Who is Nico the Van? A 2006 (Mercedes) Dodge Sprinter, yes. And a mail-order bride with a punk rock soul who appears to be a reincarnated traveler.
After researching vans for an exceptionally long time and landing on the type of vehicle we wanted, we discovered there weren’t any of those vans available. Not in Colorado, anyway. Or anywhere nearby (though we did drive to Nebraska once, but the van wasn’t exactly what we were looking for – there may have been an audible “ewwwww” when we got in for a test drive). It turned out that most of the Sprinters we were interested in lived on the east coast, but without the ability to take a couple of weeks off work, fly out east to check things out then make the long drive back or buy a plane ticket home, we were stuck with website research.
Then there was this van in Virginia: the pictures were flattering, it had low mileage and the people at the dealership were fairly helpful. Sometimes. And they were willing to ship the van to Colorado for less than a gajillion dollars. Tempting, but what if … (enter any disruptive reasoning here).
The weekend of Riot Fest in Denver we stayed with Ali’s cousins, rocked out and talked vans. We must have been looking for a positive confirmation from people we trust, as we ended up pulling the trigger on the Virginia van that weekend.
We waited, nervous as hell, for two weeks.
The van arrived at our door – our driveway, rather – in the middle of the night. It was Thursday. Our friend Peter came over with celebratory beer and the van was unloaded from the Virginia truck.
With relief at her arrival balancing our giddy nervousness, we examined every inch of the van under the glow of our iPhone flashlights. Headlamps and flashlights were clearly too far away and we poked, prodded, flipped switches, pressed buttons and crawled over and under and then did it again. We noticed a few key things:
She was pierced: there was a metal stud pierced in the driver’s visor.
She was a she: flipping down the driver’s visor we found ourselves batting our eyelashes in a pink-rimmed mirror.
She was dolled up and ready for a show: her headlights were distinctly cat-eyed.
Our girl, who we bought on the internet like a mail-order bride, wanted to rock.
Bumpas moved his truck to the street and we parked the van in the driveway where it towered over Ali’s Jetta (the two Germans were fast friends). We got in the odd habit of saying “bye” to her in the morning when we’d leave for work, “hi” when we got home, and we knew a van with this much personality needed a name.
But what’s in a name? A lot, as it turns out. We wanted something distinctly … her. Yes, we ran through baby names and yes we went through lists of punk rock chicks, and then suddenly we were staring at an Andy Warhol print on an album cover. It’s like Google slapped us in the face with it: The Velvet Underground and Nico. Ah ha!
Nico was from Berlin. She spent most of her life singing and traveling. Nico was a Warhol Superstar when Andy Warhol hooked her up with the Velvet Underground and helped produce this particular album. “Nico” was everything our van needed her to be.
Nico the Van stuck. When we took the first step towards converting her into our home – tearing out the existing floor and wall paneling – we discovered a layer of pink insulation. Our Nico, in one of her past lives, had already been a camper van. This, we thought, was meant to be.