We bought our minivan back when we had three kids in car seats and before Erin's previous violin teacher's husband got cancer. Back then we needed the seating flexibility of an 8-seater, and we were certainly not anticipating driving through the Rocky Mountains on a monthly basis all winter long. And so the front-wheel drive version of the Toyota Sienna made sense. Sure, we'd live on a mountain, and we'd have to park at the highway end of the lane and hike in to the house for a few weeks every year, but that was a small price to pay for a less expensive vehicle, better mileage and the full middle bench to rig our car seats up in.
Things change. Erin outgrew her first violin teacher, her second one quit teaching on short notice due to the aforementioned health crisis, children grew out of car seats or into different seats that they're able to get into and out of themselves. And now we're driving over really big nasty mountain passes to get our kids places and the 2WD van doesn't make any kind of sense any more. I found most of the driving to Calgary terribly stressful last winter. The hike up and down the driveway is getting old. The minimal clearance in the wheel-wells and below the chassis mean that we have to be very cautious about venturing places during snow. We're best hiking into aikido from the road, for instance because the snowy ruts cause us to 'bottom out' and lose traction. Chains don't really fit properly within the wheel-wells, and we have to skulk around Nelson trying to find parking spots that aren't on an up-slope to be sure we can get out again.
I've been hankering for one of these, but Chuck is unconvinced by the safety and practicality of purchasing a 13-year-old vehicle whose parts have to be ordered from Japan. Yeah, whatever. He's probably got a point, though I still want one. :-)
I was finding winter driving more and more frustrating and difficult last year and then during the first snowy month this year. Then I realized this was our fourth winter on our snow tires. I looked at them myself, decided the front ones especially looked very worn, and took them to the tire place where they measured the tread and declared them not legal as snow tires. Four mm of tread depth at a stretch. Maybe three and a half in places.
So I ordered myself a Christmas present. Four brand spanking new Nokian snow tires. Extravagant, but without a 4WD vehicle I need something serious to make me feel like I'm not risking my life and the kids' lives every time we head to Calgary. Look at that tread! A deep 11 mm. I'll be driving Erin & Co. to Vancouver next weekend, and then the rest of the kids to Calgary two or three weeks later, and I feel so much better about going now!