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The Return Of The Minivan
Reason.com ^ | 6 Jan 2011 | Steve Chapman

Posted on 01/06/2011 9:22:43 AM PST by Notary Sojac

It's boxy, bland, and relentlessly practical, but in an age of diminished wealth and high unemployment, maybe that combination doesn't sound so bad. Despite those qualities, or because of them, the minivan is making a comeback.

Sales are up, new models are appearing, and the woman who once did the blog "Rage Against the Minivan" has fallen in love with one. "In marketing campaigns featuring heavy-metal theme songs, rapping parents, secret agents in cat masks, pyrotechnics and even Godzilla, minivan makers are trying to recast the much-ridiculed mom-mobile as something that parents can be proud—or at least unashamed—of driving," reports The New York Times.

This is known as reinventing the wheel. Minivans became popular in the 1980s because they offered so many things—abundant seating, ease of entry for young children, decent fuel economy, and cargo space without excessive bulk. For a generation in its fertile years, they were the solution to every need.

Except one: the perennial urge of many baby boomers to believe they are cool. Our parents knew better than to expect hipness to coexist with diapers and PTA meetings. But the postwar generation is the one advertisers asked, seductively: "Who says you can't have it all?"

Apparently, though, the urge to be awesome has carried over to Generation X. That explains why automakers are trying so hard to convince them that basic, functional transportation is not a fate worse than fiery death.

Toyota is selling the Sienna as a "Swagger Wagon" after hearing consumers lament, "I don't like being the soccer-mom joke or feeling like I've given up all trace of my identity to be a parent," according to marketing manager Richard Bame.

Good luck with that. Portraying minivans as radical is like trying to sell Kansas to snowboarders.

It's also largely pointless. The world is divided into two kinds of people: those who, when they have kids, worry they are no longer cool, and those who, when they have kids, think being a parent is cooler than anything they've ever done. The latter group will consider a minivan. The former won't, even if you paint a skull and crossbones on it.

For those captivated by parenthood, the appeal of stylish wheels is (or was) nothing compared to a car that could carry baseball gear for an entire Little League, transport a flock of first-graders to Chuck E. Cheese's, get double-digit gas mileage, and ride appreciably better than a Conestoga wagon. In my book, coolness was a consolation prize for the poor mopes who were missing out on Indian Princesses.

But some people feel differently, which is why the rise of minivans was accompanied by the rise of something far less sensible: the sport-utility vehicle. With its truck frame, macho looks, and off-road capability, it allowed Americans to drive station wagons to the grocery store and ballet lessons while pretending to be Marlboro Men (and Women) riding the range.

Never mind that SUVs typically carried fewer passengers, got worse fuel economy, handled like front-end loaders and had a regrettable tendency to flip over. Plenty of people were desperate to overlook all these shortcomings rather than be publicly unmasked as parents.

The SUV's cherished dirt-eating, boulder-climbing feature was generally unneeded by suburban parents. For that matter, it was greatly exaggerated. One of the more surreal experiences of my life came when the people at DaimlerChrysler refused to honor the transmission warranty on my son's Jeep because—prepare to be shocked—he had taken it off-road.

Maybe Generations X and Y are getting past the drab associations that once hung over minivans. Sales reached about 450,000 last year, up 9 percent over 2008. But that was still only about a third of the total at the peak 10 years ago.

How come? Because the industry has figured out a different way to capture those buyers looking for the best features of a minivan. SUVs and "crossover" vehicles have acquired smoother rides, third-row seats, and better fuel economy. In essence, millions of Americans are driving minivans disguised as trucks—sheep in wolves' clothing.

Maybe minivans will take a bigger share of the market as some consumers decide they might as well have the real thing. But with all their interior space, minivans can't carry the one thing many motorists must have at all times: their illusions.


TOPICS: Business/Economy; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: auto; minivan; suv; truck
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1 posted on 01/06/2011 9:22:49 AM PST by Notary Sojac
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To: Notary Sojac

on the plus side, they’re cheap and widely available.

our 1991 Caravan went 250k before it was totalled in an accident.


2 posted on 01/06/2011 9:25:28 AM PST by WOBBLY BOB ( "I don't want the majority if we don't stand for something"- Jim Demint)
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To: Notary Sojac

Most dangerous vehicles on the road. Outrageous rollover risks. Don’t drive over 35 mph.


3 posted on 01/06/2011 9:25:37 AM PST by the invisib1e hand
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To: Notary Sojac

... with ‘Soccer Moms’ too?


4 posted on 01/06/2011 9:25:53 AM PST by LibFreeUSA (Show me what Obama brought that was new and there you will find things only radical and destructive.)
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To: the invisib1e hand

only with evil,exploding Firestone tires and Dateline exploding gas tanks in them.


5 posted on 01/06/2011 9:29:27 AM PST by WOBBLY BOB ( "I don't want the majority if we don't stand for something"- Jim Demint)
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To: the invisib1e hand
More dangerous than the Honda S2000 I used to drive the kids around in all the time?

Or the Triumph TR-3 my uncle used to drive me around in when I was in grade school?

We didn't wear helmets or Nomex, either.

6 posted on 01/06/2011 9:30:23 AM PST by Notary Sojac ("Goldman Sachs" is to "US economy" as "lamprey" is to "lake trout")
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To: the invisib1e hand

That’s a problem not limited to mini-vans. I had a 2 door hatchback that had high center of graphic warning labels.


7 posted on 01/06/2011 9:30:39 AM PST by Domandred (Fdisk, format, and reinstall the entire .gov system.)
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To: Notary Sojac
"In marketing campaigns featuring heavy-metal theme songs, rapping parents, secret agents in cat masks, pyrotechnics and even Godzilla, minivan makers are trying to recast the much-ridiculed mom-mobile as something that parents can be proud—or at least unashamed—of driving,"

Or living in. Down by the river.

8 posted on 01/06/2011 9:36:22 AM PST by Noumenon ("We should forgive our enemies, but not before they are hanged.")
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To: Notary Sojac

I hate my wife’s minivan with a passion. Part of that is due to it’s being a dodge, part is due to the look of the thing. As one hippy wanna-be car reviewer noted in a review of SUVs and minivans introduced at the Detroit auto show 7 or 8 years ago, a SUV looks like an aggressive, snarling predator while a minivan stood on end looks like a pregnant woman in a flowing skirt. I like aggressive.

All that said, when 3-gun season rolls around, it carries 4 rifles, 2 shotguns, 2 pistol range bags, 2 add’l pistol cases, 4 suitcases, a case of bottled water, a cooler, 6 ammo cans, the dog, and the kids, easily. A comparable sized SUV does not.


9 posted on 01/06/2011 9:38:01 AM PST by FateAmenableToChange
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To: Notary Sojac

I don’t understand people, never will. When I had young children, it was all I could do to buy a minivan. And when I could finally afford one, I felt extremely fortunate to own one. They are great vehicles.


10 posted on 01/06/2011 9:39:48 AM PST by brownsfan (D - swift death of the republic, R - lingering death for the republic.)
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To: FateAmenableToChange

” ... a SUV looks like an aggressive, snarling predator while a minivan stood on end looks like a pregnant woman in a flowing skirt. I like aggressive.”

If you depend on the looks of the vehicle you drive to define you, I feel sorry for you.


11 posted on 01/06/2011 9:43:04 AM PST by brownsfan (D - swift death of the republic, R - lingering death for the republic.)
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To: Notary Sojac

we have a minivan. We could afford it and afford to fill it up every week. End of story.


12 posted on 01/06/2011 9:43:28 AM PST by mockingbyrd (Remember in November.)
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To: brownsfan

When we needed a 15 passenger van, we had to sell the minivan. Money was too tight to keep both. Now that the kids are getting bigger and we do more driving, we went ahead and got a minivan again. Whole family outings still require the big van, but for shopping trips and classes for the kids — can’t beat the better gas mileage and comfort of the mini.


13 posted on 01/06/2011 9:48:44 AM PST by Marie Antoinette (Proud Clinton-hater since 1998.)
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To: the invisib1e hand

Wrong. SUVs have the greatest rollover risk due to the higher center of gravity.


14 posted on 01/06/2011 9:51:20 AM PST by Padams
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To: FateAmenableToChange
Yep. We went on a three week Civil War battlefield tramp a couple of years ago. Me and my brother, two kids, tents/coolers/sleeping bags/camp stove, a week's worth of food and water at a time, and enough room for one of the middle seats to fold down any time someone felt like taking a nap.

I wouldn't care if it was two/tone peach and pink, it did the job.

Now that we are moving to the country, I am going to need a 4wd to climb the hills on our property and plow the driveway. But you can bet it's going to be a good used Jeep CJ or maybe an older Land Cruiser if I can find one, not one of these bling-blinged posermobiles that are called "SUV"s' today.

15 posted on 01/06/2011 9:53:04 AM PST by Notary Sojac ("Goldman Sachs" is to "US economy" as "lamprey" is to "lake trout")
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To: Notary Sojac

We have a nice used Buick “crossover” that is a minivan in all but name.

The only thing I don’t like is it lacks four wheel drive. Winter’s in the Midwest require at least one four wheel drive vehicle where we live.


16 posted on 01/06/2011 9:54:10 AM PST by redgolum ("God is dead" -- Nietzsche. "Nietzsche is dead" -- God.)
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To: Notary Sojac

I had 3 Chevy Astro Vans, drove them all over 200,000 miles.
The lady I sold one of them too has over 500,000 miles on it , and it’s still going.

Chevy decided to replace it with the Venture. A piece of crap that spends more time in the shop than on the road.


17 posted on 01/06/2011 9:56:34 AM PST by Venturer
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To: Notary Sojac
I've been driving a minivan since 1985. We had our first two for 11 years each and have leased the last two. I never did understand the appeal of an SUV. The couple of times we rented one, they seemed to guzzle gas and were not as functional and roomy as the minivan.
I've done the majority of a local move from one house to another using one and they were great for moving the girls to and from college. When the girls were little and we traveled to visit family from our home in the UP, a porta-potty fit in nicely and came in very handy!
The stow-and-go feature for the seats has been great! After I had a bad fall a year and a half ago, I spent most of the summer in a wheel chair. A wheel chair fits in the back so easily! I use that feature all the time now to get my 93 year old mother out and about.
The sliding rear door behind the driver's seat also enabled me to stow my walker conveniently behind me during my recovery period, and I was therefore able to drive myself to physical therapy! What a sense of freedom that gave me!
18 posted on 01/06/2011 9:57:31 AM PST by stayathomemom (Beware of cat attacks while typing!)
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To: brownsfan

That is how vehicles are marketed. What defines you as a person. Why do you think the classic mid life crisis thing is for men to get a sports car or motorcycle.

I drive a S10 with 212K miles because it is paid for and can haul a deer out.


19 posted on 01/06/2011 9:58:20 AM PST by redgolum ("God is dead" -- Nietzsche. "Nietzsche is dead" -- God.)
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To: Notary Sojac
The SUV's cherished dirt-eating, boulder-climbing feature was generally unneeded by suburban parents. For that matter, it was greatly exaggerated.

Most folks out here in the rural West buy SUVs to get around on paved snow covered mountain roads in Winter, not for off-roading. In over 40 years of off-roading I have yet to see a Ford Explorer on the trail. It is all Jeeps and 4 wheel drive pick up trucks.

20 posted on 01/06/2011 10:04:01 AM PST by Inyo-Mono (Had God not driven man from the Garden of Eden the Sierra Club surely would have.)
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To: the invisib1e hand

“Most dangerous vehicles on the road”

I once had a trauma surgeon tell me the same thing. The sliding door on the side give it zero integrity in a side-impact crash or a rollover. The whole roof can cave in, too, due to the design of the door. Or so he claimed.


21 posted on 01/06/2011 10:04:11 AM PST by surroundedbyblue
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To: redgolum

“Why do you think the classic mid life crisis thing is for men to get a sports car or motorcycle.”

Don’t get me wrong, I understand the love affair with vehicles. I love cars. But, I don’t see myself as being defined by my car. I don’t let image define my need. I needed a minivan, and I thought anyone who would think less of me because I drove one was not playing with a full deck.

As a driver, I prefer cars. They are more nimble, and just more enjoyable to drive.


22 posted on 01/06/2011 10:07:32 AM PST by brownsfan (D - swift death of the republic, R - lingering death for the republic.)
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To: Notary Sojac

1993 Ford Aerostar and 2001 Toyota Sienna - both workhorses for my family, even if my wife IS now ready to get out of the minivan zone.

Colonel, USAFR


23 posted on 01/06/2011 10:08:52 AM PST by jagusafr ("We hold these truths to be self-evident...")
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To: Notary Sojac

My 10 year old Jeep Cherokee XJ will drag your minivan over the river and through the woods and on to Grandmas house.

Not under warranty? Buy some tools and fix it yourself!

Minivans are for wussies.


24 posted on 01/06/2011 10:09:11 AM PST by Macoozie (Go Sarah! Palin/Bolton 2012)
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To: Notary Sojac

We’ve got two minivans and an SUV, among other vehicles.

The Expedition is wonderful. For a large, luxury vehicle, it has great capabilities. A few seasons ago, during a kid’s snow derby in the Cascade Mountains, I tried to get it stuck. I was intrigued by a patch of rolling, unplowed, ground. Other dads were around for extraction if I got into trouble. No problems! The thing ground through grille-high snow and got me back to the road.

However, mostly the SUV sits. We just moved, and the older minivan (Dodge Grand Caravan) has been a Jack-of-all-trades. I’ve been using it as a pick-up truck to the dump, cargo hauler, and bus. We keep taking the seats in and out, in, and out, people, cargo, people, cargo. I was shocked when the riding lawn tractor fit.

As far as image projection goes, I’ve found I can be a snarling predator in any vehicle I drive. But mostly, I’m just a nice guy.


25 posted on 01/06/2011 10:12:00 AM PST by Rinnwald
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To: surroundedbyblue

“I once had a trauma surgeon tell me the same thing. The sliding door on the side give it zero integrity in a side-impact crash or a rollover. The whole roof can cave in, too, due to the design of the door. Or so he claimed.”

My auto mechanic said to avoid ERs, trauma surgeons are the most dangerous types of physicians.


26 posted on 01/06/2011 10:13:39 AM PST by brownsfan (D - swift death of the republic, R - lingering death for the republic.)
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To: Inyo-Mono

depends on the off-roading. i’ve seen lots of exploders, blazers, jimmys, rav4s, highlanders, samouris- all manner of suvs on the dunes and throughout state parks in MI.


27 posted on 01/06/2011 10:15:00 AM PST by absolootezer0 (2x divorced tattooed pierced harley hatin meghan mccain luvin' REAL beer drinkin' smoker ..what?)
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To: Notary Sojac

Dirt track minivan racing...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x_395TMhnSg

Not too much different from Saturday afternoon in the mall parking lot.


28 posted on 01/06/2011 10:19:09 AM PST by Fresh Wind
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To: surroundedbyblue
I once had a trauma surgeon tell me the same thing. The sliding door on the side give it zero integrity in a side-impact crash or a rollover. The whole roof can cave in, too, due to the design of the door. Or so he claimed.

Well, my mechanical engineer says necrosis released biomarkers are a good indicator of myocardial infarction.

29 posted on 01/06/2011 10:24:30 AM PST by Rinnwald
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To: redgolum
I've always driven a 2-seat sports car as my personal vehicle, since long before "mid-life".

I just like driving a car that goes where I point it and stops where I want it.

I also prefer to stay safe through maneuverability rather than armor plate.

30 posted on 01/06/2011 10:25:01 AM PST by Notary Sojac ("Goldman Sachs" is to "US economy" as "lamprey" is to "lake trout")
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To: brownsfan

Hey brownsfan, good schtick! We pulled the same gag twice.


31 posted on 01/06/2011 10:28:36 AM PST by Rinnwald
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To: Rinnwald

lol.... well played!


32 posted on 01/06/2011 10:29:21 AM PST by r9etb
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To: Rinnwald

“Hey brownsfan, good schtick! We pulled the same gag twice.”

Yours was decidedly more elegant, but same basic premise. Great minds think alike?

It annoys me how people assign ultra competency in any area to doctors.


33 posted on 01/06/2011 10:36:32 AM PST by brownsfan (D - swift death of the republic, R - lingering death for the republic.)
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To: Notary Sojac

I’ll take half the wheels, and agree with you. Plus you sportscar guys don’t have to put up with the “Uncle Fred” stories we motorcyclists hear all the time.

You know, as soon as they see you on a motorcycle, somebody has to regale you with story about poor “Uncle Fred” who ground his face off riding one of those two-wheel hellfounts.


34 posted on 01/06/2011 10:38:51 AM PST by Rinnwald
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To: brownsfan; redgolum
If you depend on the looks of the vehicle you drive to define you, I feel sorry for you.

I totally agree with you, fan. And if one allows themselves to be defined by the marketers or their vehicles, what does that say about ones true character and motivation? Don't older men who drive sports cars/motorcycles know that many are laughing at them - we don't think it's cool to cop out with mid-life crises.

35 posted on 01/06/2011 10:39:45 AM PST by PuzzledInTX
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To: brownsfan

No, no, your’s was more to the point. I would have posted first if I didn’t have to look up convincing jargon on the interweb.


36 posted on 01/06/2011 10:41:52 AM PST by Rinnwald
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To: PuzzledInTX

“Don’t older men who drive sports cars/motorcycles know that many are laughing at them - we don’t think it’s cool to cop out with mid-life crises.”

Be careful now. Not all older guys who own sports cars are having a crisis. I really like sports cars. I had one, until it died, and will again. But, if you feel like laughing at me when I drive it, have at it. :)

Unlike the crisis guys, I understand that a sports car with a 50+ year old bald guy is NOT a chick magnet!


37 posted on 01/06/2011 10:45:40 AM PST by brownsfan (D - swift death of the republic, R - lingering death for the republic.)
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To: Notary Sojac

I aint ever buying a milfvan...er, I mean minivan.


38 posted on 01/06/2011 10:54:35 AM PST by NeverForgetBataan (To the German Commander: ..........................NUTS !)
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To: PuzzledInTX

Like Notary Sojac said, do we get a pass if we were into the activity in our youth? Perhaps an international hand gesture indicating our status? I’m not ready for the home and wheelchair yet.

I’ve been given a slide from veteran cops when I pull off my helmet and they see a graybeard instead of a squid. From younger troopers, not so much.


39 posted on 01/06/2011 10:55:17 AM PST by Rinnwald
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To: brownsfan

Agreed. I should have been more careful in my word selection. A mid-life crisis guy is identifiable by his comportment.


40 posted on 01/06/2011 11:00:00 AM PST by PuzzledInTX
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To: Rinnwald

please see my reply at #37. I should have chosen my words a bit carefully.


41 posted on 01/06/2011 11:02:26 AM PST by PuzzledInTX
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To: Rinnwald

With rear seats removed, my cavernous PT Cruiser is like a mini-mini-van WITH a 5-speed.

I can put an entire bicycle (both wheels ON) inside and close the hatch.


42 posted on 01/06/2011 11:05:20 AM PST by bicyclerepair
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To: PuzzledInTX

Awww...us old guys will stop piling on.

Now, the chicks do dig my gold chains and shades. We can all agree on that, right?


43 posted on 01/06/2011 11:06:08 AM PST by Rinnwald
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To: Rinnwald
Well, my mechanical engineer says necrosis released biomarkers are a good indicator of myocardial infarction.

You do, and you'll clean it up. By golly.

44 posted on 01/06/2011 11:09:23 AM PST by IYAS9YAS (Liberalism can be summed up thusly: someone craps their pants and we all have to wear diapers)
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To: Rinnwald; brownsfan

LOL!
I’m actually attracted to 50+ bald guys WITHOUT the jewelry. At 50+, shades may be esthetically necessary!


45 posted on 01/06/2011 11:16:25 AM PST by PuzzledInTX
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To: WOBBLY BOB
I sometimes really wish for a “real” station wagon again. Some of them were really nice and could carry everything that needed to be carried. But you have to have a minivan or a real van these days to get it all done.
46 posted on 01/06/2011 11:16:47 AM PST by wbarmy (I chose to be a sheepdog once I saw what happens to the sheep.)
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To: Marie Antoinette
Wow, that sounds exactly like my household. We have a Ford Windstar and a Ford E350. The E350 can pull the 29’ camper without a problem and we use the minivan for church.
47 posted on 01/06/2011 11:21:42 AM PST by wbarmy (I chose to be a sheepdog once I saw what happens to the sheep.)
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To: PuzzledInTX

“LOL!
I’m actually attracted to 50+ bald guys WITHOUT the jewelry. At 50+, shades may be esthetically necessary!”

Funny how the internet works... I assumed you were male until I read that! I guess you still could be a guy, but that would just be creepy.

Are the shades necessary for the 50+ guy, or for you to wear when you look at them?! ;)


48 posted on 01/06/2011 11:22:32 AM PST by brownsfan (D - swift death of the republic, R - lingering death for the republic.)
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To: wbarmy

“I sometimes really wish for a “real” station wagon again.”

Look at the Ford Flex. Not overly attractive, but it’s a station wagon. I think there are other wagons that can be had. The nice thing about minivans is the flexibilty of removing seats.


49 posted on 01/06/2011 11:28:01 AM PST by brownsfan (D - swift death of the republic, R - lingering death for the republic.)
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To: brownsfan

“Both, I think”, she snickers.


50 posted on 01/06/2011 11:28:36 AM PST by PuzzledInTX
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