What? Not a tranny problem you say? Something worse?

We are questioning everything. A couple years ago, we started thinking more intentionally about the way we are writing the story of our lives. The past few days we kept telling ourselves that every great story has conflict, we were just hoping ours wouldn’t have this much.

We are asking for your advice (and only your advice). What would you do in our situation? There’s no way we’d ever spend this kind of money to have an engine rebuilt on a van that’s worth less than half of what it would cost. You could feed a small country for this amount and we think there are way more important things to spend money on than our little adventure.

We just hate that we’ve built this up, only to have no outdoor excursions or adventures (of the kind we were wanting) to show you. I guess sometimes life gives you lemons with no sugar and you just have sour water…but at least you have water, I guess.

So here are the options we could come up with…
A – drive the van as far as we can, leave it wherever it breaks down and rent a U-haul back to SC
B – sell the van here and rent a U-haul back to SC
C – get a U-haul here and tow the van back with us (try to sell it once we get back)
(in all these cases, we could take our Honda cross-country instead or like I said “blow up our kiddo pool in the backyard” and call it a trip.)

Since we got a deal for paying for a week’s stay, we still have a few days left at Sundown Motel* (a little mom and pop place here in Mt. Pleasant, TX.) Hopefully, in these few days we’ll have some clarity on what to do. Either way we feel like *the sun definitely went down.

35 Comments

  1. Suzanna

    Drive til bust and then come home!!

    Comment by Suzanna on June 13, 2011 at 3:11 pm

  2. michelle your neighbor

    Sell the van. You should pack everything up and mail it back to SC. Buy some amtrak tickets. Train trips across the nation are fabulous and you can get a sleeper car!

    There is a station down in Mineola. I have a friend from Mineola, he says “King of the Hill” was based on that town.

    Comment by michelle your neighbor on June 13, 2011 at 3:13 pm

  3. Amanda

    That stinks guys! I would do C. The summer is young — get back here recoup what you can and get back on the road via some other plan and sell the van here. I can only imagine selling it here — where the title originates and anything else possible associated with a sale would be much easier to handle in the State than out…

    Comment by Amanda on June 13, 2011 at 3:15 pm

  4. I think at this point I would rent a u-haul and tow the van back with you. You never know when you get back and have somone look at it, it may not be that bad and you can continue your trip next summer. : )

    Comment by Gwen on June 13, 2011 at 3:18 pm

  5. Jen

    I’m so sorry! I know you put a lot of work into that van and to have it quit on you must be terribly disappointing.

    My vote would be for you to take it as far as you can and then have a little vacation wherever you end up. But this is based purely on the notion that I would enjoy reading about the adventure. I have no mechanical knowledge and I know there are some pretty long stretches in TX that are desolate and might be a little creepy to break down in.

    Do what works best for you and whatever you decide, I wish you the best of luck and high spirits!

    Comment by Jen on June 13, 2011 at 3:25 pm

  6. alison

    oh no! i’m so sad to hear this about your trip!
    i really don’t know what the best option is…that is such a tough decision.
    but if you end up at home, which i hope you don’t, you should definitely use some of the money you saved to do something else! i know its disappointing and won’t be like a cross-country road trip, but it could still be really fun and maybe it would be a bandaid on the wound. anyway, i love you guys.. blackwell is calling his friends in tx to see if they are anywhere near yall.. and i’ll pray for you.

    Comment by alison on June 13, 2011 at 3:32 pm

  7. Andrew Bishop

    Sell the van and Buy another one cars are cheaper in TX look on craigslist…. I was just looking… Or just start walking!

    Comment by Andrew Bishop on June 13, 2011 at 3:37 pm

  8. Michael Brown

    Option D! Sell the van, rent a vechicle and keep on trucking! It sucks, but years from now you and your wife will have awesome memories to share and reflect on. Don’t let this hump (ok, maybe it’s more of a hill) set you back on your adventures. “Nothing left to do but Smile, Smile, Smile.”

