No Matter What Machine Plays the Part. The Role is Always Essential.

© Triangle Bikeworks

This is The Story of A Van

As I remember, it was Thursday July 1st when the news came and I was tired from the events of the morning. Up to that point we figured everything was set. Nothing left to do but count the two days until we leave for the Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor Summer Experience tour.  Like countless other people we reshuffled many times over the last year due to the pandemic. Even cancelling events. But this one, this reshuffle, was a doozy. 

There's never any EXTRA spots for tours. Everyone that goes plays an essential role in its success. Without youth, there's no tour. Without coaches, there's no tour. Without support staff, there's no tour. Without investors in our efforts to transform the lives of youth, there's no tour. And without a van for the youth to have "safe harbor" when they're tired, injured, or otherwise can't go on, there's no tour. The role of vans as essential members of the team can never be overstated.


Having learned the hard way

Because vans are essential we reserve them a year in advance. Having learned the hard way of their scarcity.  Back in mid June our favorite rental company reluctantly had to tell us our reservation couldn't be honored. Talkabout heartache and scrambling!


The van is a quiet, essential part of the team.

Providing "safe harbor"

when they're tired, injured,

or otherwise can't go on

The reasoning for our reservation not being honored was that COVID-19 caused shortages in automotive parts, like microchips and other things, that go into automobiles. Which meant there was a problem in the vehicle supply chain.

So, how does the vehicle supply chain affect rentals? Well, 

  • Manufacturing put on hold for 3 months.
  • Supply chain disruption: restrictions on of non-vital products (car parts)
  • Inability to register new vehicles due to closed registration offices
  • Low vehicle inventory
  • No new rental vehicles to be purchased

On Friday, June 18th, Itza found 2 vans with Enterprise in Danville, VA less than an hour away. Two weeks later she was informed they don’t have the vans they let her reserve. In another effort one of our intern's reached out to his church who initially said yes to the use of their vans but insurance wouldn't underwrite our use, so they had to rescinded the offer. The anxiety we were feeling was razor-thin-close to overwhelming. With time running out we needed to find vans quickly.

Feverishly, Itza and I tried to make reservations all over the state. Even tried all over Georgia and Virginia. We got one hit for a van in Newport News, VA.

Itza locked it in on the Enterprise website and got the confirmation number. Oh my God! Things were looking up. Now onto the search for the second vehicle with towing capabilities. That's when we found a six passenger pickup truck. Here's news: a confirmation number isn't a confirmed commitment from the rental company to rent you a vehicle. Not until you actually speak to someone and they confirm it. At least that was our experience with Enterprise when I called to confirm a Friday pickup for the van in Virginia. Under no name were we in their system. Exhausted and with a week to go, we put the call out to you, the community, that we were in desperate need of a van.

It was June 27th.

Vans are vital

Vans are as vital for the success of a tour as the support staff. Vans hold a role that can only be filled by the qualities they possess: shelter, safety, transportation, a home away from home. No other role fulfills that quality. They are, in a word, irreplaceable. An essential part of the team. And at Triangle Bikeworks we never leave a team member behind. 

The community call was answered Sunday by Larry at the Happy Tooth Foundation. Who was more than happy (no pun intended) to allow the use of the foundation's vans for our tour since COVID definitely put an end to their summer camp plans.

On Wednesday, Itza and I happily picked up van #1 on Legion Road in Chapel Hill. A day later, Itza and Board Member, Fernando, drove to Asheville to pickup van #2 while Larry and I worked out details of what an arrangement like this would look like. It was on their way back that the doozy of the week came.

The Happy Tooth Foundation's insurance company wouldn't underwrite our use of the van. Larry was crushed. We were crushed.

I had to call Itza.

At this point they were two hours outside of Asheville. They pulled off the highway so we could brainstorm. 


Vans are as vital as the support staff

Vans hold a role that can only be filled by the qualities they possess: shelter, safety, transportation, a home away from home.

Two days to go, and we were back to square one. 

We were literally at the end of our rope. Reservations were held for a six passenger pickup truck, then in a moment of indecision cancelled. We were spinning in circles and fighting against deadlines. Ideas would come only to be shot down by the reality there were no vans to be rented.

Defeat was beginning to taste cold and sour. I felt like cancelling the tour. COVID-19 cancelled the 2020 tour and our summer camp. Why wouldn't it win with this tour?

Still thinking, we decided to reserve the pickup truck a THIRD time and be closer to our goal of having enough seats for the youth. We just needed a multi-passenger vehicle. It's Thursday and we need a miracle. On a whim, I called my bro-in-law, Brad, to see if he had vehicles in inventory not listed on his website. He did. He just purchased a 12 person van from a recent widow. With her husband's passing, she had no need of the van. Having compassion for our plight, Brad agreed to put the van in Triangle Bikeworks' name

contingent upon Board approval to buy it.

My job was to get to Indiana and pick it up.

Two stress-filled weeks

I booked the 6AM Friday morning flight to Indianapolis. I made it to the lot of T&T Repairables by 10:30AM. I inspected the van, learned its controls, and adjusted to its "feel".  Just before sending me off Brad filled the tank with fuel as an investment in the tour. I hugged him, said my goodbyes, buckled up and settled in for the 11 hour drive back home. It was half after Midnight when I arrived stinky and tired. After a quick shower I went to bed. I would have a few hour's nap before my 7AM meeting with the youth, parents, and staff at our offices to check bikes and have our tour send-off. 

With the last two stress-filled weeks behind us, we were able to once again transform a few lives, one revolution at a time.

Happy endings are nice

Happy endings like this are sweet. With effort, problem solving, and a little bit of sacrifice we were able to provide access to experiential learning opportunities through cycling. Knowing that if the youth uncover untold history that reflects a more holistic view of the struggles, resilience, and accomplishments of people of color this will lead to an increased understanding of the world around them. It'll also lead to increased social emotional awareness, and an increased power to overcome challenges and achieve personal and collective goals.

You can bring this story full circle by helping us purchase the van that we used to save the tour. Now, more than ever, it's clear that we bring the recurring role of the van in-house. By taking ownership we can ensure that we aren't severely affected by COVID-19.  Make your investment now.