential for mountain passes and long hauls where you'd rather get there quickly AND safely. Lots of mini-vans are super wimps under the hood, I'd rather have a beater that kicks ass on the Freeway, than a slick looking ride without any guts. Chicks will notice, I promise.
#3. Make sure your van has a back door that opens up all the way. Some vans have double doors and they suck. If you plan on cooking in the back of your van, and you should because it'll save you hundreds of dollars, then get the big overhead shelter, it acts like a canopy, which is also essential for tailgate party's in the north west.
#4. Side view mirrors are great for groggy mornings. Shaving, brushing your teeth or picking out tiny pieces of steamed kale. If yours doesn't swivel easily, break it, and strap it back on with bungee cords. People are more likely to show you respect, and less likely to break in because they think you have less to offer them. Which is perfect.
#5. Captains chairs are a must. Make sure you got the comfort of cruise control, a fake leather steering wheel cover, and an Alpine Stereo system. All of which came standard with my used Mazda.
#6. Sliding doors on rails are good for tight parking spaces, BUT, if you do bang up the side of your van for whatever reason, you'll never be able to open it again. In this case, the MPV comes with an opening door, just like the front door, if it weren't for this feature this particular vehicle would be a royal pain in the ass. If you don't know what I'm talking about, see the first photo and recall "whiskey scratches".
All in all, I paid $1000 for the van, and $800 for recreational insurance for the year. It was definitely a gamble, the car might last me 2 days, 2 weeks or 2 years. But the same can be said with any vehicle, new or used. We've all heard the horror stories. So I took a chance, because risks must be taken, because only those who risk are truly free. Happy traveling, safe climbing and god bless the queen."
Sonnie Trotter is one of the Worlds most accomplished all around climbers, he's proudly been wearing Five Ten® shoes for 13 years, and has ticked over 75 5.14's, many of which are on gear. We wish him well on his upcoming trip to Yosemite Valley, may the Mazda MPV treat him well.