    Comment by Michael Brown on June 13, 2011 at 3:44 pm

  9. Theresa (Za's!)

    don’t get it fixed.

    cannot believe how into this blog I have gotten! and hope your both doing well aside for the van trouble!

    get your stuff out of the van and sell it – send the bulk home – rent a car and go to grand canyon – you have two months to figure out a way home and you are despite what it seems still on the greatest adventure ever.

    best of luck – sending well wishes from Columbia

    Comment by Theresa (Za's!) on June 13, 2011 at 4:08 pm

  10. Sell it all and come on the AT with us! I definitely would not end the adventure. You’ve set aside this time, make something of it. When I had to get off the trail for a bit I started thinking, hey, I’ve got nothing going on, I can go on a road trip! But then I realized I need money to get back on the trail and coming home for work is the better choice. So I’m getting back out there, and I think ya’ll should, too. Driving til bust might get you in a situation like our trip to Colorado where we nearly froze to death in Kansas… but those are some of the best memories of my life. It may not be the most sound advice, but that would be my choice.

    Comment by Dylan on June 13, 2011 at 4:08 pm

  11. Ellen

    Find a way to get to the Grand Canyon and dump the van. I’m so sorry for your travails! Oh and stay away from that casino.

    Comment by Ellen on June 13, 2011 at 4:15 pm

  12. DAVID PACE

    i don’t know but we love you guys and are praying. You can always make a baby :)

    Comment by DAVID PACE on June 13, 2011 at 4:17 pm

  13. Carmen

    Sorry about the van. Once in a lifetime experience and dream deserves the best try ever. Go till it dies. Take this chance to get as far as you can. NO regrets! Where ever it ends or takes you will be some of the best memories you will have for a lifetime.
    Hope to see you much later.

    Comment by Carmen on June 13, 2011 at 4:33 pm

  14. Jessica

    Hey guys: That really sucks! Sorry! Is there any way you could offload the van for $1,000-$1,500 or so, then buy another one, and then take a few extra days to move your fixtures (bed, generator, etc) into the new van. That would be amazing and probably cheaper in the long run and then you could just keep on moving. I would love to see you guys overcome this! (Although it could be fun to see my old little Civic truck it cross country too!!) Hang in there. Thinking of y’all!

    Comment by Jessica on June 13, 2011 at 4:35 pm

  15. Michael McKenzie

    I’m with David Pace. I’ve done a little research. Most car rental agencies rent the chrysler town and country minivan. With the help of a online coupon, you should be able to get the van for around $1,000/mo at the right place. At 25mpg you’ll save a little money there. If financially possible, you could rent it, do ya’ll’s thang, and pick up the van on the way home. I definately wouldn’t buy the insurance but use a credit card to cover the rental insurance. We love you guys!!!

    Comment by Michael McKenzie on June 13, 2011 at 5:31 pm

  16. Brad Rackow

    Keep on going til it breaks down completely!

    Comment by Brad Rackow on June 13, 2011 at 6:14 pm

  17. Josh W

    I say keep the dream alive buddy. Drive it til it dies. And when it does, keep on trucking however you can. We’ll figure out how to get you back home if we need to. Rock on brother.

    Comment by Josh W on June 13, 2011 at 6:32 pm

  18. Donna Montgomery

    You could also trade Buddy in on another used (newer) van (or van-type RV), even if you have to finance it. Then make your trip and sell the new van when you get back home to get out of that expense/debt. Whatever you decide, your friends and family are behind you 100%. If you need anything, don’t hesitate to ask. A small town like Mt. Pleasant might want to put your story on their local news or in their paper. I’m sure a couple rich Texans might live there! :)

    Comment by Donna Montgomery on June 13, 2011 at 7:28 pm

  19. Hey guys. First, take a deep breath. This is an adventure and adventures that go to plan aren’t adventures, they’re just plans. Allow me a slight digression. I was meant to be on what would be a one-year nomadic trip around American and Canada with side trips to some international destinations. I paid a ludicrous amount of money for a Land Rover Defender which blew it’s transmission a month before my big send send off. Over $5000 later she was up and running. I got on the road, had a few minor problems that taught me a couple important lessons about vehicle repair. Then I parked the truck for a one-month trip to Italy before returning to Atlanta to resume the trip. That was 2 months ago. I fell off a wall in Italy, broke multiple bones in both feet, and cracked a femur. Surgeries and 40 days in hospital later and I’m still in casts, recuperating at my parent’s home. Not part of the plan. The truck is still in Atlanta. But I will return, pick her up, and keep going.

