Oddie, our 2005 Honda Odyssey, spent his first years as a family vehicle. He offered plenty of room for my one and only kid, his pack of friends, pups, and all the stuff that comes and goes with family life.
Time flew by, and soon the kids were leaving for college—except for one. My high school graduate Cole decided that he wanted to learn about business first hand. His plan was to join me in running our family business—an overnight camp for pups while their owners travel. Mother and son has a nice ring to it, so I agreed. A week later, he was ordering business cards with “Day Camp Director” printed under his name. Our camp services now included the option of sending pups to day camp as well as overnight camp.
Day camp grew overnight, and it didn’t take long for us to realize that we needed to transform Oddie into a camp van. His new job would be transporting day campers to and from camp. We removed all the back seats and installed partitions, and the center console became a box that was a catchall for paper towels, cleaning supplies, leashes, and small bags of dog food.
Change has never been my friend, and now under the guise of my son, it was my business partner. I had renewed empathy for Henry Ford. His son kept insisting the Model T needed more color options. Kids!
For two years, our campers traveled to and from camp each day in our renovated camp van. The built-in box that replaced my handy console was the bane of my existence; it thwarted my every attempt at organization. I hated that box—a lot. Cole found this amusing, especially when I trudged over and over again into the Container Store in an attempt to tame it. Never happened. Luckily, we never lost a small dog in that horrid box.
Over the last six months, we realized that our time with Oddie was drawing to a close. It was time to research our van options. Mr. I Love Change took up the challenge.
We needed a cargo van, but I refused to drive a cargo van in Chicago. I said N.O. and meant it. We drive down alleys and narrow streets, and we share the road with other vehicles, bikers, pedestrians, and protestors. Learning to parallel park a cargo van is not on my bucket list.
The Ford Transit Connect was too small. It also lacked the solid feeling that my Honda had spoiled me with. While I love the idea of Ford, I don’t love the reality of Ford (fix or repair daily). It saddened us to learn that Honda didn’t have a van option larger than the Odyssey.
Last September, Mercedes introduced a new van called the Metris. Cole researched it and oozed with enthusiasm. It was taller and a bit wider than the Honda, but it would still fit in the garage. The cargo van option (they also make a passenger van) had a flat bottom and walls that we could customize. While new to the States, the Metris had rave reviews in Europe.
We took the Metris for a test drive, and I knew it was the one. It drove like my Honda. The cabin is well laid out with storage in the dashboard (no more effen box), and it has six cup holders. Anyone who says that cup holders aren’t important is lying, or they drive 10 minutes a day. The sticker price did not match Mercedes’s reputation—the Metris is affordable. Our only issue with the van was that it didn’t have rear air conditioning. I don’t travel without air conditioning and neither do my campers. This could have been a deal breaker, but Cole was convinced rear air exsisted and dug deeper into the Mercedes website. There, he discovered that the Metris did have a rear air conditioning option, just not in Chicago. When presented with this information, our hardworking salesman found a van in Texas with rear air conditioning and seat warmers. It rocked the budget a bit more, but rear air conditioning was nonnegotiable and keeping my rear warm in the winter was a nice bonus.
We bought a 2016 silver Mercedes Metris, and I’m thrilled for the business. But the best part came on the ride home, when Cole said to me, “Mom, you now drive a Mercedes two seater. A coup!” Whoa! Coup de la de da da! Maybe change isn’t so bad after all!
Over the past week, we’ve converted the coup into a snazzy camp van. We still have a few modifications to go, but our campers have settled into their places with tails-a-wagging. We named the Metris “Vito,” the name it goes by in Europe. You won’t see many of them on the road (we’ve only seen four in the last three months), but I suspect we’ll soon be passing more of them. The Metris was just rated #1 in Car and Driver, as well as other magazines for car enthusiasts.
Last week, Vito and I drove by a navy blue Honda, and my eyes filled with tears. He has some big tires to fill, but I think he’s up for the challenge. And I admit it feels good to retire the Jump-n-Carry to the back of the van instead of keeping it within arm’s reach.
Welcome to our family, Vito! Get ready to ride out on daily adventures and make quick turns into Starbucks.
Click on the video for a virtual tour: