My gold cocoon on wheels

The last thing I wanted was to own and drive a minivan — a gold Dodge Caravan that looks identical to its two million or so brethren on the highway and in every parking lot in town.

But it was what I needed.

Four years and a few weeks ago when we bought the van, I’d just had my cancerous uterus removed the hard way, and needed something gentle to ride in for the 200-mile drive between home in San Antonio and the best doctor in the world at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.

While I passengered with a pillow, Willie drove the van to Houston for my next surgery, then drove down again for my series of radiation treatments. The ride was gentle, and I started to secretly love the van in a very un-soccer mom kind of way.

Later that year, I got the chance to teach journalism, Web publishing and design, multiplatform reporting and interviewing at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. But I didn’t want to move.

“You can commute!” said department director Ardyth Sohn. “Everybody does it.” And so I did.

I loaded everything I could think of that fit into the van; we pointed it toward Vegas and drove. The air conditioning was good and the ride was sweet, all the way across West Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and the Hoover Dam into Nevada.

And when I drove to the UNLV campus each day, at about the same time the third shifters were getting off work on the Strip, the van gave me enough elevation to see a couple of cars ahead so I could avoid the early morning drunks and the other crazy drivers.


The van has more .edu than I do

We drove the van home in December, back to Vegas in January, then home again in May.

I did the “commute” until 2008, when the van and I came home to San Antonio without a single scratch.

The van’s acquired some learned trappings along the way.

Above the UNLV sticker on passenger side of the van’s windshield is a parking pass for the University of the Incarnate Word. The van parks there while I swim laps weekday mornings at the Natatorium.

A Saint Mary’s University parking pass dangles from the rear view mirror, because the van hangs out there on Tuesdays and Thursdays each semester while I teach the class formerly known as Print Journalism.

A year ago, I was persuaded to take a leadership role in a new community journalism startup called We planned, strategized and budgeted for video cameras, a TriCaster and people. As it turned out, getting all of that stuff and staff from here to there, where we do our thing, requires … a van.

Gear in, seats up, people in, doors close and we fly to our assignment with the Interwebs. In the past few weeks, the van clocked 250 miles on alone.

Monday morning, I’m heading to Houston again to see my favorite doctor at MD Anderson. I have no doubt I’ll be told that the cancer’s still gone. Endometrial cancer is like that. Overwhelmingly, we are survivors.

While Willie drives, I’ll be online and working, thanks to bluetooth, WiMax 4G, the sizzling good cell connections on Interstate 10.

And thanks to the gold van that is my Giving Tree.