    I don’t know what your reasons for this trip are, but zero in on those. If you have a Honda and want to still do this trip, then ditch the van, get a few bucks for it, head home, regroup and get back out there. But if this trip is important, don’t give up on it. Get your stuff home as quickly and cheaply as you can and resume the adventure. Adventures aren’t meant to be easy. This is part of a great story you’re writing. Be bold about it. Keep smiling, you still have each other and you have options. Pick one, roll with it, and keep writing the story.

    Stay away from the casino, and don’t give up!

    Safe travels,

    David duChemin

    Comment by David duChemin on June 13, 2011 at 7:51 pm

  20. Megan

    Keep going!!!

    Comment by Megan on June 13, 2011 at 7:54 pm

  21. follow this trip

    Thanks for sharing David! Seriously.

    Comment by follow this trip on June 13, 2011 at 7:54 pm

  22. follow this trip

    Thanks for your advice everyone! We’ve had a rough day, but have been researching and talking to mechanic friends/family. We think there might be one diagnosis that the dealership overlooked, so we’re taking it somewhere else in the morning. We’re still prepared to sell “Buddy” and re-figure what our adventure will look like, but there’s a speck of hope that the van might come through. We’ll keep you updated.

    Comment by follow this trip on June 13, 2011 at 8:10 pm

  23. Hey. Just talked to you on the phone, but to recap:

    If you’re going to rent a UHaul or whatever to get back home, just rent one with a hitch and a vehicle-hauling two wheel trailer, and tow the van home. Don’t sell it.

    Or, as I said, I had the engine replaced in a Mustang about ten years ago –parts and labor– for $700 or so. Find a place that salvages wrecks and will do the work for you. Don’t rebuild the engine. Find a replacement engine either in or out of a vehicle and use it. Find a wreck: You know the engine was running when it had the accident, right?

    As a sign I saw on a junkyard once said, Every other part in your vehicle is used.

    Google direct, bolt-in replacements for your engine. You don’t have to get the same engine. There are probably four or five different engines from Ford or its subsidiaries that would directly replace yours. And you could probably get a six-cylinder instead of the eight you have, and save enough money on gas to pay for the engine replacement.

    Straight to the issue: Don’t scrap out the van. It’s your van and you spent a lot of time with it. If you sell it for a grand and spend that money getting home, somebody else will get the benefit of your work on the beastie.

    Even if you spend a week or two getting it fixed and then driving bak home, it’s still a good story to tell someday. Not much of a Web site, but an interesting story for the kids. Not the adventures you were planning on — but that’s what adventures are really made of.

    –J. Daniel

    Comment by J. Daniel on June 13, 2011 at 8:13 pm

  24. Anne Patton

    So mt pleasant is only 5 hours from Austin! Have you guys already been here? You would have a really comfy air mattress! :) 512-750-9443

    Comment by Anne Patton on June 13, 2011 at 8:25 pm

  25. Brittney

    Come on people! Let’s all send them $5! 1,000 people=$5,000, then they can fix it or get a new van or whatever. It’s not like they are hobos on the street begging for money, this is Ben and Lauren! We are all living vicariously through them anyway so keep the trip going! Instead of sitting at home wishing them luck, do something that will actually help and make a difference! I’ve already sent my $5 (under Contact Us and Donate) and all it took was staying in for dinner tonight instead getting a foot long from Subway. They deserve that much!

    Comment by Brittney on June 13, 2011 at 8:57 pm

  26. Katie McKenzie

    I agree with Michael. Rent something and keep going.
    We will be praying!

    Comment by Katie McKenzie on June 13, 2011 at 9:15 pm

  27. Mandy Hyslop (formerly Jones)

    I’m so sorry to hear about yall’s troubles!

    So…my dad always told me that a car dealership will be THE most expensive place you can get your car fixed. If you are able to find a trustworthy mechanic, they will tend to charge a lot less than the dealership charges. One of my friends had really good success finding an awesome, trustworthy mechanic by going on Click and Clack’s website (Car Talk) and searching for a mechanic from their recommended list. I just tried to do the search, but for some reason the pages aren’t loading. Anyway, it’s worth a shot to get a 3rd opinion from a mechanic recommended by Car Talk. Or – yall could try calling in to Car Talk and get advice from the best mechanics ever. Good luck!

    Comment by Mandy Hyslop (formerly Jones) on June 14, 2011 at 1:19 am

  28. JW

    Being in this position must sting right now, but just look at all the comments here… people are paying attention, and I don’t think any of them really want this to end.

    What I would do: If I could afford the $900 (I know, it’s going to hurt), I would do the exploratory on the engine and pray… pray pray, then go out and do a couple of random acts of kindness for good measure. If a fix is under I would say $1000, go for it. And then keep driving as soon as you can. If it is going to be thousand$, sell it for whatever you can, use that money to get whatever vehicle you can sleep in and keep on going…

    DON’T QUIT!

    Comment by JW on June 14, 2011 at 1:24 am

  29. LOVE Brittney’s idea! Also love the baby-making idea!! We can still all share $5 or $10 and make a BIG difference! When I think about all people have done for me…..

    Comment by meredith good on June 14, 2011 at 5:49 am

  30. Denise

    Keep going! you would be so sad to give up and come home, i was in my kiddo pool the other day, its only fun for about an hour! I think you’d be restless and annoyed if you came home now. an adventure is bound to have some unpleasant surprises; the acute stress of this situation will get better once you set your minds on a new solution and you’ll be able to look back on this and laugh (eventually!). try to replace or sell the van, or just leave it, rent a car and pick up Buddy on the way home. i wouldnt drive it until death- like others have said, might die in a bad place and you’ll be stressed/worried the entire drive just waiting for the impending death. good luck!

    Comment by Denise on June 14, 2011 at 7:55 am

  31. David

    Never go to TEXAS! It is a death hole! I don’t know anyone who is not from there who hasn’t had a major problem happen when they go there or through there.
    But if it was me I would pay a friend to drive your car to you and let them hitch hike back and have their own adventure.

    Comment by David on June 14, 2011 at 9:49 am

  32. MBH

    The classic dilemma……if you have the time you don’t have the money, and if you have the money you don’t have the time. The house is rented and school’s out for summer…..take advantage of the opportunity. Get back to SC or get the/a back-up vehicle to TX asap and continue the adventure. The trip – not the van – is the point. Have fun and good luck.

    Comment by MBH on June 14, 2011 at 10:35 am

  33. Scott Nolan

    Hi Guys, I’m sorry to hear about your troubles. One quick thing to do, which any competent mechanic would have already done for you, is pull the battery cable off for 5 minutes to reset the computer then hook it back up and drive the vehicle to see if the light comes back on. It probably will, but there’s always a possibility that this whole thing was a weird glich that a reboot will fix. Besides the light coming on, how is it running? Fine? If so, keep driving and making sure you have enough oil and transmission fluid and see what happens. If something really is wrong, $1,500 should get you EITHER a rebuilt engine or a tranny – I highly doubt both have gone bad at the same time but you’ll need to know what your dealing with before you make a decision on the vehicle. for what it’s worth, you won’t be able to find something equal for $1,500 so you could argue that it would be money well spent.

    I have a suggestion that would be a lot of fun and call attention to your trip. Call Click and Clack at Car Talk. It’s an NPR show about cars (cartalk.com) that airs every Saturday morning, usually at 10am. They’d love to hear your story and would have a lot of fun with it. Plus they would bring you a LOT of attention – it’s the most popular program on public radio. Their number is 888-227-8255.

    Good luck!

    Scott

    Comment by Scott Nolan on June 14, 2011 at 10:59 am

  34. Stupid engine/tranny. Booooooooooo. I wish I knew anyone in Texas. : (

    I hope you get good news at this other mechanic. I say keep going till Buddy keels over. Part of the fun of this trip was setting up your awesome van, so drive it as long as you can. (But whoever suggested a train, that sounds like fun, too… if that’s affordable that sounds awesome once Buddy has moved on to the afterlife.)

    Praying for you guys, I know this sucks! Try to live it up anyway.

    Comment by Karin on June 14, 2011 at 11:38 am

  35. Matt H

    You guys are my heroes!! You skipped strawberry pancakes and disc golf so you have to keep movin! I am down with donating.
    On another note I have heard that cross country trips on Amtrak are pretty cool. I would follow that trip.
    Good Luck!!!

    Comment by Matt H on June 14, 2011 at 11:11 pm

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