You get to feeling old when you realize that, back in your day, kids didn't eat in the car.
But times change. Some cars now play movies inside, stop themselves before an accident, and offer as many as a dozen cupholders. Also, kids now eat and drink inside vehicles.
Apparently quite a lot, which is how we get to the very specialized world of vehicles with vacuum cleaners built in, thus far meaning that quintessential family hauler, the U.S.-size minivan.
Over the Memorial Day weekend, we had plans to embark on a long, fast road trip in the 2017 Chrysler Pacifica long-term test minivan we'd pick up in Denver from our colleagues.
From there, we'd head west to Reno, Nevada, to collect a trove of old-car parts: two doors, a gas tank, and most importantly for the minivan, an engine in a crate.
But it was not to be. Bad weather, a series of three cancelled flights spread over two airline terminals in one long day, followed by a two-day delay in travel, all meant we had to truncate the trip.
2017 Chrysler Pacifica long-term road test, route for 2,100-mile road trip, June 2017Enlarge Photo
We ended up traveling just 2,100 miles from Denver through Kansas and Iowa on to Michigan and then around the bottom of Lake Erie to a series of upstate New York stops.
One assignment was to test the Stow'n'Vac in-car vacuum, a standard feature on the top-of-the-line Limited trim level.
Picking up the van in Denver, we discovered our two separate colleagues had helpfully left the Pacifica with a starter collection of grass, dog hair, pea gravel, and many other decorative accessories.
Our trip added the few 65-year-old car parts we managed to collect en route—just a lone rear axle, plus a bin of suspension parts—plus some damp shoes, Plains-state dust, assorted dead insects, and more pea gravel.
At the end of the trip, the interior was perfectly suited for testing the built-in vacuum. It's only useful for dry vacuuming (no spilled juice boxes), but with some sustained pulling on the 11-foot hose, it reached all four corners of the interior.
We figured a run over the particularly dusty carpet mat under the driver's feet would be a good first test, and you can see the results in the photo.
The vacuum had surprisingly powerful suction, but the fibers of car carpet are tough, and they're tenacious traps for...well, lots of stuff, especially including the hair of one specific dog. (Our coworker knows who he is.)
The Pacifica's vacuum was very good for small stones, and probably kids-eating-in-cars items like spilled Cheerios. It wasn't as good for grass, dog hair, and other long items that could be trapped in the tough, close carpet fibers.
Not surprisingly, the built-in vacuum wasn't as powerful as our shop vac. But then, it's not meant to be used to clean the whole car: it's meant for those family travel situations where something get spilled inside the minivan.
The entire setup is neatly installed on the front of the left-rear wheel well housing, with carefully packaged accessories (a crevice tool and a brush head) and the tube tightly wound back inside the housing.
2017 Chrysler Pacifica long-term road test, after 2,100-mile road trip, June 2017Enlarge Photo
We did most of the floor after two weeks and several thousand miles of use, but the shop vac might have been quicker. In the end, it proved easier to remove the mats and clean them out of the car.
On the road, however, once that giant box of cereal or peanuts goes flying, the vacuum accessory is probably very useful.
Should you want to economize on your minivan purchase (and we're big fans of the Pacifica in general), or if you're simply cruel and Victorian, you could also tell the kids they can't eat or drink in the car.
Let us know how that goes, OK?