Late August we drove our 2008 Odyssey Elite from Chicago down to the Smoky Mountains. This was the first long road trip my family went on with just the four of us, myself, my wife, my daughter and our son. On previous trips we’ve included my wife’s sister’s family, so we’d travel with 8 people total. My sister in law had another baby pushing her group to 5, so they headed down to the Smoky’s in their Odyssey.
Since it was the four of us we didn’t need to use our rooftop carrier to store luggage. We stowed the third row and packed everything and anything we thought we’d need for the trip.
We left Friday at noon for our 10 hour trip down to the Smoky’s. I planned our departure so that the kids would fall asleep in the car. Our daughter is 4 and our son is 2. The kids slept for a couple of hours as we traveled through Indiana. Once they were awake we were ready with books and other toys my wife passed back to them to keep occupied. When toys stopped working we popped in a movie. We had dinner at a Chick Fil A in Kentucky that had a play area. We let the kids play for an hour before we continued our journey. The kids fell asleep for rest of the trip with my daughter waking up an hour before we arrived at our hotel that night.
The following morning we had breakfast at the hotel with the rest of our family, the sister in law with her family and our in laws. At noon we were off to the rental house which was right on the edge of the Smoky Mountains.
In anticipation of our trip we had hoped we would see a bear. At the house we were renting, the first night we saw a bear moseying up the street and thought that was cool. The second night the same bear was just hanging out in our backyard, until my father in law scared him away.
That night around 11PM we heard a car alarm blaring. We run outside to the deck of the house and look down to find our van’s lights flashing and horn blaring. I run to grab the keys to stop the car from honking but to no avail. After repeated attempts the horn stops and we notice something peculiar about our car, the windows are fogged up.
I approach the car slowly with a flashlight wondering why the windows are fogged up and then I notice two eyes staring back at me from the driver’s seat and then I see a nose. There’s a bear in our car. I run up the stairs and back up to the safety of the deck. We call the police to let them know what is going on.
We waited anxiously on the deck for the police to arrive. One squad car arrives and assesses the situation. He asks where the bear is and we tell him in the van. He gets back into his car waiting for back up. We are standing up on the deck watching and waiting. We think animal control should be showing up, but 2 more squad cars arrive. A different police office asks if we have power doors and I let him know that we do. He tells us the plan…”Folks we’re going to open this door to let the bear out. But I have to warn you, if the bear charges us we’re taking it down.” The women in our group turn around and enter the house. My father in law, myself and my brother in law turn to leave but are frozen in place because we want to see what happens. The police officers take position on the passenger side of the van towards the back. The officer opens the sliding door and the bear runs into the backyard, stops and then walks away into the forest.
After a few minutes the police officers say it’s safe to come down. I walk down to give the police officers my information. One mentions that we’re getting a new car. I look inside and it doesn’t look good. 10 minutes fly by and the police officers are gone and we’re left with our bear mauled minivan.
The next day we took all of our stuff out of the van. I notice that the handles of the door have dirty claw marks where the bear tried opening the door. We think the bear entered through the driver’s side door. The van was parked on a steep hill; the driver side door would automatically slam shut. So the bear opened the door and started looking for food and when he got into the van, the door slammed shut. Now stuck in the van the bear tried clawing its way out. I always lock the door so I don’t know what happened. Fortunately the alarm went off that night because a different outcome could have happened the following morning If I had opened the door unaware of the bear.
A tow truck was called to take our van down to a licensed repair shop in Pigeon Forge. The following day I gave them a call to get an estimate on how long to fix the car. I needed to know how long to get a rental car for. The shop said that there was no need to get a rental car and that our minivan was in drivable condition with some minor quirks, and that I could pick it up in a few hours. The shop was very friendly and suggested we drive the car back up to Chicago to get it fixed. We couldn’t open the front doors from the inside; we had to roll down our windows to open the doors from the outside. We couldn’t open the trunk from the outside, only from the inside. We couldn’t lock the doors because the mechanic wasn’t sure if we would be able to unlock them afterwards. The mechanic suggested we keep the windows down to get the bear smell out.
So for the rest of the trip we drove around with windows down. The car drove fine around the mountains. The rest of the trip was uneventful concerning the van.
When we got back to Chicago we sent our car to the repair shop. At first insurance would cover the damage, but later estimates pushed the total cost into the total loss category. Sadly we lost our first Odyssey minivan, but we’ve added a new (used) 2011 Odyssey Touring Elite to our family.